Substantial Faith

“It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling. Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man. Faith is more than just credence; faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ who gave those promises. Equally repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Saviour as king in self’s place. Mere credence without trusting and mere remorse without turning, do not save.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Sovereign Grace and Evangelistic Zeal

“There is abroad today a widespread suspicion that a robust faith in the absolute sovereignty of God is bound to undermine any adequate sense of human responsibility. Such a faith is thought to be dangerous to spiritual health because it breeds a habit of complacent inertia. In particular, it is thought to paralyze evangelism by robbing one both of the motive to evangelize and of the message to evangelize with. The supposition seems to be that you cannot evangelize effectively unless you are prepared to pretend while you are doing it that the doctrine of divine sovereignty is not true. I shall try to make it evident that this is nonsense. I shall try to show further that, so far from inhibiting evangelism, faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that an sustain it, for it is the only thing that can give us the resilience that we need if we are to evangelize boldly and persistently, and not be daunted by temporary setbacks. So far from being weakened by this faith, therefore, evangelism will inevitably be weak and lack staying power without it. This, I hope, will become clear as we proceed.”
-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Assurance of Salvation in the Johannine Epistles

“The Johannine Epistles make an important contribution to the doctrine of assurance (see 1 John 5:13). If other New Testament writings make it clear that the objective grounds of our confidence  before God are in Christ and his death and resurrection on our behalf, such that Christian assurance is not much more than a concomitant of genuine faith, these epistles insist that a distinction must be made between genuine and spurious faith. Spurious faith does not have the right to assurance before God; genuine faith can be authenticated not only by the validity of its object (in this case, the belief that Jesus is Christ come in the flesh) but also by the transformation it effects in the individual: genuine Christians learn to love one another and obey the truth. Christian assurance is not, for John, an abstract good; it is intimately tied to a continuing and transforming relationship with the covenant God, who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.”
-D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo  An Introduction to the New Testament

Ordo Salutis

“At the end of the day we cannot divide faith and repentance chronologically. The true Christian believes penitently, and he repents believingly. For this reason, in the New Testament either term may be used when both dimensions are implied; and the order in which they are used may vary. But in the order of nature , in terms of the inner logic of the gospel and the way its ‘grammar’ functions, repentance can never be said to precede faith. It cannot take place outside of the context of faith.”
-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

Loved from the First of Time

“What conditions were met in us in order for God to send his only Son into the world to die for sinners? None. Indeed there can be none. This is what Boston found valuable in the expression “Christ is dead for you.” For Boston this meant: “I do not offer Christ to you on the grounds that you have repented. Indeed I offer him to men and women who are dead in their trespasses and sins. This gospel offer of Jesus Christ himself is for you, whoever and whatever you are.”

One of the dangers Boston recognized was that conditionalism feeds back into how we view God himself. It introduces a layer of distortion into his character. For it is possible to see that no conditions for grace can be met by us yet still to hold to a subtle conditionality in God’s grace in itself.

This comes to expression when the gospel is preached in these terms:

God loves you because Christ died for you!

How do those words distort the gospel? They imply that the death of Christ is the reason for the love of God for me. By contrast the Scriptures affirm that the love of God for us is the reason for the death of Christ. That is the emphasis of John 3:16. God (i.e., the Father, since here “God” is the antecedent of “his . . . Son”) so loved the world that he gave his Son for us. The Son does not need to do anything to persuade the Father to love us; he already loves us!

The subtle danger here should be obvious: if we speak of the cross of Christ as the cause of the love of the Father, we imply that behind the cross and apart from it he may not actually love us at all. He needs to be “paid” a ransom price in order to love us. But if it has required the death of Christ to persuade him to love us (“Father, if I die, will you begin to love them?”), how can we ever be sure the Father himself loves us—“deep down” with an everlasting love? True, the Father does not love us because we are sinners; but he does love us even though we are sinners. He loved us before Christ died for us. It is because he loves us that Christ died for us!”

-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters