Losing sight of this truth resulted not infrequently in a purely naturalistic, or psychological conception and analyzing of saving faith. This again resulted either in dead intellectualism, superficial practicism, or false mysticism, according as emphasis was laid on the factor of the intellect, of the will, or of the emotions. The first class emphasized faith as a natural knowledge of the intellect, a mere acceptance of the truth as it is revealed in Scripture. One came by faith indeed to the truth, but through the truth not to the living Christ. The natural intellect had indeed contact with the truth, which was accepted; but the heart had no fellowship with the Savior of sinners. When doubt arose in the soul with respect to one’s personal part in the salvation that was wrought by God in Christ, one was simply pointed to the truth of Scripture. That truth must simply be accepted; and the acceptance of that truth caused the conscious salvation of man. The second class, however, must have nothing of such dead intellectualism, and emphasized that the will by faith was gifted with true freedom, and therefore emphasized that faith must produce fruit. As James has it, without works, without fruit, faith is dead. The result was a natural practicism, which emphasized a practical Christianity, but which had no knowledge of sin and of the righteousness of God, which He has revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. The main question, according to these, was not what one believed, but what one did in the world. For the tree is known by its fruit. And finally, as to the third class, these must have nothing of dead intellectualism, must have nothing either of cold practicism, but emphasized feeling, emotions, mystical experience, and sought in these the real and genuine character of faith.
In the light of all these different views of faith, it is necessary that we emphasize, first of all, that faith is rooted .in the heart of man, and that from the heart it governs and controls both intellect and will, and, if you will, all the desires and emotions. As we have emphasized before, faith is really the spiritual bond whereby we are united with Christ. Faith is the means whereby God engrafts us into Him and makes us one plant with Him, so that we stand in living fellowship with Him. All the benefits of salvation, as we have emphasized before, have not only been merited by Christ through His perfect obedience, which was finally accomplished on the cross; but these benefits are also literally in Him. He is our wisdom, righteousness, and complete redemption. From Him and out of Him we receive grace for grace. Out of Christ we receive the complete salvation which God has prepared for them that are given to Christ, that is, the elect from before the foundation of the world. They receive this salvation because Christ imparts to them the benefits of salvation which He merited for them by His perfect obedience. Christ imparts Himself to His brethren. For He not only died on the accursed tree, but He is also raised from the dead and received into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God, far above all principalities and power and dominion and every name that is named. And in that state of His exaltation He received from the Father the quickening Spirit. For the first man, Adam, is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. The first man is become a living soul; the second man, Christ, is become a quickening Spirit. I Cor. 15:45, 47. In fact, the apostle Paul makes this so strong that he identifies the Lord and His Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. II Cor. 3:17. Hence, He is become the living and quickening head of His body, the church, of all whom the Father hath given unto Him. And He imparts Himself and all the benefits of salvation to all that are given Him by the Father.
Now Christ imparts Himself and all the benefits of salvation to His brethren only through faith, whereby God engrafts us into Christ and makes us one plant with Him. Faith, therefore, cannot be called a condition and prerequisite which man must fulfill in order to receive salvation and all the benefits of grace. Thus it has often been presented, also indeed by those that are supposed to be Reformed, those that signed the Three Forms of Unity. Especially when grace is presented as an offer, a well-meaning offer of salvation, well-meaning on the part of God to all that hear the gospel, faith and conversion are frequently conceived as a prerequisite for the reception of that offer of grace. But this presentation of faith is erroneous, through and through. Faith certainly is not and cannot be a condition which man must fulfill in order to receive the gift of grace. On the contrary, faith itself is one of the chief gifts of the grace of God to the sinner. One does not receive grace on condition that he first believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. On the contrary, he receives the gift of faith, in order that he may now live out of Christ. There are no conditions for salvation, simply because salvation is never dependent on anything in man. By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that, that is, faith, is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Eph. 2:8.