Word alone. Grace alone. Faith alone. These three statements are the pillars upon which our fellowship with God is built. We believe that God has spoken everything we need in the Bible, His Word. We believe that our reconciliation is fully accomplished by a gracious God. We believe that in order for reconciliation to be ours, we must believe it is true for us. Here are five passages from the Bible that define faith, show that faith is a gift, point to the source of faith, confess the purpose of faith, and explain the necessity of faith.
Faith is an abstract idea. We can't see, smell, hear, touch, or taste faith. Faith is a real thing, but it is a thing in our minds and hearts. According to Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is being sure about what we hope for, being convinced about things we do not see." The key terms that define faith are being sure and being convinced. In the context of the Letter to the Hebrews, our hope is eternal life in God's presence. The things we can't see are forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. When we have faith we are sure we will be with God for eternity because we are convinced that He has forgiven our sins and reconciled us to Himself through what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Because of our sin, however, we are not able to be sure or to be convinced. Because we are sinful, we don't have what it takes to believe God's promises. To solve this problem for us, God gives us a gift. "Indeed, it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). The gift is salvation. Included in the gift are the two things necessary for salvation: grace and faith. Our loving and merciful God saves us by giving us His grace. He makes it possible for us to be sure about this gift, to be convinced that gift is for us, by also giving us faith.
As with any gift, faith is given wrapped and delivered in a beautiful package. "So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). As the pillar of grace is included in the gift with faith, so the gift is given through our first pillar, the Word. When we hear God's Word (and we might suppose that hearing here can include reading so that our minds hear) God delivers the gift of faith into our hearts. We understand, then, how Word Alone is critical to reconciliation. When we hear God's Word we receive the gift of faith. Through God's word we learn of God's gracious act, Jesus dying our death on the cross and proving His power over sin and death to forgive our sins and restore us to Himself. Because God has spoken these words to us, we can be sure and we can be convinced. We can have faith, believe, trust, that God's promises are true and that God's promises are "for me."
The purpose of God's gift of faith is so that by being reconciled to God we will have eternal life. This is the hope we are sure of. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). To perish is to be eternally separated from God. We call this separation eternal death. God does not want us to be separated from Him for all eternity. He wants us to be in fellowship with Him now and forever. His love is proven to us in that He gave Himself becoming a human (Jesus) and taking on Himself human sin. He did not sin, but He did become our sin (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). He took on Himself the punishment we deserve (He perished, died) so we don't have to suffer the consequences of our sin. When we have faith, believe, that His death was "for me," it is "for me," and we receive forgiveness, new life, and reconciliation.
We believe that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). We believe that what Jesus did on the cross is for everyone (1 John 2:2). But we are not universalists. We do not believe that everyone receives the benefits of the cross. The "whoever believes" in John 3:16 affirms the necessity of faith. Another passage that affirms the necessity of faith is Galatians 2:16: "We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law." We are pointed to faith three times in this one verse: through faith in Jesus Christ, we also believed in Christ Jesus, by faith in Christ. What Jesus did on the cross is for us all; but it is ours only when we believe, have faith, in Jesus.
God has revealed His nature, will, and plan for us in His Word. Because He is merciful and loving, He has extended His grace to us by which He acted to solve the problem of our rebellion and sin. He has give us the gift of faith, that which is needed for us to accept forgiveness and life, through the hearing of His Word. Justification, the declaration "not guilty" is ours when we believe in Jesus. Of this we can be sure and convinced.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV®) © 2019 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.