Summary: The Bible speaks of a faith that is dead and living faith that empowers the Christian life. This study examines the scriptures that teach about faith and explain how that faith is not the product of man’s efforts, but the gift of God.
Living Faith / Dead Faith
Over the last several months I have been praying for God to reveal more about faith to me. As I study the scriptures, I realized that there is much I have yet to understand. This study is the result of a lot of seeking and praying. While I believe that God has answered this prayer, I also realize that there is much more to learn. One thing I have learned is that I don’t even know what I don’t know. May we continue to seek God through His word knowing that we as finite people will never cease from growing through God’s infinite knowledge or reach the end of our understanding of His word. As I look back over the years I realized that I have taught more on faith than any other subject. As I grow in my own faith and study the word, I realize how much more there is to learn and I see the need to dig deeper into this subject to increase our understanding. Each time I go through the scriptures, the need to understand authentic faith becomes apparent. The bible contrasts a false faith to His living faith as we are challenged to examine our own faith against His word.
Two Measures of Faith
Let’s first look at how we receive our faith. The Bible gives us two ways that God gives faith to each person. The first is common to all mankind. The first measure is found in Romans 12:
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Every one means every person. There is not a person who has ever existed that was not measured a portion of faith. God instills within our hearts the power to believe in the gospel so that we can obtain salvation. The Bible also states that God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God places within each of us the faith we need to hear and answer His call. Some are confused with passages that imply differently such as this one from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.
How can the Bible state that God has dealt to each person a measure of faith and then state that the wicked do not have faith? I believe the answer can be clearly understood by seeking understanding through the rest of scriptures. Jesus made a fascinating statement that aids in our understanding of this subject in Mark 4:23-25
23 "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 24 Then He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 "For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him."
Jesus reiterates this principle on at least four different occasions in His teachings. Each person was indeed given a measure of faith by God, but take heed how you hear for if we reject the word, God will take away what He has given. All faith is given by the mercy of God and God has indeed extended His mercy on all; however, the Bible also states that God will not always strive with man. The wicked are those who reject the faith God has given as they resist the truth of God. For those who will not hear, God will take away their faith and give them over to the wickedness they have chosen. Consider this passage from Romans 1:17-19
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
Notice how this passage begins – God reveals Himself through faith. Only after God draws us by faith through our faith will He reveal His wrath against the unrighteous. God manifests Himself to each person and then we either respond by faith or suppress the truth within our heart. God reveals the truth to all. God deals with some people over time as He draws them out of the misconceptions and misunderstanding and toward the truth of His gospel. I firmly believe that God knows each one’s heart and deals with us until our spiritual eyes have been opened. Once God has shown Himself to them, then He holds each person accountable for the gospel. When the truth is suppressed, faith is lost. If you continue on in this passage, the Bible explains this further. Look at Romans 1:21-25