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What is True Faith?


What is True Faith?

Text:  Hebrews 11:1-3, 6, 13.

Catechism Reference: Lord’s Day 7,  Q/A  21.  

FAITH is a vital truth, for as our instructor remind us in Q20, “… only such as by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all his benefits… (are saved).  Thankfully we have the Scriptures to lay out the doctrine for us, and the Catechism to bring it all together in a concise way that we can understand it.  

We often hear faith defined simply like this, “Forsaking all, I trust Him.”  Now that is good, as far as it goes.  But it’s not good enough!  Where do we obtain the faith, with which we trust Him?  Do we have it within us all?  Do we have to work it up, by means of religious acts or sacraments, or stirring music?   And when we do ‘have faith’ – who or what do we have faith in?  It would not be hard to have a misplaced faith, a faith in something that is worthless and perishing.  Thankfully, we do have a definition of Faith in the NT, and it’s found in Hebrews 11:1-3

Faith cometh by hearing

and hearing by the word of God.

This is the beginning of the roll-call of the great heroes of faith from the OT, and there is a link connecting them all. That is the fact that each of them was characterised by their faith in God, no matter what their circumstances were – they completely trusted the Lord, so, naturally, the writer begins the chapter with a definition of faith.  Let’s think about it…. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence things not seen.  Mark carefully the words that Hebrews uses to help us to understand the nature of faith. There are two defining terms used, SUBSTANCE AND EVIDENCE:

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  • Faith is SUBSTANCE. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. The word substance is the Greek hypostasis and it is only used 5 times in NT. It can be translated as ‘assurance’ or ‘confirmation’ or ‘title-deed.’ A ‘substance’ is something YOU HAVE – a possession. Let’s just clarify in our own minds what Bible teaches on about the faith that we HAVE, and how we obtain it:
    • Faith is something that we do not possess ourselves. Let’s go to Ephesians 2. Paul argues that as sinners, we are dead in Christ, and we cannot bring ourselves to life.  Ephesians 2:1. We can do nothing about our lostness, for we are in the ways of this world and we are under its sway! Ephesians 2:3. But in order to be saved, to have Christ dwell within us, we need to have faith to believe, but because we are dead sinners, we don’t have any natural resource of faith on which to draw! The situation is hopeless, but God steps in!  Ephesians 2:4-5 Now Paul explains that the very faith we need, to believe in Christ, to accept God’s grace, to know His Son as Redeemer and to have our sins forgiven, is actually imparted to us by God himself!! Faith is GOD’S GIFT TO HIS PEOPLE!  Ephesians 2: 8-9. NOW, get this fact established in your mind. Faith is not human ability, or human works or human will or human decision. Faith is GOD’S GIFT, given to His people! Now,
    • When we have this God-given faith, it is a guarantee, a downpayment of heaven! it is the substance of things hoped for! Knowing that God has given us this faith will assure us that he will complete the work he has begun, and bring us home to Him.
  • Faith is EVIDENCE!  Here’s what our instructor tells us in Q/A21:-
    • Faith is a CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE. CATECHISM: True faith is a sure knowledge I see and grasp and cling to the truth that is revealed in God’s Word, and thus I know the Lord! Hebrews 11:6  
    • Faith is a SIMPLE TRUST in God! CATECHISM: I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. The Holy Spirit works in me, so that when I hear the GOSPEL – in the Word of God, I respond by turning to and trusting Christ. That faith may be very small, – Jesus described faith as being like a mustard seed, the tiniest of all seeds, yet even the smallest inking of faith in Christ is enough.  Powerful enough to move mountains – powerful enough to cling to God for salvation.   Ephesians 3:12   
    • Faith is THE BELIEVER’S EXPERIENCE OF GOD:   Now, what is the believer’s true experience of God?  It is:-
      • The Work of the Holy Spirit.  CATECHISM: This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel. Romans 1:16  
      • In forgiveness of sins, CATECHISM: God has granted forgiveness of sins, Matthew 9:2  
      • To everlasting righteousness and salvation, CATECHISM: everlasting righteousness, and salvation,  Salvation is not just for this life alone.  Our god-given faith in Christ will bring us home to glory, where will be be forever secure, and rescued from all our sin, will dwell in righteousness in the immediate presence of God.  Romans 5:1-2   
      • In the free receipt of God’s Gifts, CATECHISM:out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s meritsRomans 3:24-26  
      • Through HEARING the preaching of the Gospel. CATECHISM: This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.  Romans 10:17   The preaching and teaching of the word of God, faithful biblical exegesis, setting forth line by line the precepts of God’s Word is an indispensable part of Christian work and witness.  Even though there are those in the visible church who despise gospel sermons with a call to repentance and faith.  1 Corinthians 1:18-21   What may seem like foolishness to modern man, is how sinners hear the call of God upon their lives; applied by the Holy Spirit it imparts faith to believe.  

So, faith is both a substance and an evidence of the thing believed in.  It is believing and trusting in what actually exists, and which we can possess.  We may not be able to see it, but we can actually possess the very substance of it by believing.  Biblical faith is the knowledge, experience and possession of things hoped for!  Something we have, something we know.

So, what is this thing called faith?  Thanks be to God he sees us where we are, and what we could never do, he did for us, at the Cross!  He has sacrificed His Only Begotten Son for us, and when he awakens our hearts and minds and wills to seek him, He also give us the faith that we need, to understand the way of salvation and to trust Him. Ephesians 2:5-8  So faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen – a positive downpayment of heaven, dwelling within us, so that we are enabled by the work of God the Holy Spirit, to trust Christ.

© Bob McEvoy June 2021

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