“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
As you can see from this Bible verse “faith” is very important. If you want to please God you must have it. The word impossible in the above verse shuts out every other avenue of pleasing God. You must have faith! But what is faith?
Often in the New Testament the words “faith” and “believe” or “belief” are interchangeable. There is a sense in which faith and believing are one in the same. Perhaps the best illustration of both uses is this passage from Romans 10.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:5-17)
Here Paul makes a distinction between law and grace and between works and faith. In verse 6 he speaks of “righteousness based on faith and in verse 10 says “one believes and is justified”. Then at the end of the passage in verse 17 he says “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. So believing and faith have the same meaning, and by the way, the same source. Did you notice? Faith comes. It is a simple concept to understand. A person can’t call on someone in whom they have not believed and they can’t believe it they haven’t heard of him and they can’t hear unless someone tells them.. And this is really important, the preacher of the good news that brings faith must be sent.
No one naturally has faith. Faith comes by the hearing of the gospel, or the word of faith. We know this is truth based on these two passages.
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:7)
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Unless God changes the heart and mind of a person who is not a Christian he does not have the resources necessary to submit to God or to accept the things of God. He does not submit, and cannot. And, he does not accept, and is not able. It is not a matter of a person making a decision to not accept God’s law, or the things of the Spirit, he cannot, he is unable to do so.
So even our faith comes from God. Paul in other of his letters describes non-Christians as living in darkness and spiritual death. God must penetrate the darkness and give life to the dead. When the good news about Jesus is preached God awakens the dark minds of sinners to hear the record of His Word and faith “comes” to the heart of the hearer.
I know some will disagree with what I just wrote but if you do, what will you do with the plain, easy to read verses I posted just above?
Now, we know the source of our faith but what is it? How does it function? I suggest you consider that Biblical faith has three components.
First, Faith is Intellectual.
Before faith comes one must have access to a set of facts. The brain must hold those truths just as it does your phone number or your wife’s name. It is simply facts assembled. Many people never get past this elementary part of what faith or believe, or believing is. The Scriptures say the devils “believe and tremble“. Just to believe the facts about Jesus, even that he died and rose again, will not save you any more than knowing which direction Texas is from where you live. Head knowledge alone is not faith.
Secondly, Faith is Emotional.
Yes, you must hear the facts about Jesus and your brain stores them away and reasons upon them. But for belief to become biblical faith you must embrace those facts with your heart. At the center of your being, you must emotionally grasp and cling to those facts that you intellectually have learned. Back to that Romans 10 passages you see these phrases, “believe with your heart” (vs 9) and “with the heart one believes” (vs 10). I believe I live in Louisiana, that is a fact. But I don’t hold to that truth with my inner being, with my heart.
Thirdly, Faith is Volitional.
In the Bible the word “faith” (and believe, or believing, or believed, or trust, or trusted) is almost always a verb. For faith to be biblical faith it must involve the will. You hear the good news about Jesus, you store the facts. You then embrace those facts, they become dear to you. Now, by an act of the will you act on what you “faith” or believe.
How does one act? One way is by “saying”. Paul said it this way, “with the mouth one confesses”. The term “a confession of faith” is a familiar way to state this. All this means is that the one who has truly put his or her trust (faith) in Jesus will “say” it. You will tell someone, or many people. You might tell your best friend, or your spouse, or your pastor, or you might say it to a church full of people. But, if it is real Bible faith, you will “say” it.
In my view faith and repentance are sort of like the heads and tails of a coin. One cannot, and will not repent (change the mind and the course of lifestyle) if he does not believe on Christ. And, he will not believe on Christ and continue a sinful lifestyle. So if faith is the Bible kind of faith, that is saving faith, the person who believes will repent. Not only does a person validate faith by saying but also by showing.
And, those who put their whole trust in Jesus Christ should as quickly as possible be baptized in water. In the doing of baptism we are participating in one of the two great gospel symbols for Christians, the other being the Lord’s Supper, or communion. In water baptism, the new believer for a moment in time is completely submitted to another and as he is laid under the surface of the water he is acting out the burial of Jesus, and as he is brought up out of the water he is acting out Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The one baptized is saying by being immersed “I believe in Jesus who died for my sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead”. And he is also saying, “I am dying to my old way of living for myself and my desires and I purpose to life a new life for Jesus”. So a person is baptized into Christ, for the remission of sins, is clothed with Christ, has put on Christ, and has been baptized into Jesus’ death. All of these terms have deep meaning but each of them also have some symbolism.
Biblical faith will lead the new believer to want to participate in the Lord’s supper, the other gospel symbol. As believers eat the bread they remember the body of the Lord and as they drink from the cup they remember the blood he shed for them and together they look for his coming and are united in his love and grace.
Good works will be a by-product of everyone who has faith in Jesus. Ephesians 2:10 says:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
“We” includes all Christians. We were made for good works. People who say they are Christians but do no good works are impostors and not Christians.
I could go on mentioning things that arise from a heart set on Jesus by faith. Loving like Jesus loves, forgiving like you have been forgiven by Christ, accepting others who are not like you because he accepted you and so on.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. Do you have faith in Jesus Christ?