What is Faith?
People often use the word faith when they really mean religion. They may refer to various religions as “faiths”.
This is a wrong use of the word, because there is only one faith, which is the faith of God’s elect.
It is not a choice; it is the gift of God. As there is one Lord, so there is one faith. In the Bible, faith is always used in the singular, and never in the plural.
Jude, in his epistle, exhorts that “ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
It might be thought that faith here means true doctrine and true religion, but its main meaning is to insist on the absolute necessity of true living faith. Jude’s epistle is a warning against false religion, and mentions Cain, Balaam and Korah as examples of those who were with God’s people but were not one of them because they did not have faith. Their lives showed that they did not possess faith. The exhortation is, therefore, to insist that we only have the right religion where we have “the faith once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
Notice that faith is delivered, or as Paul writes to the Ephesians: “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:9-10)
That means we do not have faith by nature. We cannot give it to ourselves and we cannot receive it from another man. Let us also remember that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) and “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Then, how vital it is that we possess faith!
So what is faith?
The Word of God gives us the definition.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Someone with faith sees and knows things which cannot be seen by natural eyes or natural understanding.
“The things which are not seen are eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:18)
Faith sees the eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Faith sees that there is an eternity before us.
Faith sees that this world is passing away, and sees a better country.
Faith sees the work of the Son of God which saves His people from their sin with an everlasting salvation.
So we see that faith, being the gift of God, will always draw His people to the things of God, and especially to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who possess faith live by that faith, as it is written:
“The just shall live by his faith.”
That means they depend entirely upon the Lord for the salvation of their souls, and for all earthly provision. Hebrews chapter 11 gives many examples of Old Testament saints and how they lived by faith. They looked forward to the coming of the Saviour, and their lives showed this.
By faith, they looked for the new Jerusalem and did not live according to the fashions of this world. They lived as pilgrims and strangers on the earth. God’s people today live by the same faith, and their lives show it too. They are willing to part with all that they might win Christ. The only difference is that their faith looks back to when the Saviour did come.
There is a story about when the Bible was being translated into the language of a remote country. The language of that country did not have a directly equivalent word for faith, and the translators prayed for the Lord’s guidance. One day a native of that country met one of the translators. The native sat down heavily in a chair. At the same time as he sat down, he said a word which meant “My whole weight is on this.” The translator knew then which word to use for faith. Faith means resting everything on Christ, and not trusting in anything else besides, particularly not ourselves.
Faith is a complete dependence upon the Lord for time and eternity.
Living faith will bring us through all trials and difficulties because it looks to and depends on Jesus Christ.
Like the woman with the issue of blood, in all her weakness, who pressed through the crowd: she “heard of Jesus” (Mark 5:27) and “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
Her faith drew her to Jesus, and He healed her in body and soul:
“And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
May we possess like precious faith.