When it comes to spiritual things, people often fail to keep a biblical balance. This results from partial knowledge of doctrine. They have learned enough scripture to see one side of the issue, but instead of going further and seeing the greater truth, they proclaim their knowledge as the answer to all the world's problems. In truth, they complicate things instead of seeing the beautiful simplicity of God's holiness.
For instance, take the subject of personal salvation. On one hand, there are those who see the truth of salvation by faith alone, but they do not ponder long enough to see the depth of that faith. As a result, they create formulas and simple menus for salvation. Pray this prayer; say these words; did you mean it?--then, you are saved; thank God for saving you. Some of those thus lead really get saved; but it is because they were truly ready to trust in the Lord. Unfortunately, multitudes are led into false conversions which give only false hope. This is what many call easy- believism.
Now, the second side sees the error of the first. People are not saved by quoting formulas and signing salvation prayers. They are saved by a change in the heart. But these people cannot stop here. It is not enough for them to emphasize the importance of heart repentance and full faith in Jesus Christ. They proclaim all the requirements for dedicated discipleship as requirements for salvation. The one who seeks to be saved must be fully surrendered to the will of God; he must turn from every known sin; in every way Christ must be Lord of his life. This approach requires the baby to be full-grown. It leans to works salvation. Some people call this lordship salvation.
Both of the above approaches are wrong. They are wrong because they elevate one side of God's truth while ignoring another side. They see the elephant as the blind man feels him: as a trunk, or a leg, or a tail, or an ear. But they do not see the elephant as a whole. They stopped short of full understanding.
Salvation is clearly by faith alone. When the Philippian jailer asked what he must do to be saved, Paul replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 16:31). There is nothing to do but to believe on Jesus Christ. Understanding this keeps us from the error of lordship salvation.
However, we must understand the fullness of this faith. Bible students of years gone by saw faith in its three aspects. These three aspects of faith are easy to remember if you think of "cat" spelled with a k; as in KAT. K stands for Knowledge; A for Assent; and T for Trust. Saving faith requires all three.
Knowledge means that the person knows what the gospel is. They must understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins, that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day. Assent means that the person must accept this gospel as true and accept that it was for them that Jesus died. Trust means that the person specifically places their trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as their Saviour. They personally place their faith in Jesus Christ.
For years, I have used a very simple illustration to explain this step of faith that is called trust. If I am in someone's living room or dining room, I walk over to a chair that no one is sitting in. I ask the one I am talking to if they think that chair will hold me up. They will usually agree that it would hold me. I tell them that I agree with them. I go on talking for awhile about the chair being able to hold me up, but I do not sit in the chair. Then I ask them in what way I could prove that I believe that the chair would hold me up. Usually, they tell me that I need to sit in the chair. That, of course, is the right answer. When I sit in the chair, I have proven that I really believe that it will hold me up.
The same is true with salvation. I can mentally agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I can say that I believe He would save me. But, until I trust in Him with my full heart for that salvation, I am just talking and thinking about it. This is an act of the heart. It cannot be reduced to a formula. The formula may help someone understand what is happening, but there is always the danger that the person is trusting in the formula and not in the Lord Jesus. We are saved by believing in Jesus--nothing more and nothing less. We just need to encourage more people to quit looking at the chair and rest entirely in its strength.