"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). This passage is considered one of the most concise definitions of faith given in the Bible. Faith is synonymous with belief, and both are translated from the same Greek word ^[Strong's\ #4102]^ in the New Testament.

Many theologians, especially from Reformed backgrounds, argue that true saving faith as described in the Bible must include not only mental knowledge and assent but the vital aspect of trust. This idea is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith in the phrase "But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace," (WCF 14.2).

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Faith and justification

The Bibles teaches that people are "justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28). Paul, the author of this letter, appealed to the Old Testament for this view: "The righteous shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). In Paul's mind this faith is a living faith that "work[s] through love" (Galatians 5:6), yet is distinct from works: "And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5). This is the faith that alone justifies a person, so that God gets the credit and glory for salvation, so that there is no boasting, and so that the only righteousness on display is the righteousness of Christ. We are justified neither by love, nor by the fruits of faith, but by faith alone.

A very clear, recurring theme in the Gospel of John is belief: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36). "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24).

See also:Justification

Faith without works

The Apostle Paul also had a category for dead or vain faith:

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). This is the same category that is generally considered to be what James had in mind when he speaks of "faith" in James 2--a dead, hypocritical faith, which was not accompanied by the fruits and evidences of works:

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness' - and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:14-24). While the Gospel of John is abundantly clear that "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), one of the reoccuring themes in the gospel is also a vain faith that is too dependent on seeing signs: "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man" (John 2:23-25).

Saving faith, a gift from God

Saving faith is treated in several places of the New Testament as a gift of God. This means that apart from God giving faith, no man would ever place their faith in Christ. The reason that they will not place their faith in Christ is not because God is hindering them, but because their sinful, depraved heart rejects Christ (Jer. 17:9). Not only is grace freely received by faith, faith also is a gift itself, given from God so that we cannot take credit for anything. Faith is a product of God's workmanship.

  • "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake." (Philippians 1:29)
  • "And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'" (John 6:65)
  • "And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed," (Acts 18:27)

Ephesians 2 textual question

[Referring to Ephesians 2:8, 9] This is the most debated text in terms of the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun, ?????. The standard interpretations include: (1) "grace" as antecedent, (2) "faith" as antecedent, (3) the concept of a grace-by-faith salvation as antecedent, and (4) ??? ????? having an adverbial force with no antecedent ("and especially").

{{#if:Daniel B. Wallace| —Daniel B. Wallace{{#if:Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, pp. 334-335.|Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, pp. 334-335.}} }}

Faith in the Christian life

God has "assigned" every Christian a "measure of faith" associated with various spiritual gifts, variously designed to contribute to the body of Christ, therefore we ought not to think of ourselves too highly:

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness" (Romans 12:3-8).

The Hall of faith, Hebrews 11

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Faith and spiritual sight

Faith is sometimes equated with a looking to Christ, or a spiritual sight and rapt, heart-focus on his glory. In John 3, believing in Christ is synonymous with looking at the Son of Man lifted up, just as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness by Moses:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15).

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