STUDY SIX: FAITH

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2014

The Bible says about faith:

•    ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6).
•    ‘...everything that does not come from faith is sin’ (Romans 14:23).
•    ‘ ... the righteous will live by his faith’ (Habakkuk 2:3; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).
•    ‘... it is by grace you have been saved, through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8).
•    ‘... in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed ... that is by faith from first to last’ (Romans 1:17).

These verses teach that faith is significant and indispensable. Its presence or absence determines our relationship with God for time and eternity. To understand it, we will look firstly at what faith is not.


A. BIBLICAL FAITH IS THE OPPOSITE OF UNBELIEF

Unbelief refuses to believe that any ‘god’ exists. Out of this refusal issues further denials: no life after death, no heaven, no hell, no sin, no salvation, no supernatural or miraculous, including no virgin birth or resurrection, no absolute truth and no absolute moral standards. The human being is on his own, accountable to no one, dependent on no one.

Of such unbelief the biblical verdict is:

‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”’ [Psalm 14:1; 53:1].

The term ‘atheist’ – [‘a’ = without or not; ‘theos’ = god or deity] is used to refer to people who either [1] actually and openly deny that there is any such thing as God, or gods, or [2] simply don’t personally believe in any god at all.

 A related designation, ‘agnostic’, refers to people who consider it impossible to know whether or not any god or gods exist. Effectively such people live without a god in the same way as atheists.

 
B. BIBLICAL FAITH IS THE OPPOSITE OF WRONG BELIEF

Wrong belief results from the human heart’s search for some point of reference outside itself. Having severed our relationship with the true God [Genesis 3] in whose image we were created, we have incessantly created gods in our own image and in the image of created things [Romans 1:18-31], distorting and corrupting God’s self-revelation in creation. What God spoke in his word of revelation we also corrupted, so that when he came to us in Jesus Christ, we did not recognize him [John 1:11; 5:37-40,45-47]. There are countless ideas of god, salvation, and the meaning of life and death. Faith is strongly present in all of these religions and belief systems that we humans have created, but it is not the same as biblical faith.

What is defective about this ‘faith’ is not the faith itself but the object of the faith. Faith can be extremely strong and totally committed, but if the object or focus of faith is worthless and powerless faith in that object is also worthless and powerless. Wrong belief, worthless faith, believes in gods that are not gods, or powers that are either not powers or are evil powers. Thus from Genesis 3 onwards to this present day we humans put our faith in the wrong object.

Task #1: Read the groups of passages below. Discuss the following questions:
[1] What is the wrong object or focus of faith in these passages?
[2] What does God say about the validity or worth of these objects of faith?
[3] What is the impact/result of believing in these gods or powers or revelations?

Exodus 20:4,5a
Deuteronomy 7:25,26
Isaiah 44:6-20
Jeremiah 2:8-13
Romans 1:18-31

Deuteronomy 18:9-12
Isaiah 8:19
Isaiah 47:12-15

Jeremiah 23:25-32
Jeremiah 23:33-40


Psalm 118:8,9
Psalm 146:3,4
Isaiah 31:1-3
Hosea 10:13


Matthew 12:38-40
Matthew 24:23-25
2Thessalonians 2:9-12
Revelation 13:11-14
Revelation 16:14
Revelation 19:19-


2Corinthians 11:3-4
Galatians 1:6-9
1Timothy 4:1-2
2Timothy 4:3-4

From the small selection of Biblical references above we can categorize the Bible’s perception of wrong belief [that is, putting one’s confidence in] under the following headings:

•    Belief in gods created by man [this includes both physical idols and philosophical ideas of god]
•    Belief in occult powers
•    Belief in dreams and visions
•    Belief in human power and authorities
•    Belief in signs and wonders
•    Belief in false doctrines

There is no question about the sincerity of the faith involved in any of these. The biblical condemnation is not directed to the sincerity of this faith, but the wrongness of the objects of this faith. The improper object of faith renders the faith improper and useless; more, it involves the person who puts their faith in these objects in condemnation, for they have put these worthless objects of faith where God himself should have been, and, trusting them and giving them honour, sought from them truth and salvation when true truth and real salvation are found in God alone.


C. BIBLICAL FAITH IS THE OPPOSITE OF SUPERSTITION

Superstitions abound in non-Christians - Friday the 13th, black cats and the like. Biblical faith is certainly the opposite of those.

But biblical faith is also the opposite of ‘Christian’ superstitions which have sprung up out of a superficial, distorted understanding of biblical truth. Such superstitions include such perceptions and expectations as:

  • belief that certain times, certain words, certain forms, are more suited for prayer and/or worship than others;
  • that fasting is significant in itself;
  • that first thing in the morning is the optimum time slot for a ‘quiet time’
  • that if one does not have a ‘quiet time’ one will have a ‘bad day’
  • that the Bible can be used much like a lucky dip to get a ‘word from the Lord’ for the day;
  • that everyday incidents are to be interpreted as ‘signs’ from God;
  • that life is a great cosmic puzzle in which we each must find God’s one right and perfect track for us in the maze of all the multitudinous decisions of our lives.
  • that the ‘name of Jesus’ is the key that unlocks the door to the supernatural and the impossible.

Many such things are assumed to be Christian faith, but are actually the very opposite of biblical faith. They trivialize and minimalise God, they trivialize and minimalise the salvation obtained through the death of Christ on the cross, they trivialize and minimise the Scriptures, and they trivialize and minimalise obedience and godliness of life. They also, incidentally, trivialize and minimalise sin.

Task #2: Personal inventory
Do an inventory of the things you believe. Make a list of those that fall under the category of Christian superstitions that are camouflaged under a superficial veneer of pseudo biblical perceptions.

 

 

 


D. BIBLICAL FAITH IS THE OPPOSITE OF FAITH IN FAITH.

Biblical faith is never faith in faith, or faith in the power of faith, or faith in verbal expressions of faith.

The quotes in the task below are all from what is called Word-Faith or Positive Confession teaching, which is very common in contemporary Christianity. This teaching puts the focus of faith in positive, audible [usually], verbal ‘confession’. The idea is that there is creative power in verbal affirmations. Our word of faith, our positive affirmations [= ‘confessions’], our speaking of Bible texts ‘over’ or ‘into’ or ‘to’ our bodies or our situation, have the power to create the healing or prosperity or whatever we desire. In this context prayer has ceased to be a humble reaching out in faith to God from the pit in which we find ourselves, but a declaration that we are not in the pit at all, and by our positive declaration, our positive faith, we will bring that into experiential reality. [This teaching also attributes power to negative verbal affirmations, for example, if one is always saying ‘I’m sick and tired of …..’ then one will actually become physically sick and tired.] Worse still, some proponents teach that God is powerless until we exercise this ‘faith’. Copeland maintains: ‘God cannot do anything for you apart or separate from faith’ … ‘faith is God’s source of power.’ [Cited by Hank Hanegraaff p65 Christianity in Crisis]

Task #3: Read and discuss the quotes below.
In what way is ‘faith’ or our ‘words of faith’ the object or focus of faith, trust and confidence? In what way do these statements contrast to biblical faith?

‘Believe that you receive your healing, and what will happen? You will have it! You see, the having comes after the believing.’ Kenneth Hagin, Divine Healing, p49, italics are in original.

 

 

 

[Speaking of a man who said he didn’t know how to get faith] ‘The real truth about it is he had faith all the time. Faith to be saved. If he had been taught correctly, he would have known he could have fed that measure of faith on God’s Word and it would grow. He could use that same faith to receive healing for his body. He could use that same faith to get answers to prayer. He could use that same faith to be filled with the Holy Ghost. But he didn’t know it.’ [p92, Kenneth Hagin, Growing Up, Spiritually]

 

 

 

‘Your words are building blocks of which you construct your life and future. Your words set the cornerstones of your life, and you live within the confines of that boundary you create with your own words. … What you believe and speak not only affects your body but your immune system as well. Your words become either a blessing or a curse to you. … A continual affirmation of God’s Word in faith will build into your immune system a supernatural anointing that is capable of eliminating sickness and disease in a natural manner.’ [p5-8 Charles Capps, God’s Creative Power for Healing’; italics are in original.]

 

 

 

‘The image that the Word creates in you is already a reality in the spirit realm. When you speak God’s Word from your heart, then faith gives substance to the promises of God. Your faith frames your world daily … Every time you speak your faith, it creates a stronger image inside you.’ [ibid, p14]

 

 

 

‘Our confession of the Word of God calls for healing which is already ours but is not in manifestation in our bodies. …If you are taking medicine, mix faith with it by saying, “I believe I receive my healing in Jesus’ Name.” … It takes time to renew your mind and develop faith in your words as well as God’s Word. … It takes time to develop faith to operate in these principles … Confessing the word of God can also change your world. It can change an image of sickness into an image of healing and health.’ [ibid,  p19 -21]

 

 

 


‘’God’s method is to call for positive things, even though they are not yet a reality in your body. You call them until they are manifest. You have a God-given right to exercise authority over your body. … If you feed the spirit man God’s Word, it will make demands on the flesh to line up with the Word of God.’ [ibid, p42]

 

 

‘If you don’t know the Word you will pray ridiculous things like “if it be your will”  … ‘
‘You are our health … I speak health and healing into these bodies in the name of Jesus. If there is any sickness I command it to go. … It is your will Jesus for these women to walk in wholeness … I command every tendon, every cell to line up with the Word of God … I thank you every woman here walks in health … we break the power of sickness in Jesus’ name’ [Holly Wagner, Hillsong Colour your World Women’s Conference, 2005 – an example of Word-Faith or ‘Positive Confession’ in action.]

 

 


‘In the past we … may have seen ourselves as moneyless, sick, desperate or whatever. But once we lay hold of the Word, realizing that it is God Himself speaking directly to us, we give place to hope-and that hope gives life to the dreams God has placed within us. … Receive God's Word for your situation, right now. Receive the seed God has for your life. Then begin speaking it, hearing it, muttering it. Meditate the Word until you begin seeing it...and dreaming it. Go ahead-dream BIG. Talk BIG. And turn your faith loose!’ [Copeland: www.kcm.org]

 

 

 

This faith in faith has the terrible and destructive implication, [an implication frequently stated by the proponents of this faith], that failure to get well, or failure to realise one’s ‘dreams and visions’, is a failure in the person’s faith – that their faith isn’t strong enough or positive enough or was mixed with doubt and/or negative thoughts or confessions, and therefore was powerless to create and bring into existence whatever reality it sought. The outcome is seen to have nothing to do with the decision of the sovereign God but with the power or otherwise of a person’s faith.

While some of the proponents present this faith in faith as Christian, Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest congregation and a significant advocate of this ‘faith’, is at least more honest when he affirms that unbelievers as well as believers utilize this power  to alter and create reality ‘through the development of concentrated visions and dreams in their imaginations.’ He affirms ‘through visualizing and dreaming you can incubate your future and hatch the results’. [The Fourth Dimension]. Cho admits openly that Soka Gakkai followers achieve these results by evil powers. So we see that at the bottom line, this faith in faith is at best creative visualization and at worst, the utilization of evil powers.

The value of Biblical faith is always in the Object of that faith. When Jesus says: ‘if you have faith as small as a mustard seed ...’ (Luke 17:6) it is because the size, power or force of our faith is not significant, but the One in whom we trust, Jesus Christ, is significant. We trust in him, not in ourselves, not in the power of our faith. Any faith which is faith in faith is essentially faith in ourselves, in our own ability to believe, in our own affirmations; such ‘faith’ is far removed from Biblical faith, which is always and only faith in Jesus Christ.

D.1 Biblical faith is not a meritorious work in which we trust

Biblical faith does not see itself as a human ‘work’ on the basis of which we merit the salvation obtained for us through and by Jesus Christ. This issue will be addressed in ‘H’ below, and more fully in the study on justification and righteousness.


E. BIBLICAL FAITH IS KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

[Note: in Sections E, F and G I am indebted to Karl Barth for his definitions of ‘faith’ as ‘knowledge’, ‘trust’ and ‘confession’, but have changed ‘confession’ to ‘commitment’. Regardless of acknowledged questionable aspects of Barth’s teaching, I have found the three chapters on faith in his book Dogmatics in Outline to be strongly and refreshingly biblical.]

When Jude urged his readers to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ [verse 23], and when Paul in Romans 10:8 spoke of ‘the word of faith we are proclaiming’, they were referring to ‘faith’ as a body of truth – as knowledge of God.  

In this sense our ‘faith’ is not our act of believing or trusting, but the actual content that we believe. Apart from atheism, which doesn’t believe that there is anything there to believe, all of the above substitutes for faith have some content – facts or perceived facts concerning the focus or object of faith. And it is this content which, according to the Bible, either validates or invalidates faith. Because of this, biblical faith cannot be separated from knowledge of the biblical God.  
 
Biblical faith is always faith in God. If one should ask ‘Which god?’ the Bible answers precisely: the God revealed in the Bible - the one eternal, creator God who has revealed himself to the human race in creation and written revelation, and who, in a final act of self-revelation, took human flesh and dwelt among us, shared our life, shared our suffering, bore our sins, died, and rose again. The Bible clearly defines the object or focus of faith: the God whom we see when we look at Jesus Christ.

Task #4: Study these verses and answer these questions:

What is the content of faith in these Scriptures?
How important is it to have this specific content of faith, according to these Scriptures?

John 20:31


1John 5:1

John 8:24


John 1:12


John 3:18a


Discuss the relation between faith in Christ and knowledge of God in these verses
John 14:7-11


John 12:44-46


John 10:30


Romans 9:5


Titus 2:13


1John 5:20

 

Biblical faith has specific content. The knowledge that is contained in Biblical faith is this: Biblical faith knows that when it sees Jesus Christ it is seeing the one, true God; when it knows Jesus Christ, it is knowing the one, true God

Because of this knowledge of Jesus Christ, Biblical faith also knows:

    • that unbelief is not an option, it can never believe that there is no God there, for it knows that he has come to us and left his footprints on our earth.
    • that wrong belief is not an option – that all other god concepts are false and belief in them is not biblical belief. It can never believe, even for a moment, that these other ideas of ‘god’ can possibly be valid, for it knows the one true God in knowing Jesus Christ.
    • that all superstitions, whether secular or ‘Christian’, are outlawed: they are outside the boundary of  true knowledge of Jesus Christ, by whose word we exist and are sustained, and for whom we exist [Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3].
    • that it is not permitted to have faith in faith. It knows that all honour and praise, all power and glory, are Christ’s [Revelation 5:11-14; Philippians 3:1-11]. Faith that must praise its own merit or its own power and authority has not yet understood, has not yet known, that all power belongs to him [Matthew 28:18; 1Corinthians 1:24].

In this faith in which we know the true God in his Son, Jesus Christ, we are set free from the necessity to find a god for ourselves. This faith, this freedom, is a gift, in which God breaks into the dark bondage of our blindness and ignorance and gives us knowledge of himself [2Corinthians 4:4-6; Matthew 11:25-27].

It is at this point that biblical faith and repentance coincide. The command to repent is a command to turn away from all other god concepts or objects of faith and to return to faith in the one true God as defined and identified in Jesus Christ. It is interesting that in John’s Gospel and his letters he does not use the words ‘repent’ or ‘repentance’. He does, however, make our eternal destiny dependent on whether or not we obey the command to believe in Jesus Christ. This believing that Jesus Christ is the one he claimed to be is, for John, identical to repentance – a complete change of mind about who God is, a complete and radical paradigm shift of massive proportions. When I believe in Jesus Christ I am forgoing the right to ever again believe in any other god, including myself.

 

F. BIBLICAL FAITH IS ALSO TRUST IN GOD

Demons believe [James 2:19b]. They know who God is, and tremble, but this belief is not what the Bible calls faith, for Biblical faith both knows God and trusts God. Biblical faith, so knows God that it also knows that he is the only valid object of our faith and trust.

Biblical faith trusts God because Jesus Christ has demonstrated in a final and irreversible way by his death and resurrection that he, the one, true God, is for us. In Christ’s death and resurrection he conquers and disempowers all that stands against us and against him, and by this act gives to us another freedom: freedom from having to trust ourselves. Biblical faith sets us free to so trust God in his act of salvation that we no longer have to depend on ourselves, we no longer have to defend ourselves, or justify ourselves.

Here again, Biblical faith and repentance coincide. In this faith we cease our foolish trust in ourselves and trust only in Christ, and again, this is a paradigm shift of massive proportions. We rely on his righteousness and his faithfulness, not our own. We rely on him to reconcile us to himself, and place no confidence in our own puny acts of goodness. Biblical faith thus trusts God when he tells us that we are forgiven, when he tells us he has hidden us in Christ, credited to us the perfect righteousness of Christ, and will, therefore, never again condemn or reject us. This biblical faith rejects the destructive and guilt-generating bondage in which one must depend on, trust and have confidence in one’s own performance of good works, one’s own degree of holiness or spirituality, one’s own merits. We trust not in ourselves, but in Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. That is faith. That is repentance.

 

Task #5: Answer these questions:
How do these verses promote faith that trusts God?

Colossians 2:13-15

Romans 8:1-4

Romans 8:31-39

Ephesians 2:14-18

In what way do these verses teach us that we are set free from having to trust ourselves, and can now live in the peace and freedom of trust in Christ?
Romans 5:9-11


2Corinthians 5:11-21

Philippians 3:1-11

 

 

G. BIBLICAL FAITH IS ALSO COMMITMENT TO GOD

Because Biblical faith both knows and trusts God it is also the responsibility and the freedom to be for God. It says to Jesus Christ: ‘my Lord and my God’, and in this confession commits itself, not only to trust his promises but also to trust his commands. We acknowledge in this confession that Jesus Christ, our Creator and our Saviour, on whom our lives depend for time and for eternity, is the only One whose word we will also trust for directions about how to live. We no longer live for ourselves: we live for him. We no longer make our own decisions about what is right and wrong: we trust his decision about that. Any faith that reserves for itself the right to choose its own code of morals and ethics is not biblical faith.

He is the King and our King. He is the Lord and our Lord. In believing in him we have given up all rights and freedoms that we supposed we had and put ourselves under his authority. Here in this act of biblical faith/commitment God restores us to the relationship with himself for which he created us. Here in this faith/commitment the rebellion of Genesis 3 is reversed. God is now our God, and we are now his people, once more in that relationship with him in which it is possible to image him, to glorify him. Again, we see that faith and repentance cannot be separated. And here again we see that comprehensive paradigm shift.

 

Task #6: Discuss the concept of faith as commitment in these passages/groups of verses.

Matthew 7:13-27

John 8:30-31

John 13:34,35;
John 14:15;
John 15:10


James 2:14-26


1John 1:6;
1John 2:3-6, 9-11
1John 3:7-10

 


H. FAITH AND SALVATION

As we saw in the verses at the beginning of this study it is impossible to be saved apart from ‘faith’. It is this biblical faith that we have been looking at that is the only way the salvation purchased by Jesus Christ can become ours: knowing the one, true God by knowing Jesus Christ; so trusting Jesus Christ that we depend on him and what he has done, and not on ourselves; being so committed to him that we leave aside our own rights and hold ourselves responsible to him, the Lord.

 It is not some undefined faith, or any kind of faith, or faith in anything at all, but biblical faith – faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord – through which salvation is given to us.

 

Task #7: Answer these questions:

What is the role of faith in these verses?
What is the connection between faith and salvation? Is salvation possible apart from faith?

John 3:16


John 5:24


Acts 16:31


Romans 1:16-17


Romans 3:21-22a


Romans 3:27-31


Romans 4:16


Romans 5:1


Galatians 2:15-16


Ephesians 2:8-9


Philippians 3:7-9


1John 5:1a, 9-12

 

‘Faith’ is a salvation word because apart from biblical faith in the biblical Jesus no one can be saved.

A question might be asked: ‘What is the bare minimum of faith apart from which a person is not saved?’ The answer is very simple, yet very profound: we must believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. What does this mean? It means that we must believe [with a faith that includes knowledge, trust and commitment] that Jesus is the eternal God – the One he claimed to be. If we do not believe this, then we simply do not know God. Our ‘god’ is but a figment of our imagination and cannot save.

Jesus said: ‘If you do not believe I am the one I claim to be you will indeed die in your sins’ [John 8:24].

Paul told the Philippian jailor: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’ [Acts 16:31].

Paul wrote: ‘if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ [Romans 10:9; note that in Romans 1:4 the resurrection is said to be proof of his deity.]

When we believe in Jesus Christ, then, through that faith relationship with him, all the benefits of his death on the cross are given to us. When we have him we have salvation as well. When we have him we have eternal life [1 John 5:11,12]. He himself is our salvation. It is not that we obtain salvation by believing in that salvation: we obtain salvation by believing in Christ.

Biblical scholars have struggled to define precisely what the relationship between faith and salvation/justification is. This struggle has on the one hand endeavoured to maintain faith as a real human response, and on the other hand to avoid giving faith meritorious significance.  

Hoekema comments:

‘The New Testament describes this relation by means of three types of expressions: we are said to be justified “through faith” [ek pisteos] or “by faith” [dia pistios or pistei]. … What does each expression stress? Ek, meaning “out of” or “through”, emphasizes the fact that faith is the “instrument” which appropriates this justification. Dia pisteos and pistei [the dative singular of the noun pistis] both convey the thought that we are justified by means of faith. It is important to observe that one type of expression never occurs in the New Testament: dia ten pistin [“on account of faith”]. Faith is never represented as the meritorious ground for our justification.

‘How then should we express the relation between faith and justification? Various words have been used to describe this relationship. Calvin compares faith to a vessel: “We compare faith to a kind of vessel; for unless we come empty and with the mouth of our souls open to seek Christ’s grace, we are not capable of receiving Christ.” The Belgic Confession calls faith an instrument: “Faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness.” John Murray speaks of faith as an instrumentality: “Therefore faith is an indispensable instrumentality in connection with justification.”  In James Packer’s words, faith is “the outstretched empty hand which receives righteousness by receiving Christ.” Any of these expressions may be used, as long as faith is not described as a meritorious ground for justification.’ [Saved by Grace, p189]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments:

‘But there are many people who … turn their faith into a kind of works. Indeed there is quite a popular evangelistic teaching at the present time [c1970] which says that the difference which the New Testament makes can be put in this way. In the Old Testament God looked at the people and said: Here is my law, here are the Ten Commandments, keep them, and I will forgive you and you will be saved. But, it goes on to say, it is not like that now. God has put all that on one side, there is no longer any law, God simply says to us, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”, and if you do you will be saved. In other words they say that by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ a man saves himself. But that is to turn faith into works because it says it is our action that saves us. But the apostle says ‘Not of yourselves” [Ephesians 2:8]…. If it is my belief that saves me I have saved myself; but Paul says that it is not of yourself. So that I must never speak of my faith in a way that makes it “of myself”. And not only that. If I become a Christian that way, again surely it gives me some grounds for boasting; but Paul says, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” My boasting must be entirely excluded.

‘As we think of faith we must be careful, therefore, to view it in this light. Faith is not the cause of salvation. Christ is the cause of salvation. The grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ is the cause of salvation, and I must never speak in such a way as to represent faith as the cause of my salvation. What is faith then? Faith is but the instrument through which it comes to me.  … Faith is the channel, it is the instrument through which this salvation which is of the grace of God comes to me. … It is just the medium through which the grace of God bringing salvation enters my life. We must always be extremely careful, therefore, never to say that it is our believing that saves us. Belief does not save. Faith does not save. Christ saves – Christ and His finished work. Not my belief, not my faith, not my understanding, nothing that I do – ‘not of yourselves’, ‘boasting is excluded’, ‘by grace, through faith’. [p135-136, God’s Way of Reconciliation]

 

I. FAITH AS A GIFT OF GOD

This biblical faith is a gift of God. It is not something which we have to somehow generate ourselves. We, who are dead in trespasses and sin [Ephesians 2:1,5], we, who are powerless and God’s enemies [Romans 5:6,10], are utterly incapable and undesirous of ever having such faith. We are rebels against God with no desire to follow him or know him or honour him. Not only so, we are blinded by the evil god of this world [2Corinthians 4:4] whose one desire is to deceive us into thinking we don’t need God, and if he can’t do that, to deceive us into believing in false gods which are just as much darkness as no god at all.

 

Task #8: How do these verses describe the origin and source of true faith?

Matthew 11:27

Matthew 16:15-17

John 1:12,13

Ephesians 2:8,9

Philippians 1:29

Hebrews 12:2

1John 5:1


These verses make it clear that those who believe with true Biblical faith, only believe because of the gracious action of God. Thus even the faith through which we obtain the gift of salvation, is itself a part of that freely given, gracious salvation.

This fact that faith – this ability to believe in Jesus - is a gift from God outlaws forever the idea that faith is a meritorious act by which we earn salvation. The cry of faith is not ‘I believe! I believe!’ Rather it is ‘Jesus is Lord!’ And by this gift of God by which we confess Jesus Christ, we are liberated for ever from the heavy necessity of having to trust in ourselves, including our faith.


J. HISTORIC AFFIRMATIONS OF FAITH

The Belgic Confession[1561]: Article 22: The Righteousness of Faith

‘We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him.
For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely.
Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God-- for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savoir. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified "by faith alone" or by faith "apart from works."
However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us-- for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness.
But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits.
When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins.’ Rom. 3:28

The Heidelberg Catechism [1563]

Q.21: What is true Faith? A. It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel, that, not only to others, but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace solely for the sake of Christ’s saving work.’

The Synod of Dortrecht [1618-19]: The Confession of Faith:

32. Of Faith in Jesus Christ : We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindles in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides him. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or  if all  things  are  in  him, that then those who  possess  Jesus  Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for  any  to assert,  that  Christ is not sufficient, but that  something  more  is required  besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy:  for  hence  it would  follow, that Christ was but half a Saviour. Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works. However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean, that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits, and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him in all his benefits, which when become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.

Second Helvetic Confession

We Are Justified by Faith Alone. But because we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith in the mercy of God and in Christ, we therefore teach and believe with the apostle that sinful man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by the law or any works. For the apostle says: "We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom. 3:28). Also: "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. . . . And to one who does not work but believes in him who justified the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:2 ff.; Gen. 15:6). And again: "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast," etc. (Eph. 2:8 f.). Therefore, because faith receives Christ our righteousness and attributes everything to the grace of God in Christ, on that account justification is attributed to faith, chiefly because of Christ and not therefore because it is our work. For it is the gift of God.

 

Cotrast the above statements about faith with the following:

Charles Finney: Systematic Theology, Lecture 55:

17. Present evangelical faith implies a state of present sinlessness. Observe: faith is the yielding and committal of the whole will, and of the whole being to Christ. This, and nothing short of this, is evangelical faith. But this comprehends and implies the whole of present, true obedience to Christ. This is the reason why faith is spoken of as the condition, and as it were, the only condition, of salvation. It really implies all virtue. Faith may be contemplated either as a distinct form of virtue, and as an attribute of love, or as comprehensive of all virtue. When contemplated as an attribute of love, it is only a branch of sanctification. When contemplated in the wider sense of universal conformity of will to the will of God, it is then synonymous with entire present sanctification. Contemplated in either light, its existence in the heart must be inconsistent with present sin there. Faith is an attitude of the will, and is wholly incompatible with present rebellion of will against Christ. This must be true, or what is faith? [From: http://www.gospeltruth.net/1851Sys_Theo/st55.html]


Task #9: Questions

What has Finney said that makes faith a human work that merits salvation?


How does his perception of faith destroy gospel freedom from guilt and condemnation?


How does his perception of faith erode justification on the basis of Christ’s death?


To what degree does Finney’s concept make us focus and trust in ourselves?

 

A final word from Martin Luther:

‘… faith is a divine work in us, which transforms us, gives us a new birth out of God, John 1:13, slays the old Adam, makes us altogether different men in heart, affection, mind, and all powers, and brings with it the holy spirit. Oh, it is a living, energetic, active, mighty thing, this faith! It cannot but do good unceasingly. There is no question asked whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked the works have been done, and there is a continuous doing of them. But any person not doing such works is without faith. He is groping in the dark, looking for faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, although he indulges in a lot of twaddle and flummery concerning faith and good works.

‘Faith is a living, daring confidence in the grace of God, of such assurance that it would risk a thousand deaths. This confidence and knowledge of divine grace makes a person happy, bold, and full of gladness in his relation to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit is doing this in the believer. Hence it is that a person, without constraint, becomes willing and enthusiastic to do good to everybody, to serve everybody, to suffer all manner of afflictions, from love of God and to the praise of Him who has extended such grace to him. Accordingly, it is impossible to separate works from faith, just as impossible as it is to separate the power to burn and shine from fire. Accordingly, beware of your own false thoughts and of idle talkers, who pretend great wisdom for discerning faith and good works and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that He may create faith in you; otherwise you will be without faith for ever and aye, no matter what you may plan and do.’ [para 16 & 17 Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans]