Bob, Martha, and Bruce all were eye witnesses to a horrible auto accident. It was so bad that the drivers of both cars were fatalities. The surviving family members desperately want to know the details of the crash for a variety of reason, not the least of which the possibility of a large insurance check to the family of the driver not at fault.
Bob was waiting to cross the street on the north-east side of the intersection. He was looking at a text message on his iPhone when he heard the sound of tires screeching and he looked up just in time to see the two vehicles collide.
Martha had just walked out the door of an upscale clothing store near the south-east corner of the intersection and as fate would have it, she looked toward one of the cars only two or three seconds before the collision.
In court, Bob gave his version of what he saw. He recalled the events the very best he could and gave some detail about who he thought was at fault. When Martha took the stand, she too gave her view of the accident, but was certain that the other vehicle was at fault.
Both Bob and Martha were eye witnesses to the same automobile accident and both, under oath, told what they saw from their vantage point and it was almost as if they had not seen the same wreck. Neither of them purposely lied, it was simply a matter of perspective.
Oh, about Bruce. Bruce was a traffic reporter for one of the local TV stations and he witnessed the accident from several hundred feet above the scene of the accident and told a different story than Bob and Martha. From his perspective he knew which car crossed which line on the road way and in fact had the whole episode video taped.
Each of the three people were truthful and gave an accurate accounting of the event the very best they were able but Bruce’s eye in the sky account decided the case.
For the past several months I have read blog posts and comments from a variety of people about faith in the Bible. What is it? Does God honor faith alone or is it faith plus works that He desires? And, just as in my fictional story above one person makes a statement from his perspective, based on his faith history and theological views and he accuses another of not being a good Christian because the other person doesn’t see it the way he does. And back and forth it goes, tempers and temperatures rise, and soon there is some name calling and one begins to wonder, ‘Is this a group of Christians?” It can get ugly quickly.
Since I am feeling more generous than usual tonight I’ll call all the participants in these online discussions “brothers”. I will assume the best about each of them. All of us are members in good standing at some Church of Christ. The group is sort of polarized into two main groups, “Conservatives” and “Progressives”. (I despise both labels and think they are misleading and wrong) The narrow, short version of the discussion boils down to this question. How does God save a sinner? Must a person be immersed in water to be saved? Most of the so-called “Conservatives” are in the affirmative. And, most of the so-called “Progressives” at a minimum, somewhat disagree. And, as with any group of people there is a scattering of mixed and mingled ideas and statements that are no more than wasted bandwidth.
What is sad about this is that the “Conservatives” are calling the “Progressives” cute names like “Digressives” and damning them to hell. And the “Progressives” are calling the “Conservatives” “Legalists” and excoriating them as well. I have personally been called a “Satanist” and a short list of other things that are not terms of endearment from a family member who is supposed to love me. My crime is that I don’t agree with everything some of my “brothers” think I should.
The most recent discussion and back and forth has been centered on the nature of faith. One group insists that God only saves those who are “properly” baptized because without obedience one does not have faith. Those of us who believe God justifies those who have faith in Christ are accused of being like devils who “believe and tremble” and that we don’t believe a Christian has any obligation to be obedient to God. Of course both extremes are wrong. So, I said all that as an introduction to my perspective of what biblical faith is. It is my view. I am not God, or the Holy Spirit, and I make misteks. Following is my answer to the question, “What is biblical faith?”
What is Biblical faith?
I believe the most elementary definition of faith would be “Taking God at His word.” If God says it, that’s it! It’s final, I believe what He says and I can count on it. However, I think that in the Bible we can find that faith has three major components.
1.Faith is Intellectual. There are some things we must know before we can have faith in God. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) We would hardly expect a person to have faith in God who has not heard of Him, or more correctly “from Him”. There are some things we must know.
“whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists...” (Hebrews 11:6) So, one component of Biblical faith is that we must know some facts. We must receive some data from hearing, or reading, about God. Knowing, although important is not faith.
I believe George Washington was the first President of the United States. I really, really, believe it. So what? You might really be convinced that Jesus was a real person and even that he died and was raised from the dead. So what? How is that set of facts going to change your life? The answer is, it isn’t if all you have is facts that you have given mental assent to in your cognitive thinking and reasoning.
2. Faith is emotional. Not only must we know some data, we must embrace it at the seat of our emotions. “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) Not only must you believe God “is”, you must believe that He “rewards” those who seek Him.
If you “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9b) “For with the heart one believes and is justified” (Romans 10:10)
It is only when in the depths of your inner self you begin to embrace the truth of the facts you know that you are on your way to having Biblical faith.
3 Faith is volitional. What you know in your head and have embraced in your heart you must now choose to act upon. Jesus’ fame and stories of his exploits were well-known. Those in need of what only He could do really wanted his word, His touch. So when Jesus showed up those who knew in their heads and wanted in their hearts were told “take up your bed and walk”, “stretch your arm out”, “go and wash…”now go and sin no more”. They finally had to act on what they knew and loved.
Again in Hebrews, “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) It is not enough to know and want, you must exercise the will and act.
In Romans 10:8-11 “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); 9because, 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. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
In Acts chapter two Peter preached a great sermon on Jesus. The people learned some facts. The Bible says they were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and asked “Brothers, what shall we do?”. They had the facts, they were convinced in their hearts and now they asked what they should do and Peter told them to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38a)
These men heard the gospel about Jesus, they embraced Him in their hearts, they were willing to change the direction of their lives and they reenacted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in baptism. And the Bible says “about three thousand souls were added” that day.
So who was right here, Paul or James? They both were! Biblical faith is always obedient, it always works. Head knowledge, mental assent to data is not faith, that is only knowledge. Even embracing the truth is not enough. Had the cripple not stood up and carried his bed away as Jesus commanded he would have stayed crippled. Only when by an act of the will we choose to do something is faith realized.
Going to church does not save. Rites and rituals do not save. Only Jesus saves. Now I ask you, what part of this faith can you claim as originating with you?. A verse I have not heard once in a church of Christ is this one in Acts 2. “For the promise (Holy Spirit) is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Again, the scene in Acts 2.
1. God sent the message and the messenger. Romans 10:14-17
God commissioned and equipped Peter to tell the good news.
2. God gave repentance and faith. Acts 2:37, 11:18, Romans 10:17, Hebrews 12:2
3. God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling. We can claim no tiny part of our great salvation. Jesus gets all the praise and glory, He has done it all. We only receive His love, and grace, and eternal life.
Can faith alone save you? Yes, this kind of faith saves to the uttermost those who come to God. We are all saved exactly the same way, by grace though faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Agree or disagree I welcome your comments.