“Faith” in the Bible is defined as, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Hoped for,” points us to the future. “Not seen,” points to mystery. Both of these phrases convey the idea of the unknown. Unknown things make us uncomfortable because we like to see what is before us. The unknown is associated with darkness, hiddenness, uncertainty. Dark alleys and unknown futures make us anxious. Things we can’t see or touch or understand with our senses make us uncomfortable. Life is filled with creaks and cracks, noises and breezes, unfamiliar unknowns and distant destinies that cause the hair on the back of our necks to rise up in a chill. “Faith” is part of God’s solution to the unknowns of life.

“Is this world created by a Creator or evolved out of nothing?” “Is there a ‘God’ or not?” “What happens when we die?” “Is there an afterlife?” “Is there a ‘heaven’?” “How can I get to heaven?” “Why is there such evil in the world?” “Are we all just accidents, or is there a purpose for our existence?” “What about sin?” “What must I do to be saved?” Human beings ponder such questions in one form or the other. “Faith” is part of God’s answers to such questions.

Some say, “Seeing is believing. If I can’t see it, I won’t believe it.” Okay, but God says, “believe and you will see; trust Me.” Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). “Free” from what? Free from the bondages of sin. Free from guilt. Free from fears associated with uncertainty. Free from aimlessness, meaningless, and nihilism. The New Testament speaks “of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” and it speaks of the possibility of “attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God” (Colossians 2:2-3). The means by which we can experience all this is “faith.” “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the FAITH, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). Faith is God’s means to sync up with His data pool. Faith takes hold of the spigot of God’s revelation and opens us to being washed by His word (Ephesians 5:26). Faith in Jesus Christ connects us to God.

A Faith Built on Scripture

Romans 4:3a – “For what does the Scripture say?” 

“For what does the Scripture say?” In Romans, as Paul defines “faith,” he turns to the scriptures. Paul follows the example of Jesus His Master by referring to Scripture. Jesus said, “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). We say, “Show me and I’ll believe.” Jesus says, “Believe in Me and I’ll show you.”

There is a direct correlation between faith and God’s word. Later in Romans Paul is inspired to write:

Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

If you want to have strong faith in God, you need to be in His word. God’s word studied and applied in the Spirit, builds strong faith and spiritual maturity. The food of faith is the word of God. Faith is like a muscle that God feeds with His word and stretches with trials and the circumstances of life. Jesus said we live by the bread of God’s word that nourishes us (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:3). Feed your spirit on the word of God.

How you approach the Bible will determine how effective it is in building your faith. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he said that the way they received God’s word led to their strong faith. Paul stated:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Regardless of where you stand with God, approach the Bible prayerfully asking God to help you understand its contents. Make a commitment to live what he helps you to learn. You’ll be amazed at how those who go to God’s word discover how real He is.

A Faith That Makes Us Right with God

Romans 4:3b – “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, his keynote text from the Old Testament used to prove his point about the gospel. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Because he believed, God imputed righteousness to his account (“credited,” from logizomai, is an accounting term). Paul quoted this verse before in another letter (Gal. 3:6).  [1] It’s an important statement about the importance of faith in knowing God. “Righteousness” is being right with God. There is a faith in God that leads to God accounting one righteous. But what is this faith?

What is the “Faith/Belief” That Saves?

The word “believe” occurs 190 times in the Bible, 137 times in the New Testament. “Believe” is translated from the Greek term pisteuo which means, “to have faith in a person or thing; believe; trust; commit, put in trust with.” [2] Vine’s comments that the term pisteuo means, “to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and therefore, “to place confidence in,” “to trust,” “reliance upon.” Pisteuo is not merely assenting to something or giving credence but believing or trusting in something or someone in a way that causes one to act or change accordingly. “Faith” occurs 362 times in the Bible, 243 times in the New Testament. “Trust” occurs 153 times in the Bible, 18 times in the New Testament. We find this word most frequently in the gospel of John where it occurs 99 times. [3] In Romans we find the term “faith” 39 times in 34 verses. “Believe” 8 times in Romans (3:3, 22; 411, 24; 6:8; 10:9, 14; 15:31). “Believed” occurs 6 times in Romans (4:3, 17, 18; 10:14, 16; 13:11).” Believing” occurs once in Romans (15:13). Altogether in Romans we find approximately 54 references to faith which is about ¼ of the references to faith in the entire New Testament. Romans to a great extent is a book about faith.

Where Does Faith Come From?

God’s image in us. God creates humanity with the capacity to make willful decisions, to exert faith. This is His image in us (Genesis 1:26).  We cannot take credit or boast about any faith we exert or implement, because apart from God and His gracious provision, we would not even have the capacity for faith. God reasons with the sinner (Isaiah 1:18), convicts the sinner of their need of a Savior (John 16:8-11), and presents the sinner with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ (e.g., John 3:16). We simply receive that by faith or reject it.

Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. This is why in Hebrews it states that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith:

Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Notice the pronouns, “we,” and “us” which point to our faith response. But this response is not something we manufacture. This response is authored and finished by Jesus who joyfully endured the cross for us to redeem us. Jesus authors (Greek archegos) our faith, or is the chief leader, the One who takes the lead and exemplifies faith to us. Jesus is the Pioneer of faith for us. And He is the “finisher” (Greek teleiotes) of our faith, or completer, consummater, perfector, Who has set before us the highest example of faith. We know what faith is by looking at Jesus. In light of this truth we ought to trust Him and “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

The Salvation Machine – Faith is Not a Work

Faith is not a work or something we can boast about. This is made clear by the Apostle Paul who is inspired to write:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV) – “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. Jesus has done all the work of saving us from our sins. Because of Jesus atoning death on the cross, God has established a just basis to forgive the one who trusts Jesus as their Savior. Our wage or debt owed because of our sins, is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid that debt of death for us. Jesus bore our sin for us (Isaiah 53). “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This work of salvation is offered to us freely in love, as a gift of His grace to be received by faith (Romans 5:1-8).

The Salvation Machine. Salvation is like a saving machine built by God that does all the work of saving for the one willing, by faith, to press a button on that machine that sets in motion the saving work for them. Jesus accomplishes all the saving work of this machine. This saving work is offered to us freely by God’s grace, it is a gift offered to us by God. This salvation “is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Some have misinterpreted that Faith is the gift of God in this passage. Faith is from God in the sense that, because we are created in His image we have the capacity to make willful decisions by exerting faith (Gen. 1:26). But the “gift” mentioned by Paul here is salvation. Biblical scholar A.T. Robertson clarifies this when he says regarding Ephesians 2:8:

For by grace (τῃ γαρ χαριτι [tēi gar chariti]). Explanatory reason. “By the grace” already mentioned in verse 5 and so with the article. Through faith (δια πιστεως [dia pisteōs]). This phrase he adds in repeating what he said in verse 5 to make it plainer. “Grace” is God’s part, “faith” ours. And that (και τουτο [kai touto]). Neuter, not feminine ταυτη [tautē], and so refers not to πιστις [pistis] (feminine) or to χαρις [charis] (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part. Paul shows that salvation does not have its source (ἐξ ὑμων [ex humōn], out of you) in men, but from God. Besides, it is God’s gift (δωρον [dōron]) and not the result of our work.[4]

We add or do no work in our salvation, we only receive by faith the saving benefits of the redemptive cross-work of Jesus to our account. Getting back to our illustration. All we do to receive the benefits of this salvation is receive it by faith by pressing the button on this machine to turn it on and get it working for us. It’s as though there is a button on this salvation machine that when pressed, sets in motion for the presser, all the saving benefits of salvation. We press this button by faith.

We can’t even take credit for pressing the button on God’s salvation machine. We wouldn’t even know there was a salvation machine or a button to press unless the Holy Spirit pointed it out to us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our need to press that button (John 16:8-11). The Spirit reasons with us and convinces us we need to turn from our sinful ways and come to Jesus to press that button. God draws us by His grace to Jesus and His salvation machine.

When we press the button by faith we are not doing the work or adding to the work of the machine of salvation, the machine does that, but by pressing the button we are only accepting the work accomplished by Jesus to our account.

There’s nothing to boast about by pressing the button, we are only accepting the work of saving done by Jesus for us. “We are His workmanship,” God’s poetry, God’s creative work. When by faith we press that button, we discover we are, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Press the button on God’s salvation machine, benefit from the saving work of Jesus, and discover the path of good works God has created you for.

Faith is not a work we perform, but a decision to accept or reject God’s truth and the work completed in Christ for our salvation (cf. John 19:30). The faith we exert is a product of Jesus’ work in us. The Apostle Peter affirmed this when he wrote:

1 Peter 1:20-21 – “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

“Through Him,” through Jesus we “believe in God.”

Peter opens his second epistle by saying:

2 Peter 1:1 – “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, 1 To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”

The words “having obtained” (Greek lachousin – Aorist/Active/Participle of the verb lanchano – having obtained, having received) speaks of something the recipients had an active role in receiving or obtaining (i.e. Active Voice of the Greek verb). What did they obtain? The obtained “a like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Our salvation is a gift from God based on the completed work of Jesus Christ and it is received by faith.

 Faith and Regeneration

The way we view faith in relation to being regenerated, forgiven our sins, justified, is important. In Calvinism the order of salvation[5] puts God’s regenerative work before a person’s saving faith. But is that the ordo salutis or order of salvation the Bible provides? This is a hotly debated topic in the Church. I can only offer a brief summation here. Calvinism teaches that people are totally depraved to the extent that they are totally and literally dead spiritually and incapable of responding to God. The Bible teaches spiritual deadness is not total incapacitation, but is understood in terms of separation from God such as with the Prodigal Son (compare Luke 15:24 – “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”). They teach that only those who are unconditionally elected by God to be regenerated can benefit from the limited atonement of Jesus. But in both instances God offers salvation to “all” the ”world” (e.g., Romans 2:11; 3:22-24; 10:13). Jesus died for every sinner, not just a select elect. The benefits of Jesus atoning redemptive work on the cross is offered to all sinners, not a select elect. Such a view raises questions about God’s love. It causes us to wonder, “If God could save all, why does He only choose to save some? If He loves the ‘world’ why does He only save some?” If you respond that none deserve to be saved, does that include children in the womb or young infants? What happens to the image of God in humanity, is that lost or discounted? Does humanity not have the responsibility of making a decision toward God’s offer of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus?  If not, how can those who could respond in no other way, be held responsible for their predetermined destiny? In Calvinism those regenerated or given spiritual life have no free will decision in the matter but are irresistibly acted upon by God’s grace. But the Bible is filled with calls to repent and respond in faith to the LORD. The proof of the genuineness of one’s salvation is proven in the perseverance of their faith according ot Calvinism. How can we ever know for sure that we are among God’s elect? But the Bible speaks of an assurance of salvation provided by the Holy Spirit (e.g., Romans 8:14; 1 John 5:13). Therefore, their doctrinal system of belief causes them to assert that God must regenerate the sinner before they can put faith in God.

Nowhere in the Bible is it taught that God regenerates a person before they are saved by faith in Jesus or that being “born again’ is separate and distinct from salvation.  Dave Hunt makes the following comment on the order of salvation as it relates to saving faith and the regenerative work of God in a person:

“Men fail to come to Christ not because they cannot, but because they will not: ‘And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life’ (John 5:40) . . .. Defining depravity as inability requires God to sovereignly regenerate man, and without any recognition, understanding or faith on man’s part, bring him to spiritual life. [But] Enabling grace is needed for faith, but not ‘regenerating grace.’ Where does the Bible say one must be regenerated before one can believe the gospel? Not one verse can be cited where that proposition is stated clearly. . .. Nowhere from Genesis to Revelation does the Bible teach that sinful man, without first being regenerated, is incapable of repenting of his sins, turning to God and believing the gospel. On the contrary, it is all too clear that faith precedes salvation and is in fact a condition of salvation. [Luke 8:12; Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:16).] . . . In numerous places the Bible declares that upon believing in Christ according to the gospel we receive eternal life from God as a free gift. [John 3:16; 5:24; 20:31] . . .. The Bible clearly teaches that the moment one believes in and receives the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior who died for one’s sins, that person has been born (regenerated of the Spirit of God) into the family of God and has thereby become a child of God. . .. Believing in Christ unto salvation is not the result of regeneration but the cause of it.”[6]

God enables by His grace the sinner to put faith in Jesus Christ and then regenerates the respondent by the rebirth of the Spirit. Faith precedes regeneration, not vice versa.

Faith Alone in Christ Alone Saves

That faith is the only means by which a person is saved is seen in numerous passages of the Bible. Here are just a few:

Galatians 2:16 – “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

Philippians 3:9 – “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” (See also Romans 3:20-22, 28; 4:5,14; 10:4; Galatians 3:11.)

Roman Catholicism objects to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone stating that nowhere in the Bible does it say that faith alone saves. The Roman Catholic Church points to James 2:24 which seems to contradict the idea of faith alone saving when it says, “A man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Is this a contradiction? Not if one has a proper understanding of saving faith.

Paul may not use the exact word “alone,” but he does repeatedly say in Romans that faith apart from works saves (Romans 3:20,21,24,28; 4:5,6). James R. White (a Calvinist) explains the connection between faith and works:

“Faith alone saves, but a saving faith is never alone. . .. Sola Fide [faith alone] has never, ever meant ‘justified by a barren, dead faith that is not Spirit-borne nor accompanied by all the rest of the work of God in His redeemed people. The alone has always referred to the denial of any additions to faith, especially those that speak to merit. . .. Faith, then, abandons all claims to any merit or reward. . .. The faith that saves is a faith that clings in helpless dependence upon another: The God who justifies.” [7]

Dave Hunt (a non-Calvinist) adds that faith is not a work. God’s enabling grace allows a person to receive the gospel by faith. Dave Hunt says:

“To believe the gospel and to receive Christ requires no work or worth on man’s part, contributes nothing to salvation, gives no credit to man and detracts in no way from God’s glory. . .. It is simply not true that believing in and receiving Christ gives any credit to man or detracts at all from the fact that it is Christ alone who procured our redemption. Faith is not a work nor does it give any credit to the person who believes . . .”  [8]

Faith is a gift of God’s grace, something to be received and exercised by the sinner to be saved through faith in Christ, and that to the glory of God.

Now how about you, have you trusted Jesus as your Savior? God has set before you a Salvation Machine. This machine has been built by God. This machine does everything necessary to produce the forgiveness for your sins, the salvation of your soul, eternal life. All that is required of you is to press a button of faith on the machine to set God’s work in you in motion. Press that button, and you will receive what God has done for you in Christ. There it is, here it is, God’s button that will release a waterfall of grace into your life. What will you do about it? I pray and encourage you to press the button. If you do, you’ll never be the same.

 

 

[1]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[3]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[4] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Eph 2:8). Broadman Press.

[5] TULIP: Total Depravity / Unconditional Election / Limited Atonement / Irresistible Grace / Perseverance of the saints

[6] Dave Hunt, What Love is This? (Loyal Pub.: Sisters OR, 2002) pgs. 98,99,100,101

[7] James R. White, The God Who Justifies, (Bethany House: Minneapolis, MN, 2001)., p. 67,108,210

[8] Dave Hunt, What Love Is This? (Sisters OR: Loyal Pub. 2002) p. 121

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