The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
September 26, 2010


1) Faith -- As Seen in the Bible (Tom Edwards)


Faith -- As Seen in the Bible
by Tom Edwards

Faith -- how essential it is.  It is one of the requirements for salvation and that which can motivate toward those other necessary steps of repentance, acknowledging our belief in Jesus, submitting to water baptism for the remission of sins, and striving to live dedicated and holy lives unto the Lord.   And, as we will see, all of these involvements in living for God -- in striving to abstain from the wrong and practicing that which is right -- can be summed up as a life of faith. 

For the Bible shows that faith is not only that intangible quality which enables us to believe in God and develop the right perspectives and attitudes; but it is also that which becomes a part of our very character and manifests itself in our words and actions.  It, therefore, results in our manner of life (cf. Jms. 2:18). 

This is because faith in the Bible is not only seen in the subjective sense (such as the faith one has toward God that has been instilled through hearing the word -- Rom. 10:17), but in the objective sense also, in which that gospel message itself is "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" and that which we must "contend earnestly for" by being "obedient to" (Jude 1:3; Acts 6:7) -- and, thus, shaping our lives by it (which involves our thoughts, our words, and our actions). 

This latter usage (of the objective sense) is also exemplified in Abel, who "By faith... offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous...."  This should not cause us to think that Abel necessarily believed more surely in the existence of God than Cain did; but, rather, that Abel offered the animal sacrifice that God  demanded, whereas Cain offered "of the fruit of the ground,"  of which the Lord "had no regard"  (Gen. 4:3). 

To, therefore, "walk by faith, not by sight," as Paul instructs Christians to do in 2 Corinthians 5:7, is a way of expressing the need to live according to God's word -- and this principle has always been so.  For instance, when Romans 1:17 states, "...'But the righteous shall live by faith,'" it is an allusion to Habakkuk 2:4.    This is also reiterated elsewhere in the New Testament, such as in Hebrews 10:38: "But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him."  

So faith, which comes through God's word, is to be a way of life for the believer.   It is our subjective faith (which is developed through God's word) being obedient to the objective faith of  the gospel itself.  Both -- subjective and objective -- are necessary for our salvation.  For instance, if one reads enough of the gospel to have subjective faith, but refuses to repent and submit to what the gospel (the objective faith) demands, what good would that subjective faith be?  And, on the other hand, if one doesn't really believe in Christ, but submits to various commands of the gospel because the person believes it is a better way to live, will that gospel save him?  Though water baptism is just part of the gospel's requirement for salvation, we can see in the Lord's statement that "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" is showing not only our need to believe (have subjective faith), but also our need to submit to the gospel (the objective faith that instructs baptism for the remission of sins).  So it is our faith and obedience to God's word that links us to the Lord. 

This is also why James makes it so clear that "faith without works is useless" (Jms. 2:20) -- and "dead" (v. 26).  Notice, though, what he says about Abraham in vv. 21-24: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,' and he was called the friend of God.  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."

This is also illustrated in Hebrews 11.    Here we read of various people who all did something by their faith (following emphases mine):

"By faith Abel OFFERED to God a better sacrifice than Cain..." (v. 4). 

"By faith Noah...PREPARED an ark for the salvation of his household..." (v. 7). 

"By faith Abraham...OBEYED BY GOING out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance..." (v. 8).

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been ENCIRCLED for seven days" (v. 30).

What  good would the faith of these people have been, had they not obeyed what the Lord required of them?  Abel would have been disobeying God by not offering the proper sacrifice and incurring His wrath.  Noah would have been lost in the flood, along with all his household.  Abraham would have become disobedient to the Lord and lost as well.  The walls of Jericho would not have fallen. 

Even so today, our faith must be an obedient faith that submits to God's plan of salvation and follows through in living the life of a Christian.   And those steps involve our hearing God's word to acquire faith (Rom. 10:17), believing in the deity of Christ (Jn. 8:24), repenting of sin (Luke 13:5), confessing faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), submitting to water baptism for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom 6:3,4; 1 Pet. 3:21), and striving to live a holy and faithful life unto God (Heb. 12:14; Rev. 2:10). 

The Bible actually has some examples of those who had subjective faith, but would not obey the Lord.  Notice what is said about them in these following verses:

In John 8:30-32, the text states, "As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.   Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'"

Notice first of all that the Lord is addressing "those Jews who had believed Him," and the previous verse shows that "many came to believe in Him."  But now we see that the Lord is demanding something of them: they must "abide in" His word to truly be His disciples and to be made free.  Some other versions render "abide in My word" as "keep My word," "continue in my word," "keep on obeying what I have said," "live by what I say," "remain in my word," and "hold to my teaching." 

But note, too, what else the Lord says, in verse 37, about these "believers": "...you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you."  And in verse 44, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies."  

Their belief in the Lord would not save them, for their hearts were far from being in subjection to the Lord's commands; and obedience would be necessary to make their faith complete.   Again, Jesus emphasizes the need to obey in verse 51, by saying,  "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone KEEPS My word he shall never see death" (emphasis mine).

This doesn't mean that the person will never die physically, but it indicates that his soul will always have the abundant life that Jesus came to give -- and have it throughout all eternity -- if the condition of keeping God's word is met. 

One more example of those who believed, but did not obey -- so their faith was "dead" -- can be seen in John 12:42,43.  The passages says, "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God."

These believed, but obviously their faith would not save them; for they were more concerned with pleasing man than in pleasing God -- and to the extent that they were willing to deny their belief in Jesus, so that they would not be ostracized from the synagogue and lose the favor of the people. 

Corresponding to this is the warning of Jesus in Matthew 10:32,33: "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."

As we consider these examples of "dead" faith, it is sad to realize that this is actually the kind of faith that many people of our time preach, teach, and practice as the only kind of faith that is necessary for salvation.   The expression "salvation by faith only" is often heard, across our nation and around the world.  It is said so much that you would think there must be oodles of places that it is mentioned in the New Testament.  But, ironically, that phrase "faith only" is used just one time in all the Bible -- and that verse is actually teaching that "faith only" will not save!  The verse is James 2:24, where James says, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."  (Notice also the entire passage in vv. 14-26 that brings out more of this truth.)

So faith coupled with obedience to the gospel is necessary for our salvation. 

Therefore, when the Bible speaks of those who had faith to the saving of the soul, faith is then being used "comprehensively" to stand for (include) all the necessary steps that lead to salvation (such as repentance and baptism).  For instance, in looking again at Hebrew 11:30, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down...,"  was it by a mere "faith only" that these walls fell?  The very same verse goes on to say, "after they had been encircled for seven days."  In addition, when we read the entire account of this in Joshua 6, we see of various other conditions, too, that needed to be met before the walls would come tumbling down.  So saying that they fell by faith, is a way of summing up all those other necessary requirements as well.  They obeyed, believing that God would do what He said when they met His conditions.  

This can also be seen in Galatians 3:26,27, where Paul says, "For you are all sons of God through faith."  But was it by mere "faith only"?  Verse 27 points out, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."  So their baptism was implied in their faith of verse 26.  For could we assume they could become children of God without being in Christ?  If we don't want to be be condemned, we need to be in Christ, as Paul shows in Romans 8:1: "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Paul also points out that all spiritual blessings are "in Christ" (Eph. 1:3), and that if "anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17).  So in Galatians 3:26,27, Paul answers that important question as to how we can get into Jesus.  And there he shows that we need to have the right kind of faith, and one that includes submitting to baptism in order to be put into Christ. 

May our faith always be an obedient faith that submits to the faith of the gospel so that our faith will be made complete and result in salvation now -- and heaven in the eternity to come (Jms. 2:22; Heb. 10:36-39). 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

201 Rushing Road (at the Hampton Inn), Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726
Sunday services: 9:15 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 4 PM (worship)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/audioser.html (audio sermons)


Take the Denham Springs exit (exit 10) off of I-12.  At the end of the exit ramp, turn north.  Go about a stone's throw to Rushing Road.  (You'll see a Starbucks, Circle K, and two other gas stations; with each on each corner.)  Turn left on Rushing Road, and go a little less than 0.3 of a mile.  Hampton Inn will be on the right.  We assemble in its "Meeting Room," which is very close to the reception counter.  Just walk pass the check-in counter; turn right at the hall.  The first and second doors on the left lead to where we meet.