by: David Hersey
The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Simply stated, this means that faith is the foundation of our hope and a conviction in our hearts of things we cannot see in this physical life. In fact, the words faith and belief are from the same original root word in the Greek New Testament, pistis, a noun that has to do with being convinced of something.
Hebrews 11:6 teaches that it is impossible to please God without faith, of which there are two types recognized in Scripture. (1) there is intellectual faith: “the demons also believe and tremble,” (James 2:19) Then, (2) there is functional, obedient faith: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). In other words, acceptable faith is not simply one’s agreement with revealed truth, but his absolute submission to the guidance and control of that truth, something that starts and ends with “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
An active (functional) faith is that which generates unconditional obedience to the higher authority of the Godhead. Anything less puts one’s faith in the category described by James as “dead” faith (James 2:20). The believing “demons” spoken of by James did not have an obedient faith, rendering it unacceptable. Jude 1:6 teaches that they, through their disobedience to God, deserted their proper dwelling place, resulting in their placement in “everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” James used those insubordinate demons as an example of what lies in store for those whose lives exhibit faith without works of obedience.
The concept of an obedient, working faith is soundly supported by scripture. Paul began and ended the book of Romans with the idea of the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26 ASV). He spoke of the Thessalonians’ “work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). Jesus Himself stated that belief (faith) itself is a work: “This is the work of God, that you believe...” (John 6:29). The whole purpose of James chapter two is that “faith by itself, if it does not works, is dead.” (James 2:17), that “by works faith was made perfect” (James 2:22), and “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26). Incidentally, all that is meant by “works” is obedience, so one can easily understand this principle by simply substituting the word obedience for the word works.
Hebrews chapter eleven, sometimes called God’s Hall of Faith, lists a number of individuals who perfected their faith through the works of obedience. Moved by conviction in their hearts, each and every one of them worked God’s will toward a faith that was validated by their efforts. In so doing, they left examples for God’s people of all time to follow.
Faith is absolutely necessary for our salvation (Hebrews 11:6). But, it is a comprehensive term which includes many things. Belief is faith agreeing. Repentance is faith turning. Confession is faith speaking. Baptism is faith submitting and obeying. The Christian life is faith living. Therefore, faith is inextricably linked to obedience. One cannot have either belief alone or obedience alone and live a pleasing life before God. Acceptable Faith is the product of belief AND obedience.
Gary L. Hutchens