One of the most rewarding studies in which one can engage is of what the Bible teaches about “Faith.” The biblical definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1 where it is said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Substance” is that which “stands under” and supports the spiritual realities we hope for. Faith gives substance to those invisible realities.
Faith also provides “evidence (testimony) of things not seen.” Real faith, Bible faith is not wishful thinking, nor is it a “blind leap into the dark,” but it is based on solid, substantive evidence. As the able Bible scholar Wayne Jackson has noted: “Faith is grounded in testimony—the abstract testimony of the creation (Psa. 19:1; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:1ff), and the concrete testimony of Scripture (Rom. 10:17) (Bible Words and Theological Terms Made Easy, p. 57). The Bible affirms, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
“Faith” and its companion “belief” are used in different ways in the Bible, and a study of these ways is highly instructive. Sometimes “faith” is used in a limited, restricted sense to refer to the mere act of believing or giving mental assent to certain truths or facts. King Agrippa believed in this sense but he was not saved (Acts 26:27). Certain Pharisees believed in this sense but they were not saved (John 12:42-43). In this sense “The demons also believe—and tremble” James 2:19), but no right thinking person believes they are (or will be) saved! James goes on to say, “You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Yet one must have faith in the sense of mental assent. It is a vital step in God’s plan of redemption. One who comes to God “must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). One must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24). One must believe the facts of the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). But “faith only” in the sense of mere mental assent will not save.
“Faith” also is used in a comprehensive sense to summarize all that one does to respond to the gospel and receive salvation. “For by grace you have been through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Grace” summarizes all that God has done to save us, including His love, mercy, kindness, the death of Christ, the blood of Christ, et al. “Faith” summarizes all that man must do to avail himself of God’s saving grace, including such acts of submissive obedience as repentance, confession, and baptism, none of which are works of meritorious righteous but works of faith done to receive the benefits of God’s grace. Even belief in Christ is said to be a “work” (John 6:29), but it is a work that God has made a condition of salvation, and without doing that “work” one cannot be saved (John 8:24). Further, Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Luke reported that “many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). (All emphasis mine, hf). In New Testament times, it was people who had complied with these divine conditions of salvation from sin who were identified as those who had “believed” (Acts 2:44; 4:32; 10:45; 16:34; I Timothy 4:12; et al).
Paul wrote, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Observe that Paul said “we have peace with God.” He included himself among those who had been justified by faith and obtained peace with God. But a study of the accounts of Paul’s conversion in the Book of Acts, chapters 9, 22, and 26, will reveal that he did not have peace with God until he arose from three days of fasting and prayer to be “baptized and wash away [his] sins” (Acts 9:9-11; 22:16)! Repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) are involved in what it means biblically to believe or have faith.
Of “faith” in this comprehensive sense, Dr. Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek scholar and lexicographer, says: “A conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah—the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, CONJOINED WITH OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST” (caps mine for emphasis, hf) (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 511). In other words, saving faith is an obedient faith, submitting to whatever conditions/works Christ and/or His inspired apostles have set forth in order to be saved or to have the remission of sins. “Faith” in this comprehensive sense includes a life of continued faithfulness to the Lord in all things. “For we walk (live, hf) by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).
Faith also is used to refer to the object of belief, the body of truth (the gospel) revealed by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (Ephesians 3:5), i.e., the entire Christian system as set forth in the New Testament. Following his conversion to Christ, Paul preached “the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23). In this sense, there is but “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5). One can deny “the faith” and become worse than an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8). God’s faithful people are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Much more could be said about “faith.” We have barely “touched the hem of the garment” where this great subject is concerned. As my longtime friend and fellow preacher of the gospel, Jay Lockhart, said so many years ago in a lecture at Freed-Hardeman College (now University): “Faith is a subject of such depth that it thrills the soul as we try to fathom it, and of such breadth that it blesses the heart as we try to bridge it.”
August 8, 2017
- Speaking Schedule:
August 9: Mead’s Chapel Church of Christ, Nashville, TN
August 13: Sylvia Church of Christ, Dickson, TN (Homecoming)
August 18-20: Greenway Church of Christ, Greenway, AR