Eric B. Watkins: This article is the first of twelve that will serve as an overview of the great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. In this introductory article, I would like to address the question, “What is faith?” It might seem like this little word faith, so familiar to every Christian, would be easy to define. It occurs all over the Bible; various forms of it are used nearly one hundred times in the gospel of John alone. But what is faith? Often, Hebrews 11:1 is cited as a definition of faith. In the ESV, it reads, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Though this might sound like a definition of faith, New Testament scholar J. Gresham Machen is likely right when he says that Hebrews 11:1 gives us more a description of faith than a definition of faith.1 In the New Testament, faith is often referred to as the
Tom Schreiner: Peter tells us Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Jesus said some difficult things, too. Twice the Lord told his disciples that if they had faith like a mustard seed they could do jaw-dropping things. In Matthew, mustard seed faith is tied to expelling a demon, and Jesus says those who have such faith can move mountains (Matt. 17:20). In Luke, those with mustard seed faith will be able to forgive those who sin against them since such faith can pluck up mulberry trees and cast them into the sea (Luke 17:6). All kinds of questions enter our minds. What is faith like a mustard seed? Why doesn’t our faith move mountains? Are we failing to see great things from God because of our lack of faith? Faith that Encourages In the stories recounted in both Matthew and Luke, the disciples long for more faith. Then they could do great things for God. Then they could cast out demons and
John Piper: If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) The Spirit came to you the first time when you believed in the blood-bought promises of God. And the Spirit keeps on coming, and keeps on working, by this same means. So Paul asks, rhetorically, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5). Answer: “By hearing with faith.” Therefore, the Spirit came the first time, and the Spirit keeps on being supplied, through the channel of faith. What he accomplishes in us is through faith. If you are like me, you may have strong longings from time to time for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in your life. Perhaps you cry out to God for the outpouring of the Spirit in your life or in your family or church or
Sam Storms: It’s actually quite remarkable when you think about it: one of the most basic of Christian realities, faith, is widely misunderstood and misrepresented. So what is “faith”? Perhaps one way to get to the biblical answer is by identifying several mistaken notions about faith. So, let me be perfectly clear about what Christian faith is not: • Faith is not believing in your heart what your mind otherwise tells you isn’t true. • Faith is not trusting in something for which there are no facts. • Faith is not an existential blind leap into the dark. • Faith is not putting your trust in something or someone about whom you know nothing. • Faith is not the opposite of knowledge. • Faith is not the enemy of reason. • Faith is not the antithesis of scientific endeavor. • Faith is not believing in something that runs counter to obvious and incontrovertible evidence. • Faith is not superstition.
John Piper: Sometimes a whole world — a whole theology — hangs on a word. Consider the word “this” in Ephesians 2:8. Does it refer to “faith” or “grace” or both? Is faith a gift of God? For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from you; it is the gift of God. What does “this” refer to? “And this is not from you; it is the gift of God.” What is its antecedent? The question is not settled by the fact that in Greek “this” is singular and neuter, while “grace” and “faith” are both feminine. “This” is just as ambiguous in Greek as it is in English. Faith As a Gift But consider these four pointers to seeing faith as a gift in Ephesians 2:8. 1. When Paul says “this is not from you, it is the gift of God,” he seems to be referring to the whole process of grace-faith-salvation. That may be why “this” is neuter and not feminine. 2. But more important than that is
Sam Storms: God loved the Apostle Paul. Yet God sovereignly orchestrated Paul’s painful thorn in the flesh and then declined to remove it, notwithstanding Paul’s passionate prayer that he be healed (2 Cor. 12:8-9). We are not apostles. Yet, God loves us as his children no less than he loved Paul. We don’t know the nature of Paul’s thorn, but each of us has undoubtedly suffered in a similar way, and some considerably worse. We, like Paul, have prayed incessantly to be healed. Or perhaps knowing of a loved one’s “thorn,” we have prayed for him or her. And again, as with Paul, God declined to remove it. Why? It’s hard to imagine a more difficult, confusing, and controversial topic than why God chooses not to heal in response to the intercessory pleas of his people. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I think I’ve got a few. 1. FAITH Occasionally healing does not occur because of
J.D. Greear: If you were honest, you’d probably admit there are moments when you do not feel “Christian” at all. Moments in which you care more about what’s coming on TV that night than you do the spread of the kingdom of God in the world. Moments in which you have fallen to that same old temptation for the thousandth time. Moments when God feels distant, almost like a stranger. Seasons in which your emotions for Him are lukewarm, if not downright cold. When you don’t jump out of bed in the morning hungry for His Word. When your mind wanders all over the place during prayer—that is, when you can bring yourself to pray. Moments when you’re not even sure you believe all this stuff. Does that sound familiar to you? Times like that are familiar to me. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but certainly more often than I’d care to admit. What do
From Justin Taylor: 1. God is near me to help me. Philippians 4:5-6: “The Lord is at hand; [therefore] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 2. God cares for me. 1 Peter 5:7: “. . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 3. My Father in heaven knows all my needs and will supply all my needs. Matthew 6:31-33: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 4. God values me more than birds and grass, which he richly provides for and adorns; how much more will he provide for all my needs! Matthew 6:26-30: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither
Michael Kruger: Christians believe that God has revealed himself clearly in his Word. Thus, when it comes to key historical questions (Who was Jesus? What did he say? What did he do?) or key theological questions (Who is God? What is Heaven? How does one get there?), Christians believe they have a basis on which they can claim certainty: God’s revelation. Indeed, to claim we don’t know the truth about such matters would be to deny God, and to deny his Word. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that Christians are certain about everything; but there can be certainty about these basic Christian truths). Thus, for Christians, humility and uncertainty are not synonymous. One can be certain and humble at the same time. How? For this simple reason: Christians believe that they understand truth only because God has revealed it to them (1 Cor 1:26-30). In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own
John Bloom: Mary was “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42). She received the singular holy gift of being the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:43). God the Son dwelled inside of her body in human form. Then he lived in her home and was under her care until adulthood. This has tempted some to worship her. In fact, one woman publicly exalted Mary by crying out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed” (Luke 11:27)! But Jesus corrected her by replying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28)! Do you see what Jesus is doing? In this correction Jesus is protecting Mary’s true blessedness and protecting us from idolatry. Gabriel told Mary that she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Certainly bearing and raising the Christ Child was an incredible favor. But it was not the greatest favor God bestowed on Mary.
. Erik Raymond writes: Have you wondered why the Bible repeatedly emphasizes faith as the means by which we receive justification? John Piper begins to walk down this road and think it through in this helpful quote: “To get at the nature of that faith, it is helpful to ponder why faith alone justifies. Why not love, or some other virtuous disposition? Here’s the way J. Gresham Machen answers this question in his 1925 book What Is Faith? ’The true reason why faith is given such an exclusive place by the New Testament, so far as the attainment of salvation is concerned, over against love and over against everything else in man . . . is that faith means receiving something, not doing something or even being something. To say, therefore, that our faith saves us means that we do not save ourselves even in slightest measure, but that God saves us.’ In other words, we are justified by faith alone, and
“Faith in the Bible is not, as existentialists make out, a leap in the dark, but rather a step in the light, whereby (to extend the metaphor) one puts one’s whole weight on the firm ground of God’s unshakeable promises . . . The truth is that all faith, at every stage in our Christian pilgrimage, is essentially a resting upon God’s promise. It has the nature of assurance, because it relies on God’s assurances . . . The heart of the life of faith is in fact the recognition that all the promises which God is recorded as having made to His people in the past are still in principle (not always, of course, in detail, because of differing circumstances) extended to each individual Christian in the present . . . [T]he promises of God are the ground of faith; for where professed Christians are not living in the joy of the knowledge that all of God’s promises are
Jeremiah Burroughs: All good is in God, true, but how shall we come to partake of that good? There is such a distance between you and God that, were not Christ in the middle, you would never come together. But Christ has come between and joined you together so that all is yours because you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Think of God as the Fountain of all good, and Christ, as it were, the Cistern, and from Him are pipes converged to every believer. Faith sucks at the mouth of every pipe and draws from God, but it comes from God through Christ. The Father fills the Son with all good and so it comes from the Father, through the Son, by faith unto the soul of every believer. Excerpted from Christ Is All In All. (HT: Desiring God Blog)
“Faith is not a weapon by which we demand things of God or put him in subjection to us. Faith is an act of self-denial. Faith is a renunciation of one’s ability to do anything and a confession that God can do everything. Faith derives its power not from the spiritual energy of the person who believes but from the supernatural efficacy of the object of belief-God! It is not faith’s act but its object that accounts for the miraculous … The leper in Matthew 8 said to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (v. 2). The leper didn’t question Christ’s ability. He trusted that completely. He did have doubts about the willingness of Jesus to do it. But Jesus didn’t rebuke him for such doubts, as if it were a shortcoming in his faith that might jeopardize his healing. He healed him because of the leper’s confidence that he could do it.” (Storms, C.
How do those things belonging to Christ become our own? The answer is that it is accomplished through the Spirit and by faith. We are grafted into Christ by faith and we continue to receive the blessings of that union by faith. The Spirit brings to us everything that belongs to Christ through the instrument of faith. — Neil H. Williams, “The Theology of Sonship” (Jenkintown, Pa.: World Harvest Mission, 2002), 6 (HT: Of First Importance)
Helpful words on justification from Joel Beeke that are gospel-rich: Too many Christians live in constant despondency because they cannot distinguish between the rock on which they stand and the faith by which they stand upon the rock. Faith is not our rock; Christ is our rock. We do not get faith by having faith in our faith or by looking to faith, but by looking to Christ. Looking to Christ is faith. Nor is it perfect faith, great faith, fruitful faith, strong faith that justifies. If we start qualifying our faith, we destroy the gospel. Our faith may be weak, immature, timid, even indiscernible at times, but if it is real faith it is justifying faith (Matthew 6:30). Our degree of faith affects sanctification and assurance, but not justification. Faith’s value in justification does not lie in any degree in itself but in its uniting us to Christ and His glorious achievement. As George Downame illustrates: A small and
“I’ve heard it said that the most arrogant person on earth is the person who believes that salvation can be lost, but still believes himself to be saved. If you ask an Arminian “who deserves the blame if he loses his salvation?”, he will say that he himself does. If you ask him “who should get the credit if he perseveres to the end?”, he is therefore required to answer the same. To say otherwise is logically inconsistent. If God truly deserves ALL the glory for our perseverance, we will never ultimately or finally fall away because God CANNOT fail. To be an Arminian, you either have to believe that God does not have the ability to hold onto us (at least not in every instance), or else that we must contribute in some sense to our own salvation (since we might lose it if we don’t). As I see it, a denial of the doctrine of perseverance requires one
“Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Saviour is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God. Our security is this, that it matters not how poor or weak our faith maybe: if it touches the perfect One, all is well. God has asked and provided a perfect righteousness; He nowhere asks nor expects a perfect faith. So a feeble, very feeble faith, will connect us with the righteousness of the Son of God; the faith, perhaps, that can only cry, ‘Lord, I believe;
“The New Testament portrays the ‘Christ event’, which happened two thousand years ago, as the finished, perfect work of God for the salvation of all His people, both Jew and gentile. The gospel- the first coming of Christ- wins for believers all the riches of glory. The acceptance of the believer with God is perfect the moment he believes because Christ and His work are perfect. The status of the believer can never be improved upon- he possesses all the riches of Christ. There is nothing the believer will possess in glory that he does not now possess in Christ. All this he possesses by faith, but that it is by faith does not make it any less real.” Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament, p. 95. (HT: John Fonville)
(HT: Timmy Brister)