The Plan of Salvation 2
Plan of Salvation (2) - Faith
This is the second of six articles dedicated to a review of God's plan of salvation as given in the New Testament. Recall what Jesus said about each of the following: (1) hearing - Jn. 6:44-45, (2) believing - Jn. 3:16, (3) repentance - Lk. 13:1-5, (4) confession of our faith in him - Mt. 10:32-33, (5) being baptized -Mk. 16:16, and (6) being faithful unto death - Rev. 2:10. Once a person hears the truth a response is essential. Hearing the word is essential, but it is not sufficient (James 1:22).
Of all of the conditions stated by Jesus, none is more accepted by the religious world as is faith. And yet, it is not a well-understood concept. In this issue we wish to explore just what the saving faith required by Jesus is. Our major article attempts to define the word faith as it is used in the New Testament as a condition of salvation. The Q&A section is devoted to Hebrews 11, which is the New Testament chapter on faith. And finally, our Ye Have Heard it Said section deals with the issues of faith only.
Like love, faith is an abstract entity. It cannot exist as an end in itself. It motivates action. It cannot be contrasted with works, since it is essential to doing the works of God; it is impossible to have faith without works (James 2:17); and it is impossible to come to God without faith (Heb. 11:6). When Jesus was asked: "What must we do that we may work the works of God?" he replied: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:28-29). True faith is a work of God, since it is based on the revealed word of God: "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
Faith - What is It?
To many people, faith is nothing but blind trust. When they cannot explain the reason for something, they assert: "You just have to have faith." Yet, in the New Testament saving faith is just the opposite of this. Consider the words of Paul: "... whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). The context reveals that this is speaking of a conviction, which is based on careful study and measured evaluation, not mere whim.
Exhorting his fellow Christians, Jude commanded: "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). In this use of the word, faith refers to the body of knowledge, which is believed. In addition, this "faith ... was ... delivered." It is not a matter of blindly following something of doubtful origin, but rather, contending earnestly for what was known to have been received.
Hebrews 11 starts out with the only Bible definition of faith (to our knowledge): "Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen." The "things hoped for," and the "things not seen" are one and the same, since Rom. 8:24 states: "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope ..." It seems quite clear that these are the promises of God, for what other unseen things are as important as God's promises.
Similarly, "assurance" and "conviction" are similar in meaning. Other versions apply such words as: substance, confidence, evidence. The commonality of these words is that they convey a sense of what is reality. In other words, even though we do not see the promises of God, they become reality to us through faith.
This is one of the most important definitions in the Bible. It is an abstract definition, and it requires illustrative examples for us to fully comprehend its significance. That is the purpose of the rest of the chapter (see the Q&A section).
Ye Often Hear It Said . . .
We are saved by faith only . . .
but James said (James 2:24):
"Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
Note first that this in no way diminishes the role of faith in our salvation. Just the opposite: James defines exactly what true and living faith is, and this is exemplified throughout the Bible (see Hebrews 11). Never was a person saved by faith without that faith exhibiting itself in some action (work).
James starts out by asking (vs. 14): "What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?" This question admits that such is possible, and James goes on to state that demons have such faith (19). Raw belief is not enough; it must motivate action pleasing to God. So James defines the two types of faith that can exist in verse 26: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead,dead even so faith apart from works is dead."
The faith that we are saved by is living faith, not dead faith. Living faith will motivate us to accomplish the rest of the conditions that God has given, all of which proceed from faith. We will discuss these in future articles.
You Find the Answers
These Bible study questions provide assistance to you in studying and teaching God's word. The answers are quite clear, and they prove that we can have the same understanding as the apostles had by reading what they wrote (Ephesians 3:4). We challenge you to open your Bible and establish the truth.
EXAMPLES OF FAITH (Hebrews 11)
1. How can we understand how the world was made? (3)
2. What did faith motivate Abel to do? (4)
3. Were Enoch's actions well pleasing to God? Why? (5)
4. Is it possible to please God if we do not have faith? (6) What did faith cause Noah to do? (7)
5. Is there any conflict between faith and obedience? (8)
6. Did Abraham know where his obedience to God would lead? (9-10)
7. Did these people of faith receive the promises? (13-16)
8. Did any people of faith not demonstrate it by obedience? (17f)
9. What extremes did their faith enable them to endure? (18-38)
10. Were there any examples of faith only? (32-39)
11. Can a person be made perfect apart from Christ? (40; 9:22f)