Wednesday, January 4

Discussing and Defining Faith: Part I

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. –Hebrews 11:6

Faith. What is it? Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that is being sure of what we hope for, and confident of things unseen. The dictionary defines it as the acceptance of beliefs and ideals which are not necessarily demonstrable through experimentation or reason. Paul Rosenfels, in his work entitled “Psychoanalysis and Civilization” (1962) tells us that “faith bridges the gap where understanding fails.”

Pleasing God. Apparently it cannot be done without faith. But faith in what? In Him? Is there a difference between faith and belief? Where do we get faith unless from God, and why would He see fit to give it to us if we are not in a state of being able to please Him? Is there such thing as too little faith? I have wrestled with those questions for the last several hours. Actually, I have wrestled with those questions for many years, as have many others.

Understanding God is possibly one of the most difficult things we could ever undertake. This is why faith is so important. Where then do we get faith? Romans Chapter 10 tells us that faith comes by hearing the message, that is, the message of the word of Christ. Those who walked and talked with Jesus during His life and ministry have recorded their eye-witness accounts as well as word-of-mouth confirmations about Him. When we hear the gospel and believe it, we are expressing faith.

Does this mean that faith is something each of us chooses to exercise, similar to free-will? The Apostle Paul’s letters to the early church at Galatia indicate that faith was preceded by obedience and adherence to God’s laws. For example, God’s people we read about in the Old Testament had clearly not yet heard the message of the word of Christ. However, some of them did hear directly from God. It is my understanding that the earliest people of faith were those who were somehow connected to those who had actually heard God’s voice. These are the patriarchs of the Hebrew faith—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. As Paul describes to the Galatians, obedience to the law, as given by God to Moses, was supplemented by faith on the part of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Faith on the part of God’s people well before Christ’s is only the first part of understanding of faith, and how it relates to salvation. As we spend more time hearing God’s Word and reflecting on it, we must be confident that God will give us a measure of His wisdom as a gift of the Holy Spirit to shed more light on what it means to be a person of faith, and how we can please God by being such.

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