By Pastor Glem Melo
After watching my teaching video on Christ’ finished work on the cross and our rest in Him, our brothers and sisters in the Middle East discussed “how, so often, we don’t know how to ‘rest in that rest’.” They asked, “How can we truly rest in our salvation?”
As always, the answer is in the Bible:
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31a)
“Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)
So we see that they [the Israelites] were unable to enter [God’s rest] because of unbelief. (3:19)
For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (4:3)
“Resting in our salvation” = believing in Jesus
God’s finished work in Christ is the foundation and basis for the spiritual rest called faith.
- In creation, God finished His work (Genesis 2:1-3).
- On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (tetelestai, paid in full, John 19:30; see also Hebrews 10:11-14).
This means that, through His sufferings and death, Christ fully paid for sins and perfectly satisfied God’s wrath. Therefore, God’s word assures us: “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b). We “rest in our salvation” by believing in Jesus.
Resting in Christ = Faith Alone – Works
Now, we must always remember that faith excludes works.
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)
To us, this is a non-negotiable doctrinal truth:
SALVATION IS BY FAITH ALONE, WITHOUT WORKS.
Faith does, and must, result in good works (Matthew 7:18; Luke 6:43-45; John 15:5). But we must make a clear distinction between the root and its fruit, and always keep them apart. Faith is the root, and works is its fruit. Salvation is not by works, nor is it by faith plus works. The Bible teaches clearly and consistently that we are saved by faith, and by faith alone, “apart from works” (Romans 4:6; see also Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
Rest in Christ = Resting from Works
The Biblical definition of faith as “rest” makes the exclusion of works from faith crystal clear. Hebrews 4:10 tells us,
For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Faith is entering “God’s rest,” and entering “God’s rest” means resting from our works. Again, this does not in any way contradict the Biblical teaching that true faith produces the fruit of good works. Instead, God’s word is simply teaching us that to believe in Christ is to stop trusting in good works for salvation. Faith is trusting and resting fully in Him alone and His gospel promise:
- “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3b)
- “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b)
This is beautifully explained in question and answer #21 of the Heidelberg Catechism:
Question: What is true faith?
Answer: True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.
So, “how can we truly rest in our salvation?”
- Stop trying to earn salvation through good works.
- Believe. Take God at His word – that “Christ died for [your] sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3b) and that you, a believer, “shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).
In other words, “accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word” and be firmly confident “that not only to others, but also to [you], God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”