What Is Faith, Anyway? - John 3:36

Steven Haguewood

This question has come up often in Bible studies and sermons, alike. Many people are preached at and to about having faith, but, often, faith is not explained to people so that they can understand what they are supposed to have. This is what one professor once called the “Then what?” section of a lesson. We must have faith; then what? How do I “get” faith and what do I do with it? What is faith, anyway?

The Hebrew writer gets us started on our discussion in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is knowing something to be true even without first-hand knowledge. I know that Russia is a country, even though I have never been to Russia. I do not have first-hand knowledge, but I have no real doubt as to the existence of Russia as a country because there is sufficient evidence. Such is the case for the Bible; we can believe that the Bible is so, based on the evidence - even though we have never personally met any of the Bible authors. Therefore, we have a substantive hope for the promises in the Bible. Even though we have never seen heaven, we know it is there.

However, faith is not just that hope. We see in Hebrews 11:2, “For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” They gained a “good testimony” – not based on what their mind accepted but on what their lives performed. The term “active faith” is a redundancy. True biblical faith does not exist in the non-active state. These men listed in Hebrews 11 are men of character who demonstrated their faith. This is the idea James gives us in James 2:18, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Faith without works is dead; it is non-existent faith.

Here is the connection that must be found. John 3:36, according to the NASB, reads as follows: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life: but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abided on him.” The terms “believe” and “obey” are placed in a parallel situation in this verse. The terms are different in Greek; “believe” is the typical pisteuo as we might expect. “Not obey” is from apeitheo, meaning to disobey. The hope that is given through belief is only possible to those who obey Christ. If faithful obedience is not present in the life of the believer, then the wrath of God will abide on him, and he will not see eternal life.

As much as one would love to believe that a mental assent is all that one needs in order to become a Christian, the Bible clearly refutes this claim. Unless we obey His commandments, we are not His children (John 14:21). Jesus plainly put it in Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by faithful obedience, and Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. 

Please God today with faith in action in your life. –1301 West Virginia Ave., Parkersburg, WV 26104. steven@northendchurch.com

(Editor’s note: We have learned that our brother Steven Haguewood, minister for the North End church of Christ in Parkersburg, was seriously injured when another vehicle struck his on Interstate 77 on May 15 as he was beginning his trip to Tennessee to conduct a Gospel Meeting. He was flown to the Trauma Center of Charleston Area Medical Center. He has now been released and is receiving therapy for his legs at Heartland in Charleston. He will see his surgeon on June 10th to determine when his next surgery will be. We have all been praying for Steven, his wife, and their children. If you would like to send him a card, his address is: Heartland, Steven Haguewood, Room 118, 3819 Chesterfield Ave., Charleston, WV 25304.)

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