What Is Faith?

The Gift of Faith

But what are we to have faith in and how are we to get it? Let’s begin to answer that by moving right on into Hebrews 12. Verse 1 essentially says that since we have this great cloud of witnesses or martyrs, the example of these great people of faith, let us go on and look to Jesus, who is the “author and finisher of our faith.” Jesus is the cause and the completer of our faith. In other words, He has done everything necessary for our faith.

Do I mean that there is nothing we have to do to work up faith? Nothing at all we must do to work up faith? Yes, I do. The idea you often hear of working up faith is totally foreign to the Bible. Instead, the Bible says that faith is a free gift. Let me repeat that. The Bible says that faith is a free gift.

If you have your Bible in front of you, turn to Ephesians 2 and we will begin with verse 8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Notice it: we are saved by grace. Grace by definition is free. But the apostle goes on to say that it is by grace through faith. And, he says, that that faith is not of ourselves. It is not something we work up. It is not something we have to do anything to get. It is the gift of God. How do we get faith? God gives it to us.

Faith is a gift. And what is faith? It is assured belief. Belief in what? Well, if we are talking about saving faith, it is belief in what saves us. What saves us? The answer to this is found throughout the New Testament, but let’s look at Acts 16. Paul and his companions were in prison. While they were singing hymns, God caused an earthquake and the prison doors opened up. The prison keeper woke up, thought the prisoners must have escaped, and was going to kill himself when Paul stopped him. In verse 31, we read that, trembling, he fell down and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But what does believing on Jesus mean?

Jesus, the Object of Saving Faith

In Romans 10:9, Paul says, “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.” So, we must believe that God raised him from the dead. Is there anything more?

Notice Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes it. So, we need to know what this Gospel of Jesus Christ is. Probably it is something to do with Jesus being raised from the dead, but maybe it contains more information than that. Let’s see.

In 1 Corinthians 15, beginning in verse 1, Paul gives us a very neat summary of the Gospel. Let’s read it.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

So there is what we are to have faith in. We are to believe that Jesus died for our sins—and I want to add here that to believe that Jesus died for our sins, we must believe that we are sinners; hopeless sinners who can do nothing to save ourselves. So, we must believe that Jesus died to save us from our sins, was buried, and rose again. If we believe this, then God has given us the gift of faith and we are saved.

It is really that simple. As John the Baptist said in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Jesus Christ says the same thing Himself in John 3 beginning in verse 14: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up”—meaning lifted up on the cross in the Crucifixion—“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:14-18).

Why, then, does the Bible say that without faith, we cannot please God? Simply because without faith we cannot believe the Gospel. We cannot believe that Jesus Christ died on that cross for our sins. And if we cannot believe that, then our sins are still upon us, and sin separates us from God, and we remain condemned.

That’s why faith is so important. It is the instrument by which we receive our salvation. Without it, we cannot please God and we cannot be saved. Now, I am sure there are some of you who want to believe, but who think you don’t believe. You think you don’t have enough faith. What can you do? Are you worried that you don’t have enough faith? What can you do? Well, first, don’t try to work up your faith out of your own human will. It’s not going to work. Remember, faith is a gift from God. Now notice what the father of a demon-possessed boy did. You can find this in Mark 9, and we will pick it up in verse 23.

He brought the boy to Jesus so Jesus could cast out the demon. And Jesus said to him, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Notice that he had enough faith to bring the boy to Jesus. And he had enough faith to ask for more faith. You can’t argue about it, both of those acts are acts of faith. Friend, if you don’t think you have faith, but you have been reading up to this point, you probably have more faith than you think. And if you want more, ask for it. Ask God to give you more faith, and He will.

How do I know? Because Jesus says in Matthew 7, verse 7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Yes, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:8). As Jesus says a few verses later, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Ask, and your Father in heaven will give it to you.

And if you believe that you are a sinner with no hope of doing anything to save yourself, then remember that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for your sins. There is nothing you can add to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Only believe and you will be saved. And even that belief is a free gift of God.

So, what is faith? It is belief. And what are we to believe in? We are to believe that we are sinners, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died to fully pay the penalty for our sins. And how are we to get faith? God gives it to us freely. Has God given you the faith to believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins? If so, you have the faith to please God, and Jesus has died to save you. If you are not sure, remember, you can ask, “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.”

Copyright © 2005-2012 Peter Ditzel