Every Christian should explore the meaning of faith because the Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith. We are justified by faith and are made righteous by faith. We become a child of God by faith and can receive all the promises of God through faith. In fact, our entire relationship with God is predicated on faith. The problem with the concept of faith is the meaning of the word in today’s modern culture has changed drastically from the Biblical meaning; so much that it’s not clear what someone means when they say they have faith.
According to Webster’s Dictionary the word faith means:
An allegiance to duty or a person
Fidelity to one’s promise
Sincerity of intentions
A belief and trust in and loyalty to God
Belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
Firm belief in something for which there is no proof
Something that is believed, especially with strong conviction
A system of religious beliefs
Faith, in our modern society, can apply to Mormons, Muslims, Methodists, or Mennonites. We could say that any of those four groups of people could be people of faith as per Webster’s definition. Or perhaps someone could be in a cult. If they are loyal to the leader or his dogma, are sincere, with strong convictions and hold to the traditions and doctrine of their organization, then they could be considered great men or women of faith. Most people in a false religion or cult have a very strong faith in their religion, and most all agree they have faith in God.
The Bible has much to say about faith, but we need to understand the definition of faith before we can possibly understand what faith means when reading the Holy Scriptures. The word for faith in the Hebrew language comes from the root word Amen אָמַן (âman), and means to believe, be faithful, be steadfast and sure, trust, build up or support, be firm or permanent, be morally certain or true, assurance, bring up, establish, verified, of long continuance, or to go to the right hand; אֱמֻנָה (ĕmunâh) means firmness, security, moral fidelity, stability, steady, faithfulness, truly, truth, verily; אֵמוּן (êmûwn)is to be established, trusty, trustworthiness, faith, and truth.
The New Testament Greek word for faith is πίστις, (pis'-tis). Strong’s Concordance defines it as persuasion, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.
When examining the definitions of faith in Hebrew and Greek, we can see that the modern, western translation of the word faith has lost much of its true meaning and is used loosely by many Christians, to say the least. Faith is believing the truth. To have a real faith, one must put their confidence and trust in what is true. Children can believe in the tooth fairy, but that doesn’t make the tooth fairy real; or radical ISIS Muslims can believe that if they kill their enemies, as a suicide bomber, they will go to heaven and be given 40 virgins, but that doesn’t make it true.
The pastor who mentored me in the late 1980’s was often fond of saying that faith is “truthing the truth.” I like A.W. Tozer’s definition best when he says, “faith is reckoning upon reality.”
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Real faith is reaching into the unseen, invisible reality and making a connection to God that produces something supernatural in the visible world. It is like walking through a door from the visible world into the invisible world and having an experience with God. This can be done only through Jesus Christ, as He is the one and only Mediator between God and man. Therefore, there is no real faith unless someone believes or puts their trust in Jesus Christ because Jesus is the only way to God. No man can touch God except through the Son of God, Jesus. Jesus is our only ladder to God. Jesus is the only person who ever lived a perfect, sinless life, and He is the one and only person who paid the price for our sins by becoming our substitutionary, sacrificial offering.
To achieve a clearer understanding, instead of using the phrase real faith or unreal faith, let’s consider the concept of natural and supernatural faith. All people walk by faith whether they will admit it or not. Even people who don’t believe in God use their natural faith each day. Every time we get in the passenger seat of a car, we put our faith in the driver to get us where we are going safely. Every time we accept money for goods or services, we put our faith in the U.S. Government’s ability to back up our currency. Each time we drive through a traffic light, we put our faith in total strangers to obey the law and not run the light. We even put our faith in the fact that the sun will rise each day on time since all our calendars, schedules, and appointments are predicated on trusting that the rotation of the earth around the sun will not be interrupted. There are literally thousands of examples of natural faith. We are all creatures of faith, and we put our trust in others every day. The best example that I can think of is when I get on a jet, I am putting my trust in a pilot that I do not know to fly the plane, and if something happens, I don’t even know how to fly it myself. Now that is trust!
We are so accustomed to trusting in others and ourselves that it is no wonder so many people are trapped by false religions. After someone joins a group, putting trust in the leader and his dogma, it’s much easier to accept, adopt, and trust the religion if the doctrines require putting trust in self, as this is something familiar. People love a list of dos and do not’s because this is something they can control. I can choose to dress a certain way, eat certain foods, or observe certain laws or traditions. And as I do this, I am confident in myself or trusting in myself to do what is required. Self-confidence and self-righteousness are two of the biggest enemies of supernatural faith. If you are not very careful, you will put faith in your faith.
The Gospel is different because it says instead of trusting in yourself you must put your trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done for you. The Gospel is believing in Jesus, looking at Jesus, putting your confidence and trust in Jesus and what His Word says, instead of trusting in yourself and your words. As we learn to put our complete trust in Jesus for our salvation, then we learn to completely trust that He will complete the work that He has begun in our lives. Trying to save yourself in any way, shape, form, or fashion is a lesson in futility. There is simply no redemptive quality in a human being, apart from the grace of God. This matter of faith needs to be clearly understood by Christians, because it is the key to making contact with God, and continuing in a good relationship with God.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Faith is the normal response of believers. This is why they call us believers. It is a confidence and trust in God’s nature and His Word. Whenever we are connected to God, and walking in the Spirit, or walking by faith, then we can please and obey God. The opposite of this is when we are walking with our natural faith, trusting in ourselves or in someone or something other than Jesus; then we walk in sin.
…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Romans 14:23
The true key to understanding supernatural faith is to realize that faith affects our vision. There is always more than one way to look at something. Faith is seeing everything from God’s perspective. For us to experience supernatural faith that connects us to God and His grace and power, we need for God to open our blind, darkened eyes. We were born in this world of darkness with blind eyes to God and His ways. When we get saved, God opens our eyes so that we can see. As the old hymn goes: “I once was blind, but now I see.”
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18
The Bible likens believing to looking or beholding. The third chapter of John’s Gospel illustrates this best when the Bible refers us to the time when the children of Israel were complaining against God, and God sent serpents to bite them. God had Moses hold up a brazen serpent, and as the children of Israel looked upon it they were healed.
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. Numbers 21:6-9
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:14-16
When we believe in Jesus and put our trust in Him, we are saved; likewise, when Moses held up the brazen serpent, people beheld or looked upon it and were healed. So, believing is synonymous with looking in this context. A.W. Tozer once said, “Faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God.” We know that Jesus Christ came to this earth to put a face on the unknown Father because we could not look upon or know the Father without a mediator. Thus, Jesus became human, son of man and Son of God, so that we could see and know the Father. When we look to or upon Jesus, we can see the Father. This is supernatural faith, looking at or believing in Jesus Christ, the Truth. Faith is God opening our eyes to see or to believe in His Truth.
We may live our lives with natural faith, trusting in what our five senses tell us, which is simply carnal faith, but if we want to walk with God, we must learn how to get our eyes open to see God. Real, supernatural faith sees God the way He really is. It “truths the truth” or “reckons upon reality”. Genuine supernatural faith sees our relationship with God the way God sees it. It sees everything about life from God’s perspectives instead of our own. Now that we are believers, God wants us to live our lives with the faith of Jesus Christ instead of our own natural faith.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Living our lives by the faith of Jesus Christ means that we now look at life through His eyes. Seeing life through God’s perspective changes everything for us. Faith shrinks my problems and magnifies God’s greatness and power. Faith helps me not to look at my weaknesses, but instead to look at how mighty God is and how great His promises are to me. When we see life from God’s perspective, we realize that whatever He has called us to do can be accomplished no matter how difficult it may appear. We are not afraid of fighting the giants of life because we know that God is with us, fighting for us.
Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: Jeremiah 32:17
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13
When I live my life from God’s perspective or through eyes of His faith instead of my fears, faith opens the door for miracles to happen. When we are living life by only using natural, carnal faith, we are trapped in a natural, visible, carnal world. Supernatural faith reaches into the invisible world of God’s reality and pulls out miracles that only God can perform. Real faith moves God to act on my behalf as He answers my prayers; real faith unlocks all the promises of God’s Word, and allows me to receive His promises, and real faith turns my God-given dreams into reality. The enemy will steal your dreams with unbelief while authentic faith allows you to step into your God-given dreams and fulfill them.
Natural or carnal faith always produces fear and anxiety in tough, hard times. When there is a storm, we look at the winds, the high waves, and the dark skies, which cause worry and fretting. Yet, to have real faith in the middle of the storm allows us to experience peace and joy even in the most difficult times of life. Faith allows me to hold on with great hope and courage because I am seeing life from God’s perspective.
Faith is not about me or my ability to believe. Instead, it is about the object of my faith, Jesus Christ. If the object of my faith is a human being, a creed, or a system of false religious thoughts, then following that system is like the blind leading the blind; both fall into a ditch. If I have a little faith in a great Savior, Jesus Christ, that is much better than having great and mighty faith in something that is not true. It would be like going ice fishing in Canada where you choose between two different guides. One takes you to a frozen lake with ice two inches thick, and says, “Oh, no worries. I have great faith that the ice will not break.” The other guide takes you to a lake where the ice is three feet thick, and says, “I have a little bit of faith that the ice will not break.” I would rather go with the guide to the lake with the three feet of ice, even if he just has a little bit of faith.
Suppose you were hiking and fell off a high cliff, but immediately grabbed a tree that was growing out of the side of the cliff. Although you were weak, you hung on to the tree until someone came and helped you back up to the top. It was the object of your faith (the tree) that saved you. Compare that with the scenario in which you were hiking and fell off a high cliff, and you immediately grabbed hold of a big clump of grass growing out of the side of the cliff. You felt strong, and you squeezed and held on to the grass with all your might, but the grass kept sliding out of the side of the cliff as you squeezed it until it finally gave way, and you fell to the bottom. It was the object of your faith that was wrong. The grass simply could not hold your weight, so you pulled it out of the cliff.
I would rather have a little faith in the Truth (Jesus Christ and His Gospel) than to have great faith in a false religion or in my ability to believe. With a false religion comes a false image of God and a false image of yourself in relationship to God. Lies, deceptions, and false teachings are the wrong things in which to put your trust. The devil knows that if he can get us to believe a lie, then he can capture us, bind us, steal our victory, and destroy our relationship with God. There is nothing more important in our life than our relationship with God. It is the most valuable thing in our life, and we can enjoy such a relationship only through faith. Therefore, we really need to learn what faith is, and what it is not.
As we look into the face of Jesus Christ, He illuminates our hearts with the Light of His Truth. We can begin to see God as He really is, and then we can begin to see ourselves the way that God sees us, as believers in relationship to Him. Through supernatural faith, we can actually see life from God’s perspective, and in doing so can live our life by the faith of Jesus Christ. Through faith, I can believe that I am everything God’s Word says I am whether I feel it or not. As a believer, I have been placed in Christ by God, and that makes me a child of God, forgiven, righteous, justified, saved, sanctified, and accepted by God.
A life of faith brings the Kingdom of God down to this earth where we will live as Children of the Light instead of children of darkness. As a citizen of heaven and as a child of God, I can, by faith, draw out the promises of God from the invisible reality of God’s Kingdom into the visible reality of my everyday life. The just shall live by faith.