By Tim Frank
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Carthage
One of the most important words in our holy vocabulary is the word “faith.” A simple definition of faith is to trust and have confidence in something or someone. For example, I have faith that the chair I am sitting in will hold me. I have confidence that the air I breathe will contain the right mixture of oxygen. There are many things in life that we rely on through faith every day.
In our relationship to God, faith is central. In Hebrews 11, the writer devotes an extended passage on the importance of faith and begins with a description of faith. He says faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is more than wishful thinking or hoping that things work out. It is the firm assurance of the trustworthiness of God, based on His actions in the past and rooted in His promises for the future.
Faith is evidence in God that is not seen yet still is real and verifiable. According to police detective J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (2013), there are two kinds of evidence in an investigation, direct and indirect. Direct evidence is eyewitness testimony. Indirect evidence is everything else. For crime solving, indirect evidence would be things such as DNA, fingerprints and observed behaviors. Faith involves a person’s belief based on the indirect evidence of God. A man looks at the fingerprint of God in creation, reads the testimonies of God’s people through the centuries and observes the changed behaviors of those who have had an encounter with God. Based on this evidence, the believer stands unwavering in his faith.
Hebrews 11 then gives the testimonies of several people in the Bible who lived their lives and did amazing things through their faith in God and His promises. Each one is introduced by the phrase “by faith.” These serve as examples of the power of God to affect and impact lives through faith. We often refer to those in this eleventh chapter of Hebrews as heroes in the biblical hall of fame. Each one responded to God in a real and unique way through faith.
As vital as faith is in a person’s relationship to God, it is important to note that verse 6 emphasizes that without faith it is impossible to please God. The Bible bears record that faith is not just a good way to be right with God; no, faith is the only way to be right with God. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Apostle Paul states that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not by any works we might have done. Our salvation is solely through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God takes the accomplished salvation of His Son and presents it to each person as a gift. Faith is the person’s response as he simply accepts God’s gift as the complete payment for sin. To accept that gift is to have total faith, trust and confidence — to believe.
To lack faith in salvation by God’s grace alone would be to reject His gift, doubt His provision, insult His ability, and defame His greatest sacrifice. No person is made right with God through his personal works, religious activities, or sacrificial actions. These do not earn God’s approval, just the opposite. The writer of Hebrews states emphatically, that without faith in Jesus Christ alone, it is impossible to please God. He looks at this lack of faith, the greatest of all sins, as a personal affront to His grace.
Jesus makes this very clear in John 3:18 as He says that the person who fails to believe in Him through faith is “condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Faith is believing in God, believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and believing that God will do what He has promised.