The Distinct Nature of Faith
The actions of a person can be traced back to three main places. Intellect, experience, or emotion. If a man changes the oil in his car because the owners manual says to, that would be by intellect or by reasoning. If he changes it because he had a head gasket blow out in the past, that is by experience. If he does it because he enjoys tinkering on his car, that is by emotion. In many cases one reason may outweigh another. If the person doesn’t want to change the oil, he may overpower his emotions by his past experience.
In spiritual matters we are told, “Lean not on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5). And “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9). These two statements should be sufficient to make the point that, in the Bible there is something that transcends these three sources of action. There is a fourth source of action and that is faith.
A lot of people think that faith is like a blind leap. They equate faith with an emotional pull that they have. You will hear phrases like “God has placed this on my heart” or “I feel like God is moving me in this direction”. This is equating faith with emotion. While faith must flow from our hearts (Rom 10:10), it must not originate there.
Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17). Faith is not a blind excursion, and it is not based on the pull of our hearts. It must come from God’s word. The task of sharing that word was given to the apostles and prophets (Eph 3:5). These people were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down that message in the 27 books of the New Testament (John 16:13). The entirety of these books constitute the teaching of “the faith”(Eph 4:5, 1 Cor 16:13). That is the system of faith that God has delivered (Jude 1:3).
We should examine ourselves to see if we are in “the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). We are able to do that because God has given us teachings of “the faith” in the New Testament. An individual must be diligent in making sure their beliefs and actions line up with what God has said.
Hebrews 11 is the great chapter of faith. I encourage everyone to read through that chapter and notice the same pattern throughout every bible hero that is listed. All of them are applauded for their faith. But in every instance, that faith was because God’s word had revealed exactly what they were supposed to believe and obey. This is a lesson for us of what faith is. It always, 100% of the time, with no exceptions, comes from the word of God. And it is absolutely worthless if it doesn’t obey (John 3:36 ESV).
One such example is Noah. Beginning in Hebrews 11:7 it says, “By faith, Noah being Divinely warned”. Where did Noah’s faith come from? It came from the Word of God (Gen 6:13ff).
If we could go back to the time of Noah and interview him we might ask him if he had any experience with a global flood. He would certainly say no. We would ask Noah if he had a desire to build an ark. He would say no. We would ask him if there was any reason to believe that he should prepare for a flood. He would say no. We would ask Noah, “Why then did you build the Ark?”. And he very well could say it like this, “Because that’s what God’s Word said”. Genesis 6:22 says “Thus Noah did, according to all that God had commanded him, so did he”.
The example of Noah and all of Hebrews 11, provide us with great illustrations for the type of faith that saves us (Eph 2:8-9). Our faith must come from the word of God (Rom 10:17, 1:16-17). But our faith must act in ways that transcend our intellect, experience, and emotion, in order to receive the promise attached to it. Noah would not have been saved if he didn’t build the ark. He wouldn’t have been saved if he used his own reason, experience, and emotions to keep him from doing “all the Lord had commanded him”. The Lord will take vengeance upon all those who do not obey him (2 Thes 1:8). Noah would have been right there in the same camp with the lost of the world.
When the word of God is preached, the hope is that the hearer will believe. But the Bible says, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk 16:16). Many people argue against those words of Jesus and many other similar statements in the New Testament. They use experience, emotion, and human reason to deny that baptism is essential for salvation. But baptism is an act of faith. It transcends those reasons for action.
I have never seen a single sin on someones body, and I have never seen one washed away. But by faith, as people are baptized those sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).
I have never seen God do the operation of salvation on someone. But by faith, when someone is immersed in the water I know that is happening. (Col 2:12).
I have never seen an adoption agency come in when someone is baptized and say that the individual now is a son of God. But by faith that is what the individual becomes (Gal 3:26-27).
I have never seen Christ take someone and add them to His church when they are baptized, but by faith when someone is baptized that is what happens (Acts 2:47).
You can test your faith. You can trace it and find its origin. Is your faith from God’s word? Anything that the Lord has not planted shall be rooted up (Matt 15:13).