These three words sum up what is necessary for a productive and rewarding Christian life. These words appear together in nine New Testament passages (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 4:2-5; Colossians 1:4-5, 8; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Hebrews 6:10-12; 1 Peter 1:3-8).
Unfortunately, there exists much misunderstanding and confusion over these terms. The world frequently uses these terms differently than how the Bible uses these same terms. Clarification is in order.
1. Some incorrectly view faith as a “leap in the dark.” That is faith is believing in something without adequate evidence.
Thomas Warren has written, “If faith is the drawing of conclusions for which one does not have adequate evidence, then one could, with as much ‘grounds’ be an atheist, or an agnostic, a Buddist, or a Muslim as he could be a Christian (When Is An Example Binding?, p. 14).
It is true that we currently walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). However, it does not say that we walk by faith not by evidence. God has never demanded that we have faith without any evidence. Instead, He wants us to gather the evidence and draw only such conclusions as are warranted by that evidence (Romans 1:20; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-ff).
Mac Deaver has remarked, “It is true that faith and knowledge are not synonymous. But it also true they aren’t antithetical”(Faith and Knowledge, p. 3). We can both believe something and know something at the same time [(1 Timothy 4:1-3; John 6:69 ASV). Note: Though the English terms ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are at times used somewhat differently, they are the same in the Greek].
What about Thomas (John 20:24-29)? Thomas had been given sufficient evidence to believe in the resurrection: (1) He had witnessed Jesus’ miracles, including raising of the dead; (2) He had heard Jesus prophesy of his resurrection; (3) He had heard the testimony of good men, and no doubt from good women as well. Thomas’ problem was more of a faith problem, than an evidence problem.
2. Some incorrectly view faith as a subjective feeling. Personal feelings trump what the Bible says to such people.
It is our duty to base our faith on the word of God (Romans 10:17). We should strive to bring our feelings in line with the scriptures, and not the other way around.
Subjective thoughts can be wrong, and often are (see 2 Kings 5:9-11; Luke 2:43-44; Acts 26:9). It is spiritually unwise to base one’s faith on subjective feelings (Proverbs 16:2, 25). Believing something very strongly inwardly doesn’t make it objectively true.
3. Another incorrect view is to think that one is saved by mental faith alone. According to this view so long as one mentally believes all will be okay, regardless of actions.
It is true that we are saved by faith, but the question is “When does faith save?” According to Hebrews 11:6, those rewarded not only believe, but they also diligently seek him. Not one example from the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11) is an example of faith only. Faith must be obedient (Hebrews 5:9). A living active faith is what is needed.
Think about John 12:42-43. Were these cowards right with God? Read Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:10.
Sometimes the Bible says that we’re saved by hearing (1 Timothy 4:16). Sometimes it says that we’re saved by belief (Acts 16:31). Sometimes it says that we’re saved by repentance (Acts 11:18). Sometimes it says that we’re saved by baptism (1 Peter 3:21). Are these contradictions? No! They are all figures of speech (synecdoche) in which the part is put for the whole. For example: (1) If one hears, as he should, then he’ll respond doing all that is instructed for salvation. Thus, “hearing” sometimes refers to all which follows from it. (2) If one believes, as he should, then he’ll have no problem responding to what is taught. Thus, “belief” is sometimes put for an active belief which responds and obeys. (3) If one truly repents, then he’ll have no problem doing all that he’s to do. His mind is changed. Thus, “repentance” sometimes stands for the whole. (4) If one is properly baptized, then he has heard, believed, and repented. Thus, “baptism” is sometimes used for the whole, (Acts 16:34).
Note: The words “faith only” appear just once in the New Testament. Such is not how we’re justified (James 2:24).