Week Four, Introduction: What is Faith?

Scripture

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Hebrews 11:5-8 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Exposition

The Christian view of faith is vastly different from any other religious claim ever made.  Since the Fall mankind has attempted a litany of meritorious acts with the goal of appeasing God (usually substituting the true God with false gods).  Everything from complex religious incantations to sacrificing offspring has been and will be, nothing more than humanity trying to “get right” with God.  Ironically the more we attempt to appease God by our own standards, the greater we offend His justice.  The idea that we could possibly save ourselves puts us at an equal level with God because we then become the catalyst for His shift in judgment.  We would be the driving force behind His actions.  A god dependent on us is the not the God of the universe.

Ephesians 2: 1-10

So, what is saving faith?  Historically it has been explained in the terms of Notia, Assensus, Fiducia: Knowledge, Assent, and Trust. Knowledge is the principle that everyone inherently knows there is a God. Despite this inborn knowledge we all naturally suppress the truth about God to varying degrees (Rom. 1:18).  Knowing that there is a god, whether admitted or not, saves no one.  Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, and every single person in history has known there is a god because it is clear in creation (Rom. 1:19-20).  Assent is when we believe that the God revealed in Scripture, and His work of salvation, is true.  The issue is that if you believe that God is the creator, that Adam and Eve sinned, that God set in motion all that has taken place in redemptive history, that Jesus Christ the Son of God died on the cross and rose again, and if you know that only through repentance and faith in Jesus can anyone be saved you’re at that point qualified to be a demon (James 2:19).  This leaves us with Trust.  Trust is when you believe all He has done and then act on that knowledgeable belief in total repentance and dependence in the work of Christ. We’re saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:1-10) and are then enabled and driven unto good works

James 2: 14-26

(James 2:14-26, Phil. 1:6).  Belief in the objective historical acts of God doesn’t equate trusting in Him alone for your salvation. And without the mercy of God, we couldn’t move past assent.

Saving faith is contingent on the regenerative work of the Spirit, without which we would never understand the truth of the Gospel (John 3:3).  Man’s need for regeneration is in no place more evident in Hebrews 11.  This chapter is famous for two things, the first is the definition that the author gives regarding faith.  The second is the written accounts of key individuals used by God in redemptive history.  Sometimes this section of Scripture is called the “hall of faith”.  I understand the sentiment behind that assertion, but I would have to disagree with that often-chosen title.  If you were to take away the work of God in the lives of these saints, then there would be no positive arch to their narrative.  Enoch wouldn’t have walked with God after pleasing Him with his faith (Heb. 11: 5-6). Abram would’ve lived a life of ease and plenty in Ur of the Chaldeans making images of false gods (Heb. 11:8).  Moses would’ve lived as an outlaw for murder.  With these accounts alone, we can see that this passage isn’t about how great these men were of their own accord.  And then we come to the judges and beyond.

Application

Gideon was hiding in a hole when he was called by God, without that call he would’ve remained a coward.  Barak refused to take up the mantle of leadership and trusted more in Deborah than God, he would only be known for poor leadership.  Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter.  David got one of his closest allies’ wife pregnant and then had the man killed to cover his sin. And even Samson, the most disobedient of the Judges, is on this list!  This isn’t the “hall of faith” it is the hall of God’s faithfulness to His chosen people.  Our faith is a result of God, He is faithful to us even when we lapse in our faith.  Our faith isn’t a commodity used to get what we want, it is a result of God’s work in our heart to accomplish His purpose.  Faith is at the core of Christianity, and not only in the broad sense but also in the specific.  Have faith in the planning of the future of your churches, regardless of outcome He will not forsake you.

David Chambers, Director of Middle School Ministries, Christ Covenant Church, Charlotte, N.C.

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