I have a little shop behind my house where I keep my tools. My collection of tools is not very extensive. In fact, most of them were given to me by my Dad and my father in law. Consequently, I don’t always have the exact tool needed for any particular project.
Because of this, I have learned an important lesson. You can use the same tool to do many different things. I have used screwdrivers to chisel, hammer to dig, and a shovel as an ax. In each of these situations, I found that the dual use tool came in very handy.
In a similar way, we find that faith is like a multi-use tool. If you were to ask someone why they have faith in Jesus, they would likely answer, “to be saved.” So having faith in Christ for everlasting life is the most well-known purpose of faith. That’s what we find in John 6:47 when it says,
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.1
‘Believe’ and faith are the same greek word. So the above verse is clearly talking about salvation. However, did you know that faith has another very important purpose? This multi-use tool can also be used for daily living. We can see the contrast between faith for everlasting life, and faith for daily living in Galatians 2:20 when Paul says,
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.2
In this verse, we see that faith has two purposes and each is unique from its counterpart. One result of faith in Christ is salvation. We see that purpose in the first line when he says,
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;3
He is describing here, what took place the moment he believed in Jesus. He took on the life of Christ the moment he believed in Christ for salvation. This was done by faith for everlasting life. However, he goes on to explain another function of faith in the next line.
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.4
Here he acknowledges that he is still alive and struggling physically. Although his spiritual identity has been replaced by the life of Christ on the inside, he still has to live out a fleshly existence. Although Christ’s life emanates from the core of who he is, there is still a physical nature which needs to be addressed.
This is where the second purpose of faith in Christ comes in. His daily life in the flesh requires faith as well. It’s important that we don’t confuse this with faith for everlasting life. He already believed in Christ, so that transaction is complete. However, his everyday life now must be lived ‘by faith.’
This confused me for years until I realized the difference between faith for salvation and faith for daily living. I might illustrate it this way. Let’s say there is a health club in my town. It’s free to join as long as I agree with their mission statement. I read through it and find that it is very simple. Their mission statement says, “salad is more healthy than ice cream.” I can easily agree with the statement. So I now believe that salad is better for me than ice cream. I have faith alone in salad, which gained me free membership in this health club. However faith alone won’t make me lose weight. If I want to get healthy I need to ‘eat by faith.’ I need to act on my faith if I want results. In a similar way, faith alone gains us salvation, acting on faith makes us disciples. We have free membership in the kingdom of Heaven by faith alone, but if we want to get spiritually fit and ready for our entrance we need to not only have faith for salvation, but ‘live by faith.’
Many people have confused faith alone, for faith at work. Being saved through faith requires no action. Yet, faith for daily life is all about acting on one’s belief and conviction. We need to see the clear divide between these two faiths in order to understand the distinction between salvation and discipleship.
The verses that come before and after this one in Galatians reiterate that salvation comes, not by works, the law, or good deeds. However as long as we live in these broken flesh bodies, we need to live by faith if we want to be committed disciples. Faith in Christ for everlasting life was a one time event. Living by faith will hopefully extend for the rest of our lives.
We find that not everyone is able to live by faith all the time, though. In the opener to this section in Galatians we find that the Apostle Peter was not currently living by faith. Galatians 2:20 is part of a rebuke to Peter for his lack of practical daily faith. Peter had shunned a group of believers in order to play favorites with another. Paul saw the hypocrisy and called him out publicly. Was Paul saying that Peter was not saved? Obviously not. That idea would be ridiculous. Instead he was telling him to course correct and get back to a place where he lives by faith.
As you can see, living by faith is not an automatic aspect of being saved, but it is a requirement for being a disciple. Faith in Christ for everlasting life and faith in Christ for daily life are two separate things. One is salvation, the other is discipleship.
1 John 6:47.
2 Galations 2:20.
3 Galations 2:20.
4 Galations 2:20.