According to the simplest conception of it, faith is a personal confidence in God. This implies that the individual has come to know God to some degree of real experience. Not all men have faith, so the Apostle declares (2 Thess. 3:2). Thus lying back of faith is this determining factor, namely, knowing God. Regarding the personal knowledge of God, Christ said: "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matt. 11:27). This statement is decisive. No one knows the Father except the Son and those only to whom the Son may reveal Him. However, with that divinely wrought knowledge of God in view, the invitation is immediately extended by this context for all the world-weary to come unto Him and there, and only there, find rest for the soul. Since God is not fully discerned by the human senses, it is easy for the natural man in a day of grace to treat the Person of God and all His claims as though they did not exist, or, at best, as if a mere harmless fiction. Faith accordingly is declared, in one aspect of it, to be "the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Utter want of faith is the condition of unregenerate men (1 Cor. 2:14) until God be revealed to them by the Son through the Spirit. The following quotation from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states the simple facts about that faith which is confidence in God (Handley Dunelm, s.v., "Faith"):
It is important to notice that Hebrews 11:1 is no exception to the rule that "faith" normally means "reliance," "trust." There "Faith is the substance [or possibly, in the light of recent inquiries into the type of Greek used by New Testament writers, 'the guaranty'] of things hoped for, the evidence [or 'convincing proof'] of things not seen." This is sometimes interpreted as if faith, in the writer's view, were, so to speak, a faculty of second sight, a mysterious intuition into the spiritual world. But the chapter amply shows that the faith illustrated, e.g. by Abraham, Moses, Rahab, was simply reliance upon a God known to be trustworthy. Such reliance enabled the believer to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen. In short, the phrase here, "faith is the evidence," etc., is parallel in form to our familiar saying, "Knowledge is power." A few detached remarks may be added: (a) The history of the use of the Greek pistis is instructive. In the LXX it normally, if not always, bears the "passive" sense, "fidelity," "good faith," while in classical Greek it not rarely bears the active sense, "trust." In the koine, the type of Greek universally common at the Christian era, it seems to have adopted the active meaning as the ruling one only just in time, so to speak, to provide it for the utterance of Him whose supreme message was "reliance," and who passed that message on to His apostles. Through their lips and pens "faith," in that sense, became the supreme watchword of Christianity. ... In conclusion, without trespassing on the ground of other articles, we call the reader's attention, for his Scriptural studies, to the central place of faith in Christianity, and its significance. As being, in its true idea, a reliance as simple as possible upon the word, power, love, of Another, it is precisely that which, on man's side, adjusts him to the living and merciful presence and action of a trusted God. In its nature, not by any mere arbitrary arrangement, it is his one possible receptive attitude, that in which he brings nothing, so that he may receive all. Thus "faith" is our side of union with Christ. And thus it is our means of possessing all His benefits, pardon, justification, purification, life, peace, glory.—II, 1088
In its larger usage, the word faith represents at least four varied ideas: (1) As above, it can be personal confidence in God. This the most common aspect of faith may be subdivided into three features: (a) Saving faith, which is the inwrought confidence in God's promises and provisions respecting the Savior that leads one to elect to repose upon and trust in the One who alone can save. (b) Serving faith, which contemplates as true the fact of divinely bestowed gifts and all details respecting divine appointments for service. This faith is always a personal matter, and so one believer should not become a pattern for another. That such faith with its personal characteristic may be kept inviolate, the Apostle writes: "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God" (Rom. 14:22). Great injury may be wrought if one Christian imitates another in matters of appointment for service. (c) Sanctifying or sustaining faith, which lays hold of the power of God for one's daily life. It is the life lived in dependence upon God, working upon a new life-principle (Rom. 6:4). The justified one, having become what he is by faith, must go ahead living on the same principle of utter dependence upon God. (2) It can also be a creedal or doctrinal announcement which is sometimes distinguished as the faith. Christ propounded this question: "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8; cf. Rom. 1:5; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:23; 2:7; Titus 1:13; Jude 1:3). (3) It may signify faithfulness, which implies that the believer is faithful toward God. Here is an inwrought divine characteristic, for it appears as one of the nine graces which together comprise the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). (4) It may prove a title belonging to Christ, as in Galatians 3:23, 25 where Christ is seen to be the object of faith.
While faith, basically considered, must be divinely inwrought, it is ever increasing as the knowledge of God and experience in His fellowship advances. It is natural for God not to be pleased with those who distrust Him (Heb. 11:6). Faith, indeed, vindicates the character of God and frees His arm to act in behalf of those who trust Him. Thus because of the heaven-high riches which reliance secures, it is termed by Peter once, "precious faith" (2 Pet. 1:1).
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