The Christian Walk Lesson 12: Walk by Faith

The Christian Walk Lesson 12: Walk by Faith

  1. Texts:  2 Cor. 5:7
  2. Definitions
    1. To walk is to live, behave, conduct ourselves.
    2. Faith, of course, is belief or trust. The biblical words convey the idea of firmness, surety, establishment, belief, or faithfulness.
      1. OT: the basic demand is for a right attitude to God, i.e. for faith (read Ps 37:3-5). For example, “[Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Sometimes men are urged to trust the Word of God (Ps 119:42), but more usually it is faith in God himself that is advocated (Ps 22:5-6; Pr 3:5).[1] The Lord is the only worthy object of wholehearted confidence.
      2. NT: the concept of faith is exceedingly common in the NT, with the words for “faith” being used about 300 times. Faith means primarily confident trust based on God’s promise as understood through his Word (Luke 24:25).[2] The NT affirms the OT definition of faith and further extends the need for faith to converge on the proper object—Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
    3. When Paul tells us to walk by faith, he is advocating a life committed to God and his Word. This kind of faith has a profound effect on the believer’s life. Walking by faith is believing what God has said and living in the way God has commanded in spite of any obstacles. We look to the eternal things of God, not the temporal things of the world (Col 3:1-3), and allow eternal values to govern our lives. E.g., Caleb and Joshua believed God’s promises in spite of the apparent obstacles and were ready to obey God’s commands (Num 13).
    4. “not by sight” – Paul contrasts walking by faith and walking by sight. Walking “by sight” implies living according to appearances and trusting in one’s own powers instead of in God (cf. Pr 28:26; Jer 17:5; Ezek 33:13; Hos 10:13). E.g., the other ten spies sent into Canaan brought back an “evil” report and did not believe that they could conquer the Promised Land in spite of what God had promised.

Note: Christianity does not advocate “blind” faith or a “leap of faith.” Both of these expressions imply belief in something that has little or no evidence, or even in something that is not true or does not exist. Faith, for Christianity, is rational, based on facts, evidence, historical events, eye-witness testimony, and good reason. Living by faith is not being closed-minded or ignorant.


 

  1. Principles/implications/related ideas
    1. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” is perhaps the most extensive discussion of living “by faith” in the entire Bible. The author of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). What does that mean?
      1. “Substance” (KJV) means “ground or confidence; basis, foundation, or support.” It may refer to something real as opposed to something imaginary or false.
      2. “Hope” in the biblical sense is not an irrational leap in the dark, but steadfast confidence in God’s word and plan.
      3. “Evidence” means “proof” or “means of proving.” Evidence demonstrates the reality of something under evaluation. Evidence convinces the mind that something is true or worthy of faith.

Note: To a depraved, corrupted, blind, unregenerate sinner, no amount of proof or evidence supporting Christian claims will produce conversion/ salvation. The problem is not lack of evidence; it’s sin. The only means of producing conversions is applying the message of the Gospel, “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16).

  1. Faith resides in “things not seen.” (cf. “not by sight”)

a)                  God is unseen (Jn 1:18).

b)                  The entire spiritual realm is (usually) unseen.

c)                  God’s sovereign plan is unseen (Deut 29:29) and often “unsearchable” (Rom 11:33; cf. Isa 55:9).

d)                 God’s promises are often unseen (until they are fulfilled). We hope for them confidently, but “see” them only with the eyes of faith.

Note the Quote: “We do not see the things of eternity. We do not see God, or heaven, or the angels, or the redeemed in glory, or the crowns of victory, or the harps of praise; but we have faith in them, and this leads us to act as if we saw them.”[3]

  1. Without faith “it is impossible to please him” (Heb 11:6). Faith is required to believe in God and to believe that he rewards those who seek him. We affirm that Christian belief is rational and based on evidence, yet also insist that Christianity is a matter of faith. In many cases, we cannot prove conclusively that biblical claims are true; we believe it by faith.

Note: Virtually every worldview requires an element of faith, even rank atheism. All people hold some of their beliefs “by faith.”

  1. All the patriarchs (e.g., Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, etc.) exercised faith in various ways, yet “received not the promise” (Heb 11:39). Like Abraham, they “looked for a city … whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10). They saw the promises “afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13). The patriarchs lived by faith, trusting God’s word and acting on God’s promises (to greater or lesser degrees). These faithful saints serve as models of steadfast endurance for us to follow.
  2. “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3)
    1. “The faith” is that body of truth comprising Christianity; i.e., the “deposit” entrusted to the church. Cf. Rom 10:8; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14.
    2. “The faith” has limits or boundaries which we might call the fundamentals of the faith, i.e., the most basic and essential teachings of the faith, without which[4] Christianity would not exist. If you deny an essential of the faith, you’ve denied the faith altogether. The fundamentals of the faith include such concepts as the existence of God as revealed in the Bible, the person and work of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Wrong belief regarding one of the fundamentals places one outside the boundaries.
    3. Saving faith: “The just shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38)[5]
      1. Saving faith is the attitude whereby a man abandons all reliance in his own efforts to obtain salvation, be they deeds of piety, of ethical goodness or anything else. It is the attitude of complete trust in Christ, of reliance on him alone for all that salvation means.[6]
      2. Genuine saving faith is a personal attachment to Christ, best thought of as a combination of two ideas—reliance on Christ and commitment to Him. Saving faith involves personally depending on the finished work of Christ’s sacrifice as the only basis for forgiveness of sin and entrance into heaven. But saving faith is also a personal commitment of one’s life to following Christ in obedience to His commands.[7]

Note: We obviously do not affirm “easy believism.”

  1. Saving faith is the act of the sinner. God certainly draws the sinner to faith and enables him to believe (John 6:44), but the individual must exercise faith himself. Further, it is Christ who saves (not faith itself); faith is the means by which His finished work of redemption is applied to the sinner.
  2. The elements of saving faith

a)                  Knowledge: one must know certain facts about God, Christ, sin, faith and repentance. This is the content of faith, the facts one must believe in or understand. See John 20:30-31.

b)                  Assent/affirmation: one must personally accept the facts as true, understanding that they apply to oneself, and agree to or approve them. This occurs when one hears and understands the Gospel (Matt 13:23). This is comprehension and application.

c)                  Trust: one must rely upon, affirm, and accept the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the basis of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus Christ is the object of saving faith.  Acts 16:31.

  1. The origin of saving faith

a)                  Saving faith is different than ordinary faith which all people possess and routinely exercise. Saving faith is not the ordinary human trust simply turned to Jesus Christ. I.e., saving faith is not merely a change of objects, from something else to Christ.

b)                  Saving faith does not originate in sense experience or historical investigation. Faith is not simply “resting in the sufficiency of the evidences.” Mt 16:17; 1 Peter 1:23

c)                  Saving faith does not originate in human reason. 1 Cor 1:21, 2:4-5

d)                 Saving faith is the result of an operation of the Holy Spirit on the will of the sinner by which he freely and voluntarily responds to the gospel message.[8] Under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the sinner understands the Gospel message, accepts it personally as true, and rests his faith on the person and work of Christ to be saved from sin and condemnation. While it is the sinner who believes, the capacity and ability to believe come from God. 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 1:29

  1. Synonyms for saving faith: receive (John 1:12), drink (John 4:14), come (John 6:37), eat (John 6:53), take up (Mt 11:28-30), obey (Gal 5:7; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:22).
  2. Is there a difference is saving faith between the OT and NT? Were OT saints saved by works and NT saints saved by faith? No. Salvation has always been based on God’s grace and received by faith. The NT reveals that faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is required, which OT saints did not know specifically (although they were expecting their Messiah). So there is some difference in the content of faith, but not in the means of salvation.
  3. Degrees of faith
    1. The Bible shows us various quantities or degrees of faith. Faith is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Further, faith may wax and wane over time.
    2. Examples: Gen 17:17, 18:12; Jud 6:37; Mt 7:21-23, 17:20; Mk 9:24; Rom 4:20, 14:1; 1 Cor 13:2; James 2:19-20

 



[1] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 357.

[2] Walter A. Elwell Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker reference library; Logos Library System (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996).

[3] Barnes Notes

[4] Sine Qua Non – “without which not.” The fundamentals comprise the sine qua non of Christian faith.

[5] Much of this material from Rolland McCune, Systematic Theology III notes, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen Park, MI.

[6] New Bible Dictionary, 358.

[7] Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

[8] Theologians sometimes call this operation “effectual calling” or even “regeneration.”

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