What is Faith?
aymon de albatrus
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Three classical examples in the gallery of Faith:
Noah, Abraham and Elijah.
Noah lived in an evil and perverse generation that offended God continually. For this the Lord decided to put to death all that generation, except Noah that had found grace in His eyes, and his family. God commanded Noah to build a gigantic ark and Noah obeyed in all particulars. Parenthesis [the Ark had approx. these measurements, in meters: length 157 width 86 height 52 (around 14,000 tons) it could carry 235,000 sheep. It is estimated that there were something like 20,000 species on the earth and many of those were smaller than sheep.] God informed Noah of the Flood: 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. 18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sonsí wives with thee. (Genesis 6:17-18)
This is rather interesting for in Genesis 2:6 we are told that the rain was not given as yet: But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. We note also that God said: Genesis 7:11 ..... the windows of heaven were opened. This seems to imply that there were a huge reservoir of water in the sky. Parenthesis [someone studying these particulars has come to the conclusion that from Adam to Noah no rain fell on the earth, but there was something like a canopy around the earth that kept the same temperature all over the earth. This is deduced from the fact that in Antarctica fragment of tropical fauna have been found. Moreover the lifespan of men in the Bible have been plotted from Adam to Noah and beyond to show that before the Deluge men lived up to about 900 years whilst, afterwards, the life span reduced to below 100 years petering off to about 70 in our days: The days of our years are seventy; and if any by strength live eighty years, yet their pride is labor and vanity; for it soon passes, and we fly away. (Psalms 90:10) Perhaps that canopy stopped harmful sun rays.]
Anyway, for Noah and his contemporary both rain and floods were unknown and this would have been object of great ridicule in building a ship in the middle of the forest, without water. Notwithstanding that, Noah firmly believed in what God told him putting into practice that faith, because God had told Him.
God said to Abraham: 4 As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 And your name no longer shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 And I will make you very fruitful, exceedingly. And I will give you for nations. And kings shall come out of you. (Genesis 17:4-6)
God made a promise to Abraham that from him a multitude of nations would spring out, confirming his lineage through Isaac: And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:19)
When God asked for the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham promptly obeyed well aware of the promise God gave him that through Isaac this promise would be fulfilled. He knew that Isaac would not die because he had faith in what God told him about his progeny. In fact, on the way to mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father: And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? (Genesis 22:7) to which Abraham responded: And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8)
Abraham firmly believed in what God told him and obeyed in full faith in the Lord without wavering, because God had told him.
Parenthesis: [traditions say that mount Moriah is were Jerusalem is and that the sacrificial stone where Isaac laid is the same from where Mahomet was transported in heaven by angels, the same stone under the dome Al-Quds "dome on the rock" upon which the Temple of Salomon was previously built, the citadel of David. For this reasons there is violent contestation for this rock. It is clear that there will never be peace in that parts of the woods, till Jesus' return.]
We read in James 5:17-18: 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Reading superficially and starting from the presumed point of view of human self importance, that we love so much, one would understand that it was the powerful prayer of Eliah that brought the rain. But it was not so because God had told Eliah, before the event, that He would send rain as we see in 1 Kings 18:1 : And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
It was not the prayer of Eliah that brought the rain, but it was God, according to His plan. Notwithstanding that, Eliah's prayer was part of God's scheme and Eliah was a real partaker in that.
Eliah heard from God, believed in God and had full faith in what God told him and put into practice that faith in the appointed time of the Lord.
What if Faith made of?
Lets look at our text verse: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The definition generally given to "faith" is <conviction, believe>, whilst "substance" is: <evidence, irrefutable proof> and "hoped for": <desiring, hoping it will be so>. These words seem to be a little contradictory, how can it be?
If we refer to the above examples of Faith, we can see clearly the harmony of Heb 11:1. The things hoped for become certainty, even though they are not materializes as yet, because God said that, and it will be so for He is not like a man that changes: For I am the LORD, I change not; .... (Malachi 3:6). nor He lies and will brig to pass His promises: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19) and has ALL the power to put into practice what He says: Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)
Faith is then to know and to hear from God, and surely this gives full certainty to these things hoped for, they will come to pass, in the fullness of time. Thus these words that seemed in contradiction are biblically harmonized. The certainty of the things hoped for (according to God's will) is founded on the fact that God has said that, even if not seen as yet, but it will be so, surely.
When God told Noah that He would flood the earth, surely Noah did not really understand the concept, but believed God and was sure that it would be so: By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
When Abraham received the promise that he would have a son from Sarah in their old, is seemed impossible, but Abraham believed God, for it was God that said that: Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. (Genesis 18:14)
When Eliah prayed for rain, it looked impossible, but Eliah prayed anyway for he was sure of what gods told him: And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. (1 Kings 18:1 AV)
In essence, Faith is total trust in God and in His word.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29)
When a Christian gets asked "are you saved" he should promptly respond "YES, by the grace of God" and not "I hope so". The Christian has the internal evidence that this is so.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth [Faith] unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession [good works] is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
Where does Faith come from?
Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, man cannot create it through his own power.
We are informed by Hebrews 12:12 that Jesus is the author of our Faith that is gifted to us and that He shall bring it to completion: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; ...... (Hebrews 12:2) All men are naturally without Faith, it is not in the power of men to believe by themselves, it is the work of the extreme power of God through His Holy Spirit and the increase given by Him. We see this even in the Apostles that did not have enough faith to forgive and they knew that Faith was of the Lord: And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. (Luke 17:5) He is also the keeper of our faith that will not fail and that it will complete what is requested and that will bring the soul to eternal salvation by the blessing of His grace.
In Romans 10:17 we read: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). Modern exposition interpret this verse that by reading the Bible alone one will get Faith. But we know, and the Bible unequivocally states, that man cannot pump in himself faith for it is a gift of God. One can read the Bible a million times without getting Faith, as many have done, unless God grants His grace. In a TV quiz there was a man who could quote every verse in the Bible, forward and backward, but he was not a believer, at all. In Ephesians 2:8 we read: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)
Salvation is the greatest gift of them all. Salvation if through Faith, nor the cause or the condition to receive salvation, but Faith is the mean, the way, the instrument that God has prescribed to receive salvation and to enjoy it in a way that all is of grace. Faith is not the produce of "free will" of man and of his power, but is a free gift of God, thus salvation through faith is coherent with grace, giving the whole glory to God. The fact is that salvation is not of ourselves, for it is not in our desire nor of our merit, nor of our performance but a free gift of God through faith and that not of ourselves as demonstrated by:
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. (John 6:65)
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (Philippians 1:29)
Romans 10:17 does not intend faith as absolute certainty that comes by reading the Bible only. For example I know a woman that is familiar with the Bible and she is also reasonably well informed on Christianity and one day I asked her; "why don't you convert?", she responded: "I do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but was written by men for they own interests". I have had this answer many other times by people that have read the Bible. This woman also said: "it is not in me to believe". She was honest, and no amount of reading the Word would change her mind, unless there is the direct intervention of God giving a New Heart (born again) and with that the Faith to believe in Him and in His Word.
How can Faith come in hearing and reading something in which one does not believe in, but rather he hates and he is totally against It? Reading the Bible and hearing the Word, per se, does not bring to Faith, there has to be something additional. Attention; reading the Bible is surely the means that God brings to conversion, but always through the gift of Faith given by God. A New Birth is firstly needed with a new heart, which are, as always gifts of God: 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
The meaning of Romans 10:17 Ť similar to: Neglect not the gift that is in thee, ............ (1 Timothy 4:14) that is to say: "once the gift of Faith is received, the more one reads the Bible and the more one hears the Word, the more his Faith is strengthened".
Passages that seem to indicate that Faith is man generated.
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)
This passage refers to the demoniac child that the disciples were not able to free and Jesus respond to their question: Why were we not able to cast him out? Jesus explains that to cast this type of demon there is need of prayer and fasting: But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21) and for their unbelief. The Apostles had some belief received from Jesus for they had performed this before, but evidently not enough for this particular case. And having called His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, so as to throw them out, and to heal every disease and every weakness of body. (Matthew 10:1)
Moreover, concerning Faith, Jesus says here: If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, this does not mean that this Faith is self generated by the Apostles, but only if they had It. This Faith could have been given by God (it is so) and the meaning of the verse would not change at all. The Apostles admit this in asking Jesus to increase their Faith: And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. (Luke 17:5)
Here is another of the many verses interpreted to satisfy man' ego: Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 11:24) This is interpreted that we can ask for anything at all and by adding the "magic words" <in the name of the Lord> God is obligated to fulfill our fancies. Personally I have prayed for two men that will die not, but they died just the same. I must admit that I did not feel inside me the Faith for it, but I prayed just the same in the faith I had. But I did not have the mind of Christ and my will was not in line with His. Jesus says "believe", but this believe must be of God, not of ourselves. When praying we must have in mind that all we do must be for the glory of God, not ours. All must be according to His will, ALL: if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
Everything we ask for, in prayer, must be according to the revealed will of God, confirming the Gospel and for the glory of His Holy Name, otherwise they are only words of our vanity and will not hit the mark: Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3)
Faith and Works
Myriads of words have been released concerning salvation, if one is justified by Faith or by Works. Martin Luther was for "Faith only", using: For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17) Others by Faith and Works using: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24), first Faith then Works.
For me the two are inseparable, Faith is first and the gift of God and without that no one is saved: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8) and works by themselves do not save: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:9) But the presence of Faith manifests Itself by Good Works prepared by God beforehand: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Therefore, if one says "I have Faith" but does not put that Faith into practice, then he has no Faith and is not saved for the certainty of Faith manifests itself in Good works that God has prepared for us. The secret "christian" does not witness his faith and thus is no Christian at all: Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18)
The apparent dilemma is resolved, Both Faith and Good Works prepared for us before the world was are complete and essential part of a real Christian.
Faith is the gift of God, in no way man can generate the Biblical Faith,
Faith comes from the elective love of the Father, from the redemptive work of the Son on the cross and from the Holy Ghost that applies it to us,
Faith is the certainty of things hoped for and are not yet seen, because It is based on the Word of God. If God has said it, it will surely be so,
Faith is based on the will of God, if this absolute conviction is missing internally, then there is No Faith,
Before Faith, God grants a new heart (born again) to enable Faith to believe: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6),
A real Christian will promptly answer "YES" to the question: "are you saved": These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13),
True Faith is followed and confirmed by Good Works that God has prepared for us before time began.