“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. This study examines three entities to which faith is attributed: 1) as the name of a Gospel, which is a body of truth, i.e., “The Faith;” 2) Jesus Christ’s faith, thus it is referred to as “the faith of Jesus Christ;” 3) as the faith of individual members of the Body of Christ.
1 – The Faith:
The term “the faith” is never found in the four Gospels. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, faith is usually attributed to individual people and the word faith does not appear in John. “The faith” first appears in the book of Acts where it refers to the belief of the Jews in the Pentecostal church in Jerusalem. They believed the Gospel of the Kingdom, which was simply, that Jesus was their promised Messiah. Peter and the other 11 apostles, along with the Jewish believers were waiting for the Tribulation, after which they anticipated Christ’s return to establish His Kingdom on earth, Acts 1:6 – 8. They followed the Law of Moses and worshiped in Jerusalem at the Temple, Acts 2:42 – 47. The Old Testament (OT) had prophesied the Tribulation and the Messianic Kingdom. Jesus Christ Himself foretold the Tribulation, Matthew 24:4 – 14 and His subsequent return to establish His Kingdom, Matthew 24:29 – 31. That was the Gospel or “the faith” to which they were obedient: “… the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7. However, they soon had to flee Jerusalem or be killed when Israel’s leaders rejected the Apostle’s offer of the Kingdom, climaxing with the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:54 – 60.
Because of Israel’s rejection, the promise of the Tribulation and Christ’s subsequent return was set aside for a season (its been almost 2000 years now), Romans 9:31 – 33; Romans 11:25 – 26. After the Kingdom Gospel was set aside, “the faith” refers frequently to the body of truth that is the Gospel of the Grace of God that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul from heaven, which God had kept secret until then, Romans 1:5; Romans 16:25 – 26; Ephesians 3:1 – 7. Under Paul’s preaching, the term “the faith” refers to the body of truth identified as the Gospel of the Grace of God: “But none of these things move me, (Paul) neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24. “And so were the churches established in the faith and increased in number daily.” Acts 16:5. Paul alludes to “the faith” in his epistles, for example: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” Ephesians 4:13.
2 – The Faith of Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ was God incarnate and thus He was totally God and totally Man. As a Man He lived by faith every moment of His earthly life. When He was 30 years old His ministry began with the temptations by Satan, Matthew 4:1 – 2. He answered each temptation with quotes from The Word of God, by which He lived, Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7 and Matthew 4:10. By faith He followed the Law of Moses to perfection: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17 – 18. He fulfilled the Law for everyone who believes in Him.
When He came to the end of His earthly life, He prayed: “…. Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me:” Mark 14:36a as He faced the indescribable painful agony and death on the cross, …. but He displayed perfect faith when He finished His prayer: “nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt,” Mark 14:36b and went willingly to the cross in accordance with His Father’s Will. And He died, having faith He would be raised to new life, as prophesied in the OT: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Psalms 16:10 (quoted in Acts 2:27). And He did this for us: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3 – 4. We know the Man Jesus Christ had faith because “without faith it is impossible to please God,” Hebrews 11:6a, and God Himself said “this is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5.
Paul refers to the faith of Jesus Christ a number of times, each of which will be discussed as we proceed through his epistles. The following two examples teach that believers are found righteous because we have been justified by the faith of Jesus Christ: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” Romans 3:21 – 22. Some preachers change the word “faith” here to “faithfulness,” quoting it as: “even the righteousness of God which is by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” Of course, Jesus Christ is faithful, 1 John 1:9, however that’s not the thought this passage conveys. The word faithfulness is never used in the KJV of the NT. However, faithfulness means faithful, a word from the Greek “pistos” (G4003), found 66 times in the NT, 38 of which are used by Paul if we count Hebrews. “Pistos” is never translated “faith” in the KJV. The word translated “faith” in Romans 3:22 is the Greek “pistis” (G4002) found 244 times in the NT and never translated “faithful” in the KJV.
The Greek word translated righteousness in Romans 3:21 – 22 is “dikaiousne” (G1343) found 92 times in the NT, of which 36 are in Romans. According to the Greek Lexicon it means “the doing or being what is just and right, etc.” So, we are assured that we who believe stand righteous before God “by the faith of Jesus Christ.” Paul explains in Galatians that we who believe in Jesus Christ are justified before God: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16. The phrase “by the faith of Jesus Christ” here is the same as in Romans 3:21 – 22; it does not read “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word translated “justified” here in Galatians is “dikaio-o” used 40 times in the NT, mostly by Paul; 15 in Romans alone. It means “to set forth as righteous, to justify by a judicial act.” Thus, we are justified and stand righteous before God by the faith of Jesus Christ, Galatians 2:16 & Romans 3:21 22.
3 – Our Faith – as Members of the Body of Christ:
The two passages just quoted teach that when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are justified and have the righteousness of God, made available by the faith of Jesus Christ. But we who are saved exercise faith ourselves when we receive those gifts: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8 – 9. There may be some who think this teaches that faith is the gift of God, but I don’t hold to this as this verse clearly teaches salvation by Grace is God’s gift to us. When we believe the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1 – 4, it is by our faith that we receive God’s gift of Salvation by His Grace, which is His unmerited favor to us, there is nothing we do to earn it.
Believers may be weak or strong in faith: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations,” Romans 14:1, which Paul explains further: “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:21 – 23. Thus, even if our faith is strong, we must consider fellow believers whose faith may be weak so as not to say or do things that may cause them to stumble in their faith. Our faith should grow as our knowledge of God’s Word increases, as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians: “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” 1 Thessalonians 3:10. And their faith did grow: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:” 2 Thessalonians 1:3 – 4.
In closing, it should be noted that our faith apparently can be quantified: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses,” 1 Timothy 6:12. Thus we strive to say with Paul: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” 2 Timothy 4:7.