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David B. Garner is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and Pastor of Teaching at Proclamation Presbyterian Church (Bryn Mawr, PA). Pastor, professor, and author, he has also served as a missionary, ministering in Europe and Central and Southeast Asia. From 2003-2007, he served as Director for TE3 (Theological Education for Eastern Europe), a regional theological training ministry based in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Article by David Garner

Saving Faith, Pt 2: Trust in God's Word

November 19, 2015 •

Saving Faith, as we considered in part 1, is a gift of God. It comes from him. Though we exercise that faith, the privilege and power of its exercise draw solely from the font of his grace. Having received the gift from God, we exercise that gift for him and unto him.

Faith employs our minds. Though saving faith is not merely a matter of the mind, it is irreducibly cognitive. Yet what occupies our minds when God gives us faith? What is the source of our confidence, the object of our hope, and the grounds of our confidence?

The answer? God’s Word. Faith is that work of the Spirit in our hearts that dials us in to God’s Word.

A Change of Mind

That God has spoken is a central tenet of the Christian faith. The God of creation is the God who speaks. The God of redemption is the God who speaks. Scripture is God’s own Word and his Word concerns his Son, Jesus Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, God speaks about this Redeemer–Son, whose life, death, and resurrection secure salvation for his people.

As Paul contends in 1 Corinthians 1–2, not everyone has ears to hear this message. To some the message of Christ evidences weakness. To others it evidences foolishness. Why do some ears hear the voice of God distinctly, some eyes see the person of Christ clearly, and some hearts embrace the work of redemption delightedly? Because only some possess faith.

Faith changes the sinner’s mind concerning the Word of God. Once the things of God and his Word seemed dull and foolish, but now these same Scriptures compel the soul as wisdom from the all-wise God. The once seemingly empty message of a crucified Carpenter from Nazareth becomes the life-transforming hope in the heart of the sinner. Once deaf to the Good Shepherd, the newfound sheep eagerly listens to his voice (John 10: 3, 14–16). The believer hears his voice, recognizes his voice, understands his voice, and delights in his voice.

Who Moved?

Did Scripture change? Not hardly! The change occurs in the sinner. The Spirit changes our thoughts and our thinking. Prior to conversion the unconverted possesses a darkened mind. Spirit-given faith ignites a cognitive (epistemological) rebirth, a revolution; once trusting in my own voice for life, now I trust the words of the Good Shepherd, the One who gave his life for me at Calvary.

My former sinful assessment of his cross as empty or stupid gets nailed to the cross with the rest of my sin. Now, as one who is “in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), what was sinfully seen as folly becomes the holy, life-giving message of hope. Faith illumines my heart to the wisdom of God.

To be clear, God’s Word was wholly true before I believed it. Despite the desperate contemporary shrieking that truth is something I create, the truthfulness of the gospel is not contingent upon my belief. I do not make the gospel true; the Spirit in his gift of faith enables me to embrace the truth. I see it as true now, because God has given me faith. Faith doesn’t change Jesus, his Word, or the truth of redemption. It changes me to see Jesus and his Word for what they really are. Saving faith rests in the Word of God as its final authority.

Final Voice

Those who delight in God’s Word evidence the gift of faith. The believer in Christ Jesus will never perpetually move away from trust in the divine Word. Faith in the Word of God evidences saving grace. Where the voice of Jesus falls on deaf ears there is no faith. Though we may battle doubt, and though those doubts can be fierce and sustained, the trajectory of saving faith moves finally unto the Word of Christ.

Show me someone who loves Christ Jesus and I will show you someone who delights in Scripture. God’s Word is the feast of the believer’s soul. In a world of many competing voices, God’s Word is final. His say gets the last Word, and the ear of faith yearns to listen.


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