Faith is defined by dictionary.com as 1. confidence or trust in a person or thing, 2. belief that is not based on proof, 3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: Faith is defined by the Bible as …the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1) . These definitions reveal that faith is an intangible condition of the mind (Heb 11:1, dictionary.com definition #2) and that it is generated as a response of belief (dictionary.com definitions #2 and #3) and trust (dictionary.com definition #1)in someone or something. As Christians, it is helpful to further define faith as the product of three things:
Knowledge + Belief + Trust = Faith.
The Reformers defined saving faith in three parts.
- notitia, or knowledge about the content of the gospel of Jesus as taught in the Scriptures.
- assensus, or the intellectual acceptance/belief of the truth about Jesus.
- fiducia, or personal reliance and trust in Jesus and His gospel.
Faith begins with having knowledge of God, both His Person and His works. The Bible tells us that faith comes from hearing by the Word of God (Roman 10:17). The Bible also tells that even those who do not read the Bible, receive knowledge of God.
Rom 1:19-20 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Breaking Down Verse 20
- For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world — “The invisible things of Him” is a reference to God’s invisible nature. God has plainly revealed Himself through His creation, since the first moment of creation.
- are clearly seen — The Greek verb katharao is translated clearly seen. It also conveys a meaning of beholding fully or distinctly apprehending. So we don’t merely “see” God’s invisible attributes, but we literally see them, fully see them, and are able to comprehend them.
- being understood by the things that are made — The “things that are made” is a reference to God’s material creation, including man.
- even his eternal power and Godhead — The Greek word for power is dunamis. It is the same word used for the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a divine power and it is eternal. It is defined as enduring, both forward and backward, and everlasting. The Greek word for Godhead is theiotes, which means divine and is used of our triune God three times (here in Romans 1:2, Acts 17:29, and Col 2:9] It refers to the fullness of our God in three persons.
- so that they are without excuse. The Greek word for excuse is anapologetos. It is the negative form of the Greek word apologia that means to give an answer or to defend. So “they are without answer or without defense.” From “apologia” we get the word apologetics [Read: What is Apologetics]
God is merciful and gracious in His Person and in His works. He is also just. He has revealed sufficient knowledge to all people for every individual to make a conscious decision to believe or not believe. God judges all people based on what they know (knowledge). There are no excuses for not knowing who God is. Given the clearly revealed knowledge, what is required of man? Easy answer: A decision. God, in His justness, has given man free will to make a choice. God does not force anyone to love or trust Him. Man must choose to make a decision to believe and to trust Jesus or to reject Him, based on the sufficient knowledge God has revealed.
Is Faith to Believe a Gift from God? Given to Some But Not to All?
Some will suggest that faith is a gift from God, only given to the elect. But it can’t be, and we’ll explain why. This verse in Ephesians is wrongly used to suggest that faith is a gift.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
To suggest that faith is a gift from God comes from an error in reading Paul’s words. It is grace that is the gift. “Through faith” is another of Paul’s parenthetical statements (we all know he is famous for those) and the verse should be understood as, For by grace are ye saved: it is the gift of God.
- The gift is offered to all: For God so loved the world…
- The gift is Jesus: that He gave his only begotten Son…
- The gift is offered to all: that whosoever believeth in Him…
- The gift is grace: should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is through faith (Eph 2:8), by choosing to believe the knowledge receive, and then by trusting in Jesus, that one is saved by the grace God offers. We define this faith as saving faith, and it is a free-will choice given to whosoever chooses to believe. Saving faith is knowing, believing, and trusting.
God Increases Our Faith
Back to our definition of faith, it is 1. a confidence or trust in a person or thing, 2. a belief that is not based on proof, 3. a belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion. All of these are a mindful, conscious, choices. God’s desire is that our faith increases and therefore He will work in our lives to help us grow our faith. This is often done by God revealing Himself in a greater way, through creation, His Word, prayer, and especially His presence in events and circumstances of life. This is also a gift of grace from God. We call it sanctifying grace.
Faith vs Grace
Whether it is saving grace (the grace of God that saves a sinner) or sanctifying grace (the grace of God that grows a redeemed sinner), grace is always of God. Faith, however, is of us. Jesus is the revelation of God, and His works are clearly seen. God is known, but man has a conscious and willful choice to accept (believe and trust) or reject (ignore) what he knows. So knowledge, by choice, progresses to belief, and then it’s a choice for belief to progress to trust, which is true faith demonstrated.
The Key Point
God has freely graced all people of all times and all places with the sufficient knowledge needed to make a choice to believe and trust. So, back to our original question.
- We’ve answered, what is faith by definition.
- We’ve examined how we get it (choosing to believe and trust the knowledge of God).
So, how do we grow it? Most significantly by increasing our knowledge of God, by reading the Bible, attending church, Bible studies, small groups, reading and listening to God’s Word being taught online, etc). For we know, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17). That’s the beginning, but we must also choose to believe and trust what God has revealed. Then in daily life — be it good days, difficult days, times of comfort, or times of despair:
- call to mind what you know
- choose to believe what you know
- trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom you know.
Faith is Made Up of Three Things, by Charles Spurgeon
Is Faith to Believe a Gift from God? Given to Some But Not All?
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