By John C. Carpenter
While speaking about His second coming to earth, Jesus Christ said to His disciples,when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8). What is this "faith" that Jesus is referring to here? Is faith externally visible? Is faith an inner feeling? Are there varying quantities and qualities of faith? Is faith having confidence that something will come to pass? Is it a force or power that causes God to respond? Once you have faith, can you lose it? Although we will certainly never completely understand faith in this one issue, let's take a look at some possible definitions of faith as well as some of the characteristics of faith.
The English word "faith" in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word "pistis," which means "persuasion, moral conviction of religious truth, reliance upon Christ for salvation, belief, or fidelity." The apostle Paul gave us an unusual characteristic of faith when he said, faith is the substance[support under that leads to confidence in] of things hoped for, the evidence [proof] of things not seen (Heb 11:1). According to Paul, faith is not only something operating in our hearts and lives which supports and strengthens our belief in unseen things [i.e., the kingdom of heaven, etc.] that we hope for, but it is also the evidence that those unseen things actually exist. In this sense, faith could be compared to a highway. A highway is not only a path that supports and directs an automobile in a certain direction so that the automobile can reach its destination [that is hoped for], but because the highway leads somewhere, the highway is evidence that there is something at the end of the highway [that is not seen]. According to scripture, the path of faith not only supports and directs our journey towards our destination of eternal life, but the path of faith is actually evidence that there is eternal life at the end of that path. God, through the prophet Jeremiah, said, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jer 33:3). Faith not only directs one towards the unseen things, but is also the evidence those unseen things exist. Does every man and woman have some faith? At first glance, scripture seems to contradict itself on this question. In one verse the apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians, all men have not faith (2 Th 3:2), yet tells the believers in Rome God hath dealt to every man [believer] the measure [limited, varying amount] of faith (Rom 12:3). I personally believe that the teaching of scripture, and personal experiences in life, reveal that not all men have faith. When the Roman believers in Christ thought that they were better than the Jews, the apostle Paul accused them of boasting against the Jews (Rom 11:18). Paul later instructed these arrogant Gentile believers to be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed [changed to a more humble state] by the renewing [changing] of your mind [perception, understanding], that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Rom 12:2-3). Paul instructed these Gentile believers to become completely new individuals by changing their understanding of their own importance, by not thinking of themselves as highly as they had. Paul was suggesting that all "believers" have been given a measure of faith, and he wanted these Gentiles to think more soberly [humbly] and according to their calling and the measure of faith God the Father had given them as believers. The apostle John not only clarified this, but gave the criteria to differentiate believers from unbelievers. He said, Hereby know ye the [individuals that have the] Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every [human] spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (1 John 4:2-3). Clearly, some individuals do not have faith, and those unbelievers are described as having the spirit of antichrist. According to scripture, not all men believe or have faith. Holy Scriptures also teach us that we are not the originators of our own faith. The author of Hebrews instructs us to look unto Jesus the author [chief leader, captain, prince, author, originator] and finisher [one who completes or perfects] of our faith... (Heb 12:2). Jesus Christ is the one who originates and perfects our faith. Now that we know who gives us faith, we must ask how does Christ give us faith? From where does faith in Christ come?
Speaking to the Jews, the apostle Paul gave us the answer when he said to those in Rome, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:13-17). These verses indicate that salvation is the result of calling upon the name of the Lord (Rom 10:13), individuals call on Christ because they believe in Him (Rom 10:14), individuals believe in Christ because they have heard about Him (Rom 10:14), individuals have heard about Christ from preachers who preach (Rom 10:14), and preachers preach because they are sent by God (Rom 10:15). But by whom, and how, are men and women sent to preach the Gospel? The Lord gave us the answer saying, Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you (John 20:21). Jesus Christ is the one who sends individuals to preach. But how does He do this? Acts 13:4 gives us the answer, in that men are sent forth by the Holy Ghost. Jesus verified this process when He said, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him [by the Holy Spirit]: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44), and My Father, which gave them [to] me [by the Holy Spirit], is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand (John 10:29). If an individual has faith in Christ, that faith is present to save because it was God the Father's will and working. We should ask, though, how does the word "word" in Romans 10:17 relate to preachers being "sent" in Romans 10:15? In Romans 10:17, the word "word" is the Greek word "Rhema." Strong's concordance defines "Rhema" as "an utterance, matter or topic spoken about, a saying, or a word." The word "Rhema" is derived from the Greek words "Rheo" and "Ereo" which mean to "utter, speak, say, make, command, or speak of." The definition adds that "Rheo" implies the idea of "pouring forth." In short, "Rhema" means to "utter, speak, or say by pouring forth." We know that God called Aaron, the brother of Moses, to speak for Moses, when God said to Moses, And he [Aaron] shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God (Exo 4:16). God's calling Aaron to speak for Moses is a type of God calling the Holy Spirit to speak for Christ. The Lord specifically said, ...the words [rhema] that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are [bring eternal] life (John 6:63). Pouring, flowing, and moving are often mentioned in the Scriptures as synonymous with the operation of the Holy Spirit. Scriptures tell us that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:45). Christ said, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). The rivers of living water are a type of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, the apostle Peter said, For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet 1:21). Numerous scriptural examples verify that faith [believing] results from listening to the preaching of men who are sent by the speaking, pouring, flowing, and movement of the Holy Spirit [Rhema]. Paul was sent by the Holy Ghost (Acts 16:6-10), he preached (Acts 17:3), and some of thembelieved (Acts 17:4). The apostle Phillip was sent by the angel of the Lord (Acts 8:26), he preached unto him Jesus (Acts 8:35), and the man of Ethiopia answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37). The Holy Ghost said separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them (Acts 13:2), Barnabas and Saul were sent forth by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:4), preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews (Acts 13:5), and the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord (Acts 13:12). Paul and Barnabus were sent (Acts 13:2), published [preached] the Word of God (Acts 13:49), and a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed (Acts 14:1). Lastly, the apostle Peter left no doubt that faith comes from the operation of the Holy Spirit when he said, But the word[rhema] of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word [rhema] which by the gospel is preached unto you. (1 Pet 1:25). Peter was saying that the gospel is preached unto all of us because of this word, meaning it is this word or "rhema" that calls and sends men and women to preach. The word, or rhema, that sends individuals to preach is the Holy Spirit, and because the Holy Spirit moves on some to preach, others are able to hear and have faith [believe] in Jesus Christ. This in turn causes these individuals to call upon the name of the Lord, which results in their salvation. As Paul so adequately summarized, So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word [rhema, or operation of the Holy Spirit] of God (Rom 10:17).
The Holy Scriptures give us much information about faith. Faith can waver (Heb 10:23), can be increased (Luke 17:5), can be weak (Rom 4:19), and can be strong (Rom 4:20). We know that faith involves fighting (1 Tim 6:12), that the poor [in spirit; i.e., humble] are rich in faith (James 2:5), and we are instructed to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Scripture also tells us that through faith kingdoms are subdued (Heb 11:33). We are instructed to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3), that having all faith apart from charity is not enough (1 Cor 13:2-13), that faith makes us whole (Luke 17:19), and that faith does not make the Jewish law void (Rom 3:31). Our faith is counted as righteousness by God (Rom 4:5), we stand [will stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36)] because of our faith (2 Cor 1:24), faith can be made to have no effect (Rom 3:3), and our faith overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Scripture also instructs us that, no matter the quality or quantity, the faith of believers will periodically be tested. The apostle James explained, Knowing this, that the trying [trial, testing for trustworthiness] of your faith worketh [accomplishes, fashions, leads to] patience [cheerful and hopeful endurance and continuance] (James 1:3). The word "trying" is the Greek word "dokimion," which means "a testing of trustworthiness, a trial." Other than the book of James, the only other occurrence of "dokimion" in the new testament was given to us by the apostle Peter. He said, the trial [dokimion] of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:7). So, how is the faith of believers "tried?" Peter told us in the previous verse saying, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (1 Pet 1:6). As with Jesus Christ [1 John 2:16; Mat 4:1-10) believers will be tested through various temptations. I also personally believe that the Scriptures teach that one can also lose his or her faith, and as a result his or her salvation. Faith can fail (Luke 22:32), individuals can turn away from their faith (Acts 13:8), faith can be "put away" [cast away, rejected] (1 Tim 1:19), and, lastly, faith can be lost [departed from, deserted, rebel against] (1 Tim 4:1). Very importantly, though, the scriptures inform us that because of faith believers are purified [purged, made clean] (Acts 15:9), justified [found innocent] (Rom 3:28), sanctified [purified, consecrated, made holy] (Acts 26:18), and maderighteous [free from the consequences of breaking the law] (Heb 11:7). Most importantly, Paul tells us that the end result of our faith is that the just shall live [eternally] by[because of their] faith (Rom 1:17).
There appears to be another contradiction found in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul told those in Galatia, a man is not justified [rendered innocent in God's view] by the works [doing, keeping] of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Gal 2:16). Yet, James, the half brother of Jesus Christ, writing to the twelve [Jewish] tribes which are scattered abroad, said, What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith [alone] save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead [nekros; i.e., a corpse without life, ineffective], being alone (James 2:14-17). James later said, Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24) and For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26). I believe there is no contradiction, and that these two disciples were saying two different things. Paul was explaining that, in the New Testament, man is not justified [found innocent, free of punishment due because of sin] by the "works" of keeping or obeying the Jewish law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. James was explaining that true faith in Jesus Christ will always be naturally followed by, and result in, good "works" toward fellow men, such as providing those things "needful to the body" (James 2:16), like food and clothing. These good "works" are not a prerequisite for justification or salvation, and do not justify individuals in God's view, but are simply symptomatic, the logical result, of true faith. In fact, James specifically said "I will show thee my faith by my works" (James 2:18), meaning one's faith can be seen by looking at one's works. If you see true Christian good works, then you see true Christian faith. Although technically we are justified and saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone, we will never see true faith alone and separate from good works.
When individuals develop faith as a result of hearing the preaching of preachers sent by God, what is God's reaction? The answer is simple - it pleases Him. We know that without faith it is impossible to please [to gratify entirely] him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder [to pay an equivalent to for a service, loss, or expense] of them that diligently seek him (Heb 11:6). In this verse we not only find that faith pleases God, and that it is impossible to please Him without having faith, but we also find another definition of faith. Faith is defined as believing that God is, that He exists, and that God will reward the efforts and response of those that investigate and seek carefully after Him. We find another definition of faith in the book of Matthew. Scriptures tell us the story: And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Mat 8:5-10). The centurion in this story was saying that he, like Jesus, had and understood authority. He explained that when one has authority, he or she speaks and others respond accordingly by doing what they have been told to do by those in authority. Likewise, when Christ, the person of authority in the natural and spiritual realm, speaks, we can have faith that what he says is true, and will be carried out and come to pass. Christ in fact described this as "great" faith. Another definition of faith is found in the book of Mark. The story is as follows: And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even [specifically] as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him (Mark 11:1-7). Next, the scriptures tell us a second story: And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it (Mark 11:11-14). Scriptures later tell us, And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away (Mark 11:20-21). After Peter questioned the Lord about the withered fig tree, the Lord says a most puzzling thing. He says to His disciples "have faith in God" (Mark 11:22). How is this statement by Christ about having faith connected with the two stories? The Lord not only told His disciples that they would find a colt tied whereon never man sat, but that the colt's owner would even ask them why they were taking the colt (Mark 11:1-3). The disciples then found that what the Lord had said was exactly true. They found the colt tied right where the Lord said he would be (Mark 11:4), and just as the Lord had also said, they were questioned by the owner as to why they were taking the colt (Mark 11:5-6). In the second example, the Lord spoke to the fig tree and cursed [killed] it (Mark 11:14). The next day, the disciples were shocked when the fig tree had dried up and died (Mark 11:20). Jesus told the disciples about the colt, and it came true. Jesus spoke to and cursed the fig tree, and it came true. Jesus then simply tells His disciples, "Have faith in God." By this statement, Jesus simply wanted His disciples to believe that He was God, to believe that what He says would come to pass and was true. This concept may well be verified if one makes two slight translation changes in the very next verse, a verse which I believe is often grossly misinterpreted. The next verse could easily read: ...whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his [believer's] heart, but shall believe that those things which he [God] saith shall come to pass; he [believers] shall have whatsoever he [God] saith (Mark 11:23). When read in context, verse 23 could be making the same point that when we have a need [mountain] and we ask God about that need, if God answers our prayer and speaks to us, we cannot only believe what God says is true and will come to pass, but we shall also have what God says. Although there are additional questions about verse 23, this concept is certainly food for thought. The scriptures tell us another story. While sailing in a boat with His disciples, Jesus fell asleep and a storm arose. The Lord's disciples became afraid and they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him (Luke 8:22-25). In this example as well, we see the Lord's authority in that the Lord "spoke to the winds and water, and they obeyed Him." Again, we find the concept of faith that "what God says comes to pass." Even after the Lord, with apparent frustration, asked His disciples, "Where is your faith," the disciples still questioned themselves, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him. The disciples were shocked that Jesus spoke to the winds and water, and they obeyed Him. By their shocked reaction the disciples revealed that, despite all they had personally seen, they did not fully understand that Christ is God, and that He can speak words that will come to pass, words that will deliver them from destruction. Simply put, they did not have "faith" in Christ's words. One final meaning of faith was described by the apostle Paul. He said to Gentile believers in Rome, all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission [toleration] of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Rom 3:23-25). In this context, faith means to "be assured, trust." The believer does not have faith in the blood of Christ itself, but in the act of crucifixion that produced the blood. The blood is only symbolic of the death that Christ suffered on the cross. When a believer has faith in Christ and His death [and resulting blood], God will "tolerate" the past sin of the believer, and will therefore determine the believer to be eternally righteous.  AMEN.
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"Submit yourselves therefore to
God. Resist
the devil, and
he will flee
from you"
(James 4:7)

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