It was the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who chronicled, for the benefit of mankind, the following: “There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God. We have genuflected before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate. We have worshiped the god of pleasure only to discover that thrills play out and sensations are short-lived. We have bowed before the god of money only to learn that there are such things as love and friendship that money cannot buy and that in a world of possible depressions, stock market crashes, and bad business investments, money is a rather uncertain deity. These transitory gods are not able to save or bring happiness to the human heart. Only God is able. It is faith in Him that we must rediscover.” Martin Luther King, The Words Of Martin Luther King, Jr., Second Edition, Newmarket Press, New York, October 28, 2008, 63.
It is evident that indeed there is a great lack of true faith abiding in our world. People are fearful of the future, rather insecure, hopeless and bewildered and rightfully so. In the words of a song writer, “People need the Lord … .” Faith is one of the graces of the Holy Spirit as listed in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness …” Galatians 5:22, 23.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word that is generally used for faith is emunah which more fittingly means faithfulness. It also means certainty. The second and last word that appears in the Hebrew Old Testament for faith or faithfulness is aman and carries the meaning such as “to be certain, enduring; to trust, believe.” It is from this word that we get our English word amen.
Two words are used throughout the New Testament for faith; the one I wish to focus on is pistis.
“The different meaning of pistis. The word pistis has two meanings in classical Greek. It denotes: (a) a conviction based on confidence in a person and in his testimony, which as such is distinguished from knowledge resting on personal investigation; and (b) the confidence itself on which such a conviction rests. This is more than a mere intellectual conviction that a person is reliable; it presupposes a personal relation to the object of confidence, a going out of one’s self, to rest in another.” Louis Berkh, Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 24, 1996, 493, 494.
“True saving faith is a faith that has its seat in the heart and is rooted in the regenerate life. … Saving faith may be defined as a certain conviction, wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as to the truth of the gospel, and a hearty reliance (trust) on the promises of God in Christ.” Ibid., 503.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. With its justifying, sanctifying power, it is above what men call science. It is the science of eternal realities. Human science is often deceptive and misleading, but this heavenly science never misleads. It is so simple that a child can understand it, and yet the most learned men cannot explain it. It is inexplainable and immeasurable, beyond all human expression.” Our High Calling, 117.
We read the words of the great apostle Paul on faith in Christ as recorded in Romans 10:6–10: “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
In Book 1 of Selected Messages, 391, 392, a most beautiful definition of faith is listed; it reads as follows: “The faith that is unto salvation is not a casual faith, it is not the mere consent of the intellect, it is belief rooted in the heart, that embraces Christ as a personal Saviour, assured that He can save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. To believe that He will save others, but will not save you is not genuine faith; but when the soul lays hold upon Christ as the only hope of salvation, then genuine faith is manifested. This faith leads its possessor to place all the affections of the soul upon Christ; his understanding is under the control of the Holy Spirit, and his character is molded after the divine likeness. His faith is not a dead faith, but a faith that works by love, and leads him to behold the beauty of Christ, and to become assimilated to the divine character.” And in Testimonies, vol. 1, 620, a simple and easily understood definition is recorded which is, “Faith is simply to take God at His word.”
In the book Education, 253, we read these words: “Faith is trusting God—believing that He loves us and knows best what is for our good. Thus, instead of our own, it leads us to choose His way. In place of our ignorance, it accepts His wisdom; in place of our weakness, His strength; in place of our sinfulness, His righteousness. Our lives, ourselves, are already His; faith acknowledges His ownership and accepts its blessing. Truth, uprightness, purity, have been pointed out as secrets of life’s success. It is faith that puts us in possession of these principles.”
Webster’s Dictionary, 1828 Edition, defines faith as “belief—the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth.” It is the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed. Simple belief of the scriptures, of the being and perfections of God, and of the existence, character and doctrines of Christ, founded on the testimony of the sacred writers.
One writer states that faith is a firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word; or a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared, and because He has declared them.
FALSE CONCEPTS OF FAITH OR COUNTERFEIT FAITH
“True faith is not presumption.” –
Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (1915), 218. What is presumption – “True faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption, for presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith.”
“Faith claims God’s promises and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequences of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.” Gospel Workers, 260. (Emphasis supplied.)
Faith is not believe, believe –
“A mere profession of discipleship is of no value. The faith in Christ which saves the soul is not what it is represented to be by many. ‘Believe, believe,’ they say, ‘and you need not keep the law.’ But a belief that does not lead to obedience is presumption. The apostle John says, ‘He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ I John 2:4.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, 146.
“Obedience is the test of discipleship. It is the keeping of the commandments that proves the sincerity of our professions of love.” Ibid.
Faith is not in feelings –
“Our faith is not in feeling, but in truth.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 387. “Faith is not feeling. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. There is a form of religion which is nothing more than selfishness. It takes pleasure in worldly enjoyment. It is satisfied with contemplating the religion of Christ, and knows nothing of its saving power. Those who possess this religion regard sin lightly because they do not know Jesus.” Messages to Young People, 106. “A feeling of assurance is not to be despised; we should praise God for it; but when your feelings are depressed, do not think that God has changed. Praise Him just as much, because you trust in His word, and not in feelings. You have covenanted to walk by faith, not to be controlled by feelings. Feelings vary with circumstances.” Our High Calling, 124. “Faith and feeling are as distinct as the east is from the west. Faith is not dependent on feeling. We must earnestly cry to God in faith, feeling or no feeling, and then live our prayers. Our assurance and evidence is God’s word, and after we have asked we must believe without doubting.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1073.
The Roman Catholic concept of faith. –
The Church of Rome teaches that faith consists in a mere assent to the doctrines of the church. This faith is one of the seven preparations for justification in baptism, and therefore necessarily precedes this; but as a purely intellectual activity it naturally does not lead to salvation. The Roman Catholic Church has also virtually removed the element of knowledge from faith. One may be considered a true believer, if one is but ready to believe what the church teaches without really knowing what this is.
WHO OR WHAT IS THE AGENT OF FAITH?
In an effort to answer this question I would begin by looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Also Galatians 5:14: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Thus we see that love is the fundamental element of the law and it is the greatest. But love does not exist by itself for the source of love is the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith …” Galatians 5:22.
God’s servant states of the Holy Spirit that, “It is the work of the Holy Spirit from age to age to impart love to human hearts, for love is the living principle of brotherhood.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 139.
Now going a step further we see that faith is rooted in love. “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:5, 6. We have seen that love is given by the Holy Spirit.
In Testimonies, vol. 5, 219, a seeming contradiction appears. It reads, “Genuine faith is followed by love, and love by obedience.” From this statement it appears that love is the product of faith or is that so? Selected Messages, Book 2, 20, says, “Now genuine faith always works by love.” Then it states further, “The labor of love springs from the work of faith. Bible religion means constant work.” The apostle James states, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17. “Few have that genuine faith which works by love and purifies the soul.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 705.
Our answer to this seeming contradiction as to the position of faith in relation to love is given: “The gold mentioned by Christ, the True Witness, which all must have, has been shown me to be faith and love combined, and love takes the precedence of faith. Satan is constantly at work to remove these precious gifts from the hearts of God’s people. All are engaged in playing the game of life. Satan is well aware that if he can remove love and faith, and supply their place with selfishness and unbelief, all the remaining precious traits will soon be skillfully removed by his deceitful hand, and the game will be lost.” Ibid., vol. 2, 36, 37.
So, what we have discovered is, it’s not that faith proceeds love or is superior to love, for love is the parent of faith, but it must be understood that genuine faith is also accompanied by labors of love.
In the book Our High Calling on page 117 we read, “Faith in Christ is not the work of nature, but the work of God on human minds, wrought in the very soul by the Holy Spirit, who reveals Christ, as Christ revealed the Father.” “No man can create faith. The Spirit operating upon and enlightening the human mind, creates faith in God.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 940.
FAITH, WORKS, AND LOVE WORKING TOGETHER
The apostle James declares, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26. Or faith without obedience, which is prompted by love or faith that is born out of love will produce obedience or good works. So, “It is a counterfeit faith that does not produce the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in the life. … It is a counterfeit faith that leads a man to think himself released from obedience to the will of God as expressed in the Decalogue, which is simply a brief outline of how love toward God and man will find expression. …. Without obedience a profession of love is sheer hypocrisy. Obedience to known duty is an inevitable result of the righteousness that comes by faith, and is the supreme test of its genuineness. …. Paul emphatically declares that God’s purpose in giving His Son to save sinners … was to make it possible for the principles of His holy law to be worked out in the lives of men.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 978.
Reading Romans, chapter 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
“Hearing. Gr. akoē, appears twice in this verse. In v. 16 akoē is rendered ‘report,’ there, meaning literally, ‘what is heard.’ If the same meaning is assigned to akoē here, the following translation is possible: ‘Who has believed what he has heard from us? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the word of God.’ This translation makes more apparent the connection between vs. 16 and 17.
“The word of God. Textual evidence favors … the reading ‘the word of Christ.’ This could mean ‘the message about Christ,’ as ‘the word of faith’ … means ‘the message of faith.’ … This verse is an important statement of the nature and source of true faith. Genuine faith is not blind confidence to be exercised in the absence of adequate evidence. Faith is our conviction about things that we cannot see, … and this conviction must be founded upon knowledge, a knowledge based upon the Word of God, the message about Christ. As a means of developing a transforming and enduring faith, there is no substitute for the regular and earnest study of the Bible.” Ibid., 600.
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to glorify Christ or to reveal Christ to the sinner (John 16:13, 14). As He does this, the sinner surrenders to Christ and accepts Him as his Saviour, his Righteousness. Thus Christ’s love is shed abroad in the life of the born again person by the Holy Spirit. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:5. As a consequence of the Holy Spirit communicating the word of Christ or the knowledge of Christ, faith cometh by hearing as a product of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love, which was shed abroad in the born again person’s life in response to the manifested love of Jesus.
This faith which is born out of this experience is what produces good—faith which works by love. “The Redeemer raises the sinner from the dust, and places him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the sinner looks upon the Redeemer, he finds hope, assurance, and joy.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 349. It is in response to what Christ has done for fallen man, taking upon Himself the nature of man, living a righteous life, dying for sinful man, thus becoming man’s sin bearer, man’s surety, man’s righteousness. And having been resurrected and ascended, to become man’s advocate. It is in response to all this that, “Faith takes hold of Christ in love. Faith works by love, and purifies the soul.” Ibid.
It is on this basis that both Paul and James agree that faith without good works is dead; there can be no genuine faith without the love of Christ in the heart, and there is no genuine faith without obedience to God.
Firstly, the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love; secondly, faith; thirdly, obedience. Love, therefore, is the key element, for without it there can be no faith. That’s why the prophet Habakkuk states, “The just shall live by faith.” Habakuk 2:4.
The righteous one who is enjoying and experiencing the love of Jesus lives by faith, for faith becomes an automatic product or element, which develops in his life because he is governed by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Paul, the apostle, also mentions in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” In the book Gospel Workers, 261, God’s servant points out that, “Faith takes God at His word, not asking to understand the meaning of the trying experiences that come.”
The apostle Paul states that whoever professes allegiance to God must believe that He is; that God really exists. The sad fact is that unbelief has become a major component in the lives of the greater number of earth’s population today including many professed Christians. In I John 5:10 we read the following: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.”
“The apostle John says that he who does not believe God makes Him a liar because he doesn’t believe what God says. And what can you make worse of God than a liar? To deny God’s wisdom and to account Him as foolish, to deny His power and to think Him weak, would be so heinous as to deny His truth and make Him a liar. This is to make a devil of Him. The devil is a liar and the father of lies.” Jonathan Edwards, Unless You Repent, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2005, 49. In John 8:44 we see that the devil is a liar and not just a liar but the father of lies: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
“But there is yet one thing worse than to make God merely a liar, and that is to suppose Him to be perjured, to esteem Him as perjured; and that you do in not believing what He has so solemnly sworn. So you make God a liar of the highest kind, for perjury is without comparison worse than mere lying.” Ibid. It is a lack of the love of Jesus in the life that produces unbelief—making God out to be a liar, another Devil! The scripture states, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.
“It was Abraham’s faith in God that was accounted as righteousness. Such faith is a relation, an attitude, a disposition of man toward God. It implies a readiness to receive with joy whatever God may direct. Abraham loved and trusted and obeyed God because he knew Him and was His friend. His faith was a genuine relationship of love, confidence and submission.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 512.
“Faith is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise pardon to sinners; not that there is any virtue in faith whereby salvation is merited, but because faith can lay hold of the merits of Christ, the remedy provided for sin. Faith can present Christ’s perfect obedience instead of the sinner’s transgression and defection. When the sinner believes that Christ is his personal Saviour, then according to His unfailing promises, God pardons his sin and justifies him freely.” Ibid., 1073.
“Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness.” Ibid.
This is justifying faith! “Justifying faith is a sense and conviction of the reality and excellency of Christ as a Savior that entirely inclines and unites the heart to Him. This is the act of the whole soul, of every faculty, entirely embracing and acquiescing in the gospel that reveals Jesus Christ as our Saviour. The soul that truly believes in Christ asserts, accords, and symphonizes with the revelation of Christ as our Redeemer. There is an entire yielding of the mind and heart to it, a closing with it with the belief, with the inclination, and with the affection. It being the complex act of the whole soul, and of each faculty together, it is difficult to perfectly describe it in few words.” Jonathan Edwards, A Just and Righteous God, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 54, 55.
“Believing the truth of the gospel is a great and a main thing that constitutes justifying faith, as is evident by many passages of Scripture. One in particular is John 20:31: ‘These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.’ John 8:24: ‘I said therefore unto you that ye should die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.’ II Thessalonians 2:13: ‘God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.’ [II Thessalonians 2:13].” Ibid.
“It is evident by the word of God that justifying faith is not only an act of the understanding, but also of the heart and inclination: there is consent as well as assent. Matthew 23:37: ‘How often I would have gathered you to Myself, but ye would not.’ It is gladly receiving the gospel (Acts 2:41). ’Tis often called ‘obeying the gospel’ or ‘obeying from the heart the form of doctrine,’ which signifies something more than the assent of the understanding. It implies a yielding of the whole soul. ’Tis receiving the love of the truth (II Thessalonians 2:10). It is the opposite of disallowing or rejecting Christ, as is evident by I Peter 2:7: ‘Unto you which believe, He is precious; but to them which are disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed.’ It is a true conviction of the reality and excellency of Christ; it causes an adherence of the soul to Him. It brings the soul that before was remote to close with Him; and therefore ’tis expressed by coming to Christ, by looking to Him, by opening the door to let Him in, by hearing His voice and following Him.” Ibid., 57, 58.
Jesus asked a question recorded in Luke’s gospel chapter 18:8 that makes me ponder ever so often! “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” It was right after asking this question that Luke records our Saviour telling the parable of the two men going to church to pray, one a Pharisee—self-righteous Christian, and the other a publican—acknowledged sinner who senses his need. This question Jesus asked addresses the fact of man sensing his need of faith in the righteousness of Christ toward the end of this earth as opposed to man’s unbelief and confidence in His own righteousness which he will hold to as sufficient. As a consequence of this overwhelming reality towards the close of this earth’s history Jesus asked, “Shall He find faith on the earth?”
SATANS’ SPECIAL WEAPON TO UNDERMINE FAITH
“The spirit of gossip and talebearing is one of Satan’s special agencies to sow discord and strife, to separate friends, and to undermine the faith of many in the truthfulness of our positions. Brethren and sisters are too ready to talk of the faults and errors that they think exist in others, and especially in those who have borne unflinchingly the messages of reproof and warning given them of God.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 195.
THE MAIN REASON WHY FAITH IS DESTROYED
“It is true that we are exposed to great moral peril; it is true that we are in danger of being corrupted. But this danger threatens us only as we trust in self and look no higher than our own human efforts. In doing this we shall make shipwreck of faith.” That I May Know Him, 79.
“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:19. The Israelites of old had a fundamental and fatal character defect. Their lack of faith, demonstrated by their disobedience, made it impossible for them to enter. Their unbelief stands out in sharp contrast with the faithfulness of Moses.
Are we any different today as we stand on the brink/boarders of our eternal home?
Paul says to us, “Let us therefore fear” [Hebrews 4:1]. Let us heed the warning for so it happened to the Israelites, it most surely will happen to us.
Remember that in our dealings with God we must walk by faith and not by sight—the just shall live by faith. (I Corinthians 5:7; Romans 1:17).
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.