Faith Under the Microscope


“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?

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

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Faith Alone?



 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Royce Ogle

 

 

 

By Royce Posted in Faith