What Is Faith?


Sermon Text: Ephesians 2:1-10 & Hebrews 11:1-3
Sermon Series: “What Is?” (#1)

Main Points:
I. Faith is a gift of God
II. Faith comes as the fruit of regeneration
III. Faith grows not, but is realised

Please try to find the common denominator of these people. A man inserts his car-key and turns it to start the engine; a farmer spreads seeds onto the soil he has prepared earlier; a cook boils her chicken soup; a news presenter reads the news as presented on the screen; approaching the destination, airliner pilots carefully examine the instruments, following the instructions of an air traffic controller; a student checks her timetable and starts walking to her next classroom. What is the common denominator of these people?

The answer is ‘faith.’ All of them do their things based on a form of faith or another. None of those people doubt or waver, but all of them are sure of what will follow and take place. Trusting what will happen next, those pilots change the engine power setting or alter their flight path. Even a student is fully assured that her next class will start in 5 minutes. Likewise, everyone on earth lives exercising a faith.

But, there are only two kinds of faith – that is, true faith and false faith. While true faith saves, false faith cannot. Whereas the true faith comes from the supernatural source and bears a supernatural fruit in people’s life, false faith is generated by individuals and never is it reliable or lasting.

So, when we say ‘faith,’ when we talk about faith, we don’t mean any faith that does not and cannot save. Rather, we mean true and saving faith which bears a supernatural fruit – that is, the eternal life. We Christians are a people of saving faith, and we have our being in and through faith.

When we talk about faith, we also mean the object of our faith. And who is the object of our faith? God the Father through God the Son, Jesus Christ. We believe God through faith in Jesus, and this faith saves.

By the way, let me ask this question, ‘Is this all we need to know about the saving faith?’ I mean, is believing God and Jesus Christ all we need to know? Is it all we should exercise or tell others to know? The answer is ‘no.’ That’s not all of faith. Considering faith in this way only is really a basic, if not superficial, understanding. But the word of God teaches us more about faith; faith is much deeper and richer than that. In fact, the faith the Scriptures teach is truly glorious! I’ll explain what I mean by ‘glorious’ in a minute.

Today, my intention and prayer are to focus on the true meaning of faith and its nature alongside its fruit in believer’s life, thus, to make your joy in Jesus and praise to God deeper and greater!

Most importantly, you must understand that faith is a gift of God; it is given to us by God. Eph. 2:8 is clear about this, saying, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” This verse is so clear about the source of faith that no one could doubt about it – faith is a gift of God.

If you ponder upon faith, you cannot but agree with Eph. 2:8, and say, ‘Yes, faith has to be a gift from God.’ Let’s briefly consider this together. As you know well, the Bible tells us that faith is the prerequisite for salvation. Without faith, therefore, no one can enter the kingdom of God. Also, as Heb. 11:6 points out, ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God.’ Here, ‘pleasing God’ means meeting, satisfying, the standard God set for any human being for entering His eternal kingdom. So, anyone who wishes to enter it must have a perfect faith; his/her faith must be flawless as that of Jesus Christ, the righteous One. Why? Because God is holy and righteous and perfect, and His kingdom is for the perfectly righteous ones.

But, who can satisfy this standard? Who can be perfectly righteous? Abraham? David? Peter or John? No, no one can. Consider the life of Abraham. Although God mentioned him as ‘a friend of God’ in Jas. 2:23 and 2 Chron. 20:7 as well as Isa. 41:8, he frequently doubted God and often followed his own plan. I don’t need to explain how all the others like David, Peter and John were sinful in many ways as you know their life. The only perfect person who could satisfy this standard from birth to death is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. No need to remind you, therefore, of how incompetent you and I are. No matter how firm one seems to be in terms of his/her faith, all of us alike are short of the guideline. For this reason, faith has to be given to us as a gift from God. Otherwise, everyone in humankind would be doomed! So, what a great and gracious gift this faith is!

But, unfortunately, some people disagree and see faith in different ways. A typical and the most harmful view is held by a group of people who agree and say that faith is God’s gift, but – as they claim – we, human beings, can either accept or reject this gift. Faith as God’s gift could be a gift if someone receives it, but if he rejects it, it would not be a gift from God for that rejector. So, they invite people not to reject this gift but to willingly accept it. Such a view seems to agree with the Bible, but it is not – in fact, it is against the teaching of the Scriptures, such as Eph. 2:8. I’ll explain more, in a minute, why this view cannot be aligned with the biblical teaching on faith.

In addition, some other people view faith as a mere human effort. In this case, faith simply becomes an accumulated merit of individuals, corresponding to their good works, whatever they mean by ‘good works.’ That view is nothing different from any worldly religion – so, that is clearly unbiblical, unchristian.

But please do remember that faith is God’s gift. Because faith is the key to having the eternal life and to entering the righteous God’s eternal kingdom, it must be given to us by the perfectly good and gracious God. Otherwise, there’d be zero possibility for the sinful descendants of Adam. Faith is a manifestation of the grace of God.

When the Bible teaches faith as God’s gift to us, when we acknowledge its nature as a gift from above, we must also perceive that we have no share in faith – therefore, nothing to boast of in terms of faith. I mean, no part of faith that saves comes from you or me. In receiving faith from God as His gift, we’re totally in passive mode. He gives and we receive it. More precisely, He hands it over to us and we don’t even stretch our arms out to receive it; rather, He opens our heart and bestows it to us to be our possession for eternity. When He does this, we do not even know what we receive from God, the King and Creator of all things!

Eph. 2:5 so vividly proves it by saying, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” What this verse teaches is amazing – it talks about the steps of our salvation, what happens when each of us are saved. God saves us when we are still sinners – in another word, ‘dead’ in sin. Listen to the verse once again, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ.” This verse does not mention that we’ve confessed our sins and professed our faith in Jesus the Son, then, God responds to what we do and saves us. No, that’s not what this verse says. Instead, this verse says that ‘even when we were still dead in our trespasses, God made us alive’! This act of God making us alive is ‘regeneration.’ Or ‘re-creation’ to make us ‘new creation’ in Jesus Christ.

In a word, our regeneration precedes our faith, and faith is the fruit of regeneration. This is what is often referred to as ‘ordo salutis’ or ‘the order of salvation.’

It is exactly like the way a child is born and grows to maturity. No one is born according to his/her own will. When a child is born, he does not even know whether he’s alive. There’s no cognitive or mental awareness; he simply exist, without self-awareness of his exact status. His life is given to him by his parents. Later, the baby grows and responds to his mum’s and dad’s voices, and as the baby grows more, he loves and trusts his parents. Likewise, God initiates and saves (or regenerates) a sinner to be a believer, and it all leads him/her to hear the Lord’s voice and respond to Him in faith, realising His love and grace in the Son Jesus Christ.

This is why I said earlier that anyone who claims that anyone could accept or reject faith was wrong and contrary to the teaching of the Bible. Once God regenerated a sinner, that saved sinner bears faith. Then, by faith, God declares the believer righteous which is justification. So, man cannot accept or reject faith, God’s gift, because God has already planted the root of faith in the one He so chose to save even when he/she was still dead in sin!

Based on what I’ve just explained, you should understand the truly glorious aspect of faith, that is, faith is given to us in its perfect sense. I mean, by faith every believer enters God’s eternal kingdom. The same faith Abraham received and entered the heaven, you and I have received by grace through Jesus. In other words, there’s no faith that differs in its effect – rather, the faith each believer received is exactly the same in effect and nature. There’s only one and same kind of saving faith.

What does this mean? It means each of you have received from God the perfect faith that saves. God never gives anyone a half faith or another a quarter faith. Never does He do that, but gives all a full and perfect gift set. My faith and yours, your faith and another’s are not different; its effect and power is the same; there’s no levels or grades in faith. No! All of us have the same faith David held in his heart, the same faith in and through which Peter and Paul and all other apostles lived and rejoiced and died is in you and me and all who truly profess that Jesus is the Son of God and only Messiah of the world. This is what the Apostle Paul means in Eph. 4 when he says, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” and so on. You and I have received the perfect faith that saves, and we uphold now the same perfect faith that saves!

This also means that faith does not grow in us. A mustard seed is so tiny in the beginning but it turns into a plant and grows enough to provide shelter to birds. But that’s not a picture of faith you have received from the Lord. Instead, your faith and mine is, from the beginning, a perfect one that can save a sinner like you and me.

Truth is that, you and I realise more and more how great and perfect this gift of God is. We gradually and constantly appreciate its power and effect and fruit in our days. Although it has always been in us and with us since the moment God regenerated us in His marvellous grace, your realisation of it yesterday wasn’t as thorough or deep as your appreciation of it today. This discovery will continue tomorrow and the days and years coming. This is the right picture of faith we have in Jesus.

So, if you’ve thought that your faith is weak or frail, think again. Your faith is a saving faith like anybody else’s in Christ’s kingdom. You have received a full package of faith from God on the day He regenerated you in His grace. So, if you hear someone asking, ‘how deep is your faith?’, that means ‘how much have you realised and appreciated the power and effect and fruit of faith, the perfect gift from God?’ In a word, faith grows not, but is realised by the believing heart and soul!

Let me conclude and emphasise a couple of practical, daily applications.

Firstly, examine God’s word to know more about this gift – how perfect and powerful and beneficial it is. As faith is the key to one’s salvation, the word of God is the key to one’s understanding and realisation of the nature, effect, power and fruit of faith.

Secondly, although you might not really see how every part of God’s promise would work for you, simply take a leap of faith, remembering what God has done to you and for you in your life so far. Once you move your step into the path God leads you, you’ll be able to receive a better sight of faith and your joy will be deeper!

As you take these two applications daily, compare your life in faith with the words of Heb. 11:1 and it’ll make your joy vivid and colourful. Let me close by reading this verse to you: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”! ***

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