What is faith?
What does faith mean to you? What does the word faith mean? On first look these two questions appear to be the same, but they are far from it. One of them asks what a word, the word faith in this discussion, means while the other asks what does this thing mean to me. Down deep in my heart and mind what do I really embrace? Take time to examine what faith means and what do you embrace. The context for this is God and Jesus Christ, the church, and personal belief.
Let us in our examination of this word begin with the plain old dictionary before we delve ever deeper.
Dictionary.com says the following:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5.a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
World English Dictionary says this:
1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp. without proof or evidence
2. a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises
4. a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp. when this is not based on reason
5. complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy, etc.
6. any set of firmly held principles or beliefs
7. allegiance or loyalty, as to a person or cause (esp. in the phrases keep faith , break faith)
Finally I offer the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary:
1. Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth. I have strong faith or no faith in the testimony of a witness, or in what a historian narrates.
2. The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition advanced by another; belief, or probable evidence of any kind.
3. In theology, the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed. Simple belief of the scriptures, of the being and perfections of God, and of the existence, character and doctrines of Christ, founded on the testimony of the sacred writers, is called historical or speculative faith; a faith little distinguished from the belief of the existence and achievements of Alexander or of Cesar.
4. Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God’s testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.
Webster goes on to say the following:
[L. fides, fido, to trust; Gr. to persuade, to draw towards any thing, to conciliate; to believe, to obey. In the Greek Lexicon of Hederic it is said, the primitive signification of the verb is to bind and draw or lead, as signifies a rope or cable. But this remark is a little incorrect. The sense of the verb, from which that of rope and binding is derived, is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast. Heb.]
I included the modern definitions simply to show how weak our use of language has become. Faith, that of rope and binding, to strain, to draw, to make fast. To make fast. Such beauty of words, such a picture of what faith means. To bind and make fast. You and God!
The Apostle Paul in Hebrews, chapter 11 and verse 1 says this: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This is the original King James English. Faith is substance, faith is evidence. When I work with clay I work with substance, I get my hands on the clay, around the clay, all through the clay. It is real, it has meat to it. Evidence, go into any court and watch what happens. The judge is only interested in the facts, the evidence. Your honor, the evidence shows that the accused did thus and so, was here or there. These, your honor are the facts, not opinion, not hearsay, but facts, evidence. Yet this speaks about that which is hoped for, that which is unseen, yet it is real.
So, what does faith mean to you? To what does it bind you to, bind you fast, bind you tight, and make you one with? I offer to you that faith can transform into know, can transcend hoped for and unseen into alive, into a reality that man here on earth can never acknowledge. Know is a verb, an action word, an alive being word.
Jesus is real. He is God’s Son, He is God made man. Can I prove it, no. Can you disprove it, no. But faith is binding fast to Him that is, it is becoming one with Him, alive in Him. And true life is only found in Him.