The Bible declares four times that the “just shall live by faith”. We are also informed that it is impossible to please God without faith. Clearly faith is a subject that is essential if we are to please God and really live the life He has prepared for us. In these sessions we will explore the Scriptural teaching concerning the development and exercise of faith.
Matthew 6:33 says:
“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33 AMP)
There are ways of being and of doing that release the resources of heaven and earth into our lives. Faith and its operation is not an optional lesson for the sincere disciple. The Bible declares that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6), but that He richly rewards those who choose to do things His way.
What Faith Is
God’s character is the foundation for faith
To begin we will first define faith. We will consider both what faith IS and what it IS NOT.
To lay a foundation for all that follows in these sessions, which will deal much with principles and practical application of those principles, we must first stress that the doctrine of faith cannot be divorced from relationship with God.
Many of the principles we speak of over the following sessions can be exercised with some results apart from a vital union with God. The New Age and the Motivational world of humanism is replete with books and teachings concerning positive confession for example, with testimonies of amazing results. Biblical faith and its exercise however is rooted first and foremost in a love relationship with our Father in Heaven through Jesus Christ.
The first definition we will give for faith then is simply this:
“TRUST in another, or another’s Word.”
The Greek word, “pistes”, translated ‘faith’ in the New Testament simply means: “Trust, assurance, confidence in another and another’s word.” To have faith in God means to trust Him, to trust His Word, and have confidence that He will keep it.
Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). It is our love relationship with a God whom we know and trust which provides the seedbed for fearless confidence in His Word. We trust and act on His Word, because we trust Him, and know that His thoughts and intentions toward us are entirely good.
Andrew Murray in his exposition of Hebrews, ‘The Holiest of All’ exhorts believers to go beyond the mechanics of faith to discover its Source:
“Faith is much more than trust in the word of another,” he says, “That trust is of extreme importance as its initial exercise, but the word must only be the servant leading into the divine truth it contains, the living person from whom it comes. To deal too exclusively with the word as the ground of faith will lead to a faith that is more intellectual than spiritual, a faith that, as the Church so universally shows, rests more in the wisdom of men, in the power of reason, than in the power of God. We need to be persuaded very deeply that faith is not only a dealing with certain promises, but an unceasing spiritual intercourse with the unseen world around us.” Andrew Murray, ‘The Holiest of All’
God’s own character is the very bedrock for every other action of faith. The Bible says that He is the faithful one, and that He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13). He is the God of Faith, the very Source!
This truth is important to remember to prevent us from unwittingly entering a religion of works where we merely apply spiritual principles in order to get desired results, and forget that God did not send His Son merely so we could be healed and prosperous – He sent His Son for something far greater than that, that we could know Him:
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NKJV)
Many philosophies today, even some which purport to be Christian, do not believe that God is a Person. They consider God as the perfect Mind, or the Universal Consciousness, yet they refuse to locate Him. They have a faith in certain principles or concepts, ones which undoubtedly have wrought great changes in their lives, yet they cannot bring anyone into fellowship with the Father, or produce a New Creation. True faith is first and foremost in a Person – the Person of God.
What faith is not
In order to better comprehend what faith is we will first consider what faith is not.
Two kinds of faith
Essentially there are two kinds of faith:
- Sense knowledge faith
- Revelation faith.
Biblical faith is Revelation faith.
Sense Knowledge Faith:
Sense knowledge faith is natural faith based upon the evidence of the five senses or upon experience.
It believes what it can see or touch.
For example, each time we sit upon a chair we exercise sense knowledge faith. Our past experience tells us that if we place our weight upon the piece of furniture it will hold us. We can see and touch the chair and so place our faith in its ability to hold us.
This is the kind of faith displayed by Thomas in John chapter 20 verse 25:
“The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”” (John 20:25 NKJV)
He was willing to believe, but only if he had evidence for his natural senses. In verse 29 Jesus speaks of another kind of faith, one which believes even if we do not see, hear, smell or touch. Peter rejoices when he witnesses this kind of faith in his disciples:
“whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” (1Pet 1:8)
As the Scriptures say:
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2Cor 5:7 NKJV)
E W Kenyon in his excellent book, “Two Kinds of Faith” says:
“Sense knowledge will fight every step of the way to hold us in the realm of things seen, felt and heard, but we persistently drive ourselves into the Word until the Word is part of our being, the Word is real.”
Another great teacher of the faith message, the late Kenneth Hagin, says this in his “Bible Faith Study Course”:
“Many people are trying to believe God with their physical senses or with natural, human faith. And if their physical senses tell them their prayer hasn’t been answered, then they believe their physical senses, instead of the Word of God.
But what do your physical senses have to do with the Bible? God’s Word is so whether you feel like it is or not. God’s Word is so whether it looks like it is so or not. God’s Word is true all the time regardless of your feelings. No matter what the circumstances, God’s Word is still true.
I can’t teach faith any plainer than that. That’s as plain as faith gets: put your faith in what the Word says rather than in what your senses tell you. If you can’t understand faith yet, you just keep reading these lessons and studying God’s Word. As you do, eventually your mind will be renewed with the Word and the light will come to you.”
Kevin Conner in his book, “Foundations of Christian Doctrine’ also defines faith as:
Andrew Murray also speaks of this in ‘The Holiest of All’:
“Faith is the spiritual faculty of the soul which deals with the spiritual realities of the future and the unseen. Just as we have our senses, through which we hold communication with the physical universe, so faith is the spiritual sense or organ through which the soul comes into contact with and is affected by the spiritual world.”
Faith is not Mental Assent
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, warned that many people in the church are not really saved. They have merely mentally subscribed to certain truths. They have believed with the mind but not the heart. He called such ‘faith’ mental assent.
Mental Assent at times looks like faith. Often it sounds like faith. It agrees that the Bible is true; that it is the revelation of God and that every Word is inspired. Yet, when crisis comes, it does not act upon the Word, it relies upon sense knowledge, and leans upon natural means. It recognises the truthfulness of the Bible, but refuses to act upon it.
This is not the kind of faith God speak of when He says:
“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)
It is not just a faith that God exists, but a faith that literally takes you ‘into’ God. It engages with Him personally.
Faith is not hope
Natural hope can be the greatest enemy of faith. The reason being, hope is always a future thing; “I hope one day to be healed”, “I hope to have the money to pay my bills”.
Faith on the other hand is a present reality, “By His stripes I am healed…”. As Paul says in Hebrews 11:1; “NOW, faith is…”
The Scriptures say of Abraham in Romans 4:
“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” (Rom 4:18)
Abraham, against all natural hope, believed in another hope based upon the Word of promise he had received from God. An inner image was built on the inside of Abraham through the Word of God, his faith then took hold of the image that had developed and brought substance and reality to it. Isaac was born.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope… Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:4, 13 NKJV)
Biblical hope is not a whimsical desire for a nice outcome, it is a deep confidence, an earnest expectation of good, and a sure knowledge that God’s promise will come to pass. It is not just positive expectation with no foundation, it is a vision founded upon God’s Word.
“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom 8:24-25)
Hope essentially is a VISION FROM GOD. We see and receive a promise from God’s Word, and this becomes the blueprint for our faith.
Hebrews 6:19 tells us that hope in God’s Word anchors the soul. When contrary circumstances or evidence seeks to move us away from our confident trust in God’s faithfulness, the picture that hope has painted upon our inner man keeps us steady and takes us into the eternal realm, where such things no longer move us.
As our vision is filled with the new picture of God’s promise, and as we focus upon it and begin to confess its reality in our lives (despite any contrary evidence), we move over from hope to faith.
What was once an earnest expectation of future manifestation becomes substance in our inner man, and we possess that which we have seen and perceived in the spiritual realm.
God utilised such visionary tactics with Abraham. He caused him to see the stars and dust as children that would be born to him (Gen 13:16; 15:5), and even changed his name so Abraham’s constant confession became “I am the father of a multitude” (the meaning of the name Abraham).
In this way we move from hope to faith to manifestation.
- We hear (God’s Promise)
- We see (what the promise would look like if it were true in our lives)
- Hope develops a confident and earnest expectation for this to come to pass in our lives
- We believe & speak (hope gives way to faith and we possess the promise as a present reality)
- We Act (upon the present reality in the spiritual realm)
- the results are manifest in the natural realm.
Confession (speaking out) of the Word of promise helps us to progress from hope to faith.
Faith is not confidence in oneself
Much is taught nowadays encouraging people to believe in themselves, and to recognise their own latent powers and abilities. This is not the faith that the Scriptures teach. The foundation of faith teaching is found in the foundational teachings of the church as listed in Hebrews 6; “Faith toward God…”, not faith in oneself. True faith comes through Christ alone, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith in the Believer (Heb 12:2).
In this section we will define faith as described in the Bible.
Faith is SUBSTANCE and EVIDENCE
The primary text describing the nature of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
We here discover that revelation faith is two things:
- Substance (of things hoped for)
- Evidence (of the unseen)
The Amplified Bible expands on this definition:
“NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” (Hebrews 11:1 AMP)
Just as someone might be given an overseas property and receive the title deed for the said building. Even though they may not have seen the actual bricks and mortar building, they nevertheless own the property. The title deed is the evidence that the unseen property belongs to that person right now.
Similarly, God’s specific Word is the title deed (a legal and binding document) for those things we believe for. It is the absolute evidence of their reality, and faith is the spiritual currency that makes the deed personally ours. We may not see the provision we need in the physical right now, but we have the deed and it is just a matter of time before the physical reality manifests.
Faith provides proof for that which cannot be perceived by the senses. Faith convinces us of the reality of the unseen. It is a spiritual substance, as real as any natural substance, and in fact more enduring.
E W Kenyon interprets these verses:
This section of Hebrews expands upon this definition in verse 3:
“By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3 AMP)
All that we see and perceive with the senses was framed or pictured first in the heart of God, and then spoken into existence (Gen 1). Those faith-filled Words were the creative substance that brought all matter into being.
We discover the powerful truth that the visible world proceeded from the invisible world of the spirit. The spiritual reality is the parent reality, coming before and being more substantial in importance and durability than the physical world around us.
Paul the Apostle says of this:
“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18)
The seen realm is temporal, subject to change, but the unseen is eternal. The seen realm is subject to the unseen, and faith is the substance which affects these changes.
Our world, as believers, is supposed to be framed in the same way by God’s Word. The picture we see of ourselves and our destiny should be painted not by present circumstance or past failures or successes, but by the ever living Word of God. We, as children and imitators of our Father, should then be speaking what we see into existence.
Whereas Sense Knowledge faith seeks physical evidence for the reality of that which it is believing for (I see it or feel it therefore I have it), Revelation Knowledge faith believes even when it does not see its object (although I do not yet see or feel it with my natural senses it is mine right now in the spiritual realm. That realm is superior to the natural, and the manifestation of what is already real in the spirit will follow). Faith perceives and grasps its objective in the unseen realm before ever possessing it in the natural.
So in conclusion:
- FAITH is the SUBSTANCE of that which we hope for. It gives reality to it.
- FAITH is the EVIDENCE of those things we perceive in the spiritual realm.
Faith is a LAW.
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” (Romans 3:27 NKJV)
Faith is a law or a inviolable principle. In the same way that there are natural laws which are constant and work the same way every time they are invoked, so the law of faith will work every time it is put into action. It is not a subjective reality; it will work the same way for anyone who acts according to its principles of operation.
In the sections which follows we will consider these principles of the operation of faith.
The Principles of faith and how they operate
The just shall live by faith
Four times the Scriptures overtly declare:
““Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4 NKJV)
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:17 NKJV)
“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”” (Galatians 3:11 NKJV)
“Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”” (Hebrews 10:38 NKJV)
One version translates the verse in Habbakuk, “But it is the righteous man who will really live.” Similarly the Message paraphrase tells us:
“Look at that man, bloated by self-importance— full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.” (Hab 2:4 MESSAGE)
Truly, the man who lives by faith is the one who really lives because he is connecting to the One who is the Giver of Life in a vital way.
The Bible declares we are the just or righteous ones that these Scriptures refer to:
“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.” (Romans 3:26 AMP)
Through our faith in Christ we are delivered from the power of sin and have indeed become the very righteousness of God:
“For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].” (2Corinthians 5:21 AMP)
As such the Bible declares that we are to live by faith. It is not something we are trying to do, it is how we are created to live and operate.