Since believers are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, it is important to know what it means to have faith in Christ. What is saving faith?
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SAVING FAITH
Saving faith has three essential elements: knowledge, conviction, and trust.
Knowledge refers to the content of faith, the things we believe. There are certain things we are required to know about Christ, namely, that He is the Son of God, that He is our Savior, and that He has died on the cross for our sins.
Conviction is to be convinced that what we know about Christ is true: that Christ truly is who He claimed to be, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and that He truly did die for sinners (Matthew 16:16-18). One can know about the Christian faith, and yet believe that it is not true.
Trust refers to personal trust in Christ alone for salvation. It is one thing to agree that Christ is the only Savior, but it is another thing to trust Him alone for salvation and to give Him thanks for salvation. Satan and his demons know that Jesus is the only Savior, but they hate the truth. Many people are just like that. They know who Christ is, but they do not trust Him. Like the Pharisees, they prefer to trust themselves, their own character or good works.
FRUITS OF CONVERSION
Saving faith and repentance are the two sides of conversion. You cannot have one without the other. To have faith in Christ is to believe that Christ died for your sins. To repent is to hate your sin and turn away from it by asking God for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. The word “repentance” means “a change of mind.” Prior to conversion, we loved our sin and hated God, but now we hate our sins and love God. Yes, part of us still loves our sin, but true repentance involves a godly sorrow for having offended God and a resolve to be rid of our sin.
Peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). We were enemies of God, but the war is over. God declares a peace treaty with all those who put their faith in Christ. The peace is eternal and unbreakable because it has been won by the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Adoption. When God declares us just in Jesus Christ, He adopts us into His spiritual family so that we become children of the living God.
Good works. Our works are not factored into God’s declaration that we are just in His sight; but works are the necessary fruit of saving faith. A faith without any good works is not saving faith (James 2:17).
[Adapted from R.C. Sproul Everyone’s a Theologian]