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QUESTION: What is faith?



ANSWER: The Bible speaks to this subject in several areas.  We are “justified by faith” in Romans 5, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” in Hebrews 11, “For we walk by faith, and not by sight” according to 2 Corinthians 5, and we are told in the tenth chapter of Romans that it is “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”  With all of this emphasis on faith, it would be a good idea to fully understand the word and all of its implications.


Noah Webster’s original dictionary (1828) defines faith as, “Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence.” He goes on to say, “Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God's testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart…to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation.  In other words, that firm belief of God's testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.” Saving faith then is believing what God says in His Word is true to the point that it influences your will.


James agrees, as twice he says, “faith without works is dead.”  And so does the writer of Hebrews (11:1), “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


The very next verse says, “For by it the elders obtained a good report.” (Hebrews 11:2)  So by the “substance” and “evidence” of faith the elders “obtained a good report.”  According to my high school science teacher, a “substance” is something that exists on its own without support or any external effort.  “A good report” means that it was observable.


Lets plug the definitions of these words into the verse.  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” that is, “Faith is [something in us that is visible and exists on its own without any effort from us because] of things hoped for:” Faith is a gift from God. (Galatians 2:16) To say then that faith is the substance of things hoped for is to say that saving faith is the visible affect Christ has had on our lives (the change) because we have believed God and are looking forward to His interpretation of history and things to come.  Faith is what keeps us believing God simply (and often only) because He said it, regardless of how hopeless circumstances look around us.  Faith declares that if nobody else gives God the glory, I must!  Because I know God changed my heart like nobody ever has or could.


If you believe that playing in the street is dangerous you will keep your kids out of the street for their own safety – even though you may have personally never seen a child hurt playing in the street.  You have believed the reports of others and “by faith” you keep kids out of the street.  When you believe God, you act like it.  You act like Him because you believe Him.


When someone puts their faith in the Bible, the Bible is read, loved and believed.

The Bible definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


“Faith” can’t be seen, but there is evidence it exists.  We can’t see the wind, but we know it’s there because we can hear and see it blowing through the trees.  In the same way faith can be ‘seen’ by the substance of the change it produces in our lives.  Drunkards become sober; filthy language stops; tempers that used to flare are brought under control; we begin to read our Bibles, give our employer an honest day’s work and love our spouse.  The substance of these changes points to what precipitated them: faith in God.


The phrase, “evidence of things not seen,” is another way to say the same thing.  Faith is the proof in your life of some obvious but unseen-to-the-naked-eye force!  It is this “proof” that encourages us to go on and convinces others of the reality of Jesus’ saving power.  They say, “He changed someone else’s life dramatically, He can change mine also!”  That is why when a person truly gets saved his life will change.  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17): their walk, their talk, the clothes they wear (as modesty returns), the music they listen to (you can’t have “Christian rock any more than you can have “Christian booze”), their habits are reformed, their entire life style changes.  They actually start to like church – now that’s a scary thought!


This is what Jesus was speaking of when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  He was saying, “let the world see the substance and evidence of faith in your life.”


The Gospel is God’s command to you to believe on His only begotten Son.  We are to come to Him based upon His command to do so.  We are guilty of sinning against a holy God whether we feel like it or not – and we are all more guilty than any of us have any idea of.  We can become so good at what we do, so educated in what we know, so financially secure in our resources that we don’t need God.  When you bring to God your fullness, He will resist you.  But the Bible says that He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).




I will never understand why some people reject the Word of God because it was ‘written by men’ based upon what other writers (who are also men) have said.  The devil is certainly wise like a fox.  It is only the hearing of the Word of God that produces saving faith, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)  Read the Word of God (for yourself), hear the Word of God (go to church), but especially believe the Word of God!