World of Faith

What is Real Faith? – Part Three: A Biblical Definition of Faith | February 28, 2007

This week’s blog entry being more timely, let’s get right to it…

As a review, last week I continued our series on “What is Real Faith?” by exploring how the New Testament considers the life of Abraham as an example and model of faith for the Christian believer today. I presented Romans 4, Galatians 3, and Hebrews 6 and 7 as the three main New Testament passages that present the life of faith that Abraham modeled for us as believers. In Rom. 4, we learned that Abraham was justified by his faith, as it was accounted to him as righteousness. Galatians 3 presented to us the concept of the blessing of Abraham, which every believer is entitled to receive as a joint heir of Jesus Christ. Finally, in Hebrews 6 and 7, we saw how Abraham tithed as an exercise of his faith when he encountered Melchizedek, the original high priest. Now Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and likewise we should tithe to Him via the local church as an exercise of our faith in Jesus and the work He did for us on the cross.

This week I am going to continue defining faith, and contrasting real faith with its opposite, which is doubt and unbelief. We need to know what faith actually is, and what it is not, and that is the main purpose of this week’s entry. The first part of our definition of faith is really answered by what generates our faith, i.e. what is the origin of faith. Rom. 10:17 (NKJV) tells us, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” This concept is very important in developing a biblical definition of faith because one cannot have real faith in their life without hearing the Word of God. I absolutely agree that every believer needs to READ the Word of God as part of his or her daily devotional life, but this verse tells us that we must also HEAR the Word of God (and as James tell us later, DO the Word of God, for only the doers of the Word are blessed). So, real faith comes from hearing (and doing) the Word of God, and not just reading it on a daily basis.

But the New Testament really develops a definition of faith (and of doubt and unbelief, the opposite of faith) in the first and second chapters of the Book of James. James was very concerned with the believers in the early Church, because unlike modern times, there was much tribulations and trials, mostly consisting of persecution, directed towards Christians at the time James was writing his epistle. James 1:3-4 (NKJV) says, “The testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Our faith, as precious as it is, must be tested — it must be tried in order to be matured and perfected. Then James continued in verses 5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” Thus, James expressly taught here that doubt (and unbelief) is the basic opposite of faith. Jesus taught this even Himself. He said to the disciples in Mark 11:23, “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” So, when doubt enters and contaminates our faith, we do not have real faith. We have something else, and that something else is called “presumption.” That is what James alludes to when he wrote in verse 7, speaking of the man who doubts, “For let not that man SUPPOSE that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Supposing that you will receive something from the Lord, when faith is mixed with doubt or unbelief is really presumption, and not real faith.

James then continues to define real faith in the second chapter of his epistle. He does this by developing the concept of mixing one’s faith with works. James. 2:14 (NKJV) says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can [that] faith save him?” Here, in this part of his epistle, James is saying a real faith will be proved, or demonstrated, by good works. Its not that works save you, as most Catholics argue, but rather a real, genuine faith will be demonstrated by doing the works of righteousness that God has ordained for His children to do. James then continues in verses 17-18, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.” The point James is making here is that as believers, we must demonstrate and show our faith with evidence of works. When I discuss exercising our faith, I will develop this further, but this concept is a key aspect of a biblical definition of faith. If we want to receive God’s blessings, both Paul and James tell us that it is the doers of the Word of God that are blessed, and not those who only hear the Word of God and develop their faith.

James also makes reference to the life of Abraham. I intentionally omitted this reference from last week’s entry because it is much more pertinent to my discussion this week than last week. James 2:21-24 (NKJV) tells us, “Was not our father Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works, faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled, which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by his works, and not by faith only.” This same example is brought up in Hebrews 11:17-19 (NKJV), “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac, your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him (Isaac) up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. These two passages exhort us as believers that we must mix our faith with our works in order for our faith to be effective. Mere believing will not suffice, but we must demonstrate our faith by corresponding action. Clearly, Abraham’s faith foreknew that God would be able to raise Isaac up, even from the dead, if Abraham continued to follow through with the sacrifice, which was divinely interrupted by God who sent a ram as a substitute. But, the key here is that real faith is defined by one’s “works,” which really means corresponding action that demonstrates one’s faith. If you really do not doubt, then you will gladly act on your faith.

Alright, that’s all for this week. Next week I’ll be discussing the subject of exercising our faith, and I’ll be looking at Mark 11 and other relevant passages that develop the theme of exercising one’s faith. Later in March, I will finish this series, by spending a few weeks on how God rewards our faith, i.e., the blessings of living a faith-filled life.


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1 Comment »

  1. really helpful!!

    Comment by carina — June 19, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

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