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 Vol. 6, No. 7 

July 2004

~ Page 15 ~

"Faith" and "the Faith"

By Hugo McCord

Image Two principal dictionary definitions of "faith" are: (1) an "unquestioning belief in God, religion, etc.," and (2) "a religion or system of religious beliefs."

In the New Testament, when the meaning of "faith" is "an unquestioning belief in God, religion, etc.," the word "faith" often is without the definite article "the" (Mark 11:22; Acts 6:5; 11:24; 20:21; Romans 1:17; 3:28; 5:1; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 2:20; 3:11; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Timothy 1:5; 6:11; Hebrews 10:38).

In the New Testament, when the meaning of "faith" is "a religion or system of religious beliefs," the word "faith" is often preceded by the definite article "the" (Luke 18:8; Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:22; 15:9; 16:5; 24:24; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:23; Jude 3).

"Faith," as "an unquestioning belief in God, religion, etc.," is personal, subjective and internal, while "faith," as "a religion or system of religious beliefs," is impersonal, objective and external.

I. "Faith"

"Faith" (pistis) is "conviction," "belief" (Thayer), "trust," "confidence" (B-G-D). In relationship to God, faith holds "that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). In relationship to Christ, faith says "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37), and that "no one comes to the Father except through" him (John 14:6).

Personal salvation (justification, righteousness) a sinner obtains by his "faith" (Acts 16:30-31; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). But salvation is not by faith alone. The "worst" of sinners (Paul's own estimate of himself, 1 Timothy 1:15-16), having seen the Lord in the sky, had faith only for "three days," but still was in his sins until they were washed away in baptism (Acts 9:1-9; 22:16).

Then, from the moment of Paul's baptism (at about age 33), he lived "from faith into faith" (Romans 1:17), that is, faith all the way, from his baptism until he died, at about age 68. In "the reign of Nero," he was "beheaded with the sword" (Bible Dictionary 97). John wrote that "the victory that overcomes the world" is "our faith" (1 John 5:4).

Christians are exempt from obeying the Old Testament Law of Moses, as Habakkuk prophesied some 600 years in advance: "the righteous shall live by his faith" (2:4), which verse Paul quoted: "Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Galatians 3:11).

Actually, no law, Mosaic or Christ's or any other, has any saving power: "If a law had been given which could make alive, righteousness would truly have been by law" (Galatians 3:21). If any law had inherent saving power, God would have thought of it, and would have saved his praying Son from the cross (Luke 22:41-44). Only Jesus' blood has saving power (Hebrews 9:22).

But law has its place, and salvation is dependent on "the law of faith" (Romans 3:27), a law requiring obedience (Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; 8:2; 16:26), called "the law of Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2): "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven" (Acts 2:38, NIV, 1978 edition). "Be faithful until death, and I will give to you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

Those today who eliminate "the law of faith" (Romans 3:27) from "faith" must also eliminate three inspired statements:

  1. "Where there is no law, neither is there transgression" (Romans 4:15).

  2. "Sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Romans 5:13).

  3. "Sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4).

As a valid faith is not faith only (James 2:19), and as a valid faith is not lawless (Romans 3:27), so a valid faith is not without works (James 2:20). But in the works which God has commanded (Philippians 2:12), and without which we cannot be saved (James 2:20), there is no saving power (Hebrews 9:22):

When you have done all things that have been commanded, say, "We are unworthy servants. We have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10).

The only saving power is "the precious blood of Christ, as an unblemished and spotless Lamb" (1 Peter 1:18-19). But human works are required before the blood washes sins away:

  1. Faith itself is a human work, a work of the mind with no saving power, but without which "you shall die in your sins" (John 6:29; 8:24).

  2. Repentance itself is a human work, a work of the mind, with no saving power, but without which "all of you will perish" (Luke 13:3, 5).

  3. Baptism also is a human work, with no saving power, but without which there is no salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), and all those who reject baptism class themselves with those who, in John's day, "rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized by him" (Luke 7:30).

In addition, there is no saving power in the "good works" that follow saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-10), but unless they follow, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).

Nothing that any human can do has any saving power, but no one "will enter heaven's kingdom" except "the one who does the will of my heavenly Father" (Matthew 7:21). Every saved sinner delights in his "work of faith, and labor of love" (1 Thessalonians 1:3), though he knows his work and labor are without saving power.

Moreover, he knows that he must "work out" his own "salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). As God's "righteous one," he lives "by faith," a faith that is "conjoined with obedience to Christ" (Thayer), but he knows that "if he shrinks back," the Lord has announced that "my soul has no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10:38).

II. "The Faith"

"The faith" (he pistis) is "the substance of Christian faith," or "what is believed by Christians" (Thayer), or "the common faith" (Titus 1:4), or "the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). What is believed by Christians "comes from Christ's teaching" (Romans 10:17) and "the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42).

Jesus announced that "the message which I have spoken will judge" each person "in the last day" (John 12:48). Also he announced that the apostles' doctrine originated in heaven before it reached the mouths or the pens of the apostles: "Whatever you bind on the earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on the earth will have been released in heaven" (Matthew 18:18).

Four apostles (Matthew, John, Paul, Peter) wrote 21 books of the New Testament. The apostles by hand-laying could impart miraculous gifts (Acts 8:18), and one of those gifts was "prophecy" (1 Corinthians 12:10). Among those having the gift of prophecy were Mark, Luke, James, Jude, and the author of the Book of Hebrews, who wrote 6 books of the New Testament. Thus all 27 of the New Testament books make up the "apostles' doctrine."

The warning that the apostle John gave about anyone's adding to or subtracting from anything in the Book of Revelation ought to alert every uninspired person about the sin of adding to or subtracting from any Bible book (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6, ASV).

The 27 New Testament books set forth "the substance of the Christian faith," "what is believed by Christians" (Thayer), and so those books describe "the faith." The alleged latter day revelations written by Joseph Smith in his Book of Mormon, or of Mary Baker Eddy in her book, Science and Health, are not part of "the faith." Instead, if "an angel from heaven" ("Moroni" of the Mormons?) "preach any other gospel" than "the gospel which" the apostles "preached" (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), "let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).

"All things that pertain to life and godliness" have been put in written form in the 27 books of "the faith," with the result that "the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:17). As a result, humble men of God speak only "as the oracles of God," and dare not open their mouths except by book, chapter and verse from the New Testament (1 Peter 4:11). They speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent.

Oh! the preciousness of "the faith":

  1. After Jesus had said that God will "grant justice to his chosen people," he became pessimistic: "But, when the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

  2. Soon after the day of Pentecost, May 28, 30 A.D., in Jerusalem, "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7).

  3. On the island of Cyprus, in the city of Paphos, Elymas, a sorcerer, tried "to turn" Sergius Paulus, a proconsul, "away from the faith," causing Paul to call him a "son of the devil" (Acts 13:6-11).

  4. As Paul and Barnabas concluded their first missionary journey (49 A.D.), "they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God'" (Acts 14:20-22).

  5. At the Jerusalem conference, Peter testified that circumcision was not necessary for the Gentiles to "be saved," for God made "no difference between us [the Jews] and them [the Gentiles], having cleansed their hearts by the faith" (Acts 15:9).

  6. As a result of the preaching of Paul and Silas in Phrygia and Galatia (51 A.D.), "the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily" (Acts 16:5-6).

  7. While Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea in 57 A.D., Governor Felix, with his wife Druisilla, "sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ" (Acts 24:24).

  8. Paul wrote about "the word of the faith which we are preaching" (Romans 10:8), which he did for about 35 years, and was able to write to Timothy "I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

  9. James wrote about "the faith of our glorious Lord, Jesus Christ" (2:1).

  10. Peter wrote about "the precious faith, in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1).

  11. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote that Jesus is the "originator and completer of the faith" (12:2).

  12. Jude wrote of the "most holy faith," "of the common salvation," as he exhorted Christians to "contend earnestly for the faith, which was entrusted once for all to the saints" (Jude 3, 20).

"O the depth of the riches both of God's wisdom and of his knowledge" (Romans 11:33), the embodiment of "love" (1 John 4:8), "not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9).Image

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