I received the following comments:

In the theology class I am taking we have been examining the nature of faith as it relates to our salvation. I also happen to have been reading through a number of the Seed and Bread issues online. I still believe that faith which produces salvation is entirely by grace, i.e. Eph. 2 and Roman 3. However, I had been brought up with the understanding that the saving faith (SF) which Paul preached was dispensationally different than that of Jesus and James. The argument went that SF pre-Act 28 or mid-Acts was faith still faith alone (i.e., entirely grace) but a faith which would naturally produce fruit, submission, repentance, and works in general. However, when Paul ushered in the new dispensation he provided a SF which is faith which does not necessarily result in any fruit or works or any kind of change in the individual, sort of a even fuller grace than existed before.

It is much easier to adhere to either the Acts 28 or mid-Acts position than it is to figure out what exactly changed when the new dispensation was ushered in.  Just finding the dispensational line is one thing, but determining what crossed that line and what did not is a difficult and complicated study.  The issue you mention is only one upon which there is much disagreement.

I think part of this issue is what defines faith.  Romans 10:17 tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  We cannot have faith unless God has given us a word regarding something.  Yet once God has given us His Word, then we have the opportunity for faith.  Really, every passage in the Bible that we read gives us the opportunity for faith, at least, once we properly understand it.  This does not mean that it is saving faith, but it is faith any time we believe God.  Yet, I believe that the form our faith takes can change.

I have stated that there are three basic responses that faith can demand from us.  One response is a change in our behavior.  An example of this would be if someone who was a believer was in the habit of getting drunk every Friday night.  Then, however, he read in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”  This believer must now make a choice.  Will he believe the passage or not?  In this case, he could say, “I believe this.  This is right.”  Yet if he went out and kept on getting drunk every Friday night, he would prove that he did not really have faith in the passage.  If he does truly have faith in it, he must change his behavior.

A second response that faith might demand would be simply a change of mind.  For example, a believer might have been of the impression that the earth created itself over a period of billions of years.  However, he then might read in Exodus 20:11a, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”  He could say, “This is right.  I believe this.”  Yet if he keeps on thinking that the earth created itself over billions of years, he would prove that he did not really have faith in the passage.  If he truly does have faith in it, he must change his mind.

A third response that faith might demand would be to simply believe something.  For example, someone might read in Genesis 5:27, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.”  He might say, “That is true.  I believe that.”  That is all he would have to do in this case to have faith: believe that that is how old Methuselah was when he died.  No other response would be necessary to have faith in this passage.  All he would have to do would be to accept it as a fact and catalogue it away as being true.

Now, we know that the response of saving faith can certainly be the third response.  For example, someone might not even have thought about salvation before, or how to get his sins taken away.  Then, he might hear the truth of the gospel of salvation as set forth in the Word.  In this case, he has no change to make.  All he has to do is believe this truth and respond to it.  “I believe that Jesus Christ is God, and that He died for my sins and rose again,” he might say.  And if he believes this, not just as a general fact but receives it regarding himself, he will be saved.  Nothing has to change.  All he has to do is have faith.

But notice that, although this is saving faith, saving faith could also take the form of all three of the above examples.  For example, if I believed that worshipping Allah saved me and worshipped him regularly, I would have to change this behavior before I could truly have saving faith.  This would mean I would have to have the first response as well as the third.  If I believed that going to church saved me, I would need to change my mind about this before I could truly have saving faith.  I would not have to stop going to church, but only change my mind about what truly saves me.  In this case, I would have to have the second response as well as the third.  So saving faith, just like faith in general, might require different responses from different people.

The saving faith that Paul preached did have a dispensationally different character than that preached before him.  Yet I don’t think it was different in the nature of what you were brought up believing.  Paul’s saving faith requires a response just as much as any other kind of faith would.  I gave the three examples above, and showed that saving faith could demand a change in behavior, a change of mind, or simply belief with no change.  What really changed with Paul’s saving faith is what you were believing in.  Paul points out in Romans 4:3, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”  Certainly, this faith saved Abraham.  Yet what message was that faith in?  If we turn to the passage referred to, Genesis 15, we can discover what it was that Abraham believed.  In Genesis 15:4-5 we read,

4.  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.”
5.  Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

Then, this is followed in verse 6 by the statement:

6.  And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

So we see here that believing this message, given specifically to him, is what caused Abraham to be saved.  This was “saving faith” for Abraham.  Yet notice that this message, though it brought saving faith to Abraham, could not bring saving faith to you or me, since this is not the message God has given us for saving faith.  Faith is still believing God’s word, but what has changed is WHAT word.

Now what Paul started to preach that made such a big change was in two basic parts.  One was that the message he taught you had to believe was simply different from what had ever been taught before.  Paul refers to the gospel he delivered to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 15:1-4.

1.  Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
2.  by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
3.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4.  and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

This, as the basic tenants of the gospel, was not preached prior to Paul.  For example, Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2 never preached that Jesus Christ died FOR OUR SINS.  No one preached this, that we have a record of, until Paul did it in Antioch in Pisidia in Acts 13:38, where he declared, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.”  This was the turning point of Paul’s gospel, but was conspicuously absent in the messages given by the other apostles before this.

The second way in which the saving faith Paul preached was dispensationally different from what came before was that he preached that righteousness was available apart from keeping the law.  Romans 3:28 states, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”  The Israelites in the past had always assumed that keeping the law was essential to a person’s relationship with God.  Indeed, it was what God expected of them, so any Israelite who was not keeping the law had a very poor relationship with God by default.  But what Paul taught is that, for those who cannot keep the law, (which includes every one today, for even Israelites cannot keep the law without a working temple and priesthood,) salvation is available exclusively by faith, without any lawkeeping whatsoever.  It is not that the nature of saving faith changed.  It was just now that it was understood that God’s command to Israel to keep the law was something that those who could not keep it did not have to obey in order to be faithful, or to have saving faith.

Did the gospel Paul taught as bringing saving faith change at Acts 28?  I do not believe that it did.  What did change was that the Gentiles were now “fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,” (Ephesians 3:6), rather than the Jews being “first” as they were in Romans 1:16.  As far as the gospel itself, though, or the nature of saving faith, I do not believe either changed at Acts 28:28.

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