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THIS ISSUE: "What is Faith?" (see below)
and "Is One Church As Good As Another?"
Question and Answer:
WHAT IS FAITH?
by Keith Sharp
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"(Heb.11:1).
How many times have you heard a speaker delivering a motivational speech exhort, "You just gotta believe!"? Usually such a one means we need self-confidence. While this is indeed helpful in life, it is not the "faith" we read about in the Bible.
According to the Scriptures, faith is essential to salvation (Heb. 11:6). Thus, we inquire, what is faith?
The term translated "faith" in Hebrews 11:1 is variously defined as "trust," "firm persuasion," "belief," "confidence," or "conviction." But the writer of Hebrews informs us it is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
The word "substance" is rendered "assurance" by the American Standard Version. The word literally means "a standing under, support" (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. 1, p. 85). "Faith," in relation to hope, is assurance. It stands under and supports our hope. Thus, one's hope is only as secure as his faith is strong.
The term "evidence" is rendered "conviction" by the American Standard Version. It is defined as a "proof, proving" (W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 248). Saving faith is not a blind acceptance of unprovable opinions. It is not based on feeling, emotion, or a "blind leap." It is conviction supported by evidence.
The author of Hebrews informs us the faith we must have includes two elements (Heb. 11:6). It is conviction of truth. We "must believe that he is." It is also trust. We "must believe ... that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Conviction causes us to accept His word without question. Trust leads us to obey Him without quibble.
Faith, by its very nature, begins and ends in the realm of the unseen. It is conviction supported by evidence concerning things we do not know by experience. By faith we accept that the invisible things of God are behind the visible universe (Heb. 11:3). By faith we hope for a home in heaven, though we have never seen that paradise (2 Cor. 4:18).
Does this mean faith is unreasonable? I believe Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. This belief cannot be put into a test tube or measured by scientific methods. It is nonetheless true. Things one cannot now experience, e.g., facts of history, are demonstrated by methods other than observation and experimentation. I cannot put God into a test tube or measure His chemical components, but I can produce a different kind of evidence that He is.
The evidence that supports the Christian's faith is divine in origin. Inasmuch as the God about Whom we read in the Bible is infinitely more trustworthy than man (Rom. 3:3-4), we should expect this evidence to be of superior value to mere human testimony. I believe an honest, unprejudiced study of the evidence for God, His Son, and His Word will confirm this.
The first body of evidence to support our faith is the world, the first and general revelation of God to man. The very existence of the universe, its power, order, and complexity demand that a Being sufficient to produce it, i.e., God, must be behind it (Rom. 1:20).
But from nature we can only know that there is a God, that He has unlimited power and intelligence, and that He possesses will. But what is He like? Is He good or bad? loving or hating? kind or cruel? What does He want from me? How can I enjoy His fellowship? To know these things, I must turn to the second and special revelation of God to man, the word (Rom. 10:17).
The word (i.e., the Bible) not only tells me about God, it gives evidence to demonstrate that there is a God, that the Bible is the word of God, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Some of these powerful proofs are the harmony of the Scriptures, fulfilled prophecies both about ancient nations and about Christ, and the evidence Christ has been raised from, the dead.
These two realms of evidence, the world and the word, give ample reason for a firm, reasonable conviction that there is a God in heaven, that the Bible is His word, and that Jesus Christ is His Son.
Faith is the means whereby we are saved. In fact, we cannot be saved without it (Heb. 11:2,6).
Faith is also the principle by which Christians live. From the time a young person first considers the evidence for his faith, then renders the obedience of faith that makes him a Christian, then grows daily in his knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the Lord's will, lives a holy life, becomes spiritually mature, and develops a character more and more like Jesus, until finally he, as an aged, faithful saint departs this world to enter paradise -- every step he takes on life's journey that is pleasing to God is a step taken in faith. Every step taken without faith is sin. "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).
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