At the risk of stating the obvious, faith is central to the Christian life. Consider:
- we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:18)
- we are justified by faith (Galatians 3:24)
- we are sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18)
- we are being guarded by God’s power through faith (1 Peter 1:5)
- we have been raised with Christ through faith (Colossians 2:12)
- Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17)
- we walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7)
- we live by faith (Galatians 2:20)
- we even die in faith (Hebrews 11:13)
Apart from faith we cannot be saved, and without faith we cannot please God (Romans 9:32; Hebrews 11:6). But where do we place our faith and trust, that we may be saved and please the Lord? Some might say that as long as a person believes in God – however he understands God – he has faith and therefore the promise of eternal life. In this view any sort of theism, i.e., belief in God, is sufficient for salvation. All good, “god-fearing” people will surely go to heaven.
Jesus demolished any such notion when he confronted a crowd of people in Luke 11:29-32. Luke tells us that the numbers of people coming to hear Jesus “were increasing.” And these were the people of Israel, Jews who not only believed in God but who believed in the true God, the God of the Bible. But listen to how Jesus greeted them: “This generation is an evil generation.” Apparently someone forgot to tell Jesus you don’t build a large following by insulting the people who come to hear you speak. But (thankfully!) our Lord was more concerned with speaking the truth than gaining followers by flattery. And the truth he spoke was plain: the people coming to him were an “evil generation.”
And what made them so? It was their refusal to believe in Jesus. They looked for a sign from him, presumably to assure them that he was the Christ. But Jesus had already given them ample testimony of the truth concerning himself: he cast out demons, healed the sick, fed the 5,000, and even raised the dead. What other sign could the crowd possibly want? The truth is, they demanded a sign not so they could believe in Jesus, but in order to justify what their hearts were already determined to do: reject him. Despite their belief in God, they were in fact unbelievers because they did not receive Jesus as the Son of God who came to them for their salvation. And so they had not true faith.
Jesus refused to give them any sign except one: “the sign of Jonah” (v. 29). This was the resurrection of Christ. Just as Jonah spent 3 days in the heart of the seas in the belly of the great fish, so Jesus would spend 3 days in the heart of the earth before emerging from the grave in resurrection glory (Matthew 12:40). If the people would believe that sign, they would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord and Savior of sinners. And their faith in Jesus would save them.
Mere “faith”, or faith in a vague, generic God, is not biblical faith (even faith in the true God – apart from believing in his Son – is insufficient). The only faith that saves us is wholehearted trust in Jesus Christ. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Put your hope in the Son of God, walk by faith in him, and the “sign of Jonah” will be to you God’s sign and promise of everlasting life.
Soli Deo Gloria!