What is Faith?

October 25, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

How you define faith is of utmost importance, right? Think about it. The writer of Hebrews says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (11:6). And Paul says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). 

The importance of faith becomes even more clear when we understand that the verb “believe” (Gr. pisteuo) is just a form of the noun “faith” (Gr. pistis). So we hear John say that he wrote his gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Faith, or believing, is the vital link to eternal life, as Jesus says, “whoever believes in him (God’s only Son) should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16); and again, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (5:24).

How you define faith is of utmost importance. Faith is the vital link to eternal life, pleasing God, overcoming sin, and escaping death and judgment. 

So how do you define faith? 

Do you have faith? 

Are you growing in your faith? 

The writer of Hebrews, who cares passionately about the eternal spiritual well-being of his listeners, turns his attention to the importance of faith in chapter 11. After extolling the all-sufficiency of Christ and his High Priestly ministry, the writer compels his readers towards faith. Only faith links us to the benefits of Christ. So the writer defines faith in 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

Faith is “assurance” and “conviction.” This combines the head and heart in this activity of believing. We must know the truth about Christ and his ministry for us. And we must trust it, bank on it, depend on it. We need both head and heart engaged to “have faith.” 

The church has wrestled with how to define and explain faith. The following definitions all work to engage the heart and head in their words. The other highlight we see in these definitions, particularly from Heidelberg and Belgic, is that faith is a work of the Holy Spirit. Let me encourage you to sharpen your understanding of faith and strive, as the writer of Hebrews commends, to endure in your faith. 

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 86

What is faith in Jesus Christ?

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel. 


Heidelberg Catechism, Question 21

What is true faith?

True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.


Belgic Confession, Article 22

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, appropriates Him, and seeks nothing more besides Him.


John Piper, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, page 25

The essence of justifying faith is being satisfied with all that God is (and promises to be) for us in Jesus.




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