Christianity: Faith or by Sight?
By Joe Keim
August 29, 2014
Our God is a giving God and has given mankind many things in this life to use and enjoy. Among the many things He has given us, one shows up at the top of the list. Like all His gifts, this one cannot be bought with money; it is free, without strings attached. The gift I am going to discuss with you today is used continually throughout our lives, and the more we exercise it, the better and more powerful it becomes. It is named in the list of fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and is illustrated for us throughout the entire Old and New Testaments. What is it? It is FAITH.
Faith, just like wisdom and many other gifts from heaven, is given to us in various proportions, or quantities. How do we know this? Because in Luke 17:5 we read: And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
We are not born knowing how to rely upon God, nor do we know the importance of depending upon His wisdom and strength. For that reason we must discover how to do so if we want to mature and grow in our walk with God.
Before we get started, let me say that the Bible speaks of three different types of faith. There is intellectual faith, godly faith, and saving faith. Often we use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same.
Three Types of Faith:
1. Intellectual faith.
Intellectual faith—maybe the most difficult to explain—is a logical or knowledgeable faith. Both Christians and unbelievers can have intellectual faith. It is further defined as believing something to be true without having proof or making a commitment. For example, a person can intellectually believe that Jesus was a real person who walked the earth, helped others, and performed miracles, but come short of believing that He was God in human flesh.
Matthew 1:23: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
See also John 1:1-3 and 14, John 20:28
A person with intellectual faith would, in a sense, believe the same way about Jesus as he or she believes about George Washington—a man described in our history books as being the first U.S. President.
Intellectual faith can be described as head knowledge, or in the case of George Washington, you know some things about him because of what you heard other people say, or read in history books, but you don’t know him personally—you have never met him.
2. Godly faith.
Someone who has godly faith is fully confident that whatever the Lord has promised to do, He will absolutely fulfill. He has never failed to keep His word, and that will never change. Someone once said: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. Truly, this is godly faith, and those who have been born of the Spirit should find themselves living with this kind of a mindset.
Before we look at the last type of faith, let me ask: Do you find it easier to place your faith in the fact that there is a heavenly city with golden streets than placing your faith in God for the things that are going on in your life from day to day?
3. Saving faith.
This is defined as trusting in Jesus Christ as the One who provides us with the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of everlasting life. This type of faith involves giving up on the idea that you can do anything on your own to earn your way into heaven. It is letting go of self, renouncing sin in your life, and turning your life completely over to Jesus Christ. It is not the same as believing in George Washington, in that it is beyond just head knowledge; it is believing with your heart. Consider the following scripture: that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9).
When your level of faith goes from the head to your heart, it means you believe with all your being that Jesus Christ and His grace alone can save you from sin and hell. You can add nothing! He paid it all! It is finished! When you, by faith, believe that, you are born again.
Four Levels of Faith:
Believers can have: No faith (Read Mark 4:35-41).
In this passage, we read about a storm that arose one evening as the disciples traveled on the sea. Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the ship, but the rain storm was so terrible that the disciples woke Jesus and cried, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).
The question revealed their lack of faith in God. Accordingly, Jesus responded, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
It is important for us to understand the following two things about this occasion:
1. Right before stepping into the ship that evening, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about the power of God. He had gone to great lengths to instruct them about God’s Word being like a seed and to act on that Word; then He gave them a test to see if they had learned anything.
2. Before they entered the ship, Jesus made it clear in verse 35: “Let us pass over unto the other side.” He didn’t tell them to drown halfway across. The Creator of the sea told them to go to the other side. If they had understood what He had been teaching them, they could have put faith in His Word and have gotten to the other side by placing their faith in His Word. They didn’t need to awaken Him.
Like them, whenever we begin to question whether or not God cares about us at all, we show our lack of faith.
Believers can have: Little faith (Read Matthew 16:5-10).
The disciples, who had seen Jesus feed 5,000 people and then 4,000 more (Matthew 16:9-10), were still concerned about physical provision. Christ responded, “O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” (Matthew 16:8).
Jesus was speaking of spiritual things and not carnal things. The disciples were carnal, not spiritual, and therefore missed His point (1 Corinthians 2:14). How do we become spiritual? In this verse, Jesus linked their hardened hearts to “little faith.” It is only through faith that we can become spiritually minded. How does faith come? Romans 10:17 shows that faith comes through hearing God’s Word.
Believers can have: Great faith (Read Matthew 8:5-8).
When Jesus met the centurion, it was the perfect opportunity to teach the disciples about great faith. The centurion asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, and he trusted Jesus’ word that it would be done. The centurion didn’t need signs or evidence of Jesus’ power. For that reason, Jesus said, “Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8:10).
Like the centurion, we exhibit great faith when we take Jesus at His word and trust Him so completely that we don’t require a sign that He will fulfill His promises to us.
Believers can have: Failing faith (Read Luke 22:31-32).
Unfortunately, all of us falter at one point or another. Before it ever happened, Jesus predicted that even Simon Peter would experience a faith failure. In verses 31-32, the Lord said: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
I need to remind each one of us that there are forces challenging our faith, and sometimes we will fail to trust God. Thank God that He is a God of second, third, and many more chances. Even when we fail and lose faith in His promises, we are always welcome to return to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Our heavenly Father will even allow us to teach others about His unfailing faithfulness.
Why is Faith Necessary and Why Did God Make It a Christian Requirement?
The primary reason the Father wants us to have great faith is because we respond to Him in proportion to how much we trust Him. If we have great faith, He can entrust us with projects that will have a greater impact for His kingdom. Secondly, if the Christian faith did not require any faith at all, we would become stagnant in our walk with God and stop searching for a greater understanding of who He is.
Dear believer, always remember: ...we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We cannot even begin the journey God has in mind for us if we do not have saving faith. There is a terrible gap between intellectual faith and saving faith, and that gap can only be bridged by letting go of self righteousness and falling into God’s righteousness through Jesus Christ.
Before you place your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, you do not have the Holy Spirit. When you are born again, from that moment on the Holy Spirit will direct and guide you in all truth (John 16:13).
Also, an individual does not display saving faith if he or she refuses to repent. If a person truly believes that Jesus is his or her Savior, he or she will want to turn away from anything that is contrary to Jesus’ teaching.
In conclusion, let me remind us all that according to God’s Word, salvation from our lost and sinful state does not come gradually over a long period of time, does not happen because you became such a good person that God decided to accept you into His beloved, does not happen because you got wet on baptism day, and does not happen because you became a member of a church, obeyed your parents, or were born into a certain Christian family or culture. Salvation, or the new birth, happens the moment you let go of self, repent of your sins and self-righteousness, and place all your faith in Jesus Christ to give you everlasting life and total forgiveness of sins.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by [God’s] grace are ye saved [from sin and hell] through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the [free] gift of God: Not of [my own] works, lest any man should boast.
Without faith, God’s grace is wasted, and without grace, faith is powerless. Faith in God’s grace has to be released to receive what God has provided through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:10).
God’s grace is the same toward everyone. Titus 2:11 says, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Therefore “all men” (mankind) have had salvation provided for them (1 John 2:2) and extended toward them by God’s grace, but not all are saved. Why not? Not all people have combined faith with what God has done for them by grace.
Salvation is described as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Like any other gift, it does not become yours until you reach out and accept it.
When someone gives you a present, you don’t ask, “How much do I owe you?” Your only response should be, “Thank you very much.” Many Christians, after receiving the gift of salvation, still think they must work to pay for their acceptance. The only acceptable response to salvation is gratitude and praise to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Romans 11:6).