Friday, January 20, 2017

Biblical Faith and Fruits of Conversion

Faith is central to Christianity. The New Testament repeatedly calls people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a definite body of content to be believed, which is part and parcel of our religious activity. But what exactly is saving faith? It is a faith that inevitably, necessarily, and immediately yields the fruit of righteousness. A faith without any yield of righteousness is not true faith.


What are the constituent elements of saving faith? Biblical faith has three essential aspects: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

Notitia refers to the content of faith, the things we believe. There are certain things we are required to believe about Christ, namely, that He is the Son of God, that He is our Savior, that He has provided an atonement, and so on.

Assensus is the conviction that the content of our faith is true. One can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. We might have a doubt or two mixed with our faith, but there has to be a certain level of intellectual affirmation and conviction if we are to be saved. Before anyone can really trust in Jesus Christ, he has to believe that Christ indeed is the Savior, that He is who He claimed to be. Genuine faith says that the content, the notitia, is true.

Fiducia refers to personal trust and reliance. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is effectual only if one personally trusts in Christ alone for salvation. It is one thing to give an intellectual assent to a proposition but quite another to place personal trust in it. There is another element to fiducia besides trust, and that is affection. An unregenerate person will never come to Jesus, because he does not want Jesus. In his mind and heart, he is fundamentally at enmity with the things of God. As long as someone is hostile to Christ, he has no affection for Him. Satan is a case in point. Satan knows the truth, but he hates the truth. He is utterly disinclined to worship God because he has no love for God. We are like that by nature. We are dead in our sin. We walk according to the powers of this world and indulge the lusts of the flesh. Until the Holy Spirit changes us, we have hearts of stone. An unregenerate heart is without affection for Christ; it is both lifeless and loveless. The Holy Spirit changes the disposition of our hearts so that we see the sweetness of Christ and embrace Him. None of us loves Christ perfectly, but we cannot love Him at all unless the Holy Spirit changes the heart of stone and makes it a heart of flesh.


Theologians have traditionally recognized several elements that accompany or follow saving faith. These are called “fruits of conversion.” We will look at a few of them here...


When someone is brought to faith by the Holy Spirit, he undergoes a conversion. His life turns around. This turning around is called “repentance,” and it is an immediate fruit of genuine faith. Some include repentance as part of genuine faith. However, the Bible distinguishes between repentance and belief. We cannot have affection for Christ until we recognize and acknowledge that we are sinners and that we desperately need His work on our behalf. Repentance includes a hatred for our sin, which comes with the new affection we are given for God. Repentance is a turning away, having a different view of sin. The Greek word for “repentance,” metanoia, literally means “a change of mind.” Previously, we rationalized our sin, but now we realize that sin is an evil thing; we have a different mind-set about it.


When God declares us just in Jesus Christ, He adopts us into His household. His only true son is Christ, but Christ becomes our elder brother by way of adoption. No one is born into the family of God. By nature, we are children of wrath, not children of God; therefore, God is not our Father by nature. We can have God as our Father only if He adopts us, and He will adopt us only through the work of His Son. But when we put our faith and trust in Christ, God not only declares us just, He also declares us His sons and daughters by way of adoption.


Paul writes to the Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1). The first fruit of justification is peace with God. We were enemies, but the war is over. God declares a peace treaty with all those who put their faith in Christ. When He does this, we do not enter an unstable truce, such that the first time we do something wrong, God starts rattling the sword. This peace is an unbreakable, eternal peace because it has been won by the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Access to God

Paul also writes, “Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). Another fruit is access to God. God does not allow His enemies into an intimate relationship with Him, but once we have been reconciled to God through Christ, we have access into His presence, and we have joy in the glory of who He is.