“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” — Hebrews 11:1-3
WHAT IS FAITH? Very simply stated, faith is taking God at his Word and acting upon God’s revelation. On one occasion, when the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing, the Lord told them to cast their nets on the right side of the ship. Taking him at his word, they cast the nets one more time and took in more fish than their boat could hold (Luke 5:1-7; John 21:3-7). When they needed money to pay taxes, the Lord sent Peter out to catch a fish with the promise that he would find the money needed in the mouth of the first fish he caught (Matt. 17:24-27). Believing Christ, Peter went fishing! When the Lord told Peter to come to him upon the water, Peter believed that he could; and he did (Matt. 14:28-29).
Faith simply believes what God reveals both about himself and about all things in his creation and acts accordingly. Faith submits to God’s revelation regarding himself, his Son, and his salvation, the creation of the world, the fall of man, and the providence of God, grace, the resurrection, and judgment. That is the nature of faith. It takes God at his Word.
THIS FAITH IS AN INDEX OF THE HEART. Faith is the proof of love. Love “believeth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). If I truly love God, I believe him. If I do not believe him, I do not love him.
FAITH IS THE PROOF OF GRACE. The evidence and proof of God’s grace is not good works, though good works are the fruit of grace and faith. The proof of grace is faith. I read my name in the book of God’s election by faith in Christ. I know that I have been redeemed because I trust Christ. Faith is what Christ purchased for his redeemed ones. I know that I am born again because I believe. And faith is the gift of God’s saving grace.
FAITH INSPIRES PRAYER. When God told David what he would assuredly do, because David believed him, he prayed for God to do what he promised (2 Sam. 7:27).
FAITH PLEASES GOD (Heb. 11:6). The Scriptures tell us that Enoch pleased God. How? He walked with God by faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him.” We do the works of God, the works God requires of men, when we trust the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29). The only thing God requires of us, and the only thing he will accept from us, is faith in Christ (1 John 3:23). And even this is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
FAITH GLORIFIES GOD. Faith says, “God is true.” All who believe God see the glory of God (John 11:40). No one else can. And all who behold the glory of God in the face of Christ glorify him.
FAITH IS NOT…
We must never make faith our savior, our righteousness before God, or our salvation. Christ alone is our Savior. Christ alone is our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption. Christ alone is our Salvation. In order to show you that in the matter of salvation Christ is all, let me tell you what faith is not.
Faith is not our satisfaction to God. There is no sense in which faith can be said to satisfy the righteousness and justice of God. Faith cannot be said to satisfy the law of God. Yet, if faith is to be considered our righteousness, if faith is our justification, it must satisfy God. Can imperfect faith satisfy perfect holiness? Can the finite faith of a mere man, even if it were perfect, satisfy the infinite justice and righteousness of the infinite, eternal God? You know better!
That which satisfies the justice of God must be capable of bearing our guilt; and that which bears our guilt must be not only perfect, but also infinite and divine. Faith cannot be a sin-bearer; but that is what we must have. Faith cannot expiate guilt, make propitiation, pay our debt, wash away our sins, or provide righteousness for us. Faith brings us to the cross, where there is infinite expiation, and propitiation, infinite satisfaction and righteousness, and infinite forgiveness and cleansing. Faith, in itself has no merit and no virtue. Faith looks to Christ alone for merit and virtue.
Faith is not Christ, or the cross of Christ. Faith is not the blood, or the sacrifice. It is not the altar, or the laver, or the mercy-seat, or the incense. Faith does not work redemption, righteousness and justification, but simply receives the work done two thousand years ago. Faith does not wash away sin, but leads us to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. Faith does not make an end of sin or bring in everlasting righteousness, but leads us to him who did make an end of sins and did bring in everlasting righteousness by the sacrifice of himself upon the cursed tree (Dan 9:24).
Faith is always the beggar’s outstretched hand, never the rich man’s gold. Faith is the cable, not the anchor. Christ is the Anchor of our souls. Faith is the knocker, not the door. Christ is the Door. Faith is the lattice that lets in the light, not the light. Christ is the Light.
Faith is altogether without worthiness in itself. It knits us to the infinite worthiness of him in whom the Father delights. Knitting us to Christ, we stand perfect before God in the perfection of Christ. Faith is not the foundation laid in Zion. Christ is that Foundation. Faith brings us to Christ, the only Foundation for our souls, and keeps us there “grounded and settled” (Col 1:23), that we may not be moved away from the hope of the gospel. Faith is not “the gospel,” the “glad tidings.” Faith simply receives the good news as God’s eternal word of grace and gives us joy. Faith is not the burnt-offering. That is Christ. Faith simply stands still, gazing upon the ascending flame, assured us that the wrath which should have consumed the sinner has fallen upon the sinner’s Substitute.
LEGALISM OR FAITH
Will we ever learn that faith is God’s work in us, not our work for God? All men by nature are legalists. We all naturally assume that there is something we can and must do to distinguish ourselves from others and recommend ourselves to God. One of the most subtle forms of legalism is found in the attempts of almost all “Christian” religions to make faith in Christ a legal work by which man contributes his part to the work of Christ for justification before God.
Fallen man, in his vain, self-justifying legalism, tries to make the cross of Christ of non-effect. Man tries hard to get away from the cross. If he does not openly deny the doctrine of the cross, he alters its meaning, takes away its offense, and tries to make it congenial to the tastes of his own lusts. The trend of the day is to transfer the merit and virtue of Christ crucified to some act performed, or something experienced, or something felt by the sinner. Thus the legalist, with a pretense of defending the cross, nullifies its simplicity, denies its saving efficacy, and makes it of non-effect. Either the Lord Jesus Christ saves us by himself, completely, or not at all! We either find complete justification in the cross, or no justification at all. We do not come to Christ by faith to justify ourselves, but to find complete justification in him.
True faith does not make salvation partly the work of the Savior and partly the work of the sinner. Faith is the acknowledgment that Christ alone is our Savior, and that he saves alone. Faith adds nothing to the work of Christ. Faith contributes nothing, but receives everything. It owns the fulness, and sufficiency, and suitableness of the crucified Son of God. It bids farewell forever to all works, ceases from labor, and enters into rest. Faith does not come to Calvary to do, but to embrace. Faith beholds the glorious spectacle of all things done, and rejoices! Faith has no doubt about the efficacy of Christ’s finished work. Faith hears the Savior cry, “It is finished,” and says, “Amen!”
Where faith begins, labor ends. Yes, believing sinners walk in and maintain good works. — God has ordained it. — The love of Christ compels it. — Grace experienced demands it. But the believer repents of his dead works of self-righteousness and ceases trying to obtain life and pardon, justification and peace from God by what he does or does not do. Faith is rests on Christ alone. Faith is the giving up all our weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon us. Faith the calm reception of the gospel’s good news so long rejected. — GRACE IS FREE! Sinners are justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Faith is the acknowledgment of the fact that there is no goodness, righteousness, or merit in us. Faith looks to Christ and Christ alone for goodness, righteousness, and merit before God. Faith finds in Christ that “Holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” We sometimes speak of faith as “saving faith.” That term is accurate only if we understand that faith saves, because it finds complete salvation in another, not because it contributes something for salvation. The whole work is his, not ours, from beginning to end. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything, but gives nothing. It consents to be a debtor forever to the free grace, boundless mercy, and everlasting love of God in Christ. Faith’s resting-place is Christ, the foundation laid in Zion. Faith rejoices in the Substitute, not in itself. Faith’s song is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us.” AMEN.