Friday, August 23, 2013

About Faith

What Is Faith?

Hebrews chapter 11 opens with a description of what faith does. It gives us assurance that we will receive the things God has promised, it convinces us of the reality of things that are beyond our ability to comprehend.

Heb 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Heb 11:2  For by it the people of old received their commendation.
Heb 11:3  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Faith comes from a fair examination of the evidence of God’s presence. The universe declares that it has a creator. The more men explore the possibilities of how things are, the more their explanations sound like the first chapter of Genesis.  The evidence declares that the universe has a beginning, before time, and the only possible cause is the One who always existed, I Am.

Apostle Paul made the argument that mankind can know God from the evidence, and thus we are personally responsible for our faith or lack of faith. We are not excused from personal responsibility by the sin in Eden, but we make our own choices with the mind that God has given us. Like Adam and Eve, when confronted with the knowledge of what is true, we choose selfishness and pride over submission and obedience.  Yes, God created us to have personal choice and responsibility.

Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Rom 1:19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Rom 1:20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Therefore mankind has individual responsibility before God for faith or lack of faith. We cannot blame God and call Him a respecter of persons.  As Peter said, Act 10:34  So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,
Act 10:35  but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

From the beginning God planned to save the faithful, those who by personal choice believe in the Son of God, based upon the evidence of the gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Rom 1:14  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
Rom 1:15  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Rom 1:17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

Since we shall live by faith, we need to understand what is faith, what does it look like, and how does it work. Most all believers teach that we are justified by grace through faith, with the believer’s salvation completely purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus. So we need to know faith. Is faith manifest in believing that we are born without value, sinners, and dependent upon God to give us faith as a gift, without any responsibility on our part? Is faith realized by praying a prayer not taught by Jesus or the Apostles, a recent innovation that somehow went undiscovered for 1800 years? Or is faith made real in trusting what Jesus and the Apostles actually taught, that we gain faith from a honest hearing of the gospel, and that faith includes submission to some basic principles that are a part of faith?

Heb 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

So faith involves more than mental consent, it includes seeking God. How do we seek God? By learning about him from evidence, from creation, from history, and from the gospel.

Since Augustine, arguments have been made that salvation by faith excludes personal responsibility to chose submission to God. Ideas are promoted that God has chosen the individuals who will have faith, and will put faith in the hearts of the elect. But all the stories of faith in the Bible stress personal choice and personal responsibilities. 

Noah worked diligently to do what God had instructed.  Noah was not saved by building the Ark, but God saved him in the framework of obedience. Noah believed God, and so he obeyed God within the realm of Noah’s personal work and responsibility.

Faith Requires Trust and Obedience

Heb 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Yes, faith involves submission to the commandments of God. Noah built the ark following the instructions of God. Many years later, God told Abraham to leave his home and take a journey of faith. Abraham left his homeland and went on a journey of faith, not seeing where he was going, but trusting God and obeying His instructions.

Faith is not a onetime mental consent, but rather is a journey lived by trusting God, even to the point of being willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God.  Abraham trusted God, and God substituted a lamb for Isaac, and eventually gave His one and only Son as the ultimate demonstration of love that would cause us to trust Him.

Camping in Caanan
Heb 11:8  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Heb 11:9  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
Heb 11:10  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Heb 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,
Heb 11:18  of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
Heb 11:19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Believing in the Resurrection

Yes, faith includes doing the simple things that God commands as evidence of faith. Jesus commanded that those who believe the gospel repent and be baptized. Neither He nor the apostles ever told anyone to pray the sinner's prayer. Repentance and baptism are part of faith, and are not excluded from our response of faith, but included in salvation by faith.   Real faith always includes submission to the commands of God.

Act 2:36  Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." 
Act 2:37  Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 
Act 2:38  And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 
Act 2:39  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 

If Jesus or the Apostles had told us to pray the sinner's prayer in order to receive salvation, then that is what faith would demand. But since they told us to repent and be baptized, that is what faith requires. Yes, faith includes trust, and trust demands simple obedience to the gospel, by repentance and baptism. A sinner makes the decision to repent and be baptized. A dead sinner is buried with Jesus in baptism, and raised to walk in new life. Teaching repentance and baptism is not teaching works salvation, but is teaching the reality of salvation by faith that trusts the commands of God. 

Show me your faith in modern innovation by praying the sinner's prayer, and I will show my faith in the word of God by repentance and baptism. This is not difficult to understand. Faith is trusting God. It is what it is. 
Image result for immersion baptism


  1. I've heard very convincing reasons why Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith." is better translated "the righteous will live by his faithfulness." In fact the new NIV says, "the righteous person will live by his faithfulness" and the NLT says, "the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God."

    In both the Greek and the Hebrew languages the word for faith can be translated either faith or faithfulness. I often wonder if we, because of reformation influence, think either faith or faithfulness when in fact the words mean faith and faithfulness. Perhaps the Hebrews and first Christians did not differentiate between faith and faithfulness and believed them to be the same.

    I think much of Christianity believes a sinner's prayer is all it takes because they don't understand faith's true Biblical nature. After all if faith is only trust or belief, then why wouldn't I be saved in the moment I say a prayer. However if I understand that the word faith is trust, belief and faithfulness rolled into one then I will understand the need for faithful obedience.

  2. Thanks, Steve. Yes, and faithfulness includes making mistakes and repenting and praying a lot. The heros of faithfulness in Heb 11 made a lot of mistakes, but they had a heart that wanted to please God, and they kept trying, learning over time to trust what God provides. Seeing that God is faithful helps us learn to be faithful.

  3. I think Psalm 103 gives a great description of how the Lord treats who are in covenant with Him. I especially like this version because it uses the term "faithful followers" rather than "those who fear him." That Psalm reassures us of His faithfulness and grace.

    Psalm 103

    New English Translation (NET)
    Psalm 103
    By David.

    1 Praise the Lord, O my soul!
    With all that is within me, praise his holy name!
    2 Praise the Lord, O my soul!
    Do not forget all his kind deeds!
    3 He is the one who forgives all your sins,
    who heals all your diseases,
    4 who delivers your life from the Pit,
    who crowns you with his loyal love and compassion,
    5 who satisfies your life with good things,
    so your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
    6 The Lord does what is fair,
    and executes justice for all the oppressed.
    7 The Lord revealed his faithful acts to Moses,
    his deeds to the Israelites.
    8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful;
    he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.
    9 He does not always accuse,
    and does not stay angry.
    10 He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
    he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
    11 For as the skies are high above the earth,
    so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
    12 As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
    so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.
    13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers.
    14 For he knows what we are made of;
    he realizes we are made of clay.
    15 A person’s life is like grass.
    Like a flower in the field it flourishes,
    16 but when the hot wind blows by, it disappears,
    and one can no longer even spot the place where it once grew.
    17 But the Lord continually shows loyal love to his faithful followers,
    and is faithful to their descendants,
    18 to those who keep his covenant,
    who are careful to obey his commands.
    19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven;
    his kingdom extends over everything.
    20 Praise the Lord, you angels of his,
    you powerful warriors who carry out his decrees
    and obey his orders!
    21 Praise the Lord, all you warriors of his,
    you servants of his who carry out his desires!
    22 Praise the Lord, all that he has made,
    in all the regions of his kingdom!
    Praise the Lord, O my soul!