Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Faith (2)

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
This article continues from the October 1999 issue with an exposition of faith. Faith is of crucial importance in the relationship to God. The Lord deals with His people in the way of letting them exercise faith and trust in Him. This is a matter we find throughout the Scriptures.
Faith in the Old Testament
Three words are used in the Old Testament for faith. There is the Hebrew word "he-emin," from which our amen is derived. This means to cause someone to support you. It is the word used when Abraham believed the Lord in Genesis 15:6, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." It means that he trusted in God or he caused God to support him. He did this by leaning fully upon God and His Word.

The second Hebrew word for faith is "batach." This means to confide in or to lean upon. An example of this use is in Psalm 25:2, "O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me."

The third word used for faith is "chasah." This means to seek refuge. An example is found Psalm 57:1, "Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast." Another example is in Psalm 91:4, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler."

The three words used for faith in Scripture are: Trusting in God by causing God to support you; to confide in or to lean upon God; and to seek refuge for safety in God.

Faith in the New Testament
The word used in Greek means to consider something to be true, to accept the message given by God's messengers or to accept Jesus as the Messiah and as the God appointed way of salvation. Here again we see the elements of trusting in Christ, and resting and leaning on Him.

The word faith can refer to the contents of faith as well as the act of believing itself. The first meaning refers to the faith of believing, that is, the contents of faith, for example in Jude 1:3, "I exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

The second use of faith refers to the activity of believing, as in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."

Throughout the Bible we see that an important emphasis is placed on faith. In Genesis we see already that the mother promise (Genesis 3:15) was a promise that required faith. People were commanded to respond by faith. Hebrews 11 gives examples of this kind of faith. Abel offered a sacrifice by faith. By faith Enoch walked with God. It was by faith that Noah became an heir of righteousness.

We can see faith active in the lives of the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had to live by faith. Moses was led by this same faith. In the Book of Psalms we find many references to faith. The prophets repeatedly call the people back to faith, which becomes evident by genuine repentance. In the Old Testament faith is saying amen to God.

Likewise, in the New Testament faith is saying amen to the Gospel of Christ. The Lord Jesus asks for faith. In Mark 1:15 the Lord Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Coming to Him is believing in Him. The Lord Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Á¬ This includes the necessity of personal faith in Christ. In The Gospel according to John, special emphasis is given to faith, for instance in John 3:16. Faith is to acknowledge Christ as the Saviour of the world, to cleave to Him and to trust in Him. By such faith one receives eternal life.

In the Book of Acts we see the same connotation concerning faith. Faith is acceptance of the apostolic testimony about Christ and personal trust in Christ for salvation. Faith is manifested in repentance and remission of sins.

In the Pauline epistles we see a major emphasis on faith. Paul is combating the Jewish idea of faith as taught by the Pharisees. The Jewish idea of faith is constituted by trusting in the election of belonging to God's people and relying on self-righteousness and good works. Over against this rabbinical view of faith, the Bible shows that sinners are justified by faith alone without the works of the law. By faith, union with Christ is experienced. Faith is expressed in love and by a godly walk. To sum up, there must be fruits of repentance.

The epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the dangers of falling away from faith. The readers are urged to run the race set before them by faith.

James, considering the situation of his readers, emphasizes that faith must bring forth fruits of repentance. Peter lays special emphasis on the element of the hope that is present in faith. He says 1 Peter 1:21, "Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."

John shows that faith also includes knowledge, that is, the true knowledge of God. 1 John 5:13 states: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God."

We find a rich diversity in the way the Bible writers view faith. We also see unity displayed throughout the Bible. Salvation is only obtained in the way of faith, a faith that encompasses the whole man. Such faith motivates and leads a person to look unto God or Christ. Faith involves the whole person and his whole life. True faith produces certainty and an assured trust in the Lord in Whom belief is placed.

The Roman Catholic View of Faith
According to Rome, faith is an act of the intellect or of the intelligence. Faith is not focused upon the person of Christ, but upon certain truths to which assent or agreement must be given with the intellect.

By assenting to God's truth and doing good deeds, a reward is obtained. Such faith partially earns the sinner's justification. This faith is only an intellectual assent and does not include a personal relationship to Christ. Therefore, they say, something must be added to faith. That is love. This love must form faith and develop it. By the use of the sacraments people receive the love that causes them to develop their faith and make themselves worthy of salvation.

It is not necessary that the believer cannot and does not understand the doctrines of the church. He can just accept them with his intellect. He only has to assent to what the church teaches. Therefore, there can be no assurance of faith unless by a special revelation of God.

John Calvin's View of Faith
Calvin repudiated the whole Roman Catholic system of faith. He finds the view of mere assent with the intellect without the need to understand the truths of Scripture appalling. Calvin exclaims that this is not knowledge of faith, but ignorance. This conception buries the true faith of the Scriptures. An intellectual assent is no faith at all, Calvin says. According to Rome, someone who does not have a sense of piety and has no fear of the Lord can still be a believer. Calvin calls this a shadow of faith, but not real faith.

He says that true faith consists of the knowledge of God's mercy and that this is not a mere intellectual knowledge. It is connected to trust, "a firm and effectual confidence" (CalvinÁ?s Commentary, Romans 10:10). Calvin calls faith a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit. (Institutes, III,2,7).

Summary
We can say that the difference between Rome and Calvin is that for Calvin faith is:

*a personal relationship to God through Christ;

*a sure knowledge of the love and mercy of God in Christ and not a mere assent to truths which are only partly or not at all understood;

*a firm confidence and trust which opposes doubt;

*not meritorious, but is empty by itself;

There was lot of discussion during the post-reformation period about faith and the assurance of faith. Reformed Protestantism developed the distinction between faith that precedes justification whereby my sins are forgiven and faith that trusts that one's sins are forgiven, which is subsequent to justification. In this way the distinction was made between the direct act of faith and the reflex act of faith. The direct act of faith is faith whereby the sinner lays hold on Christ and flees to Him. The second is the faith whereby I am assured that my sins are forgiven. That is present when the Holy Spirit sheds His light upon His own work in the soul, and then the soul rejoices that Christ is also his Lord and Saviour.

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