Updated: Jun 29, 2019
Is faith more than just simply believing? Is faith a confession of the mouth for things hoped for and nothing else? Is there evidence that a person has faith or faithfulness? Mainstream Christianity provides an ambiguous definition of faith or at least what it means to have faith (to be faithful). According to Billy Graham faith has two parts to it, first, we must believe that YHWH exist, that He loves us, and that He sent His Son to die for our sins. The second part is,
“a definite decision not only to believe in our minds that Christ can save us, but to put our lives into His hands and trust Him alone for our salvation. True faith not only believes Christ can save us, but actually trusts Him to do it.” (Billy Graham, Can you give me a simple definition of faith?)
This is a typical mainstream Christian response, faith is simply believing, as if we are talking about Santa Clause and we must believe he exists in order to receive our gifts. I say this not to downplay the role belief plays in having faith but to put it into perspective, just as James wrote,
“You believe that Elohim is one. You do well. The demons also believe – and shudder!” (James 2:19)
James had some very interesting things to say regarding faith or as the Scriptures translates it, belief. I will return to his writings towards the end of the post but for now let us turn to Hebrews, where the author (possibly Paul) gives a definition of faith or belief.
“And belief is the substance of what is expected, the proof of what is not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Interesting, belief (faith) is the substance of things expected. Do you not know that substances are things that exist in the physical world and not in the mind? For example, my thoughts take up no space, they have no extension or substance to them. It is only when my thoughts are written down or acted out that they materialize. Moreover, proof is the presence of empirical evidence, which can only be verified when seen. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that simply professing to have faith is not enough but having proof that is verifiable by tangible means. This is exactly what the author of Hebrews goes on to show us with the faith “hall of famers” as some have so adequately referred to them as.
“By belief, Heḇel (Abel) offered to Elohim a greater slaughter offering than Qayin (Cain), through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, Elohim witnessing of his gifts. And through it, having died, he still speaks. By belief, Ḥanoḵ (Enoch) was translated so as not to see death, “and was not found because Elohim had translated him.” For before his translation he obtained witness, that he pleased Elohim. But without belief it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to Elohim has to believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. By belief, Noaḥ, having been warned of what was yet unseen, having feared, prepared an ark to save his house, through which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to belief. By belief, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he was about to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By belief, he sojourned in the land of promise as a stranger, dwelling in tents with Yitsḥaq (Isaac) and Ya‛aqoḇ (Jacob), the heirs with him of the same promise, for he was looking for the city having foundations, whose builder and maker is Elohim. By belief also, Sarah herself was enabled to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the normal age, because she deemed Him trustworthy who had promised. And so from one, and him as good as dead, were born as numerous as the stars of the heaven, as countless as the sand which is by the seashore. In belief all these died, not having received the promises, but seeing them from a distance, welcomed and embraced them, and confessed that they were aliens and strangers on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:4-13)
All of them mentioned above were obedient, Abel brought the best he had for the sacrifice, Enoch walked faithfully with Elohim, Noah built the Ark, Abraham traveled to a foreign land when Elohim told him to do so, Sarah trusted in Elohim to make good on His promise. It is only because they had faith that they were able to be obedient to the Father. If they did not trust the Father, then they would not have done what they did. It is quite simple, faith, like love, is a verb. For if I tell my wife that I love her, but my actions do not align with my words, then do I truly love her? Likewise, if I say I have faith in the Messiah, but I do not express my profession with good works, like those mentioned above, then do I truly trust in Him? I do not do the various actions to show my affection towards my wife to garner her love, on the contrary, I do those actions because I have obtained her love. In similar fashion I keep the Torah because that is tangible proof of my faith in Yeshua Hamashiach. This is exactly what James was talking about when he said,
“So also belief, if it does not have works, is in itself dead. But someone might say, “You have belief, and I have works.” Show me your belief without your works, and I shall show you my belief by my works.” (James 2:17-18)
The way James describes faith is in complete alignment with Hebrews 11:1, the work is the very substance that gives testament to the proof that one has faith. Also, in keeping with the flow of Hebrews James gives his own list of faith “Hall of famers”.
“But do you wish to know, O foolish man, that the belief without the works is dead? Was not Abraham our father declared right by works when he offered Yitsḥaq (Isaac) his son on the slaughter-place? Do you see that the belief was working with his works, and by the works the belief was perfected? And the Scripture was filled which says, “Abraham believed Elohim, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” And He called him, “he who loves Elohim.” You see, then, that a man is declared right by works, and not by belief alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the whore also declared right by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so also the belief is dead without the works.” (James 2:20-26)
What does James mean by works? Does he mean attending Sunday church, teaching Sunday school, and generally being a good person? I would argue no, but to know what we should do (the works) we must know what is Biblically defined as good.
“if you obey the voice of יהוה your Elohim, to guard His commands and His laws which are written in this Book of the Torah, if you turn back to יהוה your Elohim with all your heart and with all your being. “For this command which I am commanding you today, it is not too hard for you, nor is it far off. “It is not in the heavens, to say, ‘Who shall ascend into the heavens for us, and bring it to us, and cause us to hear it, so that we do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, to say, ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and cause us to hear it, so that we do it?’” “For the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart – to do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil,” (Deuteronomy 30:10-15)
Being obedient to YHWH and following his instructions is good, so is it wrong to assume that keeping Torah is performing good works? Titus doesn’t seem to think so.
“For the saving Gift of Elohim has appeared to all men, instructing us to renounce wickedness and worldly lusts, and to live sensibly, righteously, and reverently in the present age, looking for the blessed expectation and esteemed appearance of the great Elohim and our Saviour יהושע Messiah, who gave Himself for us, to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people, his own possession, ardent for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
Neither does Paul.
“For by favour you have been saved, through belief, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim, it is not by works, so that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah יהושע unto good works, which Elohim prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Even Paul agrees with Titus and James, that we are created in Yeshua to do good works, which YHWH has prepared for us to walk in. Remember the good works prepared by Elohim is His Torah, His instructions on how to live a life pleasing to Him. And how does this tie in with faith? Well Paul said we are saved by grace through faith, that means that faith is the vehicle in which we arrive at grace. James tells us that faith without works is dead, no good works equals no gas for the vehicle. Therefore, there is no grace for those who claim to have faith and yet lack the works to prove it.
“My brothers, what use is it for anyone to say he has belief but does not have works? This belief is unable to save him.” (James 2:14)
Keeping Torah with the attitude that you will save yourself (which is works without belief), will not be effective, it is through belief that our good works will we be counted as righteous.
“For not the hearers of the Torah are righteous in the sight of Elohim, but the doers of the Torah shall be declared right.” (Romans 2:13)
Continue to test all things brothers and sisters, including this teaching, for I do not wish for you to become as children, unable to think for themselves. Instead it is my hope you will grow into mature adults in the spirit, fully capable and ready to be a living testimony to our Messiah Yeshua and our Father YHWH.