I’ve written previously about what Faith is, how it is defined in Scripture. I’d like to comment on what it is not.
For such a powerful word used so frequently in Scripture, it is interesting that the word is defined in the Bible only once, in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11:1.
In the world the word Faith is used in a variety of ways, such as a hope, or maybe, or a guess (however educated). It is used in a religious expression as a framework for a belief system . . . the Catholic faith, the Jewish faith, the Muslim faith. These divergent belief systems indicate that the word faith as used in the world does not mean the same as defined in the Bible.
Faith, as used by the New Testament writers, really means only one thing. And that is assurance. The certainty of knowing. Not in guessing, not as hoping something is true, not as reasoning something is true. It is an assurance. A certainty.
But ask someone on the street or in your office or classroom, if they are a Christian, ask them if they are going to heaven. More than likely you will hear something like “I hope so, or “I don’t know.” Much of the time you hear no certainty whatsoever. As if such a thing as one’s destination after death is up for grabs, or a crapshoot, or is something that can not be known in this life. Or maybe one can’t be sure one has done enough good deeds to warrant entry into heaven. Or conversely, maybe one has done too many bad things that excludes them from heaven. It is such uncertainty that can be such a great torment of the soul.
But it need not be this way. We can be assured. We can be certain. In fact, it can be no other way. To all believers John wrote “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1John 5:13 Yes indeed, that you may “know.” Not just hope. Not guess. Not suspect. But have certainty.
We see the first dramatic effect of this certainty, this faith, in the New Testament in the outpouring of the Spirit on the 120 on the day of Pentecost. One moment the disciples were huddled in a room in fear, praying. The next moment the Holy Spirit descends upon them all and they become changed human beings, speaking boldly with certainty to strangers outside of the amazing things God has done. Before the Spirit, fear, timidity, no assurance. After the Spirit, they knew exactly what was real and what was not real; they knew with certainty how to view the world and the people around them and the disciples were not afraid to declare to them all exactly what they should do about it.
Another example is Paul as he approached Damascus intent on destroying the Church in that city. One moment he is hateful and hostile, quite confident that he is doing the right thing for God. In an instant he has his amazing “Road to Damascus” experience and he is changed. After a very personal encounter with the risen Christ Paul knows exactly Whom he has persecuted, beyond any shadow of a doubt.
The upshot is that upon being filled with the Spirit one is given the gift of faith, the assurance that Jesus Christ is real and that what He says is the ultimate reality and is truth. This is what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that you must be born again. John 3:3 It is this real world experience, a genuine encounter with the living God who is there and is not silent, who enters one’s heart and dwells within. This is why John can write, “he who has the Son has the life,” because it the indwelling Spirit that gives life. And He gives us that certainty, that faith, without which we still cringe in fear and doubt. And the Scripture is written so that you may know, as John states.
All who call themselves Christians must examine themselves (2 Cor. 13:5) and however one has encountered God, whether like Paul at one spot on the road or while traveling some distance along that road, you can be assured, in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, “that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Heb. 11:6
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]