The First Essential: Faith

B.E. Echols

“He that corneth to God must believe” (Hebrews 11:6). The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot become effective in one’s life until he believes it. “For . . . the gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans 1:16). Jesus was careful to put this emphasis upon the gospel message when He delivered the great commission to His apostles, as recorded in Mark 16:15, 16: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Faith Our Purchasing Medium

Faith is “the medium of purchase” in God’s kingdom, the same as currency is in this present world. Without faith we are spiritual paupers and unable to obtain the things we need from God. On the other hand, we can obtain anything God has for us if we can “only believe.” So we read: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Again our Lord said: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). It is said that every person possesses a certain amount of faith, though it is often channeled in the wrong direction. Some folk can believe in anything except God, it seems some church folk included (Luke 24:13-15, 25). No wonder Jesus said: “Have faith in God.” The very moment a person can put his faith in God for his needs, he can have them if he will humbly ask and seek earnestly enough for them (Matthew 7:7-8 and 5:6).

Some Hope For The Unbelieving

If one should discover that he does not have any faith in God and His promises, there is still hope; under certain conditions. If a person in this position can once realize that according to God’s holy nature He cannot lie (Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18), he should then be able to believe in the Lord. One is only out of touch with God, in the matter of asking and receiving, so long as he questions God’s veracity; God’s truthfulness. May God help all of us to come to the place that we can believe in Him with all our hearts; for one’s faith can only benefit him when he can place all his confidence in the Lord (Acts 8:36-37).

Some Good Definitions of Faith

Faith is defined in our dictionaries as belief, mental assent, or a conviction that a thing unproved by evidence is true. Then, to believe is defined as accepting something as being true or to trust in the word of another. So faith is not so mysterious after all. It is just accepting what God has said in His Word as being true, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If one can come to the place to where he can accept God’s Word at “face value” to mean what it says, he will then be in a position to believe and appropriate the promises of God.

Faith is also said to be “the eye of the soul” and “the master over every material and spiritual circumstance.” It may also be considered as “the hand of the soul” that reaches forth to God and never returns empty. We might also call faith the “sixth sense” and “the medium of exchange” between heaven and earth. It is the “main drive” of triumph and for victory in the Lord (I John 5:4), and without it we will always be failures in the spiritual realm (Hebrews 11:6 and James 1:5-7). Faith properly exercised will always produce results; yea, faith knows something must happen; thank God! Therefore, faith is that prerequisite quality which is necessary before any desired results can be obtained or any spiritual progress made. Yes, faith is that which gives one the ability to please God (Hebrews 11:5-6) and puts him in a position I,o receive answers to all his petitions of the Lord (I John 3:21-22). Such scriptural references as just referred to makes us to know that faith is a very progressive thing, an active and impelling force; Oh, hallelujah!

Faith will help one to make choices and decisions in the light of eternity. That is why it is so important for an unsaved person to attend church and have his faith inspired by the preaching of God’s Word, as pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation of his soul.
Last but not least, the Bible defines faith as being “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Weymouth translates this same verse as follows: “Now faith is a confident assurance of that for which we hope, a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see.” Then, Goodspeed renders it this way: “Faith means the assurance of what we hope for; it is our conviction about things that we cannot see.” So faith cannot and must not be based on things that are visible or upon surrounding objects and circumstances. It works just the reverse or opposite to what the natural man would expect or choose. Therefore if we believe God, we will act upon the assurances of His Word and the faith imparted to our souls, regardless of circumstances, hindrances, doubts, and fears of others, or anything else that might confront us.

Scriptural Methods For Obtaining Faith

The Lord is the main source and author of all the faith that operates His kingdom (Hebrews 12:2) and He has provided three methods by which man may obtain faith from Him. First, that “faith (which) cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17); second, “fruit-faith” which is produced by the indwelling Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22 and Acts 11:22-24); and third, there is that “gift of faith” (I Corinthians 12:9). In order to obtain faith from the second and third methods, one must first obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, as set forth in Acts 2:38, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

The first and only method for obtaining faith from the Lord by the unsaved is by hearing the Word of God read, preached, or taught. However, to obtain anything from the Lord by this kind of faith one must act the very moment he receives such faith or it will vanish from him and he will fall back into doubting and disbelieving God and His Word; before he realizes what is taking place. “Faith that comes by hearing” someone preach, teach, sing gospel songs, or testify as to how God saved or healed them has certainly proved to be “momentary faith.”

Procrastination is a great enemy of faith, especially so of that faith which comes by hearing. Therefore, those who procrastinate while their hearts are believing and convicted lose their faith. One should always remember that faith which comes by hearing must be put into action immediately or it will take wings and fly away; sometimes, never to return again (Genesis 6:3).
This faith which comes by hearing is a one-way faith and can only be used for one’s personal needs; but thank God it does take care of them when put into action (Acts 14:8-10 and Acts 8:5-7). Again we would say, this is why it is so necessary for unsaved folk to attend some church or meeting where the full gospel is preached in apostolic power and fashion according to Acts 2:37-38, 41; John 3:1-7 and Acts 19:1-7; so they can hear the truth preached and be inspired with faith and conviction to obey God and be saved. Another advantage of being at church is they will have others to believe and pray with them.

The Hopeless Condition of Many Unsaved Folk

Many people are dead and in eternity without a ray of hope for the future (John 5:28-29 and Galatians 6:7-8) because they never took time to attend church as they should have; where the full gospel was preached. As the apostle Paul wrote: “How then shall they call on him (the Lord) in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”

The opportunity for you to be saved is only extended to you in this life. The next thing in line for you or anyone else that is unsaved, after death, is “the judgment.” (See Hebrews 9:27; 10:30-31; Revelation 20:12-15 with Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and II Corinthians 5:10-11.) After reading these references, do you not feel like you should go to church and give God a chance to convict you of your sins and save you before it is eternally too late? Please do not procrastinate until you have crossed the deadline!

A Dangerous Situation or Attitude of Believing

Those who have placed their confidence in some preacher or group of church folk who do not know God’s method of saving people are in a dangerous situation if they do not, in some way recover themselves. Actually, they are in twice as much danger of being lost as those who have never affiliated with any church; according to our Lord’s own statements (Matthew 15:13-14; and 23:15). The Scriptures admonish us to make our calling and election sure in order that we shall have an abundant entrance into that everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (See II Peter 1:10-13 and verses 3-9.) In order to do this you had better search the Scriptures as the folk at Berea did when Paul and Silas preached to them, to see “whether those things (which they preached and taught) were so” (Acts 17:10-12).

How may one who has been filled with doubts and fear, by being misinformed concerning the way of truth and corrupted by false doctrines as taught by many professed Christians and would-be ministers of the gospel, recover themselves and obtain faith from the Lord to be saved? The answer is the same, you must go where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached; according to the Scriptures, which is to be further explained in this chapter and book.

Seeing Seldom Produces Faith

Though hearing the gospel preached does often produce faith or prompts one to believe, it is seldom the case where seeing with the natural eye ever produces any faith in the heart of an unbeliever. For seeing with the natural eye is not a biblical source or channel for obtaining faith. If it were, then God would have no control over one’s believing, which actually He does have (Hebrews 12:2 and I Corinthians 12:4-6, 9). Faith is only faith when it does not see anything visible to the natural eye to prompt action or hope (Hebrews 11:1). Faith never looks at symptoms or conditions favorable or unfavorable. Faith depends on nothing that the natural senses discern or the eye beholds. We have reminded you of all these things to help you to realize and know that if you obtain faith for your salvation or anything else, it must come from the Lord through one of the three channels or methods we have already informed you about, as referred to in Romans 10:17; Galatians 5:22-23 and I Corinthians 12:9.

More Advice For The Unsaved And His Instructors

God can and will help anyone to get out of his unbelief (I Timothy 1:13-14, 16) if he will do something about it. God does not help those who will not help themselves. One must put forth what effort he can to hear the gospel preached, read the Bible and good gospel literature, so that he can receive faith to be saved, healed, or for anything else he needs. If someone is afflicted and unable to go to church, he should begin to read God’s Word, especially the references that are adapted to his need.

It is also possible and necessary for one to repent of his unbelief, which is definitely classified in the Scriptures as being sin; see Revelation 21:8 and Romans 14:23; and humbly ask God to rid him of all his doubts and fears, so that he can receive faith from Him for his every need. The man mentioned in Mark 9:21-24 was helped when he confessed his inability to believe. The same attitude and actions would help any of us if we were hindered by such things (Proverbs 28:13 and I John 1:9), for God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
As an instructor, if you know of someone who is unable to read, whose faith needs to be inspired so that he may obtain salvation, healing, personal help for financial needs, or along domestic lines, read to him such passages of Scripture that pertain to his particular case or need, thus, inspiring his faith and yours.

Remember, “He that is wise winneth souls” (Revised Version of Proverbs 11:30). Also read I Peter 3:15; II Timothy 2:15; Joshua 1:7-8; Proverbs 24:26-27; Ecclesiastes 11:1 and Proverbs 3:5-6 with Jeremiah 10:23 and take heed to this scriptural advice and you should become a “proliferous soulwinner”, if you will pray enough in the Holy Ghost (Jude 20) to stay spiritual (I Corinthians 2:14), so that God can contact your soul and lead you (Romans 8:5-8, 12, 14).

A Fault of Some Folk Who Believe

Believing alone does not materialize our desires for our needs, until we approach God in prayer for them. There is an unalterable law of receiving things from the Lord: By believing (Hebrews 11:6) and asking (Matthew 7:7-8). Those who fail in either of these points never obtain anything from Him (James 1:5-7 and 4:2). James informed the Christians of his day, “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” No one could state facts plainer than this. So we had better go God’s way and ask for the things we need as well as trying to believe for them.

The lack of faith is what keeps most people from approaching God in prayer for anything (Romans 10:14; first clause) but it is also true that some folk who possess a measure of faith do not obtain the things they desire and need because they never pray and ask for them. This could be your case and it seemed to have been the case with Abraham one time, while he was praying for Sodom and Gommorah to be spared. The Lord had successively granted six petitions he had made while pleading for mercy for those wicked cities. There is reason to believe that the Lord would have spared those cities had Abraham persevered long enough in prayer and would have asked God to spare them even if there was not a single righteous person to be found. It is therefore evident that a man of faith may fail to obtain what he desires of the Lord because he fails to pray and press his claims or demands sufficiently (James 4:2 with Luke 11:5-10). May the good Lord help us not to make this mistake of failing to ask and seek Him earnestly enough to obtain the things He has promised us in His Word (John 14:13-14 with Jeremiah 29:13).

Faith Always A Necessity

There is no question as to the absolute necessity of Faith when it comes to one seeking salvation or anything else. In the verse following the text for this book, the apostles Paul and Silas answered this question by telling the jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” It takes faith every step of the way to God for salvation.

First, faith is required for the approach to God or to make a start to seek Him in an acceptable manner (Hebrews 11:6); second, there must be faith to repent (Romans 10:8-9); third, there must be faith to be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins previously committed (Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 8:35-38); and fourth, there must be faith that the Lord will fulfill His promise of Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-5, 8-9; Acts 5:32 with Acts 2:1-4, 37-41 and 19:1-7, as one obeys Him.

It is an evident fact that without faith to make any or all of these essential steps for the salvation of your soul “it is impossible to please Him” and receive what He has promised. Then, if we fail to please the Lord by not believing His promises to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and thereby save us (Titus 3:4-6 with John 3:1-5 and 10:1, 7-9), we will be rejected of Him; “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). So it is up to us to believe in God and His Word or be lost (Revelation 21:8).

“Where Is Your Faith?”

Jesus asked His disciples this question the night the storm had caught them at sea. They had given up in despair and were crying out, perhaps in a frantic tone of voice, “Master, Master, we perish!” They had no faith to pray themselves, and apparently they did not believe that Jesus could help the situation, so they resigned themselves to a death by drowning. It is a good thing that Jesus was in the boat with them that night, or they would have perished. But, thank God! One man with faith can avoid disaster. Such was the case when David fought the giant Goliath, while the Israelite army was filled with fears and unbelief. Paul believed for the safety of two hundred and seventy-six souls who had been in that terrible storm with him, a storm that had lasted for fourteen days and nights (Acts 27:20-44). That was a great moment for all those who were aboard the ship when Paul said: “Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God.” Oh, hallelujah, it is certainly wonderful what God will do when we believe in Him for our immediate needs and the safety of those with us!

So, again “Where is your faith?” or where is the man or woman who can believe God? God is always ready to save, heal, deliver, and bless people who will believe and obey His promises. (See Acts 2:37-41; 5:32; Mark 16:15-16 and James 5:13-16.) There is so much unbelief in the world today because many people are filled with fear. Some seem to have more faith in their fears and doubts and in what some man thinks or says than they do in the Word of God. People in that kind of a condition cannot believe God for anything. They must in some way get deliverance from such, and they can, if they will seek the Lord until the “love of God is shed abroad in (their) hearts by the Holy Ghost” for “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

The fourth chapter of this book will tell you more about the gift of the Holy Ghost that will cast out fear, and the second and third chapters will inform you how to obey God’s Word and receive it; just like they did on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), at the house of Cornelius when the Gentiles first received the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:44-46), and at Ephesus when John the Baptist’s disciples received this wonderful gift from God, as the apostle Paul baptized them in the name of “the Lord Jesus” and “laid his hands upon them” (Acts 19:1-7).

A Very Powerful Weapon

Faith, as well as God’s Word, is a very powerful weapon with which one can defeat the devil and rout the enemy of his soul (I John 4:4 with Mark 9:23). It is part of that fighting equipment with which the apostle Paul exhorted every soldier of the cross, or “seeker after God and salvation,” to arm himself (Ephesians 6:10-18). Faith enables a person to believe in God and rely upon His promises at all times. It also enables one to fully trust in God during times of severe persecutions, afflictions, and under adverse circumstances, which is the best (Psalm 118:8) and safest thing (Proverbs 29:25) a child of God, or anyone else, could ever do. Compare Hebrews 13:5-6, 8 with Malachi 3:6, 16-17.

Definitely, the greatest power known to man is con-I rolled, operated, and touched off by faith. (See Mark 9:23; 11:22-24 and John 14:13-14.) It was “by faith ( that) the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). It could not have been anything else but the power of God, which faith controls and operates, that stopped the earth from rotating while the sun, moon, and other planets stood still in the heavens for the space of a whole day while Joshua and his army defeated the armies of five kings and “avenged themselves upon their enemies.” (See Joshua 10:5, 10-14.) All through the ages since man’s creation, faith has been man’s most effective weapon against sin, sickness, fear, doubt, and devils. Thank God, it will always be the same (Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8).

My unsaved friend, believe God for the salvation of your soul or anything else you need. Paul said, “My God shall supply all your need” (not wants). How? “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” as you believe and ask for them. Then, the apostle Peter added: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:7) and “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, . . . but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). Of course, all these promises are for those who will believe, repent, forsake their sins, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ; for “if ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19).
The Lord will save you just as certainly as you believe and obey His gospel (Acts 5:32 and Romans 1:16); for “It is the power of God unto salvation (unto deliverance) to everyone that believeth”–when obeyed. Believe and keep on believing regardless of every obstacle that arises, and all the imps in or out of hell cannot keep God from saving you. (See Hebrews 7:22, 24-25 and I Timothy 1:15.) Oh, praise the Lord! for “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4); which is always God-given (Hebrews 12:2).

Once a person has come to the place he can believe the Lord will save him, if he obeys the demands of the gospel, the other steps are easy for him to make (Matthew 11:28-30). When one has reached the place he believes God, ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.” So salvation is yours for the believing, if you obey the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:32). You will then receive power from the Lord (Acts 1:8) to overcome the flesh, the world, and the devil; for “greater is he that (will be) in you, than he (the devil) that is in the world” (I John 4:4). “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the utter-most that come unto God by him (Jesus Christ), seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them”, which includes you and me (Hebrews 7:25); ‘And whosoever will” (Revelation 22:17). Paul acknowledged that he was the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15) and Jesus saved him. And that is not all; Jesus “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless (perfect) before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).

A Fatal Mistake Can Yet Be Made

Watch and do not make the mistake of ever believing that faith alone (without anything else) can save anyone. Some folk will likely try to make you believe such, but the Scriptures do not teach or substantiate such a doctrine or vain philosophy. James admonished us along this line, as follows: “But wilt thou know, 0 vain man, that faith without works is dead?” So “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified (cleansed and made acceptable in God’s sight), and not by faith only” (James 2:20, 24). The apostle Paul’s teaching, in this respect, harmonizes with James’; “Much more then (watch and see, he is going to tell you that it takes more than faith to save you), being now justified by His blood” (which is received as one believes, repents, and is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin, see Luke 24:45-48; Acts 2:38 and 10:43 with I John 5:8.); the apostle Paul wrote that “we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).

In addition to this, Paul, speaking to the Greek philosophers and leaders in Athens said that the worship of idols revealed their ignorance of God, the Creator of the world and all that is in the world, who does not dwell in temples made with hands but desires that we should “seek the Lord, . . . feel after him, and find him.” In times past, God winked at this ignorance of worshiping idols, but now He commands “all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:24-30).

Due to its scriptural order, repentance will be dealt with in the next chapter of this book.
The works of Ephesians 2:9 do not refer to one’s repenting or being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; for these things are a part of the gospel of Christ and cannot be ignored and omitted if one is to be saved. (See Luke 13:5; II Peter 3:9; Mark 16:15-16 and John 3:3-5.) Those works Paul referred to in the second chapter of Ephesians are those of self-righteousness which Isaiah branded as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Paul counted all his good works of self-righteousness as dung, “that (he might) win Christ” and be saved. (See Philippians 3:7-9.) The same thing is true of the “works of righteousness” Paul referred to in Titus 3:5. Paul wanted everybody to know that no one would be saved “by (the) works of righteousness which (he or anyone else had) done; but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration” (which includes faith, repentance, water baptism, or everything up to) the “renewing (or receiving) of the Holy Ghost.”
These gospel perverts might also try to pervert you with Acts 16:31 as being a complete answer to the text for this book (Acts 16:30), by telling you that there is nothing more required of you to be saved than to believe. However, by reading the context of Acts 16:30 (verses 25-34) with Acts 8:5-8, 12-17, you will see that the converts in both instances did more than just believe; they put their faith into action that produced obedience. Definitely, even though they were believing, they went further in their efforts to be saved and were baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul and Silas did not tell the Macedonians they were saved because they believed on Christ! Here are their exact words: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be (future tense, some future time, after they had believed and obeyed the gospel, they would be) saved.”

If you allow someone to deceive you into believing that all you will ever have to do to be saved is just to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” you will never be saved; for “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that (1) know not God, and that (2) obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:7-8). Please read the ninth and tenth verses of this same chapter and get busy doing what God’s Word demands or requires of you to be saved, which is found in “the gospel nutshell” of Acts 2:38.

Please take into consideration that faith never produces anything until it is put into action. The waters of the Jordan River never began to part and recede until the priests waded out into the water (Joshua 3:14-17); neither did the walls of Jericho fall down until Joshua and the host of Israel had marched around it thirteen times, as the Lord had commanded them (Joshua 6:1-5, 12-16, 20). The same was true in the case of the man who was born blind that Jesus healed. He never “came seeing” until he had gone and washed the clay from his eyes “in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:6-11).

Then, in order to put faith into action one must have some courage. It took some courage as well as faith for Peter to step out of that boat into the water to go to Jesus, while the winds and waves were boisterous. Peter afterwards wrote to the Christians of his day, exhorting them to “add to your faith virtue” (II Peter 1:5). Virtue as here used comes from the Greek word dunamis, meaning power and thus producing courage. Actually, the word virtue in the English language means “strength or inherent power” as well as “moral excellence.” Then, the word courage is defined as being “that quality of spirit (or imparted grace) which faces danger without flinching” or drawing back. So we need courage as well as faith in order to properly face the issues of life. (See Joshua 1:6-7 and Psalm 31:24.) After the Lord had assured Joshua that “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:1-5) the words of promise inspired Joshua’s faith; God then proceeded to inform Joshua of his need of courage to put his faith into action and to go in to possess the land (verses 6-11).

Finally, I pray and hope that when you have read thus far in this book that you will be ready to believe the gospel message as preached by the apostles in its entirety; also, that you will have courage to put your faith into action so that you can advance further, repent of your sins, be scripturally baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost which is promised to all those who will do these three things (Acts 2:38). These faith-obedience steps will be dealt with in the next three chapters of this book. May God help you to believe and obey His gospel as preached by the apostles, which is the only gospel of your salvation. (See Galatians 1:6-12 with Acts 19:1-7 and Ephesians 1:13-14.)

The above article, “The First Essential: Faith” is written by B. E. Echols. The article was excerpted from the 2nd chapter of Echols’s book Four Essentials Unto Salvation.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.