What Are the Properties of Faith?
A person who lives by faith has a life that is part intellectual (knowledge), part spiritual (believing), and part physical (doing right regardless of the consequences). People who have a faith experience with God are happy, filled with peace, and eagerly awaiting the Lord’s return.
Worries and concerns do not cloud their thinking. They believe God’s Word and know He will save everyone who lives by faith. They have chosen to believe that Christ’s righteousness provides everything necessary to save sinners. People who live by faith choose to believe that God knows them and cares for them!
The only valid relationship a sinner can have with God is a life of faith.
God is not our equal. He is not a make-believe buddy or a guardian angel. God is real and He reveals Himself to His children in different ways known only to those who choose to put their faith in Him. When a person lives a life of faith, he receives an incredible gift. He becomes an heir of the righteousness necessary for salvation; a righteousness which God has provided through the life of Jesus. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness [that is not man-made, a righteousness] that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ “ (Romans 1:17, insertion mine)
Last month, our study ended with an excellent example of an individual who lived by faith, the story of Noah. By faith, Noah obeyed a direct order and he became an heir of the righteousness necessary for salvation. Do not overlook the fact that Noah’s story contains an interesting parallel for those who will live at the end of the world. During the Great Tribulation, the 144,000 will proclaim a direct order from God (Revelation 14:7) to everyone living on Earth. Only those people, like Noah, who choose to put their faith in God will obey Him and become heirs of the righteousness needed for salvation.
We continue now with the next topic that highlights the properties of faith:
Faith Versus Faith
Knowledge and faith have crucial differences. Knowledge often causes faith to be exercised in opposing directions. This phenomenon is common in politics, science, and religion. For example, some persons believe the Koran is the Word of God, and others believe the Bible is the Word of God. Interestingly, based on their knowledge of the Koran and the Bible, millions of Muslims believe that Christians are infidels and millions of Christians believe Muslims are pagans. This is a classic example of faith versus faith.
Faith is not limited to religion. There is endless debate about the origin of life on Earth. Some people believe in a “theory” called evolution and others believe in a “theory” called Creation. Many people think this is simply a debate between intellectuals and science (evolutionists) versus believers and the Bible (creationists), but both sides of this debate share the same common denominator: Faith!
Human beings did not watch Creation Week as it occurred and obviously they did not witness evolution occur over the eons. Therefore, the debate over origins cannot be settled because knowledge alone cannot resolve every question. It becomes obvious then that where knowledge ends, faith begins.
Notice the consequences that can come from faith versus faith. If I choose to accept the theory of evolution (simple life forms evolving into complex life forms over millions of years), I choose to reject the biblical account of Creation (Genesis 1 and 2). If I choose to believe the biblical version of Creation, that God created mankind in His own image on the sixth day of the week, I have to reject the assertion that human beings evolved from a piece of slime over millions of years.
The Bible says that God made the visible out of the invisible. If you choose to accept God’s Word, then “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 11:3, italics mine)
A thousand years before Paul wrote Hebrews 11, King David wrote, “Let all the Earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:8, italics mine) Later, David summarized the creation of everything saying, “For He commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:5, italics mine)
Evolutionists argue that it is hard to imagine that the entire universe came into existence because God spoke it into existence. On the other hand, creationists say it is just as hard to imagine that a big explosion took place billions of years ago and matter, life, and an environment that supports it randomly appeared out of nothing. Renowned physicist Steven Hawking claims that over time, everything we see today occurred without the necessity of, or any input from God, who does not exist.
When considering origins, evolution and creation are both matters of faith. Supporters of each side claim they have sufficient evidence to win the debate and claim the other position is deficient. In a similar manner, the Catholics teach that the Jewish faith is deficient. The Muslims believe the Hindu faith is deficient. The Protestants claim that these groups are all wrong. This is what faith versus faith looks like and we see this conflict in economics, politics, science, and religion.
Does It Actually Matter?
Does it matter what we believe about the origin of life on Earth? Please consider three possible scenarios:
(A) When a person chooses to put his faith in evolution, the Bible is denigrated to the level of a myth which causes a new problem. It creates a void leaving no explanation for the most obvious and most serious problem on Earth, which is the curse of sin. People who believe in evolution do not have a redeemer and they see no need for redemption. To them, sin is something that exists between people (the last six commandments), not between God and man (the first four commandments).
The nature of evolution forces evolutionists to look backward. Why do you think NASA is spending billions of dollars searching for life on Mars? Believers in evolution are more concerned with man’s origin than man’s destination. Evolutionists do not believe in a resurrection and have no hope of one.
As they study fossils or geologic strata, they see no evidence of a glorious hereafter with God, family, and friends. Advocates of evolution exalt the authority of science and intelligent reason as though evolution is factual, but the premise underlying their cherished theory is built on faith. Evolutionists claim the big bang is the best explanation on the origin of life, but they are totally silent about the curse of sin which kills everything that has life.
Personally, if I were a gambling man and the odds in the debate was 90/10 in favor of evolution, I would still place my bet on Creation because a 10% chance for eternal life is better than being 100% dead forever.
(B) There is also a confusing difference between faith and intellectual assent. Intellectual assent occurs before we are old enough to choose a life of faith. Every child absorbs the language, culture, and religion around him as he grows up. If a child grows up having parents who believe in Creation, he will accept the idea that God created everything out of nothing more easily.
Even if he does not challenge the concept of a literal creation for many years, the idea remains. Our natural alignment with ideas believed to be fact or taught as fact is called intellectual assent. Intellectual assent is a casual agreement with something believed to be true. For example, a person can believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States and he can also believe that Jesus came to Earth and died on a cross for sinners. A person can embrace both of these beliefs without the beliefs having any influence or effect on his life.
Every child inherits the God of his parents. This God may be Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, Buddha, or Atheism. (Even Atheism is a religion based on faith.) A child may not practice the religion of his parents when he becomes old enough to do as he pleases, but nevertheless, the religion of his parents is his religious start. Usually, this intellectual assent remains intact until an event challenges his belief system and he is forced consider his beliefs and make a choice.
Because intellectual assent is a collection of casual or assumed facts, college age young people are often willing to change their beliefs in exchange for what they believe is a better set of “facts.” This willingness to exchange beliefs explains how young adults are able to abandon their inherited religion for something that fits better with a lifestyle they want to live.
Few young people have lived by faith because they have never had a compelling reason to do so. So, the natural default is intellectual assent which comes through traditions, culture, and contemporary knowledge. In complete contrast, living by faith requires a price, and maintaining faith in God when the consequences are painful requires determined commitment.
(C) Our behavior determines whether we are living with intellectual assent or genuine faith in God. It reveals who we really are and what we really believe. Faith renders obedience at all times and in all circumstances, while intellectual assent excuses transgression. If a person is living up to all that he knows to be right and true, he is living by faith. Faith and obedience are inseparable. God sees our hearts and knows what we are thinking. He sees each transgression when there is a separation between knowledge and behavior.
Faith is not only a commitment to the knowledge we have, but it is also a commitment to growth. Many people have a right heart (they live by faith), but a wrong head (their knowledge is all messed up). As the Holy Spirit prompts an individual to learn more about God, the person’s discoveries can go in many directions.
If a particular discovery compels him to obey God’s greatest commandments (“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind and soul and thy neighbor as thyself.”), his behavior will prove that his growth in knowledge is going in the right direction and as he commits to pleasing God, it shows that he is living by faith. James wrote, “. . . . I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:18)
Let me be clear, there is a big difference between wholesome faith and toxic religion. Toxic religion does not have two great commandments. Toxic religion is all about “loving God supremely” while treating our neighbors as “outsiders” or unclean people. Toxic religion is destructive, harsh, critical, arrogant, and self-righteous.
The Pharisees in Christ’s day are an example of toxic faith. They worshiped their religion and it caused them to crucify the Creator of mankind. (John 1:1-14) Religious systems that express hatred and diminish the value of others do not spring from God. (John 8:44) Religious systems that uphold the Word of God and love their neighbors as themselves spring from God. Regardless, all religious systems eventually produce fruit. Jesus said, “Thus, by their fruit, you shall recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20)
Did Jesus Come to Earth?
Personally, there is sufficient evidence from outside sources (for example, Josephus and the writings of early Christian believers) that proves Jesus came to Earth, died on a cross, was resurrected, and taken to Heaven. If a person chooses to believe the biblical account of Creation and the fall of man, which brought about the curse of sin (Genesis 1-3), then the death of Jesus on the cross makes a lot of sense.
A redeemer and the redemption of sinners is only possible because God loves mankind. Redemption is necessary because sinners cannot save themselves from the penalty for sin. On the other hand, the theory of evolution has no need of a Savior because evolution does not consider the curse of sin or the penalty for sin.
Since I grew up in a Christian environment, I inherited and intellectually accepted as fact that Jesus loved sinners so much that He was willing to come to Earth and die for us. However, Jesus’ life on Earth and His death on the cross did not have a transforming effect on me until I was an adult. I only became seriously interested in Jesus when I realized that there is nothing beyond this short life unless I become an heir of the righteousness of Jesus.
Personally, when I felt the weight of my sins and began to grasp the penalty that loomed over my head, I realized I needed a Savior. When I began to comprehend what Jesus had done for me, I was overwhelmed. As is so often the case, I went along in life, happily unaware of my condemnation. I did not sense my need for a Savior, but fortunately the Holy Spirit changed this.
Scripture reveals that God has a wonderful proposition. He says to sinners: “If you are willing to believe in Me and live by faith, I will make you an heir. I promise to give you the righteousness necessary for salvation. I will also give you a new life that is far better than anything you can create for yourself. You will experience a peace that words cannot express. And at the end of sin’s drama, you will not be hurt by the second death. All of this is possible if you are willing to live by faith (to go-be-do as I direct).”