Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
What is faith? What is belief? Faith and belief in the English language are used quite differently! There is a classical distinction in theology regarding faith. In one sense there is faith, a faith whereby we have a strong connection toward someone or something! Faith in this sense is a grasping, a clutching, a hanging onto that which you trust with dependency, sincerity, and hope! This sense of faith is what we do. Faith is subjective.
However, there is another sense of faith, faith in the sense of what we believe, i.e., the object of our faith. This is normally what we mean in the English language when we speak of belief! Belief is objective!
There is a line from a famous Peanuts cartoon which combines these two notions of faith. It says, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere!” In this statement, “sincerity” correlates with our first notion of faith; it’s someone’s faith sincerely grasping, clutching, and hanging onto something with dependency and trust! What is this something? It’s “what you believe!” But notice the rather odd, naïve clause: “It doesn’t matter what you believe….” Isn’t it rather naïve to trust if that which we trust is not trustworthy? This “peanutty” assertion assumes that the act of trusting makes something trustworthy! But isn’t it the other way around? Doesn’t a trustworthy person or thing make the act of trusting possible? You wouldn’t trust ISIS to teach your children tolerance? Would you? Nor would you think that by trusting ISIS to teach your children tolerance would make ISIS trust worthy! How absurd!!
But how many of us treat our Christian faith this way? We think that the content of our faith is irrelevant! All that matters is our faith, our trusting, and our sincerity! But this could not be further from the truth! Hell will be full of sincere people who have been sincerely wrong! Sincerity is not the touchstone of genuine, saving faith! The touchstone of saving faith is the object of faith. The object of the Christian faith is Christ. Paul warns us to examine our lives to see if we are “in the faith!” Christ is the only way to be saved or justified because Christ is the only trustworthy object of faith!
Our belief about Jesus is essential to salvation. However, belief about Jesus is not enough. Belief about Jesus requires belief in Jesus! Belief in Jesus is a sinner’s grasping, clutching, a hanging onto and trusting in Jesus with dependency and sincerity! Faith without belief is mindless, but belief without faith is heartless!
Last month I wrote on the subject of the gospel. I shared that the gospel is all about Jesus: his life, death, burial, and resurrection! But what connects a sinner to the gospel of salvation? What connects us to Jesus? One of the many gifts God gives in saving us is the gift of faith. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”(Eph 2:8 ESV). Paul, in II Corinthians, notes that the object of “the faith” (Christ), is a central touchstone for whether we are a genuine believer or not. But Paul also notes in Ephesians that the act of faith, i.e. the act of sincere trusting, is also a gift! This gift of faith is conversion!
Conversion is one of the marks of a true believer, and a healthy church! Faith is turning to, and trusting in Jesus! Faith is what we do! Faith is an ability we have, but an ability we do not have on our own! Faith is an ability God gives graciously! But, faith is only half of the equation. Next month I will discuss the second half of conversion: that is repentance! But for now, may God continue to build us up in our faith! May our ability to sincerely trust and depend upon God mature us, to grow us into mature believers, and to grow us into a mature church!
Soli Deo Gloria