What does the Bible say about…

What is faith?

Faith is an essential cornerstone of being a Christian because “without faith, it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is demonstrated by many of the people of the Bible, whether they are great heroes like David or those briefly mentioned in passing, such as Enoch in Genesis 5. The Bible defines faith in Hebrews 11:1 as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” More importantly, faith in Jesus Christ, is paramount to everything a Christian thinks and does.

Faith as a means of salvation

First and foremost, faith is described in the Bible as the way to salvation. As is noted in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” There is much hope in this passage. No one has to be “good enough” for salvation and there is nothing that has to be done to earn it. As expressed in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Romans 10:9 states, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” In order to accept God’s gift of eternal life, a person needs to have faith in the fact that Jesus came to earth to save sinners, was executed in our place, and rose again on the third day.

Faith as a way of Righteousness

After coming to faith in Christ, the Christian is justified, cleared of their sin and able to live a life of righteousness. Before salvation, Isaiah 64:6 says that all our deeds, no matter how “good” are “as filthy rags.” After coming to faith in God, however, we can begin to live a life of righteousness. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in Hebrews 11. This chapter of the Bible lists a number of faithful followers of God and how their faith led them into righteousness. Verse 4 says, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous.” Later, Noah became “heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Abraham is included in the list, who, “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). The list is extensive and those listed share a common trait: a faith in what they couldn’t see with a hope of God’s promises being fulfilled.

Faith as Action

Another thing that the people of Hebrews 11 had in common was that their faith resulted in them acting upon it. Although there is nothing we can do to earn God’s salvation, faith in God must be acted on in a way that reflects the commands of the Bible. According to James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Faith requires acting even when the odds seem impossible, such as the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. Even though they face death in defying King Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to bow to the golden statue, their faith in God prohibits them from bowing down to an idol. As they are about to be thrown into a fiery furnace, they still refuse to bow down, saying “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

The three men believed in God’s power to deliver them. However, they also accepted the possibility that God would not answer their prayers in the way they wanted. God did not have to do things the way they desired in order for them to believe in Him. They had faith in his plan, just like those mentioned in Hebrews 11, who “received not the promise” (Hebrews 11:39). Faith in God must be demonstrated, and not just when things are going well, such as when James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” The Christian must put their faith into practice for, “we walk by faith, not by sight:” (2 Corinthians 5:7), serving a God “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Where does faith come from?

The sort of faith like what God requires doesn’t simply just happen. Romans 10:17 instructs, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The Christian first establishes their faith by being in the Word of God daily. We read the stories of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 and see God’s faithfulness. We see the hardships that were faced by the likes of Job and Paul, yet also their steadfast devotion to following God, despite how easy it would be to give up. We also see the consequence of a lack of faith, such as when Saul makes a sacrifice to God without waiting for the priests (1 Samuel 13).

We as Christians must also submit to God, knowing that there are some things that are beyond our finite understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Things will not always make sense, but the Christian can have faith that God is walking beside them, “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23).

How then should we live?

In order to live by faith, the Christian must first believe in the truth of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. We must submit ourselves to reading his Word and following the commands and precepts of God. We must also act on our faith, even when we cannot see the outcome, or don’t know what the world will think. We accept the call of Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”