What is Faith?
INTRO: There is something we need, it is talked about many times in scripture, we have probably all heard short definitions about it and yet it continues to be misunderstood by many who consider themselves Christians. That something is Faith. Let’s start this morning by looking at this very necessary aspect in our salvation. I do not expect we will exhaust this topic in one lesson or perhaps in several.
In Matthew 7:21-23 we see familiar verses, “21. "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22. "Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23. "And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
Many people profess to be a Christian and have done so for a large part of their lives. As a child I learned the story of creation, I had a childlike understanding of God and Jesus and desired to belong. As I grew older the passage we just read always unsettled me. Jesus made it clear that professing to be saved and being saved are two different things. It seems here that Jesus is discounting grace and emphasis is being placed on works… Only those who do the will of my Father in heaven will enter… and… We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.
We recognize of course, that the works mentioned were not accepted and that includes exorcism and miracles, which of course we cannot do. I use to think, “These people did miracles and could not get in so how will I be saved?”
What is Jesus communicating? Do we earn our way to heaven by being perfectly obedient to the Father? If that is true, who other than Jesus can be saved? Then I thought of Luke 17:5 where the apostles asked the Lord to “increase their faith”. For me that was a key, faith is what God provides but not mysteriously or miraculously. The Bible tells us “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17.
Certainly, I want to increase my faith and I hope you do as well. Scripture provides an abundant resource for the study of faith. In Hebrews 10:38 the writer says, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
This is the answer to all problems, difficulties, and disappointments. It is a strong and candid declaration that Christians must "live by faith"! When we do that, then such things as "when" Christ will come again, and countless other questions can be safely left with the Lord. It is enough for us to know that what God has promised is not about to fail. We note that the soul that draws back shall confront the displeasure of God.
I. What is Faith? The basic NT words for faith are the noun pistos and the verb pisteuo. According to Vine’s pistos means, “firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing”. He goes on to say that it is used to denote: a. trust; b. trustworthiness, c. what is believed, the contents of belief; d. assurance, a ground for belief. e. a pledge of fidelity.
A. The aspect of faith has to do with persuasion, affirmation, and conviction of something that is true. That is the aspect of believing. There's also the content of what is believed.
B. As the Bible talks about faith, it incorporates the aspect of trust which motivates and creates true obedience. It is that obedience that comes as the result of a trust in God that is defined as faith.
C. When faith is used to represent a condition for salvation, there are two main points to look at, each of which is a necessary aspect of the total concept of our saving faith.
II. The first one is the aspect of assent or belief. Assent, is an act of the mind, a judgment of the intellect, about a particular idea. A coming to recognize that what's been said to you is true and therefore you accept it. You assent to its truthfulness.
A. Accepting a statement by faith does not mean that I accept it blindly. It does define the fact that I have come to a conviction on it. It is not all that is left when there is no rational evidence. People make the assertion; “Faith takes over where reason leaves off.”
1. Now there is that “view” about faith. If you talk to people in the world, particularly on religious topics about faith and whether or not they have faith in the fact that God created the world, or their faith in Jesus, or their faith in the resurrection, their perspective is; “well, there's no real evidence for that”. They say there's no rational reason, you just have to accept that by faith. You either accept it by faith, or you don't accept it by faith. That then becomes a very relative aspect.
2. Sometimes people say faith is an illogical belief in the improbable. Have you ever heard that one is to take a leap of faith, or one must have blind faith to have true faith? In the Bible, none of those assertions are true, none of those are concepts about faith or what the Bible presents.
B. Our faith is based upon the sufficiency of the evidence. It's based upon the confidence we have and the trustworthiness of the one who says something to us. If I’m talking to you and I ask; “do you believe me?”, you have to weigh the evidence as to whether or not what I'm saying is corroborated by other things.
1. Of course you might want to consider whether or not I am a habitual liar or I usually tell you the truth. That aspect of belief and faith rests in the trustworthiness of the one who is giving the testimony and other testimony that might very well corroborate what is said.
2. In John 10:37 Jesus says, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;” Jesus says if I don't do the works of my Father, you have every right to not believe in me. There is testimony for your very eyes that I am who I say that I am. If Jesus did the miracles, if He performed the works of His Father, then that demanded the aspect of faith and belief.
C. We can know something. When I say know I mean in the aspect of having an absolute assurance of something by experience, we can see it. I know you're here because I can see you. Those particular things that we see, that we experience in life, are not things that we recognize as being accepted by faith.
1. The ideas that we accept by faith, that we assent to, are those that enter into our consciousness through the testimony of others. We believe because someone has given us testimony or told us that these things are so. We either accept them or we don't accept them.
2. That is a frequent element of everyday life, isn’t it? You read something in the newspaper and you don't know if it's true or not, but there it is in the newspaper. Do you recall Virginia’s letter to the editor of The Sun? She wrote; “Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’” Someone testified to it and you either agree with it or you don't agree with it. You either believe that it happened or it did not happen.
3. Let’s say I greet you and I say, “how was your day?” You tell me, it was fine. Do I believe that? That's just your testimony. I don't necessarily have any empirical evidence that you had a good day or not. I believe what you tell me based on the testimony that you give me.
D. The atheist has faith. He won't readily admit that, but his actions are based on faith. He believes that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. He believes that George Washington lived. He believes these things from history. Based on what? Based upon testimony. He wasn't there. He didn't see them. He didn't experience them. If he did, he would know them, but he believes them because of the testimony of history. Every day we participate in the activity of faith.
E. Faith IS a condition of salvation. It involves the aspect of the acceptance of what God has said and the testimony of the apostles and prophets given to us in Scripture. We have faith in what God has said, meaning that we agree that what God has said in the Scriptures is true.
1. In the chapter of Hebrews called the faith chapter, we read Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is supported by testimony, which is the evidence of things that you don't necessarily see or experience yourself, but you believe them, you assent to them. We believe, even in the absence of first-hand experience, that these things are true.
2. The writer of Hebrews also says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. The word “substance” here is in Greek “hypostasis”, a compound word Strong defines it as a structure, foundation, that which has actual existence, a substantial quality, steadiness, firmness, confidence, firm trust, assurance. It means that it is a “certainty” of things that are yet to come.
3. How can we be certain about what's going to come, through faith? It is an element of faith that you come to be certain of things that have not yet happened. These are things that you don't experience but because of the testimony you've accepted, and the evidence that supports that testimony, you believe them. In biblical terminology, the assent aspect of faith is represented by the phrase believe that. It is something that's to be believed in.
a. An example is in Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” This verse illustrates the assent, or agreement, or belief aspect of faith in that there are certain facts that we must believe, things that we must accept based on the testimony that's given in the Scriptures.
b. John 8:24 – “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Faith certainly is a condition of something here. It is a condition of not perishing and dying in our sins. It's ascribed to the aspect that I must believe something about Jesus, that there is a fact that must be accepted.
c. Some folks don't believe that Jesus came and lived on the earth. Some don't believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and yet still claim to have faith. Jesus specifically defined faith in the aspect that there are facts that must be accepted and cannot be rejected or a person cannot please God.
d. John 14:10 – “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” Here Jesus is exhorting Philip to believe that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.
e. In John 20:30-31 he wrote, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John was writing his testimony so that you and I would come to believe certain things about Jesus that are solid, and certain. Jesus is the Christ and He is the Son of the living God.
f. I would say that scripture is clear that a person who does not believe this, cannot please God and will not be saved. I don't think there's any other conclusion that I could come to.
4. By understanding the nature of faith, AND understanding the conditionality of faith as it is presented in scriptures, there are certain things that I must believe in and believe that these things are true. Since faith includes this aspect of what is to be agreed with, it has come to refer to the body of doctrine that is accepted as truth.
5. In Ephesians 4:4-6 we read, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” One faith means there is one objective body of truth that must be accepted.
III. The second aspect of faith is that a person must trust. The first was belief and the second is trust. That trust is an integral and necessary element of having faith. Assent, agreement, is a judgment of the mind regarding the truth of a statement. Trust is the decision of the will to act upon what is accepted as true.
A. I accept something to be true, but faith takes me further than that. True faith calls me to trust in that statement, so much so, that I would act upon it and my will would respond. There is in faith the response of the mind intellectually, and also the response of the will in doing what God has given me to do, to act upon what's been revealed.
1. I believe that this element of faith, as it's described in the Bible, could also be recognized as a personal surrender. It is the act of giving myself to God because He is the one who has told me what is true, and I believe Him, but more than that, I believe in Him.
2. I would describe it this way, I trust in, and believe in a person, not just in a doctrine. If I ask you, “do you have faith in your doctor?” what does that mean? That you believe they exist? That you believe they are a doctor? It might include seeing the diploma on their wall and you read it and you think, well, yeah, it says they graduated, so I believe they did graduate from Harvard.
3. When I ask you if you believe in your doctor, it probably means more than that to you though, doesn't it? You know what I’m asking; do you trust them? Will you let them tell you what's wrong with you and then act upon what they say? Will you fill their prescriptions and follow their directions? Will you trust them to work on you?
4. Theologian and philosopher Jack Cottrell put it this way. “Faith is the decision of the will to surrender everything about ourselves, our time, our possessions, our abilities, our life itself and our eternal destiny into the hands of Jesus Christ.” Trust is the decision to rest our hope of eternal life upon the saving power of the cross and His resurrection.
B. In the second part of First Timothy 1:12, Paul writes, “… I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” What do you believe? Do you believe in Jesus…not just about Jesus, but do you believe in Jesus?
1. That may seem to be, in terms of a preposition, somewhat of an insignificant distinction, but I want us to recognize that it's one way we're able to see the different elements of faith as they are presented to us in the Scriptures. Faith as trust is a believing in, or on someone who has made the statement or has acted on our behalf.
2. To believe in Jesus, and to believe on Jesus, is to trust in the person and the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Let’s look at some examples.
a. John 3:16 – “… whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
b. Acts 10:43 – “… whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
c. Acts 16:31 – in answer to the jailer, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…”
d. 1 Timothy 1:16 – “… as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life”
C. Assent alone does not meet the condition of faith for salvation. Even demons believe that the God of the Bible is the true God (James 2:19). Demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and they believe that God is true and real, but they don't believe in him. We know that because demons don't follow Him, they do not obey him. Demons do not in any way put their trust in Him, and therefore their faith, i.e. their belief or understanding, the intellectual recognition of who God is not enough. It simply brings about a trembling. It does not bring about salvation.
1. Saving faith cannot be defined as simply agreeing with what God has said. It must also include the willingness to trust in Him and surrender my will to His will. Thus faith without obedience is dead (useless) in itself as James said. Yet faith and obedience are not the same thing. Faith must, by its very definition, lead an individual to the activity of trusting in Him, showing or exhibiting that the faith is full, that it is alive and not dead.
2. Faith and obedience are so intertwined that the writer of Hebrews was even willing to imply that unbelief was the same as disobedience. Hebrews 3:18-19 – “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” The faith that saves is a faith that obeys.
IV. Why is faith a condition for salvation? It is not the only condition of salvation of course – repentance, confession, and baptism are also conditions. But in a consideration of what faith is, this question is pertinent. Given the nature of salvation and our understanding of what faith is, it is a necessary condition.
A. The source of our salvation is not our work or activity, but a work that has been done by someone else—Jesus. To be saved we must accept and rely upon what has been done for us. This act of relying on Jesus and His work is the very essence of faith.
1. Salvation comes to us not through God’s law but through His promises. Romans 4:13-21 – “13. For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15. because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression…”
2. Galatians 3:18 says, “For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” then in verses 21-22 – “ Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” and at verses 26-29 – “26. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
3. God offers salvation through His promise; the only way to respond to a promise is by believing it and trusting in it (and in the one who gave it).
B. Salvation is by grace, and faith is the natural and proper response to grace. “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
CONCLUSION: The power of salvation is not in my faith itself. It is rather in the object of my faith – Jesus Christ. It is all Him. Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” – The gift here is not my faith, but my salvation. Faith is my response to the grace offered.
Paul wrote in Romans 5:1-2 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Later he notes the point of their faith in which they received the grace: Romans 6:3-4 – “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Have you expressed your faith in obedience to the command to be baptized into Christ?
Mark 16:16 – “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.
# 603—Jesus I Come
Reference Sermon by: David SchmidtPrint
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