“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith is the “assurance” that God’s testimony is true. And because it is “the conviction of things not seen”, it solely rests on God’s revelation, not our experience. Faith is believing that what God says is true.
It was by faith that we first entered the Christian life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Our deliverance from the penalty of sin and our instantaneous new birth came about by our faith in God’s free gift of salvation. When we, by faith, embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ, all is forgiven. There is no probationary period. There is no “good works” requirement of being better than my neighbor, attending a church, or performing acts of penance. This is the absolute beauty and uniqueness of the Christian message. Redemption is acquired by faith, not works.
A specific work, well understood by the Jewish background believers of the early church, was the keeping of the Old Testament Law. Paul writes, “We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:15-16). Paul repeats himself for emphasis. We are justified, made right in God’s eyes, by our faith in Christ Jesus.
Somehow, in God’s sovereign plan for our salvation, He included our faith, our choice to believe. Exactly how, I do not know. I only know that our faith played a role since it receives prominence in many salvation passages (Lk 7:50, Ac 26:18, Rom 3:22, 4:5, 5:1, I Pet 1:9). A theology that places salvation in too narrow of a pigeon-hole solely filled by God’s choice will miss this mystery. The mystery is this: our faith is of tremendous consequence in our salvation.
It was much the same among the diseased in Jesus’ day. On more than one occasion, Jesus assured the healed, “Your faith has made you well” (Mk 5:34, 10:52). As with our salvation, the efficacy of the healing was somehow made complete by their faith. Your faith matters.
How does this apply to our walk? The message of Paul’s letter to the Galatians can be summed up with this exhortation, “You came to salvation by faith, now live the Christian life by faith” (Gal 3:1-5). If we think our faith was of no consequence in our salvation, we won’t understand the consequence of faith, sheer necessity really, in living the Christian life. Paul summarized the connection between our introduction to life in Christ and the next step of living by faith in a single verse of Scripture. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). More about living by faith in our next post.