Summary: What is "faith" according to the Bible? Where does it come from and what does it look like? With sin as a backdrop, Romans reveals gospel saving faith. It looks a lot like Jesus.
What is Faith?
Reading: Hebrews 11:1-6
Few words in scripture relate to our eternal destiny like the word: faith. Love, hope, repentance, obedience, confession, all are interconnected and related to the principle of this one expression: faith.
Faith is a central word throughout the gospels, and, indeed, in all of the NT.
In fact, Jesus’ favorite expression to those he healed is: Your faith has healed you... to those he forgave he would say, “Your faith has saved you.” To the disciples in times of crisis Jesus would say, “O you of little faith.” To the disciples Jesus spoke concerning their astonishment at the miraculous powers he worked, “If you had faith the size of a grain of mustard seed you could say
to this tree, be uprooted and cast into the sea and it would obey you.” To a centurion who trusted that Jesus could merely say the word and his servant would be healed, Jesus said, “I have not found such great faith in all Israel.” To a woman who refused to stop begging for her child’s healing even after being insulted, Jesus said, “Woman you have great faith, may it be done as you believed.”
Faith is so central to the gospel message we need to understand it. Last week we talked about the obedience of faith. This week it seems appropriate to talk about faith itself. So what is faith?
Faith… Is it physical or spiritual? Well, actually, it is both. Because it is spiritual, faith is a work of God. It is produced by God in those who hear the word of God with the right attitude and right heart toward God. On the other hand it is physical, that is, it happens in real time and space in real people, and is measured in what it does. Biblical Christian faith looks like something. Weak faith looks like something. Strong faith looks like something. Faith links together the spiritual and physical worlds.
Faith is more than belief. It is more than obedience. Faith is substance. Faith is evidence. Faith is like a plant that grows up in those who’s hearts are honest after the seed of the Word has been sown in them. The Hebrew writer says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Heb. 11:6
So central to our salvation is this thing called faith, that when Paul describes how the righteousness from God comes to us, he says in Romans 1:17
Faith is not just WHAT you do; it is perhaps primarily WHY you do it too. Later, listen to this as Paul is trying to explain what happened to Israel, turn to Romans 9:30-10:4.
As we look at faith today and how God’s righteousness comes to us by faith, we will notice several steps that are involved in this saving faith.
First we are awakened to the reality of God. God is. And God is the source of everything else that is. Faith accepts this as true. Not only do we accept the reality of God but we recognize his power and authority and the nature of holiness. So far so good. We are here and everything else is here because God created and sustains us.
But then we learn that something is terribly wrong. Because, although God is holy, we are not. God is absolutely good. We aren’t. In fact, we are enemies of God by nature. We are powerless and hopeless with out him. We have offended him and we are deserving of his condemnation. The first man sinned and it has spread to us all, because all sin. Faith agrees with God on this. On the other hand… Unbelief denies that we are really that bad. Unbelief produces in us the motivation to be good enough ourselves. That is not faith! Faith accepts the truth of sin and the consequences that God says we all deserve. Unbelief resists the word of God on this and rejects the condemnation of God.
This is where many people reject God and seek to establish their own righteousness. We may hear someone say, “I mean, sure, I’ve done a few things I’m not proud of, but basically I’m a good person.” God says that basically you are not a good person and in fact you are fatally flawed because of sin. This past election we heard proclaimed to us over and over and over how great the American people are and how we as Americans can do anything we set our minds to! We are the greatest! We have the greatest workers! We have the greatest army! Great, great, great! We are great! Praise America! Cudo’s to the USA!
Imagine a politician proclaiming the truth. Imagine one declaring that we are all fallen sinful selfish human beings. Americans have become a rich spoiled bunch of whiners who have no clue what the word “enough” means. When Phil Gramm had the audacity to actually say that Americans are whiners… Oh my! It wasn’t long before he was resigning as economic advisor for McCain.