FAITH Hebrews 11:1
In the English language, the nouns faith and belief are synonyms. The corresponding verb is believe. These three words in their various grammatical forms occur about 500 times in the New Testament. A copy of the New Testament ordinarily contains between 300 and 500 pages, depending on the size of the print. Therefore, we can expect to find the idea of faith expressed about once per page on the average.
Some of the best-known and best-loved verses in the Bible are about faith. One such is John 3:16: “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.”
This verse and others like it make a strong case for the importance of faith. Not everyone, however, shares the view of those who wrote the preceding statements. H. L. Mencken defined faith as “an illogical belief in the occurrence of the impossible.” Another person said that “faith is the boast of a man who is too lazy to investigate.”
Yet even those who belittle faith admit that faith is a vital part of everyday life. A person drives his car to the grocery store because he believes the store has not gone out of business since his last visit. A person makes an appointment for surgery because she believes her surgeon is a highly skilled medical professional.
This lesson is about faith in our spiritual lives. The lesson is intended to help us better understand the nature of the faith that is described, recommended, and commanded in the Bible.
Faith is Necessary for Salvation
No one can please God without faith: 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 (Heb.11:6). One cannot become a child of God without faith: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John.1:12).
Faith is a condition for the hope of eternal life: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, (see Num. 21:4-9) , even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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. 3:14-16). He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God “ John.3:18; John 8:24b “for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”).
Faith is Not Blind
Biblical faith is not blind faith but is built on convincing evidence. When a Christian is asked why he believes that God exists or why he believes the Bible and he responds, “I just accept it on faith,” his answer leaves the impression that his faith is not based on evidence but on a mere whim or inclination.
The Christian’s faith should be reasonable. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Pet. 3:15).
The entire Gospel of John was explicitly written to develop faith in those who read it: “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).
A few people are gullible enough to believe anything they are told, but most require evidence before they are able to believe. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus provided His apostles with the means to convince their audiences that they were speaking from God: And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following (Mark 16:20). The miracles the apostles performed gave credence to the words they spoke.
If evidence is not needed to give faith validity, then its validity can be provided only by the degree of the sincerity of the person who believes. Yet if genuinely believing a thing makes it true, then the law of contradiction has no meaning. Every atheist genuinely believes there is no God, and every theist genuinely believes the opposite. If sincerely believing makes it so, then God both exists and does not exist. Most people would have difficulty accepting the last statement as fact.
A Bible definition of faith is given in Heb. 11:1. This passage also shows that biblical faith is based on evidence: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
When Saul of Tarsus preached in the synagogues after his conversion, he sought to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ by giving sound historical evidence (Acts 9:22). When the Jews believed what Paul taught, they trusted the evidence he presented. “But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”
Faith, if Misinformed, can be Misplaced
The Bible teaches that faith, if based on false, misinterpreted, or incomplete evidence, can be misplaced. In Gen. 37, Joseph’s older brothers sold him into slavery, then convinced their father, Jacob, that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They presented Jacob with Joseph’s blood-soaked coat–a coat they had actually dipped in the blood of a goat–and pretended not to know for certain that it was Joseph’s. Jacob leaped to the conclusion they desired. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days (Gen. 37:34).
Jacob’s faith, based on evidence though it was, was misplaced. He had, with the connivance of his sons, misinterpreted the evidence. Years later he learned that Joseph was alive and well. Without doubt his earlier belief that Joseph was dead was genuine. Just because someone’s faith is not blind does not always mean it is well placed.
About a billion people claim to be Christians. About an equal number are Muslims. About half a billion are Hindus. Over 200 million are Buddhists, and 14 million are Jews. Presumably many, if not all, of the adherents of these religions have grounds for their beliefs. Although these religions have some common features, in general they are incompatible. If Christianity is right, then Islam, the religion of the Muslims, cannot also be right. If Hinduism is right, then Judaism cannot also be right. Since all cannot be right, we conclude that the faith of some is based on evidence that has been misinterpreted or is incomplete.
Faith is Obedient
Faith involves obedience, which is active submission to God’s will. After conviction and trust have been generated by the preaching of Christ (i.e., the gospel), faith produces action (obedience). Consider the following six Biblical situations or quotations showing how faith and obedience are linked.
- In Capernaum friends of a lame man brought him to Jesus. When they could not enter the house because of the crowd, they opened the roof and let the man down through the ceiling to Jesus: When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee (Mark 2:5). What did Jesus see? It was not conviction, mental consent, or trust (which the man and those who brought him evidently had) but action, called “faith”, that Jesus saw.
- James wrote: Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works (Jas.2:17-18).
- John 3:16 says: “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. Does the “belief” of this passage include action (obedience)? Compare this passage with Heb. 5:8-9, which tells us the result of Jesus’ being perfected through His obedience in suffering on the cross: he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him . John 3:16 says believing results in eternal life. Heb. 5:8-9 says obedience brings the same result. Thus, saving faith is that which acts (obeys).
- The Jews who sinned and fell in the wilderness could not enter God’s rest because of their disobedience (Heb. 3:18), which grew out of their unbelief (Heb.3:19). Unbelief and disobedience go hand in hand. Likewise, belief and obedience are inseparably linked: 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).
- Paul wrote to the Roman Christians and said he thanked God: …that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world (Rom.1:8). At the close of his letter, he said to them: For your obedience is come abroad unto all men (Rom.16:19). This further confirms that when availing faith is mentioned it is always yoked with obedience.
- Heb. 11 lists numerous examples of people saved (justified) by an active faith: ?By faith Abel offered … . (v. 4)
By faith Enoch … for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God . . (v. 5)?By faith Noah … prepared an ark . (v. 7)
By faith Abraham … obeyed; and he went out . . (v.8)
By faith Abraham … offered up Isaac . (v. 17)
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days . (v. 30)?
The chapter goes on to mention a dozen more (Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and prophets) who also demonstrated their faith by the things they did and by the things they suffered (even death in some cases). Therefore, they had a good “by faith” testimony before God.
Faith is Not the Only Condition for Salvation
When faith is taken to mean only mental consent or internal commitment, then faith by itself will not save. For by grace are ye saved through faith; (obedient faith); and that not of yourselves: (not of your own design and actions), it is the gift of God: Not of works (meritorious works), lest any man should boast (Eph.2:8-9). No man can do enough works (regardless of number or nature) to earn or merit salvation. Salvation can only be obtained by God’s grace (the gift of His Son to die for us) through faith (obedient faith–in Christ and His blood).
James very clearly explains the relation of faith and works using Abraham as an example: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (Jas. 2:19). Even the demons give mental consent to the existence and unity of God, but their belief is not translated into obedience. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works (obedience) when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, (obedience) and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (Jas.2:20-24).
Victory Baptist Church 25 August 2021 victorypalmetto.com