The Nature of Saving Faith

ReFocus Conference | Vancouver


The following is a lightly edited transcript.

I’ll give you an illustration for why I mean it when I say what a fruitful privilege it is to speak to pastors at events like this. I taught Bible and Greek at Bethel College for six years about thirty years ago, and was moved, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to become a pastor in 1980, where most of you serve, thinking that perhaps one of the sacrifices would be that I would lack the leisure that comes with academia to reflect and to grow in my understanding of the Bible, and would be pressured by all manners of administrative things, and consequently growth in knowledge and grace would be hindered.

I was so naïve because when I blipped in my final preparations for a talk like this, pulling pieces from 27 years of reflection new light comes. Significant new light, amazing new light, new light that alters the way I say things, new light that causes old tensions to get resolved. And they come under tremendous pressure to get ready for things like this. And I think that’s the Lord’s kindness to preachers.

There’s only one way to live and that’s under pressure. There is a Greek word, thlibō, which means “pressure.” And through many of these, we must enter the kingdom of God. And if you have the mindset, “I can’t be creative” or “I can’t have new thoughts under pressure” or “I don’t get breakthroughs under pressure,” you’re selling the Holy Spirit short.

So just know that I am really thankful to be here and that you have ministered to me this morning and last night with new insight that I got in getting ready to talk about this with you. And when I get to the point, I’ll tell you what it was.

God’s Purpose in Creation

Let’s review. First talk: Why the creation? Answer: God does everything he does, created everything, holds the world in being, all acts of providence, all works of redemption to uphold and display the greatness of his glory for the maximum enjoyment of a redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. That glory and its display comes to its apex in the sufferings of Jesus Christ and his resurrection on our behalf. That was our first session together.

The Essence and Results of Our Depravity

The second session: What is depravity? Answer: depravity is an unalterable bias in our hearts to prefer the created thing to God, or more specifically to prefer the glory of created things to the glory of God. So we are in treason against the purpose of God in the universe to uphold and display his glory for the maximum enjoyment of a redeemed people. And we turn away from the fountain of living waters and hew out for ourselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water and thus debase God and esteem any part of the creation that stands in his place. That’s who we are. We do not prefer God. We prefer work, sex, video, computer, family, friends, food, success, reputation, or whatever it is. And most of it’s good. It is wicked because we prefer it rather than God. That’s who we are. Our depravity is at root a bias to prefer the creature.

Now, that creates a situation in which there needs to be a remedy. Why is the gospel not “stop doing that and start preferring God”? “Turn and start preferring God. And he will be pleased. Cancel out what you’ve done and go with the flow.” Why isn’t the gospel “start preferring God. Start loving God” instead of what it is? Why is that? There are a couple of reasons.

The Wrath of God

First, the situation that we are now in because of this depravity and God’s purpose, which is the opposite of what we prefer, is that his holiness and his righteousness have made us, therefore, objects of his wrath. We’ve broken his law. First John 3:4: “Sin is lawlessness.” We’ve defamed his glory. Romans 1:21: “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened,” and so they became foolish and preferred created things. His anger against us is punitive so that “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19; see also 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

“The cross brings to a climax of the very glory in which we are to delight.”

The fire of vengeance comes upon all those who have not believed the gospel. So the problem is that objectively outside ourselves that we can’t fix, he’s angry at us. And the just sentence of death and hell are upon us. Romans 5:12 and Matthew 25:46 enter into eternal punishment. So you can’t just say stop preferring man and start preferring God and all will be well. God is very angry about what we have done, and we are under his just sentence of death and hell.

The Remedy

So the remedy of the situation requires a change in God toward us — something objective outside of us. This terrible condition we’re in has to be fixed. It has to be changed, not just something in us. Now that’s the first reason why I say the remedy to the situation of our depravity is not just stop being deprived.

The great object of the work of Christ, the great goal is not just a way to overcome God’s anger so that we can start enjoying his glory again. Rather, what Christ did was complete and bring to an apex the very glory that we don’t delight in. So it is a remedy that reorients God to us and us to God, but that’s not all that was going on.

It is the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore the glory, the demonstration, the display, the upholding of the original purpose of creation isn’t done. It hasn’t reached its apex for us to delight in until we see it in the cross. So the cross is not just a way of fixing things so that we can now delight in glory, which is what we failed to do. It is the completion, the bringing to a climax of the very glory in which we are to delight. So for those two reasons, you can’t just tell people, “Just stop being depraved. Just stop preferring man and start preferring God.”

Outlining the Gospel of Christ

Now the nature of saving faith, therefore, cannot be understood without seeing the nature of God’s work in Christ. If I were to try now to just launch into, “Okay, tell us about faith. Tell us about how to fix this problem of depravity,” if I tried to jump over the saving work of Christ objectively outside ourselves 2,000 years ago, we would never understand what saving faith is.

So we can’t go that route, and I need to outline for you the gospel. And I find this not obvious today. What is the gospel? So let me just sum it up in a few minutes because it has many elements to it that are all essential to it being good news. Take out any one of these, and all the others are not good news.

1. Historical Event

The gospel is an event in history. First Corinthians 15:3–4: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” An event. If you take away the event, the objective event of the death for us and the resurrection, there is no gospel. That’s number one.

2. An Achievement

There is an achievement in the event. The event achieved something outside of us before we were born, we didn’t have anything to do with this achievement. And the achievement is manifold. Let me just give you some examples of what Jesus achieved for you before you were ever on the scene. It has nothing to do with any change in you. It’s what he did objectively before you were born 2,000 years ago.

First, he absorbed the wrath of God. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:14). So he became a curse for us, and that’s over. That’s over. It is finished.

Second, he bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness. First Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Isaiah 53:5: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” That’s over. It’ll never happen again. It’s finished.

Third, Christ provided a perfect righteousness that becomes ours by union with him through faith. But the purchase and the provision of the righteousness is over. Philippians 2:8: he was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Through Adam’s disobedience, many were made sinners. Through Christ’s obedience, many will be appointed righteous (Romans 5:12–17). So the obedience that we have to have and don’t have is finished.

Remember the story of John Bunyan, wrestling at age 25 with his deep lack of assurance and fear, walking in an orchard one day and he said that 1 Corinthians 1:30 landed on him, that Christ is his righteousness. And he said, “My righteousness is in heaven, and it is complete. I cannot add to it. I can not take away from it.” And he went singing on his way home, and he never at that level struggled with assurance again. It is finished. Our righteousness is complete.

Fourth, he defeated death. Hebrews 2:14: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”

So he defeated death and implicit in that, fifth, he disarmed Satan. Colossians 2:14: “Canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” The decisive blow against the damning power of the devil has been delivered. It is finished long before you ever came on the scene and you had zero, nothing to do with it or its achievement.

“My righteousness is in heaven, and it is complete. I cannot add to it. I can not take away from it.”

Sixth, Christ purchased a final healing and holiness for his people. Isaiah 53:4: “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” The purchase was made once for all outside ourselves.

And finally seventh, he purchased and secured everlasting fellowship with God. First Peter 3:18: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” Before we were ever on the scene, God achieved those seven things on behalf of his own. It is finished — a glorious achievement. And we must know it, celebrate it, and preach it as finished for our people.

3. Faith, Not Works

The gospel is a free offer for faith, not works. If the event goes, there’s no gospel. If the event didn’t achieve those things, there’s no gospel. If it comes to us by works, there’s no gospel. So the nature of our obtaining it, receiving it, becoming a beneficiary of it is faith alone. Ephesians 2:8: “By grace are you saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If the gospel, if all of that achievement, became yours by virtue of your works, then there would be no gospel. So the offer, the way all of that comes to you, is an essential part of the gospel. There’d be no gospel if it came to you by works and not by faith. We will come back to that one because that’s the point. What is faith?

4. Application of Faith

There is the application to us of the achievement through faith. And if that application doesn’t happen to us, there’s no gospel. And what I mean by application include these: Justification — your justification did not happen at the cross. The foundation and ground of it was attained at the cross climactically, but you now experience being set right with God, being counted righteous in Christ when you believe.

Forgiveness was purchased decisively. The blood was shed on the ground of which forgiveness flows, but it comes to be our own through faith. Acts 10:43: “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). You didn’t have eternal life until you believed in him. He bought it at the cross, and it is applied through faith or the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

That is where gospel preaching usually stops, which is why I wrote the book God is the Gospel. I find most gospel preaching stops short. I can understand why it feels like we get to the end — justified, forgiven, eternal life. Holy Spirit’s presence — What more could there be? Answer: The enjoyment of God. Who cares about being justified? Who cares about being forgiven? What’s the point of forgiveness? If you offend your wife and she’s mad at you, like my wife gets sometimes if I say something ugly to her. There’s ice in the air and her back is to me at the sink, I need forgiveness. Why? So that I have a clean conscience at work? No, I want her back. I want her to come to me. I want the air to be cleared. I want her to hug me, not like a tree.

And that’s why we want God’s forgiveness. Get to that point, brothers. In your preaching, get there because the goal of history, the goal of creation is the display of the glory of God for the maximum enjoyment of his people. So if you preach the gospel up to forgiveness, up to justification, up to eternal life, up to redemption, and you stop there, then there’s a piece missing. In fact, a decisive piece is missing. If you do not lead your people through justification and through the forgiveness of sins, and through propitiation to the enjoyment of God himself, it’s not the gospel. You’ve left them in midair. Forgiven, justified, wrath gone, but where’s God? Doesn’t matter. We’ve got golf in heaven. I’ll give you my list again and get into trouble like I di, but golf is a good place to start.

Why Is Salvation Through Faith?

Event, achievement, offer, application, enjoyment of God — before there’s an event, there’s a plan (Ephesians 1:3–11). But we’ve talked about that. We don’t need to go there again. Now we might be in a position to talk about faith. Now we might be in a position to ask the question: What is it about faith that makes it so central as the instrument by which we obtain these great things? Why is salvation through faith?

There are two reasons, and they correspond to the fact that the work of Christ is two things. Now, this is what I discovered last night and this morning. It’s not new to me, I’ve just never seen it this way before. So this is fresh off my theological reflection front burner, and that’s dangerous but also enjoyable.

There are two reasons why our salvation comes to us through faith that correspond to the fact that the work of Christ is two things. First, the work of Christ is the objective satisfaction of the holy and righteous demands of God. The work of Christ outside of me is the objective satisfaction of the holy righteous demands of God — demands for punishment, and he’s punished; demands for righteousness, and he’s righteous. Before I was ever born, this work of Christ is satisfying the holiness of God. That’s one. Now I’ll tell you how faith corresponds to that in just a minute.

Second, the work of Christ is also the subjective satisfaction of our souls as the display of the apex of the glory of God and the opening of the way to my everlasting joy. And faith relates to that.

Now you noticed I used the word satisfaction in both of those. Let me say it short, and that might be memorable. The work of Christ is objectively the satisfaction of God’s righteous demands. The work of Christ is subjectively the apex of the glory that satisfies my soul forever.

Now, if that’s so, then the question becomes how does faith correspond to those two works, those two ways of thinking about the work of Christ? What I’m getting at is the reason God has ordained that faith be the way we are saved is because faith is the only act of the heart that corresponds to those two satisfactions in a necessary way. Are you with me so far? We need to try to unpack that.

Receiving with Empty Hands

Faith is chosen by God, ordained by God, designed by God as the way of salvation because it is better than any other act of the heart, and will make clear that the objective work of Christ outside of me, satisfying all of God’s demands, must be received as what I could never do for myself. I could not die for myself unless I want to spend eternity in hell and I cannot obey for myself because I could never provide the perfection demanded. There, the one thing I must have is that. And what is the receiving of it? Faith. Now, I’m going to let Machen and Andrew Fuller talk for me here. Listen to J. Gresham Machen. This is from What Is Faith? 1925:

The true reason why faith is given such an exclusive place in the New Testament so far as the attainment of salvation is concerned over against love and over against everything else in man . . . is that faith means receiving something, not doing something or being something. To say therefore that our faith saves us, means we do not save ourselves even in the slightest measure, but that God saves us.

In other words, this is important, in this day when justification talk is being ripped to shreds in every manner of way, you think you’ve got one incipient heresy figured out and another one pops up, and it all relates very close to what I’m saying right now. So if you just get this clear, you will be spared so much grief. Faith alone justifies, not love.

“The work of Christ is the objective satisfaction of the holy and righteous demands of God.”

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his sermons, says to beware of telling little children primarily to love Jesus, which is what we all tend to do. Tell them to trust him because love connotes a performance. Love connotes an action. Love connotes a virtue, a disposition and a virtue. Whereas faith biblically understood, connotes an empty-handed receiving. Out there is the virtue I need, not in me. I’m the problem. That’s the solution. Faith welcomes the solution.

We are justified by faith alone and not by love because God intends to make it crystal clear that he does the decisive saving outside of us, that the work and person of Christ are the sole ground of our acceptance with God. In other words, don’t replace faith with any other virtue because faith is tailor-made to say, “All I need is the ground and my salvation is out there.” And then how do I get it? Receive, receive, receive — don’t perform. Receive the Performer.

Andrew Fuller, one hundred years earlier than Machen, was the chief rope holder for William Carey and a Baptist heavily influenced by Jonathan Edwards in Britain. And he wrote very profound things. If you want to read Edwards distilled and even more accessible, read Andrew Fuller. Here’s what he wrote:

Thus it is, that justification is ascribed to faith, because it is by faith that we receive Christ; and thus it is by faith only, and not by any other grace. Faith is peculiarly receiving grace, which none other is. Were we said to be justified by repentance, by love, by any other grace, it would convey to us the idea that something good in us is being the consideration on which the blessing was bestowed; but justification by faith conveys no such idea.

So what sets faith apart from other graces, other virtues is that quote: It “is peculiarly receiving grace.” That’s why Paul says, “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Grace correlates with faith because grace is all giving, and faith is all receiving. When God justifies us by faith alone, he has respect not to faith as a virtue. I’d love to linger here because right here, so many people are going astray. They’re reasoning in human ways without knowing the profundity of what Owen, and Edwards, and Fuller, and others have seen.

They say, for example, the way human logic would go: Faith is a beautiful thing. Faith is required all over the Bible. Faith is one of the most high and noble virtues that the heart can perform. And then they slide little by little into justification becoming grounded on the virtue of faith, not so justified by faith with me.

The great old thinkers saw that danger. And therefore they crafted sentences very carefully, and here’s where Fuller was struggling on two fronts. He had the Sandamanians that said faith was all knowledge and had no affectional dimension. And he had the Roman Catholics and others, who were saying that it is precisely faith formed by love that is the ground of our justification. And he could see where they were getting these ideas.

So he says that when God justifies by faith, he has a respect to faith, not as a virtue, but as the receiving of the one who has perfect virtue. Make that distinction. Do not make faith efficient in justification by virtue of it being a virtue. Make it efficient because it receives empty handed the one who has all the virtue you need and all the punishment that you deserve. And he becomes yours by faith alone.

Now that is the way faith corresponds to the first way of understanding the work of Christ. I said that the work of Christ outside us is the satisfaction of the objective demands of God for righteousness and punishment, and I am saying faith in its nature corresponds to that by being the instrument by which we receive. We need it, that’s our only hope. That righteousness, that punishment, that blood and righteousness made ours through empty handed receiving. Saving faith is receiving the righteousness and the death of another.

Receiving with Full Joy

What about the other dimension or perspective on the work of Christ? Christ not only satisfies the wrath of God by bearing our punishment and providing our righteousness, thus removing his wrath, thus opening the way for a reconciliation that enables us to enjoy his glory, which is what we’re made for, that work also is the apex of the revelation of the glory we were designed to enjoy. And my argument now is that faith must receive Christ that way too. That is, we must receive him as supremely valuable, supremely glorious.

This is really relevant. I don’t know if you’re with me, I hope you’re with me. Nominalism in our churches is a big problem. Why? What’s gone wrong? Why do so many people say they believe in Jesus who give no evidence of spiritual life? They don’t seem to have the spirit of “I count everything as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). That’s just not their demeanor.

And yet they say, “I believe.” And then they count everything as loss for the sake of a new computer. They count everything as loss for the sake of a new video, or count everything as loss for the sake of a new car. They count everything as loss for the sake of a wife or a husband. Where’s the flavor of the apostle Paul who in his relationship with Christ, counted everything as loss because of the value that he had in Christ? And my answer to that problem is right here at this point.

“The work of Christ is the subjective satisfaction of our souls.”

When you receive him as that, you receive him as the objective satisfaction of the wrath of God and the demands of God valuably. That’s precious, or you’re not receiving it. That’s precious. That’s beautiful. That’s glorious.

Many people receive Christ as a sin-forgiver because they love being guilt-free, not because they love Christ. Many people receive him as rescuer from hell because they love being pain-free, not because they love Christ. Many people receive him as healer because they love being disease free, not because they love Christ. Many people receive him as protector, because they like being safe, not because they love Christ. Many people receive him as prosperity giver, because they love being wealthy, not because they love Christ. Many people receive him as Creator because well, it can’t hurt and they like an orderly universe. Many people receive him as Lord of history. That’s getting a little bit more problematic, but I like things to have order and purpose. But they don’t receive him as supremely and personally valuable to them for who he is.

They don’t receive him, therefore, as he really is — more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying than everything else in the universe. They don’t prize him, they don’t treasure him, they don’t delight in him, they don’t cherish him.

So another way to say it is they receive Christ in a way that requires no change in human nature. You don’t have to be born again to love being guilt-free, love being pain-free, love being disease-free, love being safe, love being wealthy. All natural men love those things and will do what they will do to get him, including believe in Jesus naturally as just an old belief that he is there. Where is he? There he is. There you go. I believe him. It’s right here in my wallet. It’s tattered and old, and it’s out of sight most of the time. But I got the ticket. I got the ticket, and I’m not going to hell. I’m on the train that leads the glory.

But to embrace Jesus as your supreme treasure, you must be born again. You must be a new creation in Christ. You must be spiritually alive. The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit. They’re foolishness. When the cross ceases to be a stumbling block and ceases to be foolishness, and becomes the wisdom of God, the power of God, the beauty of God, the glory of God, the all-satisfying gift of God, you’ve been born again. And faith is awakening.

Therefore, saving faith is a receiving of Christ. Yes, as the objective, historical satisfaction of the divine demands of the holy God, that we be perfect and that we perish. Yes, if that’s not there, then there’s no gospel. We receive that, and that is our righteousness. But I’m adding when we receive that, if we receive that, we have had our eyes open to see that as beautiful, glorious, not a tattered old card to stick in our back pocket to get what we really want. Faith then corresponds to this revelation of glory as the receiving of Christ as our treasure. That’s what faith is, those two things.

Preach the Gospel

Drawing to a close, would you open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 4? Let me give a closing exhortation to the pastors and preachers among us. Your task is huge. Indeed, your task is impossible because you have people who are preferring the creature over the glory of the Creator. They are unalterably biased that way. They’re really eager to get out of church, to go to the ball game or lunch, or their heart for God is small or nonexistent. You’re called to raise the dead, and to awaken in them a preference for the glory of God revealed in Christ. I just want to give you a text that points out three things that we preachers need very much to know. Second Corinthians 4:4:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

What is the gospel? Among all the other things that I said, it is the apex of the revelation of the glory of God or the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Therefore, in our preaching, we must preach the facts of the gospel, the doctrines of the gospel — justification, redemption, propitiation, forgiveness, reconciliation — unpack those richly.

I was asked a question: Is propitiation practical? Is God not being angry at us, not practical? Nothing is more important. That was a slight overstatement because if you’re tracking with me, getting his wrath out of the way is a means to an end.

I want to close with him now. I want to see him. I want to enjoy him forever. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). That’s the final prayer of the Lord Jesus for all of us to see his glory. Preach the facts of these glorious doctrines of propitiation and the others. Preach them.

Preach the Gospel Beautifully

Now here’s the part that might be a twist you’ll take away that is fresh. Preach them so that they’re beautiful. Preach them so that they’re glorious. Preach them so that they’re irresistibly attractive. Preach them so that they are magnificently satisfying. Let this language of preference for glory, preference for Christ, preference that proclaims I count everything as loss for the surpassing value of knowing him.

“Saving faith is receiving the righteousness and the death of another.”

Do you preach so that people go out feeling that? No, you can’t. I know I’ve put a heavy thing on you. You can’t make that happen without the Holy Spirit, but you can try leaning on the Spirit to say things in a way that will awaken that satisfaction so that they talk like Paul. So, preach the fact of the doctrines and display them in a way that they are beautiful, glorious, satisfying, and attractive, and lean heavily on the Holy Spirit and pray desperately that he attend your preaching on account of 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Verse four stated the blindness to those things: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” But now, God has done something. He has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

So our job can be found in verse five: “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.” You can’t make it happen. What we want to happen is that people who are preferring the creature suddenly prefer the glory of God reaching its apex in its revelation in Jesus Christ crucified and risen. We want people seeing the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ — to see that and we want them awakened to its infinitely superior value over all things. That’s our job, and we can’t do it, which is why verse six is in the Bible. Let’s look at verse seven.

You wonder why I’m using treasure language? You wonder why I’ve put treasure on accept him as Lord and Savior and treasure? It’s because it is here in verse 7: “We have this treasure.” What’s it referring to? It’s referring back to verse six and verse four — the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ — “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

Don’t Forget to Pray

So my other point here was pray. And pray long, and pray hard. Don’t be mainly an entrepreneur in your church planting or your church replanting, or your church revitalization, or your church leadership. Yes, we’ve got to think about a zillion practical administrative stuff. All that is to say, I live in the real world. I have to think about these things all the time. But my battle is to be on my faith. Every morning God, please. I don’t want to become mechanical. I don’t want to run a ship. I don’t want to just be a businessman. I want to be a man of God. I want to be an instrument of the miracle of verse six. Would you please crucify in me anything? Anything. Kill it.

You really need to pray like that. Kill anything in me that hinders the flow of the miracle of verse six. The God who said let light shine out of darkness has shown into your hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ so that by the virtue of the Spirit, eyes open. And people say, “I count everything as loss, for the surpassing value of seeing that glory.”

Objective Facts Seen as Glorious

Saving faith is based on objective facts of Christ’s work for us outside of us and upon seeing those facts as glorious. This spiritual sight, the Holy Spirit has given sight of the glory of God in the face of Christ or the glory of Christ who is the image of God in the cross, in the gospel. This sight of the glory of Christ in the objective facts of the gospel alters our preference for the creation over the Creator, which was our depravity.

If I had another talk, it would be on sanctification and how the nature of saving faith inevitably sanctifies. If you’ve understood what I’ve said so far, you could preach that very easily. It’s all here. We are, now having seen by the Holy Spirit the superior glory of the Creator over creation and having our preferences altered, inclined to receive Christ both as substitute, objective, satisfaction of God’s righteous demands, and as infinitely valuable, all-satisfying treasure whose surpassing value causes us to count everything as loss for his worth.

And when that happens, sanctification is in the offing because the reason we don’t love people is because we are trying to use them to satisfy our souls. And now we’re satisfied with the glory of God in the face of Christ. And therefore, we are freed to love people and let our lights so shine that people might see our good deeds and give glory to our Father, which is the ultimate boulē — plan, purpose, aim of the universe.