Faith, a word that we use so often, but do we ever stop to consider what it means, what faith looks like – in our own life and in others. Do we ever stop to ask the question: is my faith merely intellectual knowledge/agreement or is it genuine faith that is firmly rooted in out hearts? Or what does it look like for us to actually live by faith? And are we doing that? Do we “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5)?
Sadly, we often do not ask ourselves these kind of hard questions; in fact, we often skirt over a sober analysis of ourselves and whether our faith is genuine. But not today; today, I will, Lord willing, do a very sober analysis of what faith is, what does it look like in ones life – essentially everything about faith I shall try to deal with in this post.
Paul writes, “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and again, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17). Here we are not only said to live by faith, but also commanded that we should live by faith. And in 2 Corinthians 13:5 (quoted earlier) we are instructed by the Apostle to examine ourselves to see whether we really are in the faith. Thus, it should naturally be understood that our understanding of what faith is, and what faith looks like, and everything else about faith, is of the up most importance. After all Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8a) which only further highlights the importance in faith, since it is through faith that we gain salvation.
First off, what is faith? What is our definition of faith? What does the scripture say faith is?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
Faith is not a hope, but rather an “assurance of things hoped for”; faith is not some uncertain thing, but a firm conviction. Faith is not an abstract concept, but a tangible thing. However faith is not mere intellectual agreement, as James writes, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19), rather faith is deeper than that it is real, and not only real but faith is an “assurance” and a “conviction”, but of what? What “things hoped for” does our faith act as a assurance of? Or what “things not seen” does our faith act as a conviction of? Well very simply, of the promises of God. Now one may scoff and say, “What good is a promise of things that have not been seen? What good is that?” I answer: the promises that we have faith in is not promises of men, who so often break their word, but of God, who has never in all eternity past, present, and future broken His word. We trust in not the finite beings that are so easily deceived, tricked, or killed, but in the infinite Being, who through His power and mercy has saved us from our own natures. We hope not in the sinful, but in the holy and perfect. We hope in God. We hope in θεὸς (God) not in ἄνθρωπος (mankind,man). You see trust in a promise does not stem from the promise itself but from the one who makes the promise. How much more will you trust the promise of an eternal just, good, loving, caring God over that of wicked, sinful, fallen man?
So what is faith? Faith is hope in God, no faith is sure trust in God; faith is assurance in God, as the apostle writes: “who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21) and again: “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5). For of what value would our faith be were it to rest on the virtue and power of fallen man? What assurance would be in it? What trust or hope? Thus, faith – true faith – must rest on God, and on God alone. For if we put our faith and trust into man – fallen man – we will only have our trust and faith betrayed, but yet God will not betray our faith and trust, for Paul says, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Romans 9:14).
So we’ve established what faith is, and who our faith rests upon, but what does it mean to “live by faith” (Romans 1:17)?
Well, if our faith is in God, then living by faith is living in God and in what God desires for our lives. If we live in sin we are not living by faith but by fleshly desires; if we live in total conformity to the standards of the world, we are not living in faith but in the world. To live by faith is to follow the God whom you have put your trust; it is to act on your trust, to not just talk the talk but walk the walk. As the Apostle writes:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
– Hebrews 11:8
Here the faith of Abraham is not passive, but active. “By faith” he obeyed, not by intellectual understanding for the Apostle hastens to add: “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Not to say that our faith is blind or not useful but rather that faith – true, genuine faith – rests solely on God and not on our understanding; but yet, despite how Abraham did not know “where he was going” he still “went out” regardless of his “not knowing”. Faith isn’t knowledge or intellectual agreement, but trust and assurance. And not only that trust and assurance but action upon that trust and assurance. As James says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14) and again, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17). Faith without action is dead and of no consequence, thus action upon faith must accompany faith. Not that we are saved by works, but rather that as James says, “I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18c). You see, our faith must be an active faith; it cannot be a “I go to church on Sundays and that’s good enough”, for James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17) because true faith will not be without works, for true faith is not dead, but alive!
In conclusion, faith is not merely an intellectual understanding or agreement, but a thing of the heart, something that is important – vastly important- and rests on God alone. It is also not a passive thing, but an active thing that must be acted upon daily, so that we may “show…[our] faith by [our] works”.