Faith is a vital element in Christian life. In fact, without faith there is no salvation or pleasing God. The following are eight crucial elements of biblical faith.
- Faith is the conviction of the unseen reality. Biblical Christian faith (belief) is neither abstract nor simply intellectual consent. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). He then goes on to explain by using an example, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11:3). Faith is like a mortar, binding and holding together what God reveals He has done, who He is, what He is like, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. Although our physical eyes cannot see the reality, faith has “eyes” that see what God reveals, and this becomes a conviction which leads action.
- Faith is not passive. God is not interested in people’s rumps sitting in pews, mindlessly and heartlessly singing songs and rushing about in religious activities. Genuine faith is vital, and it consists of pursuing and trusting God. The writer of Hebrews notes, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (11:6). Apart from genuine faith, it is impossible to please God, despite and religious or good works. Genuine faith is a response to God and His Word, and actively pursues Christ in trust and obedience.
- Faith trusts God and what He says. We are told that Abraham believed God and He “counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). God had told Abraham that he and his wife would have a biological son in their elderly age, and this son would be Abraham’s heir. The real test of his faith came later, after Isaac his son was born. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Some people get stuck on God’s command, but He wasn’t going to allow Abraham to kill his son. However, Hebrews reveals the depth of Abraham’s faith: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19). Genuine faith believes God, whatever He says. What He reveals in the Scriptures is who He is, what He is like, what He has done, and what He’s going to do—even when one does not fully comprehend (which shouldn’t surprise anyone, since we are finite and God is infinite. As God says to us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).
- Faith responds approximately to God’s instructions and warnings. Genuine faith responds appropriately to God’s character and ways, to His love and holiness, His promises of blessings and warnings of judgment, to His words of comfort and His words of rebuke. The writer of Hebrews writes of Noah, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Isaiah, when he got a glimpse of the glory of God, cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). And Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24).
- Faith is anchored on Jesus Christ. Faith is centered around, and anchored on, the person and work of Jesus Christ. One’s salvation and acceptance is because of Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 5:9). The Christian’s identity is rooted in Him (Eph. 1 and 2). One’s good, acceptable works are wrought through Him (John 15:4-5). And His teachings are what give a person a solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27). If one separates faith from Christ, he doesn’t have Christian faith. Jesus Christ is the very focal point of the Scriptures. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). “No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:23).
- Faith is accompanied by good works. A person is saved entirely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), and not a single work or effort contributes to this. However, genuine faith will grow in love and kindness, which will result in good works that are both acceptable to, and wrought by, God. An unloving Christian is a contradiction in terms. When a person is truly by the grace of God, this grace will manifest itself in his life in various ways, albeit not perfectly. James writes explicitly, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14-17). Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). And Jesus our Lord says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Good works, then, do not contribute to one’s salvation; however, the evidence of true salvation includes good works and acts of mercy.
- Faith looks and sees beyond the temporal. The writer of Hebrews observed that God called out men like Abraham, making wonderful promises. They did not witness all the promises come to fruition while on earth, for the promises were not for this temporal world only. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:8-10). Genuine faith holds loosely to this world and fixes its gaze on the kingdom of Heaven.
- Faith endures hardships. One of the great perversions in American Christendom is the popular teaching of faith being a means of attaining wealth, having a “good” life, and being free of problems. Such teachings are a gross departure from authentic Christianity. The prophets, apostles, and Jesus were persecuted. Many of them were not affluent. The writer of Hebrews notes that while many persons of faith witnessed mighty workings of God, some “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (11:35-38). Paul tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13). And Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.10).
Faith is far more than a religious word. It is an anchored and active lifestyle fixed and founded entirely on Jesus Christ. To get this wrong is to have the whole structure collapse (1 Cor. 15).