Lesson #8 - Faith
by Douglas Jones
What is Faith?
The Biblical writers use this very significant term with varying shades of meaning. Among the principal usages are these:
- Faith sometimes denotes a conviction of the truth of anything, especially the truth of God's Word. Thus Paul, for example, reminds the Thessalonians that God has "chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
- Faith is also spoken of, as a confidence in something one cannot see. As the writer of Hebrews puts it: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Christians accordingly are said to "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).
- At times the word signifies that which is believed - i.e. the contents of Christian faith. We read for instance, that Paul and Barnabas visited churches in Asia Minor, "confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…" (Acts 14:22). Similarly Jude exhorts his readers to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
- Most often however, and of vital importance, faith denotes a trust in God (or Christ) which not only relies upon the truth of His word but is also committed to doing His will. It is, in other words, faith that obeys. Abraham, whom Paul calls "the father of all them that believe" (Romans 4:11), exhibited this type of faith. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed…" (Hebrews 11:8).
Faith in God
Faith in God is essential to the salvation, well being and happiness of man. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrew 11:6).Notice that here again the faith in view involves more than simply believing God exists. That he exists; James points out, "the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Yet because of their disobedience they are far from pleasing God.Those who please God (1) not only believe He exists (2) but also earnestly seek Him that they may know and obey His will. It is, moreover, to just such faithful seekers of God that Paul confidently writes: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…." (Romans 15:13).
Faith in Christ
Faith in Christ is equally as necessary to man's salvation and eternal blessedness. Jesus on the eve of the crucifixion spoke thus to His disciples: "ye believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14:1). But in these memorable words to the twelve Jesus has also set forth the Divine requisite for every man -- a requisite issuing from love. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Here too, it is important to understand what this sort of faith in Christ entails. It is more than simply a conviction of the truth of Christ's claims. This much many of the Jewish officials of His day believed, yet without any saving benefit to themselves. For John tells us: "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed in him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42,43).
Clearly the faith which Christ demands not only acknowledges His claims but also conforms the believer's life to His teaching. This is what Paul describes as "faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6), and is epitomized in Jesus' own words: "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
The Medium of Faith
Faith is not a direct gift from God. It is produced through the medium of His word. Peter illustrates this fact when he informs us God chose him "that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe" (Acts 15:7). In full accord Paul writes: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?…So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:13,14,17). It is therefore God's wise and gracious appointment that the gospel of Christ be "made known in all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26).
The Basis of Faith
The faith that Scripture enjoins, we should note, is not blind trust. God does not require men to believe in Him without credible evidence of His existence, character and purposes. That evidence abounds in both His word and His works.
The basis for faith in Christ is no less credible. The Hebrew Scriptures record hundreds of prophecies foretelling His coming and His mission. So it is not surprising that Jesus appeals to Scripture when He rebukes His Jewish detractors for their own unbelief. He says: "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me" (John 5:46). He responds in stronger terms to those disciples who refuse to believe the reports of His resurrection: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…And beginning at Moses and all the prophets; he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25,27).
In addition to the testimony of the prophetic word, Jesus' own miraculous works also witness to the credibility of His claims. In John's words: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:30,31).
Salvation by Faith
Salvation is a gracious gift of God but not an unconditional gift. It is conditioned upon faith. For it pleased God by the preaching of the gospel. Paul says, "to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). It must once more be noted, however, that saving faith is more than a conviction that Jesus is Lord. To those who think this is sufficient, Jesus says: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).
What is required then, is again faith, which obeys. For Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9). Salvation is indeed conditioned upon faith, but faith is not the only condition God has established. Faith is the initial response in bringing one into a saving relationship to Christ. One must also repent of his sins in order to be saved. Hence Peter urges: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…." (Acts 3:19). A public confession of Christ is called for as well. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). Baptism is the consummating act of faith, which brings one into a saving relationship to Christ. "For," says Paul to the Galatians; "ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26,27).
While he foregoing responses unite one with Christ, "the obedience of faith" does not end there. It has in fact only begun. Faith must continue to work and grow and persevere. Believers therefore are enjoined: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised)" (Hebrews 10:23).
The importance of faith in Christ cannot be overstated. For it is the difference between life and death, between eternal happiness and everlasting ruin. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
There are two short quizzes for this lesson. Review all the material and go to the quizzes! You may wish to print this lesson to assist you with the quizzes.