What is faith?
As we start looking at Bible doctrine we must first understand the roll of faith in our lives. The Bible gives us the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
You will notice that faith has two parts, substance and evidence. Let’s look at these two parts to see what they really are.
The Greek word translated “substance” is ὑπόστασις (hupostasis) It is made up of two parts; ὑπό (hupo), meaning under, and ἵστημι (histēmi), meaning to stand. If you take the word “substance” and divide it into its two parts, sub and stance, you find that it means the same thing. Faith is first of all, that which stands under what we hope for. It is that upon which we base our hope. Faith is not blind, there is a reason underneath it. In the case of biblical faith, it is the promises and precepts of God as found in the Scriptures.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
The Greek word translated “evidence” is ἔλεγχος (elegchos), which means proof. Not only is there something that stands under faith, there is also something that proves, or gives evidence of its reality. James tells us what this evidence is:
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. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20)
Our works prove our faith. If we really believe something, it will be seen in the way we live our lives.
We are saved by grace, through faith, without works.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Works have nothing to do with obtaining salvation. Salvation cannot be earned or deserved. That does not mean there is no relationship between salvation and works. These next two verses tells us that there is a relationship:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The first of these two verses follows Ephesians 2:9, which tells us our salvation is not of works. This verse tells us that our salvation results in works, and that God has ordained that we should walk in good works.
The second verse tells us that if we are saved, that is in Christ, we are a new creature and things change in our lives. The old, ungodly things, are passed away, and everything is now new. Our works change.
The evidence to true faith, be it saving faith or living faith, is the change in the things we do (our works).
These following four verses tell us that the just shall live by faith:
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (Habbakkuk 2:4)
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17)
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Galatians 3:11)
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38)
These have a double meaning. No one can justified, or made righteous, until he or she has come to Christ in faith. Secondly, once a person is justified, he is commanded to live by faith. This means to live life putting God’s precepts into practice, and trusting God to work out the end for our good and His glory.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Let me give you one more verse on this subject before I move on to the next point:
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. (Hebrews 11:6)
To please God we must live by faith, believing that God is, and that He rewards those who seek Him in faith.
Why Faith Is Important
Faith is something that everyone has. It can be in God, in a church, in a person, in self, or anything else, but everyone has faith. Since we all have faith, we all live lives that reflect our faith. The atheist lives as if there were no God to whom he will answer. The Muslim live a life that is pleasing to Allah, and if he is a faithful Muslim, he will practice or support jihad. You get the idea.
Faith Is Required For Success
No one accomplishes anything without faith. A successful business man succeeds because he believes in himself, his ability, and in what he is trying to accomplish. A successful Christian life is lived trusting in God, and in His precepts. These precepts guide his life.
The degree of success in any endeavor is the depth of devotion to what one believes. If one believes that God’s precepts are always correct, and that following them without compromise always produces the best results, he will live by them no matter what the cost may be. If he believes they are best, but is not devoted enough to stand on them when it is not convenient to do so, he will experience little success in his Christian life.
Faith Determines Character
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: … (Proverbs 23:7)
There is an old saying:
Sow a thought, reap an act; sow and act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.
A person’s character is determined by how he thinks, and what he thinks is determined by what he believes. These are matters of the heart, and matters of faith. They are spiritual matters. Freedom without the moral and spiritual guidance of God and His Word is a dangerous thing. It is like putting a dangerous weapon in the hands of a criminal. This is becoming more evident in America as she turns more and more away from the principles of God upon which she was founded.
Faith Is Necessary For Service
No one can achieve anything in the service of Christ without faith. To have faith, we must first have a foundation for what we believe.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
The only place to learn the principles of God is from His Word. We need to hear in preached and study it for ourselves. This, and this alone, can make us wise unto salvation. This, and this alone, can make us the people of God we should be. We must study all of Scripture because it is all inspired of God, and it is all profitable. It will teach us doctrine, reprove us when we are in error, show us how to correct our course when we have allowed error to get us off course, and how to keep from getting off course in the first place.
Notice that this passage says that we are to be throughly furnished, not thoroughly furnished. Thoroughly means to be supplied with all that is necessary. Throughly means to fully prepared. It means that we have all we need, and we know how to use it. One who is throughly furnished not only has the tools, he is fully prepared to accomplish the task at hand.
We are not prepared for the service of God with out true faith, and we cannot have true faith until we know what the Word of God teaches. We cannot follow principles and precepts we don’t know.
Authority For Faith
There must be some authority upon which we base our faith. The Muslim bases his faith on the Qur’an and the other Islamic scriptures. The atheist bases his faith upon his own reason. The Catholic bases his faith upon the traditions of the Catholic Church, etc. There must be some foundation that stands under faith or there can be no faith.
The Christian bases his faith on The Word of God. We have seen that all Scripture, that is the Bible, is inspired of God. For a Baptist, it is the only authority for what he believes and what he practices. Next week we will look at what Baptists believe concerning the Scriptures.