What Is Faith ?

 

God Requires Faith

 

Hebrews chapter 11, verses 5 & 6  tell us;  “By faith, Enoch was taken up, so that he should not see death;  And he was not found, because God took him up;  For he obtained the witness that before his being taken up, he was pleasing to God.  And without faith, it is impossible to please, for he who comes to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” 

Faith is pretty powerful isn’t it?

Jesus tells us in  Mat 6, verse 33;  “But seek FIRST, His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”   The necessities of life will be added to you.

How do you  “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”?   You do it by acting in faith.

Ephesians 2, verse 8  tells us;  “For by grace you have been saved, through faith..”

A lot of things, are dependent on faith.   Pleasing God is dependent on faith.  Our salvation depends on our faith.  Sometimes, even the necessities of life, may depend on our faith.

But what is this thing that the bible calls faith?  And how do I get it?

 

What Is Faith?

 

Doesn’t faith refer to something that you believe in?  In other words, faith refers to believing that something is true, or that something is possible, or that something exists.  We believe that a lot of things exist, even though we’ve never seen them.  We believe certain things are possible to do, even though we’ve never done them.  And we believe that certain things are true, even though we can’t prove it.

Why would we believe that things exist, if we’ve never seen them?  Why would we believe that something is possible, if we’ve never done it or seen it done?  And why would we believe that something is true, if we can’t prove it?

We believe these things, because of faith.  And we have faith because we’ve seen certain evidence, to cause us to have faith.  That’s basically what faith is.  Faith is believing in something, because we’ve seen, or heard, the evidence that justifies the faith.  No one, has faith in anything, for no reason at all.

 

The Bible Definition of Faith

 

The bible gives us it’s own definition of faith, in  Hebrews chapter 11, and verse 1.   Here’s what it says in the King James Version:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   But there’s a problem here.   That doesn’t really give us a very clear understanding of what faith is, and it actually contradicts what I just suggested about evidence being the cause of faith. 

This verse is describing faith, in two different ways.  First, “Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for”.  Second;  “Faith is the EVIDENCE of things not seen”.    That’s in the King James.

 

 

Faith and Evidence

 

Let’s consider the second thing, first.   Is faith actually the evidence for our belief in things not seen?  As I’ve suggested, we believe in things because of the evidence that supports that belief, and that’s why we come to have faith that those unseen things really do actually exist.  But is our faith, the very evidence of the existence of those things?  I’d have to say, No it’s not.  Our faith is the RESULT of the evidence.  We see, or hear, the evidence, and then we acquire faith as the result.

Acts 10, verse 17  tells us that,  “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.”   So we see in this verse, that the word of God, is the evidence that produces our faith in God.  The evidence of God’s existence is also seen all around us in the creation.  Psalm 19, verse 1,  right?  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”   The physical creation is evidence of God.

So then faith isn’t the evidence of things not seen, faith is the RESULT of the evidence.

 

Faith and Substance

 

Now let’s consider the first part of the scripture in  Hebrews 11, verse 1.   “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.”   Does that give us an accurate understanding of what faith is?  Is our faith, the very substance of the things we hope for? 

It would seem logical that the substance of something, is the very make-up of that thing.  For instance, the substance of this lectern that I’m standing behind, is wood.  This is a wooden lectern.  Wood is the very substance of it. 

Here’s another example’  If you were to say that you were opposed to something, and someone then asked you;  What is the substance of your argument against this?   You would answer, by giving them your foundational points, the very heart of your feelings on the subject.  That would be the substance of your argument.

But faith isn’t at all, the substance of what we hope for is it?  When we’re talking about our faith in God, the things that we hope for are God’s spiritual blessings.  We hope for the forgiveness of sins.  We hope for an eternal home in heaven.  We hope for the end of all suffering and pain.  We hope for eternal peace and happiness.  Those are real spiritual things.  They exist in heaven, and their existence isn’t dependent on our faith.  Therefore, our faith isn’t the substance of those things that we hope for.  I would have to say that GOD is the substance of all those spiritual blessings.  I know He’s the source of them all.  If God isn’t what makes up all those blessings, then I guess we’ll have to wait until the resurrection to find out what does.

Now, I’m not “picking on” the King James translation.  We know, that ALL translations have their weaknesses, and they all have their strengths also.  My point here is simply for us all to focus on what our faith, really is, and to understand it clearly.

 

The Words of an Old-Time Preacher

 

A very notable preacher, from the late 1800’s, and a biblical scholar as well, named J.W McGarvey, wrote these words;  “I have been puzzled a good deal in former years over this verse, and the proper rendering of it.  And in searching about through various learned works for something that would be clear and satisfactory, I fell upon a translation of it, in Edward Robinson’s great, Lexicon of the Greek New Testament.  He translates the verse this way;  “Faith is the confidence as to things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

McGarvey writes;  “Now that is clear as a bell.  I have always been thankful to that distinguished scholar for the clearest and best translation I have met of this verse.”   And I have to agree with McGarvey on this point.  Faith IS, the CONFIDENCE that we have, concerning the things that we hope for, that God will indeed give them to us, when we arrive at eternity.  And faith is also the CONVICTION that we have in our spirits, concerning the things we cannot see..  the conviction that those things DO exist.   That God exists, that the forgiveness of sins exists, and that a home in heaven exists.  Our faith is our conviction that these things are REAL.

The evidence of the things hoped for, and of the things unseen, is the word of God.   “Faith COMES by hearing the word of God.”   And the substance of those things is God!  They exist in the REALM of God, and nowhere else.

 

The Substance of God

 

There IS a verse of scripture that speaks about the “substance” of God.  And that scripture is  Hebrews chapter 1, verse 3.    This verse is speaking about Jesus Christ, the Son..

“And He is the radiance of His glory  (that is, of the glory of God) and the exact representation of His SUBSTANCE, upholding all things by the word of His power.” 

Some versions say, He’s the exact representation of His NATURE.  Some say, of his BEING.  Strong’s Greek Lexicon says it means..  “the substantial quality and nature”.  It’s what God is!  And that’s what Jesus was, when He lived on this earth.  He was the exact representation of the quality, and the nature, and the being, and the substance of God.  And Jesus gave us His word, in order to supply us with the evidence, that creates our faith in God.  Because  “without faith, it is impossible to please Him..”

And His word gives us the confidence, that those things that we hope for, will be OURS.  And that same word gives us the conviction in our hearts that those things we can’t see, are REAL, and they’re waiting for us.  Those are the things that we hope for, in the future.  But of course the word of God also gives us the very same conviction concerning the things from the past, that the bible tells us about.  We’ve never seen the events of the past, but we know they happened.

It’s just like the hymn that we sing called  “We Saw Thee Not”..  “We saw Thee not, when Thou did come, to this poor world, of sin and death”.  We didn’t see Jesus grow up in the little town of Nazareth, but we know He did.  We didn’t see the city streets and the country roads and the plains that Jesus walked across, performing miracles, and teaching the people, but we know it happened.

And we didn’t see Him when He was arrested in the garden.  And when He was spit on and beat, and scourged, and nailed to a cross.  An we didn’t see the blood running from His body.  And we didn’t see Him die.  But we know that it all happened.  And we know WHY it happened.  And we know, that the only reason that we have any forgiveness of our sins at all, is BECAUSE it happened.

 

Examples of Faith

 

In  Hebrews chapter 11,  right after we’re given the definition of faith..  “Faith is the confidence, of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”,  God gives us examples of faith, to help us even more, to understand what faith really is.  Faith, isn’t just SAYING you have faith, is it?  Isn’t that what James is telling us in James 2, verse 14..   “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?”   The answer is NO, that faith can’t save anyone.  “Faith without works is useless!”  V-20.

So then, God gives us examples of real faith.

Heb 11, verse 4;  “By faith, Abel offered to God, a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying, by receiving his gifts.  And through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”  

Think about that a second;  “By FAITH, Abel offered to God, a better sacrifice..”   Because of the confidence Abel had, in respect to receiving what he was hoping for, he did exactly what he was told.  Because of the conviction in his heart, that God’s unseen blessings truly existed, he followed God’s commands exactly.

And Abel, “obtained the testimony that he was righteous (in other words, that he had acted according to God’s will) God testifying, by receiving his gifts”.   Genesis 4, verse 4  says;  “And God had regard for Abel and for his offering.”    God had regard for the offering, and therefore by receiving the offering, God testified, concerning the righteousness of Abel.

“And through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”   By Abel’s faithful actions, based upon his confidence and conviction in God’s word, God uses this example to “speak to us” about what faith really is.

 

I’ll use just one more example.   This time, verse 5, of Hebrews 11.  And this is the verse that we began this study with today;  “By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death.  And he was not found, because God took him up.  For he obtained the witness, that before his being taken up, he was pleasing to God.” 

In the previous verse, it said that Abel  “obtained the testimony that he was righteous”.  In this verse, it says that Enoch,  “obtained the witness..  that he was pleasing to God”.    They both mean the same thing.  As a matter of fact, in the original text, it’s the very same word that’s used.

The “testimony” from God, that Abel was righteous, was the fact that his offering was received by God.  And the “witness” from God, that Enoch was pleasing to God, was the fact that he was  “taken up so that he should not see death”. 

But in each case, God offered His “testimony”, or His “witness” because of the actions of Abel and Enoch;  Their actions, being the result of their faith.  According to Genesis 5, verse 22,  the faith of Enoch, was perfected because he “walked with God”.   So obviously, Enoch submitted himself to all that God had told him to do.

Enoch was in agreement with God, wasn’t he?   Amos 3, verse 3  asks;  “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  That’s a good lesson for us;  Do we agree with everything that God says?  If we don’t, how can we possibly walk with God?  The fact is;  Most people don’t agree with God.   But God says;  We must!

And really, He makes it sound so simple.  We’re told in  Micah 6, verse 8;  “And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

He doesn’t require anything else from us.  All God requires, is that we have the kind of faith, that gives us the confidence, to “walk with Him”, knowing that if we do, God will give us the things that we hope for.  And we need to have the kind of faith that gives us the conviction in our hearts, that those spiritual blessings that we can’t see, are REAL, and that they’re waiting for us in heaven.

 

If you are not a Christian, I’m asking you to have the confidence in God, that if you believe His word, and repent of your sins, and confess His name, and allow yourself to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, that God will indeed forgive those sins, and add you to His kingdom, and give you the promise of eternal life.

And if you are a Christian, then I’m asking you to continue to DO, everything that God has asked you to do, and to walk with Him, in confidence, and with conviction.

 

Thanks for studying with me, and I pray that God will bless you in your further studies.

 

I also urge you to offer your comments or questions in the space provided below. 

 

 

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