Purpose of this Session
To lay a foundational understanding of the first two doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3: Repentance from dead works and Faith toward God: To apply these doctrines to our own lives and ministries.
Repentance turns man away from sin, and is a gift of God.
Faith turns man toward God, and is also a gift of Grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” (Eph 2:8 NKJV)
Through repentance we are saved from dead works.
Through faith we are saved for good works.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10 NKJV)
We do good works because God has accepted us, not in order to be accepted by Him.
Through repentance we turn from vain efforts to please God.
Through faith we please God and receive rewards.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb 11:6 NKJV)
Through repentance we accept and confess our own unrighteousness.
Through faith we accept and confess that God is our righteousness.
“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Rom 10:2-3 NKJV)
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe…” (Rom 3:21-22 NKJV)
“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:9-10 NKJV)
Again we refer to Kevin Conner’s “Foundations of Christian Doctrine” as the basis for our definition of “faith”.
What faith is NOT:
• Mental assent – just as there is a mind element in repentance, so there is in faith. But mental faith is simply agreement to a set of facts about God, Jesus and the Bible. ‘Head faith’ is not ‘heart faith’. Even devils believe that the Bible is true (James 2:17-20).
• Presumption – to take for granted, to suppose without positive proof. To be arrogant, insolent, over-confident, to take liberties (Psalms 19:12-13). Presumption imitates faith so can be mistaken for faith. By faith the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, but the Egyptians presumed, followed and died. They had no revelation from God to cross – they just assumed without proof that they could follow someone else. Presumption causes imitation of the faith of others without the word of God personally quickened to the heart. “Faith is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Presumption is man’s will – faith is totally dependant on God.
• Natural faith – is often mistaken for spiritual faith. Natural faith trusts itself to things seen, in the realm of the natural. Spiritual faith rests on things unseen, invisible and eternal (Hebrews 11:1-3,6)
• Faith in oneself – “man is the measure of all things”. This is a statement by the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras. It is usually interpreted to mean that the individual human being, rather than a god or an unchanging moral law, is the ultimate source of value. This philosophy of self-dependence is prevalent in Western society today.
• Mind over matter. Such teachings (Christian Science for example) tend to magnify and exalt the human element even if often in a modest, ‘humble’ approach, via man’s mind, or reason, or willpower. These teachings are not word based, but rather based on exercise of human will power.
What faith IS
Oxford English dictionary – confidence, reliance, trust, belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority, belief in truths of religion, saving or justifying faith as a conviction, spiritual apprehension of divine truths.
Selah: Pause For Thought
Outside of scripture faith has many meanings. Consider briefly how the world defines ‘faith’. Is this the same kind of ‘faith’ that we are discussing here.
Biblical words for faith
The Greek word ‘pistes’ translated many times as ‘faith’ simply means ‘trust, assurance, confidence in another and another’s word’. Faith towards God is simply to trust God, to trust his Word and to have confidence in him that His word is true and that He will keep it.
The words ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ come from the same Greek word. The Greek idea of believing is committal and surrender of oneself wholly over to God, to Jesus and his Word.
“And they answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping] and you will be saved, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well.” (Acts 16:31 AMP)
Our arena in this primary session concerning faith in the believer's life is to establish the place of ‘faith toward God’ as a foundation to build upon. Therefore, we will look specifically at faith as our entry point to right standing with God (righteousness).
Righteousness by faith
Abraham – The father of faith
Our Example is Abraham, who is called the Father of faith to all who believe.
“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom 4:16 NKJV)
Abraham trusted God’s Word. He was not a Jew, or even necessarily a religious man. He lived in the idolatrous city, Ur of the Chaldees.
In approx. 2000BC. God’s call and promise came to Abraham (recorded in Genesis 12).
Abraham believed God, and the Scriptures tell us that it was accounted to him for righteousness.
“And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Gen 15:6 NKJV)
Abraham did not earn righteousness with God. He did not deserve right standing with God. God offered it to him, and he accepted it.
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,” (Rom 4:3-5 NKJV)
Faith toward God brought Abraham to a place of right standing with his Creator. If we had gone to Abraham’s ‘righteousness account’ to make a withdrawal prior to this spiritual transaction with God, we would have found limited funds; certainly not enough to pay for entrance into the presence of a holy and righteous God. No matter how hard Abraham worked, the wages of his sinful life could in no way earn a place of favour with the Lord.
God then comes and deposits into Abraham’s ‘righteousness account’ limitless funds from His own heavenly account. The conduit for these funds was Abraham’s trust in God’s promise. Any demand for holiness or righteousness then levied against Abraham was hereby furnished, not by Abraham’s own earnings, but by God’s gracious deposits into Abraham’s account. Abraham’s part in this transaction was simply to believe that what God had promised, He would do.
God is our righteousness
“to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26 NKJV)
“It was to demonstrate and prove at the present time (in the now season) that He Himself is righteous and that He justifies and accepts as righteous him who has [true] faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:26 AMP)
The verse above could be rendered:
“to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be righteous and the righteousness of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Repentance turns us away from our sin to face God’s direction. Faith then propels us into God’s purpose and plan for our lives. The essential element required for us to move into God’s plan and purpose is righteousness. Faith, simple trust in the gospel that Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification, provides all we need to be completely justified and at one with God the Father. Nothing need be added. It is complete. From this basis we then begin to live in a manner worthy of the One we follow, not as a means to earn favour with Him, but a consequence of our place of favour and acceptance.
Derek Price in ‘Foundations for Christian Living’ makes the following very interesting observation.
“with the heart one believes unto (or into) righteousness” (Romans 10:10)
Faith always produces a definite change in those who profess it. When associated with the heart the verb “to believe” becomes a verb of motion. That’s why Paul says… “Believe into righteousness” …When Jesus uses the verb “to believe” it is regularly followed by the preposition into, to express change or movement.
“you believe in [literally into] God, believe also in [literally into] Me.” (John 14:1)
Foundations For Christian Living
The sense of motion is quite different from the passivity of mental assent. Mental assent simply believes a set of facts. It says, “I believe that those facts are true”. Heart faith, on the other hand, personalises those truths and accepts them as a present reality. Such faith does not merely say, “I believe that Abraham trusted God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness”, it says, “I trust God, and it is accounted to me as righteousness.”
That is why when Jesus says, “He who believes…has everlasting life” (John 6:47) He is meaning in the present, already has, not shall have. It is something we already possess.
True Bible faith gives the believer a here-and-now experience of righteousness, and an assurance of everlasting life.
Following repentance, Bible faith accepts the promise of God as present truth, receives it as such, and acts accordingly. Faith toward God gives the believer right standing with God, apart from any works. It carries with it a sense of motion, which moves us toward God, and propels us into the plans and purposes of God for our lives. Our lives then demonstrate by good works this new spiritual dynamic issuing from our heart relationship with God the Father.