How Does the Bible Define Faith?

Faith is defined as belief with strong conviction; firm belief in something for which there may be no tangible proof; complete trust, confidence, reliance, or devotion. Faith is the opposite of doubt.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines faith as “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence; unquestioning belief in God, religious tenets.”

What Is Faith?

  • Faith is the means by which believers come to God and put their trust in Him for salvation.
  • God provides believers with the faith needed to believe in Him: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
  • The entire Christian life is lived out on the foundation of faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 2:20).

Faith Defined

The Bible gives a short definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

What do we hope for? We hope that God is trustworthy and honors his promises. We can be sure that his promises of salvationeternal life, and a resurrected body will be ours someday based on who God is.

The second part of this definition acknowledges our problem: God is invisible. We can’t see heaven either. Eternal life, which begins with our individual salvation here on earth, is also something we do not see, but our faith in God makes us certain of these things. Again, we count not on scientific, tangible proof but on the absolute reliability of God’s character.

Where do we learn about the character of God so we can have faith in him? The obvious answer is the Bible, in which God reveals himself fully to his followers. Everything we need to know about God is found there, and it is an accurate, in-depth picture of his nature.

One of the things we learn about God in the Bible is he is incapable of lying. His integrity is perfect; therefore, when he declares the Bible to be true, we can accept that statement, based on God’s character. Many passages in the Bible are difficult to understand, yet Christians accept them because of faith in a trustworthy God.

Why We Need Faith

The Bible is Christianity’s instruction book. It not only tells followers who to have faith in but why we should have faith in him.

In our day-to-day lives, Christians are assailed on every side by doubts. Doubt was the dirty little secret of the apostle Thomas, who had traveled with Jesus Christ for three years, listening to him every day, observing his actions, even watching him raise people from the dead. But when it came to Christ’s resurrection, Thomas demanded touchy-feely proof:

Then (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)

Thomas was the Bible’s most famous doubter. On the other side of the coin, in Hebrews chapter 11, the Bible introduces an impressive list of heroic believers from the Old Testament in a passage often called the “Faith Hall of Fame.” These men and women and their stories stand out to encourage and challenge our faith.

For believers, faith starts a chain of events that ultimately leads to heaven:

  • By faith through God’s grace, Christians are forgiven. We receive the gift of salvation by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
  • By trusting wholly in God through faith in Jesus Christ, believers are saved from God’s judgment of sin and its consequences.
  • Finally, by God’s grace we go on to become heroes of faith by following the Lord into ever greater adventures in faith.

How to Get Faith

Sadly, one of the great misconceptions in the Christian life is that we can create faith on our own. We can’t.

We struggle to stoke up faith by doing Christian works, by praying more, by reading the Bible more; in other words, by doing, doing, doing. But Scripture says that’s not how we get it:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Martin Luther, one of the early Christian reformers, insisted faith comes from God working in us and through no other source:

“Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.”

Luther and other theologians put great stock in the act of hearing the gospel being preached:

“For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:16-17, ESV)

That’s why the sermon became the centerpiece of Protestant worship services. The spoken Word of God has supernatural power to build faith in listeners. Corporate worship is vital to fostering faith as the Word of God is preached.

When a distraught father came to Jesus asking for his demon-possessed son to be healed, the man uttered this heartbreaking plea:

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24, NIV)

The man knew his faith was weak, but he had sense enough to turn to the right place for help: Jesus.

Faith is the fuel of the Christian life:

“For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV).

It is often difficult to see through the fog of this world and beyond the challenges of this life. We cannot always feel God’s presence or understand His guidance. It takes faith to find God and faith to keep our eyes on Him so that we persevere until the end (Hebrews 11:13-16).

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