Generally speaking, saving faith in the history of the church has been comprised of three elements, notitia, or “knowledge”; assensus, or “assent”; and fiducia, or “trust.”
Faith is not a blind leap in the dark - as atheists would like us to believe. Faith has substance (Hebrews 11:6): knowledge rooted in the Word of God (John 20:31) and in the object of our faith, Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2); assent or “intellectual conviction” (John 5:46-47, John 8:1-38); and trust.1
B.B. Warfield wrote, “The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.” Bible words for trust have a range of meaning. מִבְטָח in Hebrew means confidence, hope, security, reliance. Πείθω in Greek means persuaded, convinced, won over. Trust goes beyond mere intellectual assent or agreement. Trust takes assent to the next level. Trust is placing your very life in God’s hands. John Owen said that “divine faith is in general an assent unto the truth that is proposed unto us upon divine testimony”2). Faith is a gift of God.
One of the simplest illustrations I’ve come across is the story of Charles Blondin, a French tightrope walker who lived in the 1800’s. A gifted athlete, Blondin achieved wide fame by walking across the Niagra Gorge (1,100 feet) on a tightrope on June 30, 1859. He then crossed the same chasm blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, sitting down midway to eat an omlette, standing on a chair with only one of its legs balanced, etc.
The crowd was entranced. They had faith that he could do it! But then he asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to climb on his back and cross the gorge. Harry Colcord, his manager responded. While everone else had knowledge of Blondini’s abilities and assent (intellectual conviction that Blondini could accomplish it), Mr. Colcord was the one who had trust. He was the one who climbed on and placed his confidence, his security, and his hope (that he would not fall to his death) in Mr. Blondini.
When a believer places their trust in Christ alone (solus Christus), they put their life in His hands, affirming that salvation is obtained only through the atoning work of Christ, believing that Christ is the only mediator between God and man. They affirm that salvation cannot be obtained through any other means except Christ (1 Timothy 2:5, Acts 4:10-12, John 14:6). He alone is worthy, for He is the Great risen High Priest who has passed into the heavens, having satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf.