Next to love, faith is the greatest character grace, and in a faith age, it is the most important. It is the foundation and energizer of all the other graces, and is the one that the Bible speaks the most about. In the next Age, love will be the most important as well as the greatest grace, for that will be an Age of works, motivated by love.
Faith in the Bible has three senses: (1) what one believes, (2) the quality by which one believes and (3) the quality which its first and second senses produce – faithfulness. We will consider faith in sense (2), which may be defined as mental appreciation of and heart’s reliance upon certain objects. Christian faith has God and Christ as its objects. The Apostle Paul states: “Faith is the confidence [heart’s reliance] of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen [mental appreciation]” (Hebrews 11: 1, Improved Version).
Although the Apostle states the matter in reverse order, the first part of faith is exercised by the mind, mental appreciation; and the second part by the heart, heart’s reliance. Both must be present in a true faith. Mental appreciation is the foundation, and heart’s reliance is the superstructure of the house of faith, just as a natural foundation and superstructure are necessary to a natural house.
A real mental appreciation consists of three elements:
(1.) Knowledge is the first of these, for we cannot exercise faith in a person or thing of whose existence we know nothing. “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10: 14). The Apostle’s question implies that to have faith in God and things about God requires a knowledge of Him and those things.
(2.) But knowledge is not sufficient. An understanding of the person or thing believed in is necessary; for faith must have a reasonable basis for the things that we have a knowledge of. Therefore, God invites us to reason with Him, saying, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1: 18). The Apostle said: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10: 17). The word hearing is here used in the sense of understanding, and the Word of God is here said to be faith’s source.
(3.) The third thing necessary for a genuine mental appreciation is belief. Our Lord stated, “He that believeth not the Son [does not believe that the Son tells the Truth] shall not see life” (John 3: 36). Please note the following Scripture: (Hebrews 11: 6).
But to possess true Biblical faith, heart’s reliance is necessary, and it also consists of three elements:
(1.) Numerous Scriptures prove full persuasion, or assurance to be an element of heart’s reliance (Romans 4: 21), (2 Corinthians 5: 6-8) and (Hebrews 10: 22). Heart’s reliance has confidence, trust or full assurance as to what it knows of, understands about and believes as to God and Christ.
(2.) Appropriation is the acceptance of these things, especially the promises in God’s Word, as applying to oneself – one makes these things his own. This is beautifully described by Paul in Hebrews 11: 13, where he wrote of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob embracing the pertinent promises, taking them to themselves and hugging them closely as belonging to themselves.
(3.) Responsiveness or activity implies taking action regarding the things that we are fully assured of and have appropriated to ourselves. For example, in faith justification, our full assurance and appropriation regarding God’s offer to forgive our sins and to impute Christ’s righteousness to us imply that we respond by giving up sin and practicing righteousness. Every one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 acted upon those things that they were fully persuaded of and appropriated to themselves, for example, Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice, Enoch walked with God, Noah built an ark, etc.
Faith’s development and possession bring fruitful results. It surely pleases God (Hebrews 11: 5, 6) when He sees that we give Him the confidence that He deserves; the faith of God’s people in every Age has helped carry forward His Plan to a completion; it blesses its possessors; and it blesses others, for many who have witnessed the faith of some have in turn responded by developing faith.