Edward E. Dudek
A person’s life is governed by what he or she believes. Faith lies at the heart of the gospel and is vital to living the Christian life. It was by faith that a person is brought into right standing with God (Rom.3:28; 5:1) and becomes His children (Gal.2:16; 3:8). His wrath was removed (Rom.3:25a), one is sanctified (Acts 26:18) and hearts are purified (Acts 15:9)–all through faith.
In the Living by Faith course, the instructor, Tan Kok Beng described the life of faith in simple and clear terms by explaining that such a life consists of hearing God and living by faith. The Christian is to find out what God wants him or her to do, and then walk by faith. Jump where He says; whether and where one will land–only He knows. But only jump when He says to do so.
In this study the writer will look at the various dynamics of faith in the Scriptures, from faith’s value, to what it means and how it is acquired. Three elements or aspects of faith will be discussed as well as faith’s origin and relationship with works. The paper will seek to also deal with a few of the practical issues of the daily Christian walk of faith.
I. The Value and Importance of Faith
A. Faith in the Old and New Testaments
Christians stand by faith (II Cor.1:24; Rom.11:20) and guide their lives by it. Paul says it this way: “we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor.5:7). God expects believers to lead their lives by faith, and not by what they see. That’s what God required of the Old Testament saints as well: Faith made Abel offer God a better and more acceptable sacrifice than Cain did (Heb.11:4). Being forewarned by God concerning events of which there was no visible sign, it was faith that enabled Noah to construct the ark. Urged on by faith, Abraham set out without any idea of where he was going. And it was faith that made him go to live as an immigrant in the Promised Land (Heb.11:7-9). It was because of faith that the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been marched around for seven days (Heb.11:30). There are many other examples of faith, such as Moses, Gideon, Samson, David and the prophets.
In Rm.1:17 the apostle Paul shows that faith is essential to the normal Christian life: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, But the righteous man shall live by faith.” The thought expressed here appears to be that right standing with God is revealed in the gospel. It begins with faith, continues and ends with it. And the righteous will live their daily lives by faith.
In II Pe.1:5 7 faith is considered essential to character and as a means of a fruitful life: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self control, and in your self control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
B. Faith and Christian Experience
Scripture gives faith an extremely important place in Christian experience. The true righteousness that comes from God is received through faith (Rom.3:21-30). The Scriptures attest to the fact that people are saved through faith (Eph.2:8)). It’s also through faith that one is enriched with the Holy Spirit (Gal.3:5,14). The Bible further states that a believer is guarded or kept secure by faith (I Pe.1:5; Rm.11:20), established by faith (Isa.7:9), healed through faith (Ja.5:17; Acts 14:9); he or she overcomes difficulties by faith (Rm.4:18 21; Heb.11:17 19, 27) and one is to walk by faith (II Cor.5:17).
C. Nearly the Greatest of All Virtues
Christ considered faith close to the greatest of all virtues. The Canaanite woman in Mt.15:21 28 who sought out the Lord with diligence wasn’t rewarded or praised for her perseverance, but rather for her faith: “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish” (Mt.15:28). The centurion went to Jesus with much humility, but Jesus marveled at the man’s faith; and because of that his servant was healed: “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel” (Mt.8:10). Blind Bartimaeus cried out with all sincerity, but he received his sight because of his faith: “And Jesus said to him, Go; your faith has made you well. Immediately he regained his sight.” (Mk.10:52). The four men who transported the paralytic showed great interest and courage, but what Jesus saw was their faith: “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, Son, your sins are forgiven (Mk.2:5). Faith, therefore, is extremely important and has much value in the Christian life.
II. The Meaning or Definitions of Faith in the Scriptures
As pointed out by Kok Beng, faith confides in such a way as to be secure without fear. In other words, faith can throw one’s life into God’s hands and trust Him to catch you. It is taking God at His word. When the Lord says something, it is not for the Christian to question or try to deeply comprehend it, but rather to simply believe what He says. It is to putting absolute trust in God without questioning or doubting His faithfulness. His ways are higher than a believer’s ways. If He tells him or her something, then it means that it can be done.
A. Hebrew Words
The Bible doesn’t always use the term faith with the same meaning. The most common word for “believe” in the OT is he’emin which is only used for personal relationships. Behind the word exists the one who trusts. In the niphal form of the Hebrew word (Dt.7:9; Isa.49:7; I Kgs.8:26; Isa.55:3; Ps.19:7; 111:7), it means “to be firm or established;” and in hiphil, “to consider established,” “to consider as true,” or “to believe.” When he’emin is constructed with the preposition beth, it evidently refers to confident dependence in a person, thing or testimony. When he’emin is constructed with the preposition lamedh it signifies the assent given to a testimony that is accepted as true.
The second important Hebrew word is batach, “to attach oneself, to trust, confide in”. The basic idea is associated with firmness. When constructed with beth it means “to trust in,” “to lean on,” or “to confide in.” It doesn’t denote intellectual belief as much as it does trust and commitment.
The third Hebrew word, chasah, is used with less frequency and means “to hide oneself” or “to flee to a refuge,” emphasizing the idea of confidence; therefore, “to confide in, to hope in; to trust.” Though the word can mean to take shelter in a literal sense (Job 24:8; Ps.104:18), it is used more often figuratively in seeking spiritual refuge and putting trust in one’s deity.
B. Greek Words
There are a few Greek words in the New Testament that help shed light on the meaning of faith. The first is the verb pisteuo which has two basic meanings: “To consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust,” hence, “to believe.” For example, to believe in or to be convinced of the testimony of someone, such as those who believed the apostles’ testimony (II Thes.1:10b; cf. I Cor.13:7; I Jn.4:16). Or it can mean to give credence to something. For example, there were people who did not believe those who saw Jesus after His resurrection (Mk.16:14). The second meaning of this Greek word is: “to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence,” thus “believe (in), trust.” In the scriptures, God and Christ are objects of this type of faith that relies on Their power and nearness to help, in addition to being convinced that Their revelations or disclosures are true. Cf. Acts 16:34; 13:12; Titus 3:8; Mt.27:42; Jn.6:29-30; 8:30-31.
The above Greek word with the preposition eis expresses the meaning of “an absolute transfer of confidence in ourselves to another, a complete surrender to Christ;” it is “to believe in or on Christ,” implying knowledge or assent to and confidence in Him–Jn.2:11; 3:16,18,36; 4:39; 14:1; Rm.10:14; Gal.2:16; Phil.1:29.
The other important word in the NT is the noun pistis. It has the meanings of faithfulness or reliability (Rom.3:3; Titus 2:10; Gal.5:22; II Thes.1:4), as well as that which is believed, i.e., the body of faith/ belief/ teaching (I Cor.12:9; 13:2; Lk.17:5). But in a much larger context it also means “the state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, trust, confidence, faith.” For example, faith, trust or confidence in God (Mk.11:22; I Pe.1:21; I Thes.1:8), as well as faith in Christ (Rom.3:22,26; Gal.2:16,20; 3:22; Phil.3:9a). The word is also used in connection with belief and trust in the Lord’s help in physical and spiritual distress, often in the synoptic gospels (Mt;8:10; 9:2,22,29; Mk.2:5; Lk.5:20). In Acts 14:9 the lame man had faith that he would be cured.
Heb.11:1 is either a definition of faith or it emphasizes the nature or characteristics of faith: “Now faith is the assurance (hupostasis) of things hoped for, the conviction (elegchos) of things not seen.” Faith is the underlying essence or underlying reality (hupostasis) of what is hoped for. Faith is the essence that gives real existence to what is expected. Or oppositely, without faith the things hoped for would have no reality. Interestingly, hupostasis can also mean, “title-deed.” Faith is the guarantee that one will possess what he or she hopes for.
But faith is not only the assurance of things hoped for, it is also the conviction (elegchos) of things not seen. In other words, faith is the proof about unseen things. It’s the conviction of their reality. It’s the evidence for the truth of what is not seen; faith perceives as real fact what isn’t revealed to the senses.
The lecturer commented on this verse by showing that faith is the substance–assurance–being sure–confidence–well-grounded assurance hoped for, the evidence-conviction-certainly-convinced of-of things not seen. It is the assurance inside of a person who expectantly hopes that God will do what He promised since He is powerful and faithful. Faith guarantees that the hope will become a reality. Believing is seeing; if he or she believes, then she will see the glory of God (cf. Jn.11). Even if the Christian doesn’t see it, it is still there because God says so, so he or she can believe.
In summary, faith is the confident assurance of something hoped for. It gives substance and a reality to hopes; they are realized through faith. Faith is also conviction of the reality of the things not seen. It gives the certainty of such realities. Even though something isn’t revealed to the senses, faith perceives it as real (Heb.11:1). Sarah was past the age of childbearing. Yet it was faith in God’s promise that enabled her to conceive. She believed that God was faithful to do what He said He would do. Barren as she was, Sarah believed that she could rely upon Him (Heb.11:11) Faith is not a ‘blind leap in the dark.’ Rather, it is based upon evidence–the solid Word of God.
III. Three Elements or Aspects of Faith
Scripture indicates that faith has three elements or aspects to it. It is helpful to analyze these in order to have a more adequate view of what faith is. They can be characterized as the intellectual, emotional and volitional aspects of faith.
Edward E. Dudek
6820 Auto Club Road
Bloomington, MN 55438