Vol. 8, No. 7
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How would you define faith? What does faith mean to you? Webster defines faith as an "unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence" (510). Unfortunately, most of the world uses this definition. It is unfortunate because it is a false definition. Faith is not a "leap of faith" or a "leap in the dark" as this definition implies. The definition given by New Unger's Bible Dictionary is more appropriate--"the body of truth, moral and religious, which God has revealed--that which men believe." This definition parallels faith with revealed truth, thus implying a need for evidence.
When defining a Bible term, the best source to use is the Bible! Hebrews 11:1 holds the best definition of faith, as it is a divine definition. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This definition gives us the first point about the nature of faith--it is based on evidence. The Greek word for substance used in this verse means "a setting under" (New Exhaustive). This gives a meaning of support or a foundation. The word evidence is also used in the verse. The Greek word means "proof" (New Exhaustive). Therefore, the verse could read: Faith is the foundation of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen. Further, consider 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Prove all things." The Greek word for prove means "to test" (New Exhaustive). This too indicates a need for evidence.
To illustrate, consider the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we know it exists. That knowledge is based on evidence. The wind blows through the trees, making them move. The wind blows against our faces, thus we can feel it touching us. The ability to see and feel the wind stands as evidence that it exists. We know the wind exists due to faith, which is based on evidence.
Read John 20:24-29. This passage records the account of Thomas doubting Jesus was raised. In verse twenty-five Thomas stated, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." Thomas simply desired evidence on which to build his faith. For this reason, he is ridiculed by man and even called Doubting Thomas. Jesus, however, did not ridicule him. Notice the words of Jesus to Thomas in verse twenty-seven, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." Rather than ridiculing or rebuking him, Jesus presented Thomas with the very evidence he desired. The next statement by Thomas recorded in the passage is "My Lord and my God" (verse 28). This was Thomas' way of declaring he now believed Jesus had risen from the dead. The passages previously discussed (Hebrews 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21) tell us faith requires evidence. This passage shows us that faith requires evidence. If evidence were not necessary to validate our faith, Jesus would not have given Thomas the evidence he desired.
Unlike the account with Thomas, Jesus will not specifically show us the evidence we may request to validate our faith. So from where does our evidence come? According to Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Our evidence is found in the Bible. The passage of Scripture that records Thomas receiving evidence of the risen Savior acts as our evidence, as do all other passages of Scripture. This evidence then develops into our faith. Notice John 20:30-31, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." The word these in verse thirty-one refers to events in the life of Jesus. In verse thirty, we are told Jesus did more than was recorded in the book. John 21:25 tells of this as well. It adds, "If they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." The emphasis, however, is the acts recorded are here as evidence to validate our faith.
Our faith is vitally important. Consider Romans 5:1-2. In this text, the Greek word used for justified means "to render just, innocent" (New Exhaustive). Faith gives us access to the grace of God. Grace gives us access to peace with God, which is justification. Peace with God is salvation--eternal life in heaven with God. Another verse that shows the necessity of faith is John 8:24. The text there says we will suffer a spiritual death if we do not believe, or have faith in, Jesus as the Messiah. Further, Hebrews 11:6 tells us it is utterly impossible to please God without faith, for having faith leads to the spiritual reward. The Scriptures show us a Bible faith is absolutely necessary for salvation.
Even though faith is an absolute requirement for salvation, it alone will not suffice. Look at James 2:17-18. The meaning of this passage is faith alone is meaningless. Our works show our faith. Earlier we discussed Romans 5:1 as we are "justified by faith." Now look at Romans 1:5, the beginning of the book, as an "obedience to the faith" is emphasized. The end of the book, Romans 16:26, emphasizes an "obedience of faith." Can it not then be concluded that the middle of the book, Romans 5:1, speaks of an obedient faith when discussing justification by faith? The context shows that one is justified by an obedient faith. Therefore, an obedient faith saves. Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us why--Jesus saves the obedient.
Hebrews 11 is known as "Faith's Hall of Fame." In this chapter various Bible characters such as Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham are noted for their faith. The verses begin with "by faith." The name of the character is then given followed by the actions taken based on faith. Each one of them acted according to his faith. This faith was an obedient faith as they obeyed God's commands. Consider Abraham in Hebrews 11:17-19. He was commanded by God to offer Isaac, his son of promise, as a sacrifice to God. Abraham was obedient. He offered Isaac with the belief that God would raise his son from the dead. As we remember the account, God stopped Abraham's hand from killing Isaac and provided an animal for sacrifice. Each of the persons listed in the "Faith Chapter" have a similar circumstance. They each made actions based on faith.
Now consider James 2:19, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." If faith is all that is required to obtain salvation, then there are devils in heaven. The devils believe and tremble. Their faith, however, is not an obedient faith. They believe in God and Jesus, but do not obey the teachings set forth in the Bible. While faith is absolutely necessary, faith alone will not suffice. We are required to have an obedient faith.
The world's definition of faith differs greatly from the divine definition. Faith is not a "leap in the dark" or a "leap of faith." Faith requires evidence. That evidence comes from the Bible. Faith is required for salvation, but faith alone is not enough. Our faith must be an obedient faith. Thomas based his faith on evidence, consequently confessing Christ as the Son of God. The devils believe and merely tremble. Do you believe in God and Jesus? Is it a faith that results in obedience?
New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.
New Unger's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody P., 1988.
Webster's New World College Dictionary. 4th ed. Agnes, Michael, ed. Foster City: IDG Books Worldwide, 2003.