“Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)” (Hebrews 11:6a NKJV)
Without question one of the most misunderstood essentials of the historic Christian faith is “faith”. There is a wide chasm between our contemporary understanding of the word and the Biblical meaning of it. What is most commonly passed off as faith by TV preachers, motivational speakers, and sadly, many pastors, is nothing more than “positive thinking”, or as one creative fellow puts it “possibility thinking”. I strongly believe in positive thinking, and especially so for Christians, but it is not faith.
The understanding of many, even church leaders and preachers, is that faith is synomonous with our contemporary understanding of “belief”, or “believing”. They often have the same root meaning in the Bible but in regard to salvation are far different than what is commonly understood in 2007.
There is an element of “belief” in the concept, or truth of Biblical faith. In both belief and faith the mind must acquire some facts. The intellect is engaged when one hears, or reads, or sees a set of facts, and those facts are recorded in the brain. By the use of this human mechanism that we all share I am convinced that George Washington was the first President of the
United States. I “believe” the facts as recorded in history. That sort of “belief” requires no trust; I never have to rely on those facts, nor am I motivated to act in any way because of the fact that I have given mental assent to them. Biblical faith is not only intellectual but also emotional and volitional. Unless we come to the place where our hearts embrace the facts of the gospel and our wills are predisposed to act on what we believe, we do not have faith.
Every sane human can acquire and believe facts. But God gives faith to a selected few (“few there be that find it” are Jesus’ words about the narrow way of salvation in Matthew 7). To those who hear the Word of God, not only with the ear, but with their hearts, faith is given. (Romans 10) One the one hand the brain is the center of activity and on the other the heart (innermost being, or human spirit) is the part of us that embraces the truth of God given by grace. It is this faith, or belief, that Christ could “see”. (Mark 2 & Luke 5) At the moment of saving faith, there is no demonstration needed to convince God that the sinner has placed his faith in the record God has given of His Son. God knows our hearts.
The sight of mere belief is short sighted and fickle at best and depends entirely on what can be observed naturally. Faith sees the unseen, is sure and certain, and is supernatural. Faith gives substance to our hope and makes the unseen things of God hard evidence. Faith allows a born again believer to gladly accept God as the Creator of everything. Those without faith have problems with the concept of a being able to make matter out of nothing by speaking a word. The eyes of faith allowed Abraham to look over the eons of time and see a city not built with human hands and upon that evidence only he left his home land to follow God. (Hebrews 11)
When I have a candidate ready to be baptized and I ask the question “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” have I done due diligence to be reasonably sure that person has faith in God? I don’t believe so. The devils believe the facts of the gospel but they do not believe with “the heart”.
In the coming weeks I will show that out of the spring of faith flows all obedience to God including repentance, confession, baptism and every other act of submission to a Holy God and His Christ.
Grace and Peace,