Saving Faith Receives Christ Himself

saving faith

Receiving Jesus is saving because “as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26).

Excerpted From

What Is Saving Faith?

By John Piper

Saving Faith Receives Christ Himself 

Saving faith goes beyond confidence in Christ’s reliability, and receives him—not just his word, but himself, that is, all that God is for us in him. 

The seminal text that connects believing in Christ with receiving Christ is John 1:11–13: 

[Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 

John puts believing in Jesus’s name in apposition with receiving him. “All who did receive him, [that is,] who believed in his name . . .” Receiving Jesus is one way of describing believing in Jesus in a saving way. 

To Receive the Son Is to Have the Father, and Life 

Since Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), receiving Jesus includes receiving the Father. This truth lay behind Jesus’s statement, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me” (John 5:43). Receiving Jesus “in the Father’s name” means that when we receive him, we receive the Father and all that he is for us in Jesus. “Whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (John 13:20; cf. Matt. 10:40). A saving relationship with the Father hangs on receiving Jesus. 

Receiving Jesus is saving because “as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Therefore, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Receiving the Son is how we “have” the Son. And only by having the Son do we have life. Indeed, only by “receiving” and thus “having” the Son do we have all that the Father is for us in the Son. Therefore, saving faith (John 1:12) is a receiving of Jesus Christ and all that God is for us in him. 

“You Received Christ Jesus the Lord” 

Not only John and Jesus, but also Paul connects “receiving” Jesus with faith: “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6–7). As we “receive” Christ, so he dwells in us. Thus, Christ’s indwelling is “through faith.” So Paul prays that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:17). 

All believers, Paul says, have received Christ so that he dwells in them by his Spirit: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:9–10). 

Thus, Christ is “in” every believer. He is there by faith: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “By faith” in God’s Son, he dwells in us. So saving faith is both the first receiving of Christ (John 1:12; Col. 2:6), and the ongoing spirit of glad welcome to him and dependence on him hour by hour (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17). 

The receiving nature of saving faith colors every aspect of the Christian life—interior and exterior. The good that we experience inwardly is always a kind of receiving. Thus, Hebrews 13:21 says that God is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight.” God gives; we receive. Similarly, the good we are able to do outwardly is always a kind of receiving. Thus, Paul says, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10)—a grace received by faith. Inward or outward, the life of faith is a life of receiving. “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). 

All Saving Faith Is Receiving Jesus Christ 

This must be emphasized. To believe savingly is to receive and have Jesus Christ. When Paul preached the “gospel of . . . salvation” (Eph. 1:13)—that is, the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)—he preached “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). To receive salvation is to receive Christ and all the unsearchable riches that God is for us in him. 

In union with Christ, he becomes for us “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Saving faith is receiving Christ, not just his gifts, because only in union with Christ, by his indwelling, does all salvation flow to us. God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). It can scarcely be overemphasized that all saving faith is receiving—that is, receiving the person Jesus Christ. 

Excerpt taken from What is Saving Faith? by John Piper, ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers,

From Outreach Magazine  Jesus at the Center