Genuine saving faith is that which prevails over death

by Mike Ratliff

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. Matthew 16:13-20 (NASB) 

Genuine Christians, God’s heirs, are those who have believed.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB) 

Carefully read this very familiar passage from John Chapter 3. Who is it that does not perish, but has eternal life? It is whoever believes in the Son. Not everyone who attempts to “follow” Jesus believes.

25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. John 6:25-36 (NASB)

Jesus know those who are His. He knows those who seek to “follow” Him, but don’t know Him or believe Him. They do not have saving faith. They seek things “to do” in order to be justified. They refuse to simply “believe” in Jesus without a sign. They are in unbelief. Unbelief does not trust God. Those in it attempt to be “Christians” by doing. Jesus plainly tells these people that whoever believes in Him shall “never thirst.” This is an analogy of having the Holy Spirit, to be filled by Him. These people witnessed miracles by Jesus, yet they do not believe. This reminds me of a debate I had with an atheist not long ago who told me that all God had to do was reveal Himself to Him then he would believe. This is the same unbelief that these people had.

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:37-40 (NASB) 

So who is it that believes? All that the Father gives to the Son come to Him and He will never cast them out. All whom the Father give to Jesus Christ to be His are His forever. These same people believe in Him and thereby are given eternal life. Then Jesus totally verifies that this is what He is talking about by saying that all who come to Him and believe will be raised up on the last day. This is the Church.

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:41-58 (NASB) 

Whoever believes has eternal life. Whoever feeds on Jesus flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life. This is covenant language. All who believe are saved and enter into a blood covenant with God. This covenant is guaranteed in Christ’s blood and broken body. What is the believer’s part of the covenant?

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB) 

Believing in Jesus is not just intellectual assent. No, it is much more than that. Those who truly believe are drawn to the Son by the Father. They are touched by God’s grace which accords with their faith. This brings their faith alive. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4) This regenerated faith believes God and trusts Him. These New Creations come to Christ in self-denial as they die to self. They take up their own cross and follow Jesus. No one can come to Jesus without this. Those who want Jesus, but refuse to deny self are trying to save their lives for themselves. As a result, they lose their lives. However, all who lose their lives for Jesus sake find that they have eternal life.

Saving faith is supernatural.

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. Matthew 16:13-20 (NASB) 

Jesus asked His disciples who the people thought He was. Some thought He was John the Baptist while others thought He was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them who they say He is. Simon Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. What did Jesus do then? Did he rebuke him or deny this? No! He confirmed that this is true. Then He tells us the nature of saving faith. How did Simon Peter know this to be true? Jesus tells us that flesh and blood did not reveal this to him, but it was by the Father who is in heaven that this came to be known in Peter’s heart. Then Jesus calls Simon by his nickname, “Peter,” which is the Greek word “Petros.” This word means a small stone. Then he tells us that the source of Peter’s revelation is the “Rock” upon which He will build His Church. The Greek word for “Rock” here is “petra.” This refers to foundation boulder or bedrock. He is not telling us that Peter is the foundation since the Bible is very clear that Christ is both the foundation and the head of the church. (Acts 4:11,12; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 5:23) No, the “petra” or “rock” upon which Christ is building His church is the faith whereby Peter has confessed and acknowledged to Jesus. This faith is grounded upon an infallible truth.

Those who possess this faith are given a promise here. Jesus says that the gates of hell will never prevail over “this rock.” What is the gates of hell. The Greek word used here for “hell” is “Hades.” This is the abode of the dead. The gates of hell, then, is death. It is by dying that people are taken to hell. Therefore, saving faith, the faith that is given to us by God the Father by His grace will always prevail over death. Of course, this death is spiritual death not physical death.

Many are still trying to “follow” Jesus, but on their own terms. I saw a video several years ago about Easter services at some “relevant” churches. They proclaim that church has changed. There is now no attempt to make anyone feel guilty about their sin. Everything is done there in a way that will make non-believers as comfortable as possible. Where is the blood of Christ? Where is the covenant of Christ’s broken body and His blood shed to pay the penalty for the sins of His people? How can we preach about the Resurrection without His crucifixion? What sort of “belief” are these folks going to become part of if it isn’t a trusting in the promises of God for forgiveness of sins and receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour? Whatever it is, it isn’t the saving faith which prevails over death.

Soli Deo Gloria!