(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!