25 Quotes from ‘What is Faith?’ by J. Gresham Machen


For over a month now I have been slowly, yet gladly trekking through What is Faith? by the late, great J. Gresham Machen. Machen was probably the foremost Reformed theologian of the early 20th century. He founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He defended the ideals of the Reformation in the heat of the movement of liberal theology in American evangelicalism. And in a very real sense, he defended the gospel against fierce wolves who were attacking the heart of the Christian religion–the cross of Christ. I cannot commend Machen enough to you. I can’t wait to get my hands on everything he wrote. What is Faith? is Machen’s classic work. Throughout the book, Machen describes and defines the nature of saving faith where he deals with all pressing issues relating to faith. What is Faith? gives a gospel-saturated answer to the title question. I leave this book a better communicator of the gospel, but also a more delighted Christian in the God of my salvation.

If my own word of recommendation is not enough to convince you to read Machen, then maybe Machen can draw you in. Although there are literally hundreds of statements in this work worthy of mention, I have captured twenty-five quotes that I hope whets your appetite for Machen.

1. “The Christian has within him a mysterious power of goodness, which is leading him by paths he knows not to an unknown and blessed country.”

2. “The salvation of the Christian is certain because it depends altogether upon God.”

3. “Christ, according to Paul, will do everything or nothing; if righteousness is in slightest measure obtained by our obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain; if we trust in slightest measure in our our own good works, then we have turned away from grace and Christ profiteth us nothing.”

4. “The gospel does not abrogate God’s law, but it makes men love it with all their hearts.”

5. “God’s law brings death because of sin; but God’s Spirit, applying to the soul the redemption offered by Christ, brings life.”

6. “If our being right with God depends upon anything that is in us, we are without hope.”

7. “To say that we are justified by faith is just another way of saying that we are justified not in the slightest measure by ourselves.”

8. “Salvation is as free as the air we breathe; God’s alone the cost, and ours the wondrous gain.”

9. “Men say indeed that they prefer to conceive of God as a Father rather than as a Judge; but why must the choice be made?”

10. “If we are to trust Jesus, we must come to Him personally and individually with some need of the soul which He alone can relieve.”

11. “It is one thing to follow the example of Jesus and quite a different thing to trust Him.”

12. “The greater be our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith.”

13. “True faith in Jesus always will result in action; but faith itself is not doing but receiving.”

14. “We fear God because of our guilt; but we trust Him because of His grace.”

15. “Appeal to God’s act alone can enable us to face every adversary.”

16. “If we possess God, then we can meet with equanimity the loss of all besides.”

17. “The justice of God is everywhere the presupposition of the Saviourhood of Christ.”

18. “Faith, though it is more than assent to a creed, is absolutely impossible without assent to a creed.”

19. “Faith is the acceptance of propositions.”

20. “Far from being contrasted with knowledge, faith is founded upon knowledge.”

21. “Acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is offered to us in the gospel of His redeeming work, is saving faith.”

22. “There is no virtue whatever in ignorance, but much virtue in a knowledge of what God has revealed.”

23. “Certainly, at bottom, faith is in one sense a very simple thing; it simply means that abandoning the vain effort of earning one’s way into God’s presence we accept the gift of salvation which Christ offers so full and free.”

24. “Christ has done nothing for us or He has done everything; to depend even in smallest measure upon our own merit is the very essence of unbelief; we must trust Christ for nothing or we must trust Him for all.”

25. “Our salvation does not depend upon the strength of our faith; saving faith is a channel not a force. If you are once really committed to Christ, then despite your subsequent doubts and fears you are His for ever.”

Mathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.


2 thoughts on “25 Quotes from ‘What is Faith?’ by J. Gresham Machen

  1. Great set of quotes on faith.
    It’s interesting to me that it seems both a Calvinist and an Arminian can both heartily agree with each and everyone one of these statements – maybe we are all cloe than we think….?


    1. Amen! I often think that very thing when I read Wesley. Fred Sanders is another Arminian that I learn so much from. While we are miles apart on certain points of doctrine, both camps are in the same bloodline of Christ when it comes to the essentials of the faith. Sadly, this is rarely celebrated.
      Thanks for the thought, brother.


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