Great thinkers in the past have divided biblical faith into three categories which are helpful for us to determine what it means to really believe: noticia, assensus, and fiducia. This is helpful– especially in light of James 2, which indicates that there is a kind of faith that cannot save.
Noticia refers to the idea of “knowing”. This is knowledge of the right doctrine. This is understanding the right truths. If an unbeliever visits a church long enough, and begins reading his Bible, he may get the facts right but not believe it. I’ve known atheists and agnostics who understand Christian doctrine better than some Christians I’ve known. Obviously, this kind of knowledge doesn’t save you.
Assensus refers to the idea of “agreeing”. This is agreeing with the right doctrine. It means assenting to the truth of Scripture. This would be the kind of belief that agrees with the gospel but isn’t actually changed by it. James would call this kind of faith “dead” (James 2:14). A person could have all the right content (noticia) and agree with all the right facts (assensus) and yet still be unsaved– for true faith always results in real life change.
Fidutia refers to personal confidence and trust. This is the idea of “trusting”. This is not only knowing the right doctrine and agreeing that it’s true, but personally responding to the gospel by turning from known sin, taking a posture of surrender and submission to Christ, and believing with confidence that all God’s promises are yours in Christ. This kind of faith results in life-change, where the believer constantly strives to put Christ on the throne of his life.
Where do you stand?
Is your “faith” simply knowing all the right doctrine?
Is your “faith” agreeing to the truths of the gospel?
If your faith is merely knowing and agreeing, it’s time for you to take another step, because only a fidutia kind of faith saves. Personally trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord, surrender to him as your master, turn from your sin, pursue righteousness, and believe that his work on the cross has delivered you from the power and penalty of sin.