What is Faith?

(the following a repost of What is Faith? from February 9, 2009)

by Mike Ratliff

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

Much of the false doctrine that we see in our time can be at least partially seen to emanate from a misunderstanding of what faith is. Paul tell us in Ephesians 2:8 that Christians are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. So, whatever faith is, saving faith has as its source something other than our fallen nature.

To understand what genuine saving faith is, let us take a deeper look at this something that has been made difficult to understand, but is actually quite simple. Faith is made up of three things: knowledge, belief, and trust. Knowledge always comes first.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17 ESV)

God designed our hearts, the mind the will and the emotions, so that we need to be informed of a fact before we can possibly believe it (v17). We must hear the truth so that we may know what is to be believed. Nowhere does God’s Word command us to have blind faith. No, we are told what to believe and why because a measure of knowledge is essential to faith. Therefore, it is vital that the Christian acquire knowledge as we see in the following verse from Isaiah.

Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:3 ESV)

Therefore, it is the vital task of the believer to search Sacred Scripture and learn what the Holy Spirit teaches concerning Christ and Salvation. We must seek to know God because all who draw near to Him must believe that He is, and He will in turn reward those that diligently seek Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

When we develop a correct knowledge of God we will also learn to fear Him.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2 ESV)

We must study God’s Word and learn what the Gospel is and what it is not. We must know it inside and out. In this we know what the Good News is and how it is centered on repentance, the forgiveness of sins, change of heart, adoption into the family of God, eternal life, and countless other blessings. When we know these things along with Christ Jesus the Son of God, the Saviour of His people, united to us by His human nature and yet one with God, we will not be fooled by the countless false gospels being taught and preached in our time. When we know Christ and the Gospel this way, we will understand that He is the only mediator between God and us. Jesus Christ is able to lay His hand on both God and Man and be the connecting link between the sinner and the Judge of all the earth. This is why we must also know the Bible well and understand that Judgment is coming. God’s wrath is going to come on this world. Because of this it is imperative that the Christian know of the sacrifice of Christ and why it was necessary in order for Him to save His people.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV)

Christ was also made a curse for His people (Galatians 3:13). I have been a Christian for a long time and I confess to you now that I did not know or understand these things until God drew me to Himself to study and know the truth about 5 years ago. Since then I have not stopped digging into God’s Word in order to know the truth. This has only deepened and strengthened my faith because through my studies I now have a deep gratitude for Christ’s substitutionary work of redemption. Think of it my brethren, God made Christ to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). As I said, studying these doctrines by digging them out of God’s Word has increased my knowledge and, therefore, deepened and strengthened my faith. Faith begins with knowledge.

After knowledge comes belief. Our minds go on to believe that these things are true. Our Souls believe that God is and that He hears the cries of our sincere hearts. Our Souls believe that the Gospel is from God and that justification by faith is His grand truth that He has revealed in these last days by His Spirit more clearly than before. Then our hearts believe that Jesus Christ is in truth our God and Saviour, the Redeemer of men, the Prophet, Priest, and King of His people. Our minds accept as sure and truth all of these things in such a way that they are not to be questioned. This is the nature of the faith that saves. If you doubt any of these things then I pray that you may at once come to firmly believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, Gods’ Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). I pray that you will believe that His sacrifice is complete and fully accepted by God on man’s behalf so that all who believe in Jesus are not condemned (John 3:17-18). I pray that you will believe these truths as you believe any other statements, for the difference between ordinary faith and saving faith lies mainly in the subjects in which it is placed. Believe the witness of God just as you believe the testimony of any person that you love and trust (1 John 5:9).

After knowledge and belief comes trust. Knowing the truth and believing it begins our advance toward faith, which is completed when we trust. Those God saves commit themselves to Him trusting in His mercy. They rest their hope on the gracious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They trust their Souls to the dying and living Saviour who washes away their sins in His atoning blood as they accept His perfect righteousness. Trust is the lifeblood of faith. Without it there is no saving faith. Those who trust Jesus as the Lord and Saviour lean themselves completely upon Him while releasing their hold on any self-righteous works to add to Christ’s finished work. As believers commit themselves to Him, they have exercised saving faith. This is not blind faith for saving faith begins with knowledge.  This knowledge is not speculative, but based on facts of which it is sure. It is not an emotional, impractical, dreamy thing, for faith trusts and stakes its destiny on the truth of revelation.

This saving faith believes in the person of Christ that He is who says He is and that He will do what He has promised to do. This faith cannot spring from a contextualized gospel because it has been altered to a context that is no longer Biblical. Human wisdom has been added while vital facts are ignored. These false gospels rob the Cross of Christ of its power. They do not teach the mind the truth so saving faith is not born from it because knowledge of the truth is absent. Without the truth then belief cannot come so trust is never developed. My brethren, it is vital that we stand firm on this. We must confront those who are preaching and teaching a man-made gospel and calling it the Gospel for it is not nor can it save. All it can do is deceive.

Soli Deo Gloria!

14 thoughts on “What is Faith?

  1. Excellent…as I read this I stopped briefly to think about the Lord Jesus being made a curse for His people and His substitutionary work on the cross; He was treated as though He’d committed all the horrendous sins I committed and will continue to commit. This is overwhelming to me. God the Father treated God the Son like I deserve to be treated, even though He never sinned. Atonement was made for my sins by the Son of God, He suffered for me and died for my sins so that I may have eternal life. This is amazing, I broke God’s law, I sinned against Him, and He turns around and dies for me.

    Thank you Mike for causing me to ponder what Christ has done for me.



  2. Thanks Lyn, yes, I reposted this because of some pretty silly stuff coming from the Purpose Driven and ER2 guys today. They simply have no concept of what you just stated there. Be blessed my sister.


  3. Your post reminded me of Philipp 1:6, in my personal walk years ago. As I considered my sins more than His gift of life. I believe, the Lord reminded me of that verse above. Which brought truth on a moment of despair, which also generated faith when I felt faithless. Understanding that what He said He will indeed accomplish, this also brougth trust and joy to my heart, knowing that what He promised He will accomplish.

    How much I need to be reminded of His graciousness and promises, and how much I need His cleansing.

    Thank you for sharing that.


  4. Well done, servant!
    Now, you understand that by continuing with this very divisive preaching, the religious will one day perhaps cause you to be, a “well done” servant, just as in days gone by, my friend…even as they play with a Fire that will burn them to a crisp in a flame that never ceases!
    Imagine a view of Heaven that looks out from under The Alter, with an untold number of witnesses!
    Oh what a glorious future we apprehend through Grace and Faith!
    Will we look forward to this wonderful week ahead which starts out with fools and eggs, and Ends in Passion and Victory for the Narrow Road Assembly!


  5. wonderful post Mike,

    I am a bit confused with this comment: “After knowledge and belief comes trust. Knowing the truth and believing it begins our advance toward faith, which is completed when we trust. Those God saves commit themselves to Him trusting in His mercy. They rest their hope on the gracious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    It sounds like a formula that we all can just follow and we will be saved. I know you don’t believe that because we are incapable unless God reaches down to us and regenerates us before we can come to such a real genuine saving faith in Christ.<fiducia-commitment

    I just know that the moment I was saved I immediately trusted in Jesus Christ and I remember the word of God a week before I was saved and reading it that convicted me of my sins and
    hopelessness to do what it says. that gave me (the)faith

    I had knowledge, belief for many many years but it never ever lead to me (trusting) fully committing myself to Jesus until God opened my eyes to see my sins before a Holy God and God reached down to me and gave me (by faith) his Son.

    anyways, does that verse mean what happens after we are saved and the process of growing as we receive knowledge by reading God's word and then we believe and then we trust in the Lord by having more confidence in him?

    sorry if I've been confusing


  6. Mickey, you would not believe the pressure(s) coming to bear upon me right now to compromise on these things. I think I understand a bit more now why those in highly visible ministries sometimes end up going squishy… Your prayers are much appreciated and needed.


  7. What you are observing Linda is simply the means God uses in bring us to faith, not a formula that men have devised, and, of course, not one of us will have identical testimonies of how we came to believe.


  8. Nice post Mike. Later on this week I will post something from Jonathan Edwards on my blog which expands more on knowledge, belief, and trust.

    I think the more focused on Jesus Christ we are, the less apt we are to become squishy. If we feel that way, then the individual(s) or things are beginning to take preeminence over the place that Christ alone should have in our lives regardless of our status in ministry. Let those things fade away and may Jesus Christ remain the bright and morning star who deserves all the glory.

    Keep blogging away brother! 🙂


  9. Mike, I might have a little bit of an idea of what pressures you are feeling…That’s why I fight them Josie Wales style! But where Josie got it wrong is “Dying ain’t much of a living, boy.” I rather think it is the only Life for me! I’ll shoot you an email of today’s exchange. LOL


  10. “If I PROFESS with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am NOT CONFESSING Christ, however boldly I may be PROFESSING Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at THAT POINT!”
    (Martin Luther In Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.

    You get it, brother, just like He did! The rest…not so much.


  11. thanks mike.

    I’ve been reading from a book Lyn sent me (thanks precious sister) called “Whatever happened to the gospel of grace?” ~a wonderful fabulous quote that is so true:

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon began his half-century-long career in London with a sermon on knowing God in which he argued that “the proper study of God’s elect is God.” It was a remarkable sermon for a preacher who was only 20 years old.

    Spurgeon said, “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”He argued that thinking about God improves and expands the mind.1


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