What is Faith?

Posted Jul 02, 2011 by Craig Jones in Everlasting Gospel Hits: 4,249

For some time now I have been impressed to write out what I understand Faith to be and how to exercise faith. In the past whenever I have asked what is Faith I usually am quoted Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. My brain cannot compute that statement.

Oh it is true that when I have faith I can believe in the things I cannot see but to me that is the result of faith and not the thing itself. I would like to look at some biblical examples to try and identify what Christ thought Faith was. I will attempt to apply the biblical principle that at least two witnesses are always required to establish the matter.

Matthew 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Why did Jesus MARVEL and say that this man had GREAT Faith? [emphasis added] Here in this passage we are given a hint of what faith is. We will look at this statement again later. But first turn to Hebrews Chapter 11

It has been said that Abraham is the father of all them which be of Faith – Therefore the record of Abraham then gives instruction in faith. Speaking of Abraham Paul writes in verse 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. To understand what Paul is referring to when he said, and him as good as dead we must examine the story of Abram in Genesis 15:

5And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Here is a promise from God that Abram would father a multitude. Notice here that Abrams’ response was not to make God any promises but Abram believed in the Lord and The Lord counted it to him for righteousness. Now look at Chapter 16 At this time in their lives Abram is 80 years of age and Sarai is 70 years of age.

Genesis 16:1-2 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

Notice Sarai did not believe the word of God and devised a new plan. Ishmael was born. The pair were unfaithful to the word of God and the promised son of Sarai was delayed. When Sarai was to conceive she was 89 years and Abram was 99 years of age. Now we understand what paul means when he used the phrase “Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead”. Abram was without seed Sarai was past age yet Sarai still conceived.

Notwithstanding the debacle over Ishmael Notice what God said to Abraham in Genesis 17:1-4 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Notice what God said to Abraham about his wife in Genesis 17:15,16 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.

Now the original promise has been fulfilled. Sarah conceived and bore a Son Isaac. Abraham learned to be totally faithful, Sarah learned that her device bought only trouble and perplexity and delayed the promise of God. Because of the lack of faith shown by both they were asked to have greater faith than before and depend on the naked word of God ONLY. And now that it was clear for the word of God only to work, that word did work effectually and the promised seed was born.” 1

But this story does not have a happy ever after ring to it just yet. Turn to Genesis 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

How could this be when Genesis 21:12 says:- for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Now Abraham has a real conflict. How could he sacrifice as a burnt offering Isaac and still receive the promise of Gen 21:12. What should he do – obey the word of God and Kill Isaac – or disobey the kill instruction to guarantee the fulfilment of that promise. Was he to interfere again to guarantee the promise?

God had said “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” and now “offer Isaac there for a burnt offering” How did he reconcile these two conflicting statements.

We know that Abraham had learned his lesson with Ishmael so now he sets out for Mt Moriah. Notice the instruction in Genesis 22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

Did you catch that? "I and the lad will go and worship and I and the lad will return."

How could Isaac possibly return after he was to be burned to ash?

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

He expected God to raise him from the dead to fulfil the promise. Read the summary by Paul in Romans 4:16-22

Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Rom 4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Rom 4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

Rom 4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:

Rom 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Rom 4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Rom 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Rom 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

Rom 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Rom 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Abraham expected to offer up Isaac for a burnt offering and he expected then to see Isaac rise from the ashes and go back down the mountain with him. AT LAST I COULD SEE WHAT THIS THING CALLED FAITH IS.

Faith is expecting that the word of God has the POWER to do exactly what the word of God CLAIMS that it can do and then trusting God to do just that.

e.g. God cannot Lie – he said Let there be light and there was light. What God says has to happen because his very word is power.

To trust the word of God only: to depend on the word of God only, To depend upon the word of God, even as against the word of God, - This is Faith: This is the faith which brings the righteousness of God. This is what it is to exercise faith. This is what the scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of exercising faith. And understanding how to exercise faith this is the science of the Gospel. And the science of the Gospel is the science of all sciences.

E G White says this “The knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired”. {RH, October 18, 1898 par. 7}

Let us quickly look at the example of the Centurion.

What did the centurion say Matthew 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Why did Jesus MARVEL and say that this man had GREAT Faith? Because he expected that the word of God had the POWER to do exactly what the word of God CLAIMED that it could do. Can you see this and the importance that we must exercise the same degree of faith in order to allow Christ to defeat Satan in our lives?

The Scripture declares, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." The knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired. We suffer much trouble and grief because of our unbelief, and our ignorance of how to exercise faith. We must break through the clouds of unbelief. We can not have a healthy Christian experience, we can not obey the gospel unto salvation, until the science of faith is better understood, and until more faith is exercised. There can be no perfection of Christian character without that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. {RH, October 18, 1898 par. 7}

1Lessons on Faith Waggoner & Jones