Genuine Saving Faith is Multidimensional

Posted November 4, 2017 by Amy Wang [Updated November 6]

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Faith that reaches only our intellect and emotions, but not our will, is dead. However, dead faith is what many of us so-called Christians struggle with. Sunday after Sunday we may absorb truth and believe it mentally without having any true commitment to God in our everyday lives. We may be fans, but not true followers. If so, let us cry out like one father did, "I do believe. Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24, 1Thessalonians 3:10). Hudson Taylor once said,

“We wish to place on record our solemn conviction that not all who are Christians, or think themselves to be such, will attain to that resurrection of which St Paul speaks in Phil. iii. 11, or will thus meet the LORD in the air. Unto those who by lives of consecration manifest that they are not of the world, but are looking for Him, “He will appear without sin unto salvation.” - Hudson Taylor

Real, saving faith is multidimensional. It encompasses the mind, heart, and will, and it perseveres. It is not enough to honor Jesus with our lips, if we deny Him by our works (Titus 1:16, Matthew 7:21-22) and our hearts are far from Him (Matthew 15:8). Perhaps this is like the demons who know Jesus is the Christ (Luke 4:41) but choose to disobey Him. Such faith is intellectual only, one-dimensional, and dead. Let us strive instead to receive the whole Christ (Prophet, Priest and King) with the whole heart (intellect, emotions and will) (Lescelius). This type of faith produces real fruit. Bernard Koerselman says,

“In the ensuing years I’ve not forgotten that when I became a “Christian” the way others told me to, my life had only surface, cosmetic changes. But when I pledged to obey Jesus as my Lord, there seemed to be a new me – a person who experienced love, joy, and peace in great measure.” - Bernard Koerselman, J.D.,

Below are some questions to test ourselves for the various dimensions of saving faith (2Corinthians 13:5).

1. MIND: Intellectually, do I believe the right facts?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31) and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). (See also 1John 5:1).

Although belief in Jesus's identity is necessary for salvation (John 8:24), it is not sufficient for salvation, for even the demons have intellectual belief but they tremble (James 2:19, Luke 4:41). If you have mental faith but do not act accordingly, it is like you (a) studied the medicine to ensure it would save you, but never ate it (Li Cheng), (b) believed someone would make a good wife or husband but never said "I do" (Geisler/Turek), (c) examined the plane to make sure it was safe, but never boarded it (BSF lecture), or (d) trusted the car would take you safely to the destination, but never rode it (The Gospel Project). Intellectual belief without any deeds to show for it is dead like a body without a spirit (James 2:26) or an oil lamp without oil (Matthew 25:1-13). Although deeds in themselves do not save us, the lack of deeds indicates our faith has no dimension of commitment.

2. WILL: Did I make a commitment to obey Jesus? Are there any conditions to my following Jesus as Lord?

According to Romans 10:9-10, in addition to believing in the resurrection, we also confess the Lord Jesus to be saved. This is not simply an outward movement of the mouth, nor simply an acknowledgment that Jesus is God, but a surrender of our own lives to Jesus as our personal Lord and King.

Jesus says not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven "but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21-22). If we really commit to obey Jesus as our King, we will not just "hear" what Jesus says. Saving faith will be proved by "doing" something about it (James 1:22, Matthew 7:24-27, Romans 2:7). In Galatians 5:6, we learn that faith works by love, and the love of God is shown through obedience (John 14:23). Perhaps that is why in John 3:36, faith is contrasted with disobedience. Although our obedience or love will not be perfect in this life, we should be making an effort. Hence, one famous hymn tells us to "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus."

Tim Keller challenges us to examine ourselves if we have any conditions before we will follow Jesus as Lord-- any "if," "but first," or "as long as" conditions. If so, he says we may have reached the border of the kingdom of God but not actually stepped over. Do we say to God, "I will do anything you will say, except that I will not do x, y, or z" or "I will do what you say, but first, you must give me a, b, and c"? Those may be idols we have yet to give up.

The surrender of the will to do God's will is one of the most challenging conditions to enter the kingdom of heaven. How much we desire to set our own goals and rules as we please and be the master of our own lives! We are by nature hostile to God and unable to submit to His law (Romans 8:7). That's why we need to be born again to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). No one can make this confession without the help of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 12:3). Although it may be impossible for man to give up certain desires for God, it is possible with God (Luke 18:27). So faith in the truth is one part of salvation, but we also rely upon the Spirit's work to sanctify us (2 Thessalonians 2:13). We rely on God to circumcise our hearts of sin, so we can love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 30:6).

3. TRUST: Do I have enough confidence in the truth to actually act on it?

Besides mental assent, another dimension of true saving faith is a confidence, trust, or dependence on Jesus and what Jesus says. According to Hebrews 11:1, faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (NASB)

Confidence is necessary to become a partaker of Christ (Hebrews 3:14) but it must be alive and deeply rooted enough to persevere through trial, unlike the seed that sprouted up for a time and then fell away in time of temptation (Luke 8:13). Some scholars think the belief called for in the famous verse John 3:16 uses a verb tense which implies an ongoing belief (Stanley, 163). The heroes of the faith not only had confidence that resulted in action, but their confidence was maintained at death (Hebrews 11:13).

One helpful question to ask yourself is, "Do I have enough confidence in what Jesus says to actually obey Him?" If not, what will it take for me to have that confidence? We can pray to God and tell Him we are willing to follow Him if He can help us build confidence that He is real (Pippert). Almost every time I read the gospel of Matthew, I am reminded of some challenging command of Jesus, like turning the other cheek or loving one's enemy. When I have difficulty with any command, I realize that my faith still needs to grow in certain dimensions.

Fortunately, there are many ways we can develop our confidence by studying the evidence. Although we cannot wind back the clock, we can study the scientific, historical, archaeological, and prophetic evidence. We can also test the spiritual principles in the Bible to see how powerful and life-transforming they are. Sometimes, the most powerful evidence is that of a transformed life. But once we are confident of the evidence that Jesus is God, the next step is to confess that Jesus is also our Lord like Thomas did when he finally received tangible proof that Jesus had risen (John 20:28).

4. PERSEVERANCE: Am I persevering in faith and continuing in the word? Am I running the race and fighting the good fight of faith?

Jesus warned that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of Jesus (Luke 9:62). People like Lot's wife looked back with longing on the past, despite warning, and were destroyed (Luke 17:32, Genesis 19:17-26). Some of the Israelites participated in the steps to salvation, but did not persevere in faith and were eventually destroyed (1Corinthians 10:1-11, Jude 5). How they longed for Egypt, even though they were slaves there!

That's why Jesus tells us to count the cost of following him so we do not go halfway and give up (Luke 14:27-28). If we turn away from righteousness, our righteous deeds are forgotten (Ezekiel 18:24), and we are worse off than if we had not known the way of righteousness (2Peter 2:20-21). Are you able to lay aside the sins that entangle you and run the race and fight the good fight of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, Philippians 3:12-14, 1Timothy 6:12, 2Timothy 4:7)? To begin the race is not enough. We must continue to hold fast our confidence and hold fast the word to receive the reward (Hebrews 3:14, 1Corinthians 15:2).

This does not mean we will never sin again (Philippians 3:12), but if we are not in the process of sanctification (Hebrews 10:14), our initial commitment is questionable. Fortunately, the God who begins a good work in us is able to continue it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Holy Spirit works in the process of our sanctification (2Thessalonians 2:13), regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5), helping us to abide/continue in the word (John 8:31), overcome (1John 4:4, John 16:33), and become holy, without which we cannot see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

5. PROOF: Am I doing God's will by repenting and submitting to sanctification?

If we have truly repented and believed in Jesus Christ with our mind, heart, and will, we will eventually bear fruit and show the evidence of salvation. Other tests that can help us determine whether we really believe in the saving way include the following:

  • Am I bearing fruit? Is there love, joy, peace, and patience in my life? (Matthew 3:10, Galatians 5:22)
  • Do I love and obey God, keeping His commandments? (John 3:36, 1John 2:3-6, Matthew 19:17, 2John 1:9)
  • Do I love the brethren, in deed and in truth? (1John 3:14, 18-19, John 13:34)
  • Do I continue to confess my sins to God and repent of them? (Luke 13:3, Matthew 21:29-32, 1John 1:5-10).
  • Am I practicing righteousness rather than sin? (1John 3:7-10, 1Corinthians 6:9-11)
  • Do I submit myself to God's work of sanctification (1Thessalonians 4:2-3, 2Thessalonians 2:13, Philippians 2:12-13, 2Peter 1:3-11)? Cleansing is for past sins (2Peter 1:9). Thus, if we do not subject ourselves to the continual washing of the holy spirit, we have no part with Jesus (Titus 3:5-8, John 13:8). If we continue to sin willfully without repenting, these future sins may not be forgiven (Hebrews 10:26-29).
  • Has the Holy Spirit confirmed I am a child of God? (Romans 8:1,9,16, 1John 3:24, Ephesians 1:13-14) Do I hear His voice and follow Him? (John 10:27) Have I received the Holy Spirit by repentance and obedience (Acts 2:38, Acts 5:32, John 14:21)? Am I led by the Holy Spirit and governed by the law of the Spirit of life? Do I put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit? (Romans 8:13-14, Galatians 5:18, Romans 8:2, 1John 3:6-9)
  • Do I remain with those who follow the true way? (1John 2:19)


Are there any conditions before you will believe intellectually? trust Jesus? or follow Jesus?
Count the cost: Do you have enough faith in the facts to follow Jesus to the finish line?
Still seeking assurance of salvation? I personally find the concrete steps in 2 Peter 1:5-10 helpful to ensure we are on the way to eternal life.


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