What is Faith?
The most common answer to that question is: Belief in God.
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.
- Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)
Salvation is both "through faith", and by "believing in Him", so that means that faith and belief are very close together.
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.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
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.
- John 3:16 (KJV)
There are two kinds of belief:
- Belief that ...
- Belief in ...
For example, I can believe that God exists, or I can believe in who God is (as a person I mean).
The belief that God exists by itself, won't necessarily help you. The devil and his angels also believe that God exists, but it obviously won't save them.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
- James 2:19 (KJV)
So, a saving faith then, is a belief in God (based on trust).
Ellen White puts it like this:
Faith is trusting in God-believing that He loves us, and knows what is for our best good.
- Ellen White, Righteousness by Faith
The wondering crowd that pressed close about Christ realized no accession of vital power. But when the suffering woman put forth her hand to touch Him, believing that she would be made whole, she felt the healing virtue. So in spiritual things. To talk of religion in a casual way, to pray without soul hunger and living faith, avails nothing. A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Saviour of the world, can never bring healing to the soul. The faith that is unto salvation is not a mere intellectual assent to the truth. He who waits for entire knowledge before he will exercise faith, cannot receive blessing from God. It is not enough to believe about Christ; we must believe in Him. The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul becomes a conquering power.
- Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 347
Of course our belief is not blind. In fact, as evidence is added, our faith becomes stronger and stronger.
For example, the Bible teaches a six day creation. I have never seen this myself, but I trusted God (He never lies, so it must be true), and I took that on faith (initially). And then later on, evidence confirmed that belief when soft tissue was found in Dinosaur bones (proving a young Earth). My faith then became even stronger. I trusted God even more.
The effect of this belief is described in the verse below.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
- Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
For example: eternal life is "substance of things hoped for", and the Flood is "evidence of things not seen".
Knowing who God is will also help you better understand how He deals with sin, and how loving, kind, and gentle He really is.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)
Reading the Bible (and other revealed truths) strengthens our faith.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Romans 10:17 (KJV)
I've tried to sum it all up in one statement:
Faith = belief/trust in God, His Word, and His Promises.
It is not our efforts that bring victory. It is seeing God behind the promise, and believing and trusting Him. Grasp by faith the hand of infinite power. The Lord is faithful who hath promised.
- Ellen White, The Upward Look, chapter 119
In addition to that, faith alone won't save you. You will still need to do works of repentance also.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
- James 2:14 (KJV)
Salvation then becomes:
Salvation = by grace through faith (accompanied by works of obedience)
So, the two pillars of the gospel are:
- By grace are ye saved through faith
- Faith without works (of obedience) is dead
Ellen White puts it like this also.
When we speak of faith, there is a distinction that should be borne in mind. There is a kind of belief that is wholly distinct from faith. The existence and power of God, the truth of His word, are facts that even Satan and his hosts cannot at heart deny. The Bible says that "the devils also believe, and tremble;" but this is not faith. James 2:19. Where there is not only a belief in God's word, but a submission of the will to Him; where the heart is yielded to Him, the affections fixed upon Him, there is faith-faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Through this faith the heart is renewed in the image of God. And the heart that in its unrenewed state is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, now delights in its holy precepts, exclaiming with the psalmist, "O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97. And the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:1.
- Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 63/64
Trust and obey, for there's no other way.
- Hymn 582
Faith, belief, and trust are closely related, but they are subtly different.