The Doctrine Of Faith

BY J. MARK JORDAN

Faith has the distinction of being one of the simplest, and yet one of the most profound, subjects in the Bible. It is also one of the most essential doctrines of Scripture. “But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Many questions surround this subject: What is faith? How does it work? Can I have it? Can everybody have it? How do I obtain and exercise it? Is it really necessary? Is
faith in Christ all that is necessary for salvation? Does faith alone save a person from sin?

Scripture answers some of these questions directly. Others require a more extensive knowledge of God’s Word to determine the truth. Regardless of the level of difficulty, the Bible always holds the key. “Thy word is a lamp unto my fees, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Let us turn the Bible searchlight on faith.

What Is Faith?

The first questions, “What is faith?,” is a good place to start. Nowhere is the answer more plainly given than in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. ”

Faith is simply believing something so strongly that in the mind of the believer it is absolute reality. Faith needs no documentation, no pictures, no expert testimonials, no hard evidence, no binding
guarantees. It looks at future events with the same unquestioning confidence as reading history. In a sense, it is history in reverse! The Book of Hebrews says it is “substance,” even though it cannot be
touched. It is “the evidence,” even though eyes have never seen it.

The validity of a person’s faith is tested by commitment. For example, suppose someone makes an appointment over the telephone today to be at a place three hundred miles away tomorrow. He makes that commitment on the basis that his car or some other means of transportation will allow him to make the trip. He promises to be there before he even makes the first mile toward his destination! That is faith in action.

Looking at this from a spiritual standpoint, faith always supersedes the natural senses. Whenever a goal can be easily attained on the basis of existing facts, facts that satisfy carnal human reasoning, there is no need for faith. But when the object of faith is beyond the physical and natural reach, faith takes over and says, “We can make it!”

Faith feeds on the unknown. Faith operates on unseen premises as though they were already proven facts. These truths spring into life as we progress through Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah and many others achieved humanly impossible goals because they simply believed God’s promises! They did not view the future with cowering fear, but with confident faith that God would perform magnificent things through them and for them.

What Faith Is Not

Let us make the picture a little clearer by considering faith from a negative angle. First, faith is not the same as hope. The foundation for hope is always time, chance, and circumstances. Hope wistfully murmurs “if only!” It often sees obstacles instead of opportunities. Hope often speaks like this:

“I wish I could get deliverance.”

“Oh, if only I could get the Holy Ghost.”

“Maybe one of these days I’ll receive what I need from God.”

That kind of language never appropriates God’s blessings. Faith uses a different vocabulary:

“Jesus will deliver me!”

“God promised it, so I will receive the Holy Ghost!”

Hope itself is not a bad thing. When we proclaim that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world we do not mean He might have the answers that the world needs. Rather, we mean that He is the answer, the hope that the world should put its faith in. Faith is actually the means of realizing that hope. It is the evidence that the hope is real.

Another concept often confused with faith is mental assent. This is a belief that begins and ends in the mind alone. The mind says, “Yes, this is a rational idea. I accept it as true.” Yet, there is no action, no commitment, no surrender to obedience. Even demons have mental assent: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). The devils give mental assent to God’s existence and His sovereignty, but still rebel against Him. They do not have real faith.
Faith Versus Law

Faith is the way of salvation throughout the Scriptures, and God has always required obedience to His plan as the expression of faith. In the Old Testament God gave His people the law of Moses to live by.
There were many ceremonial rituals to be kept such as sacrifices, circumcision, and feast days. The law governed dietary, social and working customs. To disregard any of these laws was to be guilty of
them all. Actually, the sheer number and variety of these laws made rigid adherence to every one of them impossible for sinful humanity.

In fact, that is exactly what God was demonstrating to the world-that humans, even with a set of perfect laws, could not earn salvation–that they still needed forgiveness from a gracious God. In other words, salvation is a gift of God accepted by faith. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28).

In New Testament times, many Jews thought that salvation rested in works of the law. This attitude brought glory and boasting to the flesh, causing them to say that through their own personal merits and
abilities they were saved. All the glory for salvation, however, belongs to God, and He is displeased when His rightful glory is stolen.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the old covenant, thereby abolishing the ceremonial law of the Old Testament, which pointed to Him. He instituted the new covenant, which we enter by believing and obeying
His gospel.

The legalistic error arose in the New Testament church at Galatia. Certain men had come in to the church, teaching it was a necessity to adhere to the law of Moses to be saved. The Apostle Paul
described their motives in Galatians 6:1214: “As many as desire to make a fair skew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised [to keep the law]. . for neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. ” Our salvation is a product of divine grace, not
human works. Christ alone purchased it by His death on the cross. The Bible teaches us that faith, not works, is the means of receiving God’s gracious gift of salvation. Faith Is Essential

It is important to understand the essentiality of faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please trim: for he that cometh to God must believe. . . ” (Hebrews 11:6). There is no other way for the victory of Calvary to be personally applied to anyone except by faith. “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4). Faith is absolutely necessary for salvation. It communicates the message to God that a person accepts Jesus Christ and His atoning work as sufficient, and it indicates a willingness to surrender completely to God’s ways. God’s righteousness demands that all those who want to enjoy fellowship with Him must be made righteous also, and faith is the only means of meeting this demand. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Throughout the New Testament we are admonished to be “in Christ.” Faith is the sole means by which this is possible. Paul’s desire was to “be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). God must perceive faith on a person’s part before He saves. “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).

Attaining Faith
The question often arises, “How can I have faith?” Sometimes faith seems to be so mysterious to a person that he has trouble grasping it. Actually, it is the utter simplicity of faith that makes it appear unreal. Would God affirm His love for mankind so often, go to the depths of suffering and death to save humanity, and then attach a requirement to salvation that was practically impossible to meet? Of course not! Faith has nothing to do with ability, but rather with the will.

Jesus said simply, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). He gave no instructions on how to obtain faith because He did not need to. Everyone can have faith. The only question is whether or not a person
will exercise his faith in the proper direction. God created no one without the ability to believe, or else He would be a respecter of persons and would contradict His purpose of extending salvation to all
men. God wills for “all men to be saved” (I Timothy 2:4). Obviously, then, “all men” are capable of receiving salvation. Revelation 22:17 proclaims that “whosoever will” may come. If a person decides he wants Christ, he can put faith in motion to receive Him.

Is Faith Salvation?

Although faith is necessary to salvation, it is not salvation by itself. Rather, it is the means by which a person receives salvation. The Epistle of James contains some very enlightening remarks about the
results of true faith. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: skew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by
my works” (James 2:17-18). This does not mean we are saved by works, but simply that if a man has true faith, the evidences of his faith will be clearly seen. James speaks of Abraham, the man who had such
great faith in God that he is called “the father of the faithful. ” But how do we know he had faith? Only by the works which his faith inspired him to do.

In the same way, we see Rahab’s faith through her works of receiving the Israelite spies. Faith is a tool to be used to receive salvation. Faith is a vehicle that carries us to the point of obedience to God’s commands. If obedience is not forthcoming, it is clear that genuine faith is missing. A person has no right to say he has faith in Christ unless he can also say that he obeys the Word of God.

Romans 16:25-26 says, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since
the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. ” Faith and obedience are joined. To separate them from each other is to do violence to both of them. James 2:26 concludes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. ” We must not distort the role of faith. It is the way to receive spiritual life, not life in and of itself.

The Old Testament account of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt is a wonderful illustration of this truth. The Egyptian Pharaoh held the Israelites in slavery for many years. God sent nine vicious plagues to
force Pharoah to let Israel go, but each time he refused. Finally, God sent word to the Israelites that a death angel was going to come into Egypt, and all the firstborn of man and beast alike would be slain. In
order to escape this destruction, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb, one for each family, and apply the blood to the doorposts and lintels of their houses. When the angel came, the applied blood would
keep him away from the firstborn of the Israelites. The Lord said, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

The Israelites had more than timid hope. They had more than mental assent. They had faith. If they had refused to apply the blood of the lamb to their houses,

Romans 16:25-26 says, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since
the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. ” Faith and obedience are joined. To separate them from each other is to do violence to both of them. James 2:26 concludes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. ” We must not distort the role of faith. It is the way to receive spiritual life, not life in and of itself.

The Old Testament account of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt is a wonderful illustration of this truth. The Egyptian Pharaoh held the Israelites in slavery for many years. God sent nine vicious plagues to force Pharaoh to let Israel go, but each time he refused. Finally, God sent word to the Israelites that a death angel was going to come into Egypt, and all the firstborn of man and beast alike would be slain. In
order to escape this destruction, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb, one for each family, and apply the blood to the doorposts and lintels of their houses. When the angel came, the applied blood would
keep him away from the firstborn of the Israelites. The Lord said, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

The Israelites had more than timid hope. They had more than mental assent. They had faith. If they had refused to apply the blood of the lamb to their houses, however, the destroyer would have still visited their families. Besides this sacrifice, there were other commands of God for them to honor. Their faith in God always led to obedience. Whenever their faith quit working, they became disobedient and rebellious. When the death angel invaded the land of Egypt that night, not one Israelite died, because the whole nation was under the protection of the applied blood. Before morning, they were on their way
out of bondage, headed for freedom. They proved their faith by their willingness to obey the commands of God, even though they did not fully understand them at the time.

From this Old Testament story, we can readily see that faith must lead us to the Word of God. Faith leads us to repentance. It leads us to the waters of baptism. It leads us to the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
It leads us to a pleasing life in the sight of Christ. In this way, faith brings salvation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. Mark Jordan, raised in Jackson, Michigan attended Texas Bible College. Later he received a B.S. in Human Relations from the University of Toledo. He and his wife Sandy evangelized several years
before he became Associate Pastor to First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. In 1978 he founded Apostolic Christian Academy. He served the Ohio District as Youth President, UPCI, from 1977 to 1983. Since 1983 he has pastored First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. He has written numerous articles for Pentecostal publications. He now resides with his wife Sandy and three children in suburban Toledo.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM MEASURES OF OUR FAITH, AND PUBLISHED
BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1987, PAGES 19-27. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

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