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Defining Faith! October 11, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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A lot of people struggle with understanding what faith is and how it works and I must admit that at one time or another I too struggled with this concept. But if we are to grow in Grace and develop our spiritual walk we must understand what faith is. The scriptures truly stated that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). So how do we define faith?

 The Bible defines faith as follows:

 “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Heb 11:1)

 To demonstrate this, we could say that faith is a conviction which underlies our inner belief in the salvation of our souls, through the redemptive work of Christ, which will be revealed in due time. Without faith therefore it would be impossible to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the following verse demonstrates that it is the salvation of our souls that we receive at the end of our faith:

 1 Peter 1

7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

 The question that most people would like to have answered however is how can one exercise their faith especially when met with difficult circumstances. It is important to note though that you cannot have faith in faith itself but you can only have faith in God as can be seen in the following scripture:

 6But 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. (Heb 11:6)

 In exercising our faith therefore we must believe that GOD IS. We can only trust God for our salvation if we believe that HE IS. If we do not trust God and believe in Him for our salvation then nothing else matters  – we will not be able to trust Him for anything else. This is the “secret” to having faith in God. It is nothing to do with using scriptures as an incantation or using a 7-point formula. This is where the Word of Faith movement has high-jacked many people’s faith. In Matt 17:20 Jesus demonstrated that if one has faith like a mustard seed they can move mountains. Jesus used the mustard seed to demonstrate that though it is so tiny it has the assurance of growing into a huge tree. Jesus is therefore saying that with such faith we can overcome obstacles but not we ourselves but through the power of God.

 Having faith is not all about getting things from God, like houses, cars, jobs, money etc as the WOF proponents would have you believe but it is about trusting in God first and foremost for salvation and believing that He is able to fulfill all your needs. I have come to the understanding that you will NOT necessarily get from God what you set your heart on. For example, if you are jobless faith does not mean that you will get that job with a six figure starting salary but faith may mean that the Lord will provide you with a means to take care of yourself and family even though it may not be as illustrious as you imagined. Chanting a Psalm or confessing daily over a particular thing is NOT an exercise of faith but is rather an expression of unbelief. If you believe in God and pray and ask Him to fulfill your needs then all you have to do is just that. One of the important things to learn also is that the proving of your faith worketh patience (Jam 1:3) – which means that you should continue to believe and trust in God even if you have been waiting for a little while and He hasn’t shown up yet. Faith means that in the midst of despair when it seems that all is lost you continue to believe in God, in giving thanks and praising His name. Counting our previous blessings and remembering all that the Lord had done for us should also help to strengthen our faith that He will come through in the end, not according to our time but to His own perfect timing.

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1. glasseyedave - October 14, 2010

Hi Henry,

I would like to post two comments concerning what it means to have faith. I think we are on the same page on this one, but I would like to express it in a different way by my two comments.

The first is from a post I did, asking is your faith biblical?

How many of us with out hesitation can quote the most famous verse we have in scripture which describes what faith is?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The Holy Spirit saw fit that the writer of Hebrews declares to all believers that faith is a confidence in something we hope for. Faith is the absolute assurance we will possess what we at the moment do not possess. There is something promised that we are not beholden to yet, but we are certain of its existence. Everything about faith per the written word of God through the Holy Spirit confirms our faith is our unswerving hope in the promises of God to us.

Consider our father Abraham. He was a very old man with a very old wife who was barren her whole life. When God called Abraham He told him he was the father of many nations. God did not tell him he will become the father of many nations.

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

We accept that God called things that are not as if they were in Abraham. We see in Abraham’s life faith lived out as we see in the verse on faith. Abraham was sure of what he hoped for and certain of what he did not see. We can say, Abraham had an assurance of the promise, not because he possessed it, but because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

I have been advocating we have a hope of salvation presented to us in scripture just as Abraham had the hope of being the father of many nations. Like Abraham, we see God calling things that are not as if they were in our lives. Scripture speaks of being saved, this is God calling what it is not as if it were. Then there are the many verses that speak of our hope, our enduring to the end to make our hope sure and yes, even being saved into a hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But all a hope. No more and no less than what Abraham had. A confidence in the one who made the promise.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

A lot more could be said about this verse, but you let the Holy Spirit show you what He is saying about your hope of salvation and its future fulfillment.

In my book The Gospel According to the Gospel, I wanted to illustrate the kind of faith scripture teaches. I wanted an example of someone who was sure of what they hoped for and certain of what was not evident. This is my illustration.

Now if you heard that coke bottles were going to be the new currency this would take faith. Why because it is not seen, it is an unseen future hope. So if some prophet on the internet was prophesying all future currencies would be old coke bottles and you started to save all your coke bottles you would be acting in the kind of faith scripture is asking us to have.. In fact you would walk along the roadside looking for coke bottles because you believed that one day they would replace money. Why would you believe this? Because you believed the promise of the prophet on the internet. But we do not believe some kook on the internet we believe in someone who has a better promise and the ability to deliver. This is our Lord, our God and our king. The one who gives us life, our promises and our hope.
Now imagine you held this hope about the coke bottles faithfully and made sure you lived in such a way as to benefit from it. Then in the latter years abandoned this hope and threw away all those old coke bottles only to see the day that these coke bottles became the new currency. You would have not kept your faith till the end. You would have ship wrecked your own faith. Like men who fall away from faith in Christ, who shipwreck their hope of salvation.

We see in my illustration the kind of faith scripture teaches. Hoping in things unseen. Confidence in things unseen. Until at last he gave up his hope and wandered from the faith he had in the one who had made the promise. Therefore turning his back on the faith, having believed in vain, he was as good as those who never acted in faith.

We in the church teach people to come forward, say a prayer we like to label the prayer of salvation, and declare persons saved. We ignore all those other verses that speak of our hope, our need to persevere to the end in order to make our hope sure, our coming salvation, the fact we have an inheritance kept for us in heaven until Christ returns. Ignoring all of this, we tell people to have faith when we teach they actually are now saved. They now possess eternal life. But how can anyone say they have Biblical faith in what they already posses?

Maybe we should rewrite the book of Hebrews. It doesn’t seem appropriate that scripture should teach one thing and we teach the opposite. Let me be the first to make a suggestion on how it should read.

Now faith is possessing what we don’t have to hope for and owning everything we see in scripture.

What would be some of your suggestions to rewrite this famous verse describing faith, making it so it matches what we preach in our gospel?

I would be curious if you even care. Please leave your comments.

This is the end of the post. I would like your input as well as your readers on this.

Thanks for the consideration.

2. glasseyedave - October 14, 2010

Hi Henry,

This is the second post I would like to contribute to this conversation. It has to do with salvation itself and whether or on we have it or hope for it, which would qualify it to be by faith. I approach it from the three tenses of salvation that the Calvinist preach.

This post is called, The three red flags on the three tenses of salvation.

There is a very interesting point about God that Paul brings up in our New Testament. This is the fact that our God has a strange habit of calling things that are not as they were.

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Because I believe this, it tends to bring me into conflict with other believers. Just as much as many believers understand and confess that God gives life to the dead, I believe God calls things that are not as if they were.

Believers say they are saved, have eternal life, are adopted as sons and so on. They do this for good reasons because they see in scripture where it states these things. But how many Christians confess they are waiting for their salvation, their adoption, their eternal life and so on? Almost none, although scripture teaches this as well.

Calvinist though have a very interesting way of handling this apparent duality of having and not having found in our scripture. They say there are three tenses of salvation, although there is no verse or text that teaches this. But they say we have been saved, are being saved and will be saved.

Have been saved comes from scripture that teaches names have been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. The lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world, our reward has been prepared for us from the foundation of the world, the promise of our gospel is from before the foundation of the world and so on. So hats off to them, they recognize that God did not decide to send His Son after giving it some thought when Adam sinned, as so many preachers seam to coin it. So this is their first tense of salvation. Have been saved.

They, like most believers, see the very present tense of are saved, bring saved, are children of God, have been adopted, have received eternal life as the second tense of salvation. They say this is being saved.

The third tense of salvation deals with those scriptures that teach we wait for our salvation, our adoption as sons, eternal life and so on. This they say is the last tense of salvation, that we will be saved.

At least some thought has been given to it, since most in the church do not even consider these supposed tenses of salvation. They go on being Samericans worshiping what they do not know and could care less to study out God’s word.

Are the Calvinist correct in their understanding of salvation? Is there really three tenses of salvation? Does this doctrine contradict scripture or does scripture teach it?

First of all, scripture does not teach there are three tenses of salvation. Any honest dialogue would confess that this teaching is implied. Implied by scripture would be the assumption. It is assumed by us there is some reasonability of accuracy in this doctrine to deal with the duality of having and waiting found in our gospel.

In order to accept the three tenses of salvation though we have to ignore what I would consider to be foundational truths of our gospel. Number one on my list is faith. We all know and probably can quote Hebrews 11:1.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The three tenses of salvation runs into problems at the fundamental understanding of what we hope for. How can we hope for what we already have and are already getting?

Continuing to read past Hebrews 11:1 shows the ancients were commended for hoping in what they did not have nor did they receive what they hoped for. Yet with the three tenses of salvation we say we don’t hope in what we do not have, we hope in what we have and are continuing to have. If the ancients were commended in their hoping, not in what they had or were receiving, only in what they did not have, what do we have to commend to us in for faith? So this is my first red flag on the three tenses of salvation.

Paul speaking of hope ask a very interesting questions to the believers. He ask, what man hopes for something he already has? This is a rhetorical question based on simple common sense. The answer is nobody would hope for what they already have.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

This scripture is so key to understanding what we brag about in Hebrews 11:1. Who does hope for what they already have? Do we not know, do we not understand hope that is seen is no hope at all? If our hope is seen, how can our so called hope be faith? But if we do not have it yet our hope is true hope and our faith is true faith based on a real hope, and we wait for it patiently. In this way we follow our biblical example of those who had true faith and a real hope. Not an implied assumption of already possessing, which deviates from our biblical model of faith. So this is my second red flag on the three tenses of salvation.

What does scripture teach about the duality we see concerning our salvation, our adoption, our eternal life and so on? If it is not biblical to hope for what you already have, if it is not biblical to call faith hoping in what you have, what is the answer to this conflict of possessing and not possessing in our gospel? Do we posses what is clearly spoken of in our gospel as being posses by us here and now or not?

Interestingly Paul saw no problem with this situation. He didn’t handle it by teaching the three tenses of salvation. He simply let us know that our God is a God who calls things that are not as if they were. So when He or another writer speaks of things in the here and now in our gospel, it is our hope in what God imparts to us by speaking what is not as if it were. That is unless we are greater than the man of faith our father Abraham. This is the third red flag I have on the three tenses of salvation.

For example, the very idea of imputed righteousness that we have means credited righteousness. We are credited because we do not have it. It is as if we do, when we really do not. It is credited. We are treated and in a relationship with God as if we do when we do not. We are credited. When we finally receive our crown of righteousness then we will no longer be credited we will posses.

So what is more biblical? To say we have three tenses of salvation and we hope for what we have? Our faith is hoping in what we see and posses?

Or is it more biblical to say we like those before us hope in what we do not have? Is it more biblical to say our faith is based on our hopes in the promises of God that we wait to be fulfilled, not in what we have? Is it more biblical to say God calls things that are not in our gospel as if they were?

So what do you let God call that which is not as if it were in your gospel? Or is it more biblical to say, not in my gospel you don’t?

This is the end of this post. I hope that this is at minimal a good conversation piece, if not something more.

Thank you for the space and consideration in this conversation.

David

3. Henry - October 15, 2010

Hi Glasseyedave,

I do welcome challeging discourses so no need for you to be apologetic. I have read your two very lenghty comments and I agree with the bulk of what you have said.

This is perhaps for another post but I have witnessed a growing deception in the church whereby a man in the pulpit makes an altar call – people respond to that call and are told to repeat the “sinners prayer” then the people are told to thank God for saving them. Later on we find that a lot of these people who were “saved” fell away and stopped attending church. If they were indeed “saved” how or why have they now fallen away from the faith?

For those who have truly believed in the Gospel and experienced the regeneration of the Spirit the Lord calls them saved. However they have not yet received salvation and eternal security until the “consummation” when Christ is revealed at His second coming. So salvation which is eternal life remains our blessed hope.

4. glasseyedave - October 15, 2010

To your comment, Amen and Amen.

For my own understanding, do you think I dealt with Calvin’s three tenses of salvation scripturally, as to be a platform of possible revelation to the Calvinist?

5. Henry - October 29, 2010

Glasseyedave,

I must say that I have not studied Calvinism at any great lenght therefore I do not want to comment on whether or not you dealt with propositions made by Calvin scripturally.

However let me make this very simple for you. Would it be wrong to say that something occured in the past that enabled us to have a future hope of salvation? According to this dispensation Christ death made it possible for every man to obtain Grace. So according to this dispensation or generation Christ death is a past act which established in us a future hope of the redemption of our bodies. Agreed? If someone wants to call this “past tense” then it is not at odds with the concept that we await our salvation at the end of our faith.

Secondly, would it be wrong to say that something is occuring “now” in us which bounds us to that future hope of salvation? Doth not the Spirit work in us now in preparing us to receive that future hope? Paul says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This therefore implies a process that we go through – fighting the good fight of faith – persevering – enduring to the end. Jesus said in Matt 24:13, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Salvation is what awaits after endurance. Something therefore works in us now, today, tomorrow and the day after until the time of the redemption of our bodies. If someone wants to call that the “present tense” of salvation it is not at odds with the fact that we await the glory that is to come.

Thirdly, is any thing wrong with saying that something will occur in the future that will ensure/finalise our eternal security? Jesus said in Rev 22:12: “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Our reward for abiding in the faith (our blessed hope) will be bestowed in that great and terrible day of the Lord. If someone wants to call that the “future tense” of salvation again it is not at odds with the truth of scripture.

So in summary, something occured in the past, which enables us to do something “now” which will enable us to receive something in the “future”. Do we possess salvation in the past? No! But it was prepared from the foundations of the world. Do we possess salvation now? No! But we can repent now and received the fruits of our blessed hope. Will we possess salvation in the future? Those that shall endure to the end the same shall be SAVED.

Henry

6. glasseyedave - October 31, 2010

Henry,

What you have stated is what I believe scripture teaches. However, Calvinism does not teach this. To me what you have stated is at the heart of God calling things that are not as if they were, because He has done it from before the world. Christ was slain before time began, yet was manifest in 33 AD and is to be manifest in us, so the hope in us will be realized in us at His coming.

We can see the salvation of the gospel being provided for, yet we await it. As Paul says, who hopes for what he already has?

I wish the church would realize the hope we have and quit resting in something they think they have. We might have a more vibrant, living, relevant church then.

7. Henry - November 1, 2010

Glasseyedave,
I am glad that we are in agreement on this score and I too wish that the church would wake up to this reality. The problem in our churches today is that we have a system where an altar call is made and the “believer” is induced to respond due to the atmosphere that is created. The “believer” who then attends the altar is ask to repeat a “sinner’s prayer” after which the believer is then told that they are “saved”. In some cases you have the same believer responding to the altar call on more than one occassion so if that individual was “saved” why do they keep responding to the altar call? This system lends itself to “false conversions” where a person is lead to believe they are “saved” when they have not experienced the conversion experience.

8. Bible Study - November 3, 2010

I believe true faith is when someone can trust JEsus to save them without their own works of righteousness in the flesh. Works are not of faith, therfore if someone believes their own works of righteousness in the flesh must accompany salvation by faith, they have a lack of faith. If we trust in Jesus alone without the deeds of the law for salvation, we are in the faith. My defining of faith.

9. Henry - November 4, 2010

@ Bible Study,
True faith is indeed trusting in Jesus for salvation. Hence the reason we are justified by faith and not works. However the scripture also tells us that faith without works is DEAD (James 2). We must understand this basic biblical fact otherwise we do not understand anything about the faith we claim to have.

Works of righteousness cannot justify us before God (independent of Grace through faith). But if a man claims to have faith but no works then he doesn’t know what he is talking about! I didn’t say that, the scriptures did! The question is do you believe this to be true or do you define faith according to your own wisdom?

10. glasseyedave - November 6, 2010

Many people trusting Jesus for salvation will be disappointed on that day. Or do we follow the poll taken two years ago that shows 50 percent of Christians think there is more than one way to God.

Do Mormons trusting Jesus go to heaven too? How about Witnesses? Or all those religious persons who think Jesus is their savior?

What is the dividing line here, trusting in Jesus? If trusting in Jesus is not the defining thing in going to heaven, then maybe we need to rephrase it or rethink it.

Or do we believe everyone trusting in Jesus for salvation will go to heaven?


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