Some crucially important questions are being directed at you. They have to do with faith. Do you want to please God? The Bible says, “. . . without faith it is impossible to please him [God] . . .” (Heb. 11:6). Do you want to experience God’s saving grace? The Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8). Do you want to receive God’s salvation? The Bible says, “Receiving the end of your faith/ even the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9). Do you want the life to come to be real and relevant to you now? The Bible says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Do you want to be an overcomer, to triumph over this unregenerate, satanically controlled, humanistic world system? The Bible says, “. .. and this is the victory that overcometh the world/ even our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4).
All other graces, like birds in the nest, depend on what faith brings in to them. Thomas Watson wrote, “Love is the crowning grace in heaven, but faith is the conquering grace on earth.”
Faith is the channel by which impotent man is enabled to lay hold of the omnipotent God, or, more accurately, by which an omnipotent God lays hold of impotent man.
Faith is taking God at His word — not simply responding to external signs and miracles. Faith is not believing that God can; it is knowing that He will.
Faith is deaf to doubt, dumb to discouragement, blind to impossibilities and knows nothing but success in God.
Walking by faith means being prepared to trust where we are not permitted to see.
Faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to Heaven in a dark night.
Faith allows Christ to do for us and with us what we could never do alone.
Through the ages, a few great men have striven to understand the biblical subject of faith. Some have left to us the fruit of their labor. John Bulwer wrote, “Strike from mankind the principle of faith, and men would have no more history than a Hock of sheep.”
Thomas Chalmers suggested that, “Faith is like the hand of the beggar that takes the gift while adding nothing to it.
The incomparable Charles Haddon Spurgeon quipped, “Faith is reason at rest in God. The classic theologian Augustus H. Strong stated, “Faith is the grip which connects us with the moving energy of God.”
William N. Clarke said succinctly, “Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.”
From firsthand experience, George Muller knew that, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
G. Campbell Morgan, the great English preacher, penned these words, “The faith that does not come from reason is to be doubted, and the reason that does not lead to faith is to be feared.”
It was J. Gresham Machen, scholar and courageous Christian apologist, who suggested, “ The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust Him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith.”
But, after all is said and done, when the cliches are given and the metaphors exhausted, what does the Bible really say about faith? What is it? Is it necessary? How do we get it? What does it do for us? And what do we do with it, once we have it?
FAITH A SYNONYM FOR THE ENTIRE GOSPEL
Faith is the channel through which God’s grace is imparted and all spiritual blessings flow. That statement is accurate and paramount and, therefore, must not be lightly glossed over. It should not seem strange, then, that the New Testament writers began to use the word faith as a synonym for the whole body of truth known as the gospel (good news).
Dr. Luke, in telling of the spread of the gospel, wrote, “And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
To the Corinthians, God’s faithful servant Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith .. “ (2 Cor. 13:5). And, nearing the end of his life, Paul said of himself, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). In each of these verses the designation “the faith” was used as a synonym for the whole body of truth related to the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. That such should be the case serves to underscore the early Church’s awareness of the critical and central part faith played in the regenerating of a sinner through the Holy Spirit. But this was a subsidiary use of the term. Of primacy . . .
FAITH IS TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD
This basic element of faith cannot be emphasized too strongly. Whatever else faith may be, it is this first, foremost and always. Faith cannot stand alone. Faith is always in something or someone. If a man says he has faith, the question should immediately be raised — in what or whom? In his own ability? In his money? In his doctor? In his country? In the innate goodness of man? Faith always has an object. And, make no mistake about it, biblical faith has as its object God’s Word — and God’s Word alone.
A pastor stands before his flock and declares, “I have faith that God can raise one and a half million dollars for our new building program.” No one questions an omnipotent God’s ability to raise the funds. But, is that truly faith? Did God tell the pastor that He would raise the money? Was there handwriting on the wall? Is there a verse of Scripture that details this specific project and amount required? The building may be needed; the project may be bathed in prayer; careful plans may be made; and an honest evaluation of what the congregation, with sacrifice and commitment, may reasonably be expected to do may be determined. As a result, the church may rightly decide to proceed. But, that is not faith, not really. That is a decision based on facts by spiritually discerning men and women who believe that constructing a new building is the proper path to take.
All too frequently man’s presuming on God is presented as man’s faith in God. Presumption is not faith. Occasionally, extravagant plans are hatched by men concerning things that God never promised, and then supposed faith in God is to bring the plan to fruition. Sometimes a Christian in crisis says something like, “If I have enough faith, my daughter will be healed in spite of what the doctors say.” But, was it lack of faith when the daughter died, or was it that God had never promised healing. Of course, God heals when it pleases Him to do so. But, if He doesn’t, that is not necessarily an indication that there was a lack of faith.
Often we pray for physical deliverance from a problem when, in fact, it is the divine plan to take us through the problem for His glory and some greater good.
When Abraham went out from Ur of the Chaldeans, he was not sure of his destiny, but he was sure of his company. God had said, Go, and he went.
True faith is like that, It is founded, not upon feelings, aspirations or good intentions, but on the promises of God. Try this, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee . . .” (Isa. 26:3). That’s God’s promise! You can place your faith in it. Or this, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, also make the way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). That’s God’s promise! You can place your faith in Or this, “… I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3). That’s God’s promise! You can place your faith in it. Or this “… I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:28). That’s God’s promise! You can place your faith in it.
Martin Luther was right when he wrote, “The property of faith is not to be proud of what the eye sees, but to rely on what the word reveals. Understanding the doctrine of faith is to realize that…
FAITH IS A GIFT SOVEREIGNLY BESTOWED
Man is totally depraved. He is not spiritually sick, he is wholly dead. And dead men cannot assist God. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “And you hath he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). That is not a Calvinistic doctrine; it is a biblical truth. If man is to exhibit saving faith, the impetus for such action must originate in God. This is the thrust of the Pauline statement, “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 (Eph. 2:8-9). The phrase “and that not of yourselves” cannot refer to “grace” for, by the very definition, grace is unmerited favor. The term “and that not of yourselves” refers to the nearest antecedent, “faith.” That is, the ability to exercise faith is not resident within man himself. Faith is sovereignly bestowed — “… it is the gift of God.” God’s grace is not a reward for faith; faith is the result of grace. Or, put another way, faith is a grace men have received, not a goal men have achieved.
Hear some men of letters on this subject. “We cannot force ourselves to have faith. We are as much in need of this as everything. Faith can only originate in the soul of man by the gift of God” (Marcus Loane).
“Saving faith is not the human contribution of a sinner seeking salvation, but the divine contribution of the gracious God seeking a sinner” (Arthur C. Custance).
“Saving faith is not creative, but receptive. It does not make our salvation, it accepts it gratefully” (Robert Horn).
“There is no merit in believing. It is only the act of receiving a proffered favor” (Charles Hodge).
Pastor Ray Bayne, a highly esteemed friend and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, shared this insightful definition: “Saving faith is believing God’s Word about God’s provision for deliverance from God’s righteous judgment on my sin, and depending on that provision and nothing else for acceptance with God and eternal life. But, it must be remembered that. . .
FAITH IS THE PRINCIPLE FOR DAILY TRIUMPHANT LIVING
Saving faith will gain a man entrance into the family of God. But, once there, how is that saved man now to live? The Word of God is clear. “… the just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4; cp, Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). It is faith in God’s Word that makes a rebel under judgment a son under grace. Ongoing faith in the Word of God is now the channel whereby that son is progressively being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every believer has the potential to live in one of two realms — the physical realm or the spiritual realm. These two realms are equally real, although one is visible and the other invisible — one is material and the other immaterial.
The Apostle Paul had these two realms in mind when he wrote, “. . . Walk in the Spirit [the spiritual realm], and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh [the physical realm]” (Gal. 5:16). The physical realm is predicated on law/ made operable by works of the flesh/ and will always result in bondage. Man can never do enough work, finish the work, or do the work in a way that will satisfy an infinitely holy God. In contrast, the spiritual realm is predicated on grace appropriated by faith/ which always brings peace.
To the Galatians, who had exhibited saving faith but were now illogically trying to grow in grace through works, the apostle inquired, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth… Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit [that is, by faith], are ye now made perfect by the flesh [that is, by works]?” (Gal. 3:1, 3).
The only path to spiritual maturity is faith. And faith, to grow, must claim the promises of God.
And to claim the promises of God/ one must know what the Word of God says. Here.then, is a logical promise to claim from God’s Word, a promise in which to exhibit faith,”. . faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). There is no shortcut, no quick fix, no substitute for triumphant living. It is the result of a living, thriving, pulsating, growing faith in God’s Word.
Faith begins in the newly saved life like a fragile sapling; it can grow into a mighty oak. It was true in the life of Abraham, the father of the faithful; it can be true in every Christian’s life.
It was D. L. Moody, great man of God, who wrote,”I prayed for faith and thought it would strike me like lightning. But faith did not come. One day I read, ‘Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ I had closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now began to study my Bible and faith has been growing ever since.”
Faith in God’s Word is the most powerful force in the world. Three times in the Bible — two times by the Lord (Mt. 17:20; 21:21) and once by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13:2) — it is recorded that a man of faith can cast a mountain into the sea. Since no one appears to be casting mountains into the sea today, can it be assumed that there are no men of great faith today? That hardly seems likely. Then is this ability to cast a mountain into the sea to be understood as figurative language? It would appear not. The true significance is this: A mountain is the largest possible physical obstacle. In the land of Israel, where mountains abound, they are an ever present obstacle. But/ this largest of all obstacles in the physical realm (mountains) cannot impede divine promises in the spirit realm. Faith simply says to physical obstacles, Be removed into the sea get out of the way — move over — I’m coming through. The spiritual realm is stronger than the physical realm because it harnesses God’s power. The child of God can appropriate and live in the light of God’s promises even when problems appear to be closing in on every side. Human obstacles retreat when confronted with a biblical faith which says to the mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea.
It’s true, the just shall live by faith. But remember that. . .
FAITH IS BELIEF IN ACTION
A passive faith is a biblical impossibility. It simply cannot be. Faith acts by the very nature of the case. The sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther did not particularly like the Book of James. Factually, he wanted to have it removed from the Bible. Why? you ask. Because he fought the battle with Rome over the doctrine of justification by faith apart from works. The little Book of James, he thought, weakened his argument; for James wrote that”. . . faith, if it hath not works, is dead.. “ (Jas. 2:17). In reality, the Book of James is not a contradiction of justification by faith; it is a substantiation of it.
Abel believed God, so he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Heb. 11:4).
Noah believed God, so he built an ark (Heb. 11:7).
Abraham believed God, so he left Ur of the Chaldeans for a promised land (Heb. 11:8).
Joseph believed God, so he commanded that his bones be taken out of Egypt when his brethren returned home (Heb. 11:22).
Moses believed God, so he chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy sin’s pleasures for a season (Heb. 11:25).
In each and every instance, faith is belief in action. How, then, do you reconcile the work of unsaved men to a law system in which God takes no pleasure, and the work of faith in which God’s heart delights? The answer is simple, yet so few of God’s children comprehend it. The work of an unsaved man in the physical realm is done through his self-effort; it does not please God and is, therefore, dead works. In contrast, the work of faith in the spirit realm is done through the believer who is a living sacrifice — that is, dead to self so that the Spirit of God can work through him. This work pleases God, for He alone receives the glory.
Someone has suggested that If God gives you St Paul’s faith, you will soon have St. James works.” That’s true! And herein is crucial, neglected, often-compromised truth. If a man says that he has placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and there is no evidence of a progressively changing life, no new goals, attitudes and actions, it is highly questionable whether the individual was ever truly saved. Works will always emanate from a saving faith.
Martin Luther said, “The true living faith,which the Holy Spirit instills into the heart, simply cannot be idle.” But, the faith life is not an easy life. Mark it down that man’s . . .
FAITH IS ALWAYS UNDER ASSAULT
James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into various trials. Knowing this, that the testing of your faith worketh patience, [Boy, does it ever!] But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4).
It was John Calvin who wrote, “Our faith is really and truly tested only when we are brought into very severe conflicts, and when even hell itself seems opened to swallow us up.”
Somehow, we must trust God’s Word and appropriate His promises even when the pieces of our lives don’t seem to fit. After our faith is assaulted, we shall come forth as pure gold. It is the divine process for refining. In the midst of affliction, it must never be forgotten that. . .
FAITH IS THAT WHICH I SUBSTANTIATES THE FUTURE
Last summer this writer had the privilege of hearing Jack Wyrtzen, a beloved friend highly esteemed, preach a forceful evangelistic message at the beautiful Word of Life Bible Conference. In the midst of that message, this faithful servant of Christ proclaimed, “I believe in the reality of Heaven as much as if I had already lived there for a thousand years.” Those who know Jack well know that he does believe this with his whole being. That is exactly as it should be. The inspired penman wrote, “… faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Wyrtzen’s faith in God’s Word is so strong that Heaven is real — there is no question, no hesitation, no doubt. What physical eyes cannot see, the eye of faith clearly beholds. You see, “Faith makes invisible things visible, absent things present, and things that are very far off to be very near to the soul” (Thomas Brooks). John Bunyan penned these classic words, “Hope is never ill when faith is well.”
Faith allows us to see and touch today what God will most assuredly bring to pass tomorrow. It is the “. . . substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Let’s sum up then by putting . . .
FAITH IN REVIEW
Faith is sometimes used as a synonym for the gospel.
Faith is always in God’s Word.
Faith is a gift sovereignly bestowed.
Faith is the principle for triumphant living.
Faith is belief in action.
Faith substantiates the future.
In the final analysis, faith is the quickening of the soul (which includes intellect, emotion and will) concerning a particular truth in God’s Word. This is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit and will always manifest itself in some kind of action.
At first I only gave God thanks
If I felt well that day.
And everything was tranquil
And going just my way;
But when I learned to thank our Lord
When not one thing went right —
I found His hand was leading me.
His presence my delight,
His keystone faith, not sight.
-Mildred Alien Jeffery