The traditional Protestant understanding of salvation places a strong emphasis on personal faith. For example, “If you believe, you will be saved.” This emphasis can be a healthy corrective to the prideful idea that we are saved by our good deeds.
But while it’s not often recognized, the same danger lurks in the emphasis on personal faith. The danger is pride and self-centeredness. “I believe and therefore I am saved.” “You don’t believe, but I do believe.” Try to catch the prideful tone of voice in those kinds of statements. While the idea of personal faith was supposed to be a corrective to the unhealthy emphasis on good deeds, it too can be usurped by pride and become corrupt.
What’s the solution?
The solution is to recognize that God’s gracious move toward us was not initiated by our faith. Our faith did not stir God to send his Son into the world. Our personal trust in God did not arouse feelings of empathy within God’s heart for us.
Ponder this verse and then see if you can still take pride in your personal faith:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8, NIV).
According to Paul, it was our unfaithfulness and sin that prompted God to move toward us. Our faith in God had nothing to do with God’s ultimate expression of love for us. The gospel causes the ground to crumble where personal pride attempts to stand.