What is Faith?
The most common answer to that question is probably: "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)
That's how Jesus looked at it as well.
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. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
- Matthew 8:5-13 (KJV)
Salvation is both "through faith", and by "believing in God", 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" (trustworthy, etc).
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
Faith is the only condition upon which justification can be obtained, and faith includes not only belief but trust.
- Ellen White, Justified by Faith, April 14
The faith that is unto salvation is not a casual faith, it is not the mere consent of the intellect, it is belief rooted in the heart, that embraces Christ as a personal Saviour, assured that He can save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.
- Ellen White, His Righteousness Obtained by Faith, April 16
The acceptance of Christ's atonement is the groundwork of true faith.
- Ellen White, Our High Calling, April 21
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 trust 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, and I trusted God even more.
The verse below describes what faith should look like:
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".
You can also look at the above verse like this:
Now faith is the substance [confidence, G5287] of things hoped for, the evidence [conviction, G1650] of things not seen.
- Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
Our faith then should be filled with confidence, and conviction.
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. (Like exercising a muscle if you will)
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Romans 10:17 (KJV)
Ultimately, God is in charge of forming your faith. (If you let Him that is)
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)
If you're familiar with the 1888 revival on "Righteousness by Faith" you might like the quote below.
Faith is composed of two elements-belief, and the word of God.
- E.J. Waggoner, The Present Truth, 3/8/1894
It's all very simple I think.
Faith and believing are used pretty much interchangeably in the Bible, e.g. "if you believe, you have faith".
I've tried to sum it all up in one statement:
Faith = belief/trust in God, His Word, and His Promises.
I believe Ellen White confirms that.
Our part is to rest on the Word with unwavering faith, believing that God will do according to His promise.
- Ellen White, Our High Calling, April 21
I think that trusting in God's Promises is a very important part of our faith.
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
That's what Abraham did, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
- Romans 4:3-5 (KJV)
Genuine faith is followed by works (or fruit, etc).
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 something like this: "You are saved by grace through faith, but faith without works is dead".
In other words, if you truly believe something, it will be evident in your life by your works. For example: if you believe that you are a sinner, but there's no confession and forsaking of sins (repentance), you probably didn't fully believe that you are a sinner in the first place. Or, if you believe that pork is unclean meat, but nonetheless you eat it. Etc, etc.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way.
- Hymn 582