11 Aug Quarter One Lesson Six
What is Faith?
Faith is a very important subject, so let us take a moment and define it, and then we will discuss the results of having it, and finally we will discover how to get it. Please read the following passage and answer the questions below:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-3 (NIV)
Question 1. According to Hebrews 11:1, what is faith?
Sometimes people define faith as “a leap in the dark”, or “blindly trusting something to be true.” As we can see from Hebrews 11 that is not the case. Faith is “being sure and certain.” It is believing something to be true based upon having irrefutable evidence which provides unshakable confidence in the reality of it.
If I hear someone say that one football team is going to beat another tomorrow I cannot be “sure and certain” of the reality of it. Maybe one team is better than the other, but that doesn’t mean it is a sure thing. Alternatively, if I read that it is going to rain today and then I hear the rain falling on my roof and smell the fresh scent of rain in the air then I am “sure and certain” that the weather report is true. I have confidence in it. I can put my faith in it and act accordingly.
Likewise, God gives us reasons to believe, evidence that convinces us of the certainty of what He says in His Word. We can confidently believe in the gospel of Christ’s death as payment for our sins and His resurrection on the third day because we have evidence that this is true. And as we believe the gospel, we then act on what we know to be true by calling out to God, asking to be forgiven, to be made right and to find favor in His sight. This is faith. Saving faith. It starts with believing and ends with calling out to God, as we will see in this lesson.
Now let’s examine what faith accomplishes in the life of the believer.
Question 2. According to Hebrews 11:2 above, what did faith do for the “ancients?”
The word “ancients” means all the people in the Old Testament who believed God. The writer to Hebrews takes this entire chapter, Hebrews chapter 11, to show one person of faith after another, and some of what their faith enabled them to do. And this is the most important part about faith: when the ancients believed God they were commended by God.
This is no small thing. Many people want to know how to receive God’s approval; that is, how to be commended by God. Many people work for many years at doing good, being kind, helping others, etc. all to try to receive commendation from God.
And yet here, in the Bible we have a passage telling us that the people in the Old Testament received commendation from God when they believed Him. Let’s take one example:
There was a man by the name of Abraham in the Bible, and God spoke to him about having a son and about having as many descendants as the stars in the sky, even though he and his wife were past the age of childbearing. Abraham believed God. Notice what his faith did for him: “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 (ESV)
Question 3. According to Genesis 15:6, what did Abraham’s faith bring him?
See this is the truly amazing thing about faith: God commends us for it. When we believe in Him, God is pleased. God counted Abraham “righteous”, that is, Abraham was right with God, simply by faith. Abraham did not work to gain God’s favor; He did not do good deeds in an attempt to be approved. No, Abraham believed God and was credited as being righteous.
And you know something interesting? It is the same with us today. If we believe God, (specifically we’re referring to believing what God says about His Son in the gospel) we too are counted as righteous just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:6-9 (ESV)
Question 4. According to Galatians 3:8, how are people justified before God? And what did God preach to Abraham?
This passage teaches us very important truths: God preached the gospel to Abraham; that is, He told Abraham the good news about one who was to come from Abraham, Jesus, and through His life, death and resurrection He would destroy the work of the devil and so bless all nations. Long before Jesus was born, Abraham believed this good news about Jesus and so received the blessing from God of being declared righteous.
It is the exact same way for you, friend. If you hear the gospel, believe it and call out to God, then you are accepted by God, declared to be righteous, and will enjoy the favor and blessing of God just like Abraham did.
Question 5. Please write out Galatians 3:9 from above:
In our studies so far through the first three chapters of Genesis we have both heard (read) the gospel and seen it illustrated. We read it here:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
This passage tells us of one who would come and defeat Satan. In connection with this we read 1 John 3:8 “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work”. He did this when He died on the cross; that is, when He was “bruised in His heel”, receiving wounds in His flesh, He defeated Satan. Colossians 2:15 says “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.
Then we saw the gospel illustrated: Adam and Eve were under the death sentence for their sin, yet God came to them and clothed them with the skins of an animal that He had put to death in their place. Likewise, the Bible teaches us that we are sinners from birth and by practice, and yet Jesus came to this earth to die on the cross, thereby removing our sin and clothing us with His righteousness.
So up to this point you have both heard the gospel and seen it illustrated. The question is, do you believe it?
Question 6. Do you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ? If yes, please state why. If not, please share what might be hindering you from putting your faith in God and His gospel message.
Next, I want us to notice another benefit of having faith. Not only are we declared righteous when we believe, not only are we commended by God and blessed with His favor, but notice what else happens (this passage is referring to Abraham):
“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,”Romans 4:20 (ESV)
Question 7. What happened to Abraham regarding his faith?
The amazing thing about having genuine faith is it begins to change us. Abraham “grew strong in his faith”, meaning his faith in God was strengthening him. This is gospel growth because as he believed the gospel he grew strong in faith.
To make it clearer, let us say it this way: as Abraham believed the promises of God concerning the coming one who would bless all nations he grew strong. Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter” shows us that this happened to all who were listed in the chapter. Their “weakness was turned to strength. They became powerful and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:34).
This is one of the many great things that faith does for us, friend. Believing in the gospel makes us strong. Notice it again from these passages:
So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. Acts 16:5 (ESV)
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 (NIV)
If we were to apply the above teaching to our life situations we could come to understand that if we are failing often, sinning repeatedly, struggling to overcome, then what is needed is faith. This is because faith strengthens us as we believe the promises of God in the gospel. Indeed, notice how faith and overcoming are directly connected in this passage: “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5 (ESV)
We will learn more about overcoming in the second quarter of this Gospel Growth discipleship course, but for now let us ask this important question: if faith is how we receive commendation from God; if faith is what makes us righteous before God; if faith is what strengthens us and enables us to overcome, how do we get faith?
This is a really important question, for we cannot simply decide to have faith. We cannot work it up, earn it or buy it. Faith is actually a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), given sovereignly. However, this does not mean we just sit around waiting for faith to fall upon us magically.
Read the following passages, and provide your thoughts on them as able:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:13-17 (ESV)
Question 8. Please describe, from Romans 10:13-17 how it is that people come to have faith?
In the above passage we must follow the logic in order to arrive at the conclusion, yet the conclusion is stated first:
Conclusion: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is clear because our condition by birth is that we are sinners under the death sentence, and therefore in order to be saved we must call out to God.
There is an illustration of this in Matthew chapter 14 where a man by the name of Peter saw Jesus Christ literally walking on the water. Peter was pretty impetuous and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus told him to come and Peter actually started walking on the water too, until he saw how strong the winds were and how big the waves were, then he started to sink. In desperation he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Similarly as we realize we are sinking into the grave as a direct result of our sins we call upon God, saying “Lord save me.” And “everyone who calls on the name will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Everyone, without exception, is saved who calls out to God.
But now here comes the logic of Romans chapter 10: “14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
This logic is actually quite simple, isn’t it? We are sinking to the grave in our sin so we must call out to God to save us. Yet, we must believe in Him in order to call to Him—we must have faith. And we must hear about Him in order to believe in Him. And in order to hear about Him someone must preach to us. Preach what? ““How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Paul is referring here specifically to the good news about Jesus—the gospel.
So Paul’s statement in Romans 10, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”, is actually very easy logic to follow: we must hear the gospel in order to believe it, and when we hear the good news that there is a Savior for us then we call out to him.
Question 9. Based upon Romans 10:13-17, what do we need to do if we find that we do not have faith?
Yes, if we do not have faith, that unshakable confidence in God, then we need to hear the gospel. This means that we could study the Bible and “hear” (read) the gospel that way. We could listen to sermons at a church from a pastor who preaches the gospel. We could discuss the Bible with friends and hear the gospel that way. We can listen to songs that are filled with the gospel message. There are all kinds of ways to hear the gospel, but that is indeed the solution if we find we currently do not have faith.
Another action we can take is to ask God to give us faith. A man in the Bible, who asked Jesus to heal his son, hoped he had faith but wasn’t quite sure if it was real, so he said, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He was crying out to God asking for faith.
In closing, we have seen that believing the gospel both makes us righteous and makes us strong. We’ve seen that hearing the gospel is what gives us faith, and that when we have faith we cry out to God—we call upon Him to save us.
Question 10. In conclusion today, have you called out to God to save you? Please explain. If you have not done so, here is a place where you can call out to God. If you just write out your prayer, calling out to God in faith, your volunteer ministry partner here or whoever receives these courses can pray right along with you for God to save you.