Coming to Faith in God

Preface

For the believer, the subject of faith contains several aspects which could discussed at length. However, here I am examining the subject of faith and the non-believer. Unless one is purposely preparing for a debate, most people do not spend much time studying something contrary to what they currently believe. We only seek something different when we have become dissatisfied with our current belief system. So, quite likely, non-believers may not be motivated to take time to read a teaching on “Faith”, being sufficiently satisfied with not believing. However, a time may come that the non-believer may become dissatisfied in the non-belief – or the non-biblical belief system he has been holding. Only at that time might the non-believer be motivated to consider biblical “Faith”.

However, a believer may find himself engaged with a non-believer – that is, “giving an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess” (1 Peter 3:15) – and may benefit from what I’ve shared in this article, as it has been forged from my personal experience of discussing and explaining “faith” to a non-believer. And what I’ve shared here from the scriptures may, in “hindsight”, help believers more fully understand what took place in their lives when they “came to faith” in Christ.

Introduction

Before moving forward, let’s consider some things which Peter wrote in that particular verse:

  • “to give an answer to anyone who asks”: It’s best to discuss faith when someone asks about it.
  • But I also offer this: I have found in a general discussion with a sincerely interested non-believer, the two will inevitably find themselves needing to discuss faith – because it is the “bottom line”. You either have faith or you don’t.
  • One is being “asked about the hope you possess”. In a very real way, hope is a prerequisite for faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for”. (Hebrews 11:1) When speaking with a non-believer, the believer should communicate the hope we have according to the scriptures. For that particular hope is one of the essential things the non-believer does not have. The hope of glory – “Christ in you” and the hope of eternal life are things the non-believer is not hoping for. Therefore, why would he be interested in having faith for “things hoped for”? That hope must be put forth to the non-believer. While they may not comprehend the Spirit of “Christ in you”,[1] I believe all human beings are concerned with “the hope of glory” – the hope of eternal life. Of course, they may not “believe” there is such a thing. But that is exactly why faith is being discussed!

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

This is the reality, and I believe that most non-believers understand that to be the case. You either have faith or you don’t. Non-believers are the people who don’t.

“Conversion”

While the term has been misused and bastardized by Pop Culture, being “born again” is an authentic teaching of Christ. (John 3:3-8)  Possibly being “born of the Spirit” is a more informative term.[2] These terms are used to label a more theological term – “conversion”. From a biblical perspective, “conversion” is a process of spiritual experiences:

  • “The Drawing of the Holy Spirit”
  • “Repentance”
  • “Faith Towards God”
  • “Receiving the Holy Spirit”[3]

Each of these terms require proper definition.[4] This article deals with the definition of “faith”. But, in fact, “The Drawing of the Holy Spirit” and “Repentance” are prerequisite to “Faith”. This is important for both the non-believer and the believer to keep in mind when discussing “faith”.

“Leap of Faith”

After you have thoroughly discussed all the issues – explanations and arguments – it still remains: A non-believer will either embrace faith, or they won’t.[5] If they do, they are momentarily “leaping” over all the explanations and arguments. Once having “received the gift of the Holy Spirit”, with understanding from the Spirit through the scriptures, these arguments can be addressed later in their spiritual growth.

“The thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11b)

Both the believer and the non-believer must realize that. Only after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is there understanding of biblical truths. Faith is a gift which, in this sense, precedes understanding. With faith, there is a “knowing” (some type of “witness”) in the heart, but not necessarily much understanding in the mind. The non-believer cannot be converted by human reason. Conversion is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. As I’ve indicated, the process of conversion and the prerequisites to “Faith” require discussion. But for now, let’s consider some of the basic issues regarding “Faith”:

  • What is faith?
  • How does one “get” faith?

What is Faith?

There is a familiar term – “a leap of faith”. I believe this is an accurate way of speaking about “coming to faith” in the conversion process.

After you have thoroughly debated all the issues, it still remains: You will either embrace faith, or you won’t. If you do, you are momentarily “leaping” over all explanations and arguments, so to speak. With understanding from the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, these arguments can be addressed later in one’s spiritual growth. Actually, one cannot understand the things of God without the inspiration and help of the Holy Spirit. until one has received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. For who among people knows the thoughts of a person except the spirit of the person that is in him? So also the thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11

Biblical Faith Defined

“Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 A more amplified English translation of the Greek words would be: “Faith is the assurance, or substance, or support placed under[6] the things hoped for, the evidence, or proof[7] not being seen.”

As we discussed earlier, hope is a prerequisite to faith. If there is nothing “hoped for”, there is no need for faith. However, if there are things “hoped for”, faith is that spiritual assurance placed under and supporting that unseen hope. Faith, like hope, is also spiritual, and therefore “not seen”, but it is never-the-less a spiritual substance which acts as evidence or proof.

Faith is Grounded in the Person of God

Faith presupposes some measure of experience with the Person of God, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 Greek scholar, M.R. Vincent, explains that verse this way: “He who approaches God has, through faith, the assurance that his seeking God will result in good to himself.”[8] In other words, the person has some measure of experience wherein God has proven His existence and reality to the person. I have written of this phenomenon in detail in an article entitled “The Drawing of the Holy Spirit”. But suffice to say here that, while the person is in the repentance-conversion process, and has not yet “received the gift of the Holy Spirit”, and is not yet “born of the Spirit”, and come into spiritual union with God, still there are experiences of God which God Himself has referred to as “drawing with human cords”,[9] wherein He communicates to the unregenerate man in ways all humans can understand. For example, He will allow events or circumstances in our lives which get our attention and cause us to begin to think: “Maybe God is trying to tell me something!” The individual becomes convinced that this is a God-experience. Interestingly, we may communicate such personal experiences to other people, but they cannot fully know or appreciate what the Father has between Himself and each of His individual children.

It is written of Abraham, “the father of faith”: “Abraham believed God. God accepted Abraham’s faith, and so his faith made him right with God.” Romans 4:3[10] It is also written that Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised”. Romans 4:21[11] So we see that faith in the Person of God carries over to having faith in the words of God. In other words, if God truly exists, then what He has revealed in His written words are also true.

Faith Grounded in an Inner Witness

How does one know if they “have faith”? Or maybe more accurately: How can one be assured that one’s belief is “authentic”? According to scripture, the Spirit of God gives the believer an “inner witness”, and the believer recognizes within himself a responsive “inner witness”. The nature of this “inner witness” is an assurance of being “born of God” – being a child of God.

14For all who are being led[12] by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption[13] as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies[14] with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:14-16

What is being communicated in this passage is indeed very rich and profound but suffice to say here that the nature of this “inner witness” is an assurance of being “born of God” – being a child of God, as evidenced by an experiential sense of divine assistance and guidance in one’s life.

Is Faith a Sovereign “Gift”?

There is an age-old theological debate around the sovereignty of God and human free will. In this case: Is having faith solely a gift from God, or does human choice and decision come into play. Theologically speaking this may be an over-simplification, but I do believe that a particular verses of scripture help explain the reality of how these two things work in tandem, yet admittedly, it remains a beautiful, supernatural phenomenon. The scripture verses are Philippians 2:12-13: “(You) work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.” Who is working? God? Or the believer? BOTH. But I do believe God is the Initiator and the believer the respondent. We “work” because we BELIEVE and have an experiential “INNER WITNESS” that God is “at work in us”.

There are two scripture passages which are sometimes used to attempt to make the case that faith is solely a sovereign gift of God. But let’s take a close look at these two passages:

Firstly, Ephesians 2:8-9. If understood correctly, this passage actually informs us that faith is not solely a sovereign gift, but requires human choice and free will decision:

8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, explains the Greek words and grammar in this passage: And that (Greek: kai touto) is neuter, not feminine (Greek: tautē), and so refers not to “faith” (Greek: pistis – feminine) nor to grace” (Greek: charis –  feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part.”[15] So it is the salvation which is the gift, but God’s grace and salvation beckons our response of faith.

The second passage is Acts 13:48: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

This has been interpreted to say only those who have been “appointed” (“elected”) believe. And supposedly all those who have not been so appointed or elected will not be able to believe. (This is hardline Calvinism.) But Bible scholar, Adam Clarke, helps us to properly understand the Greek syntax:

“τεταγμενοι, which includes no idea of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind.… The verb ταττω or τασσω signifies to place, set, order, appoint, dispose; hence it has been considered here as implying the disposition or readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation, such as the religious proselytes mentioned Act 13:43, who possessed the reverse of the disposition of those Jews who spoke against those things, contradicting and blaspheming, Act 13:45….The one party (Jews) were utterly indisposed, through their own stubbornness, to receive the Gospel; the others (Gentiles), destitute of prejudice and prepossession, were glad to hear that, in the order of God, the Gentiles were included in the covenant of salvation through Christ Jesus; they, therefore, in this good state and order of mind, believed.”[16]

Losing Faith in Human Vanities

In order to come to faith in God, we must be seeking. We seek when we are no longer satisfied with our non-belief (or our current belief system). But again, it does seem that God is the Initiator of our dissatisfaction and seeking.[17]

Jesus informed us that the nature of sin is to “not believe in Him”. (John 16:8-11) The Greek word translated “believe” is pistis – it means much more than what we usually mean by “believing”. It actually means to depend upon – to lean upon. The nature of sin is to take the approach of living life without depending upon and leaning upon God. This is what happened at the Fall – humanity began living independently of God, and the result was that “the creation was subjected to futility”.[18]

The Holy Spirit draws us to Faith in God by dealing with us in such a way that we come to the place of “losing faith” in our selves and in others. We do not really come to the place of depending upon and leaning upon God until we come to the place of saying with Solomon: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”[19] We do not really come to the place of depending upon and leaning upon God until we come to the place of saying with David: “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely, they make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them….[20] Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath.”[21]

Repentance is Prerequisite to Coming to Faith in God

Humanity lost faith in God at the Fall. What God said was grounded in the fact that He was God – that is, grounded in the authority of God. The temptation in the garden presented the option to distrust God’s authority – specifically what God says is True, Good, and Beautiful:

  • The Serpent raised the question: “Has God really said?” (Genesis 3:1)
  • The Serpent also suggested that, in fact, God did not want Humanity to know what True, Good, and Beautiful was. (Genesis 3:4-5)
  • The woman and her husband DECIDED FOR THEMSELVES that the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was “GOOD for food”, “BEAUTIFUL to the eyes”, and “desirable able to make one WISE”. (Genesis 3:6)
  • What took place in the Garden is that Humanity challenged the authority of God and His words. They began to DISCERN and DECLARE good and evil – that is making these distinctions FOR THEMSELVES, INDEPENDENTLY OF GOD. (This is contained in the meaning of the Hebrew word, yada[22], translated “knowing” in the Genesis passage.)
  • They chose to be self-governing by deciding for themselves what they deemed to be Good, True and Beautiful.
  • Repentance[23] – changing one’s perception, one’s mind, one’s heart attitude, one’s behavior – is TURNING[24] to faith (trust) in God’s Person and what he says.

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FOOTNOTES

[1] In our testimony of Christ, we really need to leave off a carnal approach such as – “Come to Jesus, and all your problems in this life with be solved.”, etc. The spiritual reality is this: “You MUST be born of the Spirit.” (John 3) “God is Spirit, and who worship Him MUST worship in spirit and truth. (John 4) “Christ in you” (by His Spirit) is “the hope of glory”. (Romans 8) “Knowing the one true God is eternal life.” (John 17:3) This is exactly why faith is necessary: the realities of God are primarily spiritual by nature. It seems to me, non-believers instinctively understand this – faith is a prerequisite to belief in God.

[2] If interested, one can receive a complimentary .PDF copy of “You MUST Be Born Again” simply by emailing: AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[3] Acts 2:38; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13. Also referred to as: “Regeneration”, that is being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8), or “Baptism into Christ” (Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13[ Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12).

[4] If interested, one can receive a complimentary .PDF copy of “The Drawing of the Holy Spirit”, “Repentance”, and “Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit” simply by emailing: AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[5] Again, this depends upon the prerequisites of “The Drawing of the Holy Spirit” and “Repentance”.

[6] Greek: hupostasis, Strong’s # 5287

[7] Greek: elegchos, Strong’s # 1650

[8] Vincent’s Word Studies

[9] Hosea 11:4, “cords of adam”, Strong’s # 120, that is, “cords of a man” or “human cords”.

[10] Also, Galatians 3:6 and Genesis 15:6, New International Readers’ Version

[11] New International Version

[12] Greek: ago, Strong’s # 71

[13] Greek: huiothesia, Strong’s # 5206. A Roman legal term meaning the (public) “placing of a son”.

[14] Greek: summartureō, Strong’s # 4828, corroborate, testify jointly, bear witness with

[15] Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament. Greek scholar, M.R. Vincent agrees with this understanding.

[16] Clarke’s Commentary. Greek scholars, M.R. Vincent and A.T. Robertson agree with this understanding.

[17] I discuss this process in my eBook, “The Drawing of the Holy Spirit”. Audio format: https://www.atchriststable.org/audio-messages/drawing-of-the-holy-spirit-audio-message/ For a complimentary copy in .PDF format, simply email me at: AtChristsTable@gmail.com

[18] Romans 8:20

[19] Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8

[20] Psalm 39:5-6

[21] Psalm 62:9

[22] Strong’s # 3045

[23] Greek: metanoia, Strong’s # 3341

[24] Or “returning”

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At Christ’s Table – ACTpublications

“Explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

© 2024

W.D. Furioso, Writer ~ Frances Furioso, Editor ~ At Christ’s Table Ministries ~ ACTpublications ~  https://www.AtChristsTable.org

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Quo Vadis

God is always moving forward in His kingdom plans and purposes. He never moves backward. And for those who love Him, He never stops moving in our lives for His glory. But to continue moving on with God “from glory to glory” requires our living “from faith to faith”. It takes an act of faith