I’ve been thinking about faith lately. Many New Testament passages speak of faith. Yet what is it really? Recently I heard someone say that Hebrews 11:1 is the definition of faith. Yet, I don’t think it is a definition of faith, but rather a description of what faith does for us. Faith brings the future into the present and makes the invisible seen.
Faith can get unfair treatment, or be inaccurately defined. Such as: “faith is believing in what you know isn’t true” or “faith is permission to believe without good reason.” I’ve blogged on these issues already. Such as in my post entitled “Without Faith?” where I emphasize how faith is an integral part of many aspects of life, and not only the realm of religion. Or in a 2-part post on faith and reason, where I defend or explain that faith and reason are not opposites. We make many decisions not based on absolute certainty, but based on adequate and sufficient reasons to do so. It is a mixture of head and heart, or reasons and faith. Faith has its reasons. You are placing your faith in something.
In the New Testament, the words translated believe, faith, faithful, and believing come from the same Greek root word – which involves an active, personal trust. I like how an
old antique Bible dictionary I have states the difference between belief and faith:
Belief is assent to testimony, and faith is assent to testimony, united with trust. Faith is an active principle; it is an act both of the understanding and the will. The distinction between belief and faith is that between ‘believe me’ and ‘believe on me.’ The verb believe thus does service for the two nouns faith and belief.
In other words, you have belief in certain facts, but take it a step farther by trusting in it and being willing to act on it. This lines up with Hebrews 11. Genuine faith springs into faithful action, as the many biblical heroes of faith are commended for their obedience to God.
The dictionary I mention further states: “Faith is reliance on God’s testimony regarding the mission and atoning death of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the testimony of Jesus regarding himself….Belief in his historical existence and in the truth of his claims may be produced by evidence, but faith in him, reliance upon him for salvation, cannot be. It is the gift of God; the Spirit applies the truth to the soul.”
So, how might I summarize faith? Faith is based on certain facts, truths, or evidence. Faith has its reasons. You are not going to place your faith in something you know is not true. Yet, like many things in life, some uncertainty is part of the picture and you must exercise faith or trust. Faith propels you forward, as you choose to rely on or have confidence in the object of your faith.
[Have these thoughts been helpful? Or have they muddied the waters? As said, I’ve been thinking about faith. How might you explain faith?]
Christianity is a faith based religion. There is no way around that. The book of John states its purpose: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The entire New Testament (and Old Testament too) bears witness to Christ and his redeeming work for humanity. Various authors took the time to record eye-witness accounts and truths.
But will we have faith? Jesus lived 2 millennia ago. He claimed to be God. This can be challenging to accept – not just today but back then as well. Read the Gospels – some believed, and others did not. What about you? Will you trust HIM? Hebrews 11:6 states “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – There is no better object of faith than the Lord Jesus Christ who loves you and gave his life for you.
More on faith in the next post.