The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love (Part 7: Love's Aspect - Faith)
Love For God Expressed In...
Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (7 of 9 in series)
Love's Aspect - Faith
We have been examining the fruit of the Spirit which is love. Paul wrote to the Galatians that an extra effort be made to work on, and develop, certain facets of love mentioned in his epistle to them. In this installment, we will consider faith .
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith , meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
If someone told you that a certain person lacks faith, you would have the basic idea of the concept they were trying to convey. You would probably say that person needs to "strengthen his belief" or "sure up" her convictions. That definition is right as far as it goes, but as was the case in the previous studies on the fruit of the Spirit, faith has a much deeper meaning than most people would see on the surface of the word. Let's start with the Bible definition:
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen ." (Hebrews 11:1)
But then further examination reveals more. Like peeling back the skins of an onion or the leaves covering an ear of corn, the word has depth to its meaning. If you're not aware of the Greek word for faith, it was originally a sports term. The word is pistis and means persuasion or conviction . That part of the definition is how we normally understand faith, a conviction or a persuasion that something is true . So most people stop here at the understanding of faith, "a persuasion of the truth or truthfulness of God." That alone is deep because the truthfulness is emanating from the Lord because the Lord is the source of all truth, but the etymology goes further than that. Pistis is a sports term that dates back to the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The ancient games were not as polished and civilized as the Games are today. In ancient times, a thirst for blood-spilling prevailed in society. The prize was a laurel wreath to put on the winner's head. There was only one winner. How did they eliminate competitors? They put traps that literally killed participants on the way to the finish line. They would dig holes and put poison-tipped stakes in it to fall on or wild animals to eat them. The traps would vary and would tax the competitors to the end of their mental and physical ability. The participants would run and by the time they reached the finish line they were completely sapped of all strength. When they crossed the finish line it would be the very last of their energy. The tradition was, that there was always a person there at the finish line for each competitor that survived to the end of this ordeal. It was usually the most trusted and loved family member. As the athlete would cross the line they would throw themselves into the waiting arms of their much-relieved catchers. The term pistis is this act of throwing themselves into those waiting arms and trusting that they would be caught, not allowed to fall. The idea of faith (pistis) is that we throw ourselves into the arms of our Savior, knowing that Jesus will hold us up, trusting that we will not be allowed to fall into hell. You fling yourself into the air and trust, having faith, that you will be caught by someone, that someone is Jesus. Pistis is derived from another word peitho (pi'-tho) that sheds even more light on faith. That word means "to convince by argument that something is true or false." From this we learn that faith is a reasoned-out decision, not mere feelings. Faith is spread by word of mouth and based on the fact of God's written word. It can't be coerced or forced but is a conclusion based on free will.
Faith is born of the Spirit. Faith grows and matures by the Spirit. True faith gives so much and demands so little. We will look at faith that starts at salvation and then moves on to the Christian walk and works.
1. Saving Faith.
Since a person's eternal future hangs in the balance, the most urgent and timely application of the word "faith" has to do with saving faith. A person has that kind of faith when he or she puts their trust in God to save them. This is different than just believing God exists. The fallen angels serving Satan (and also the devil himself) believe in God. The mere thought of God's declared judgment on them causes them to tremble. Saving faith is trusting God. Nothing you have, nothing you can do, can save you. You have no means to save yourself. You quite literally throw yourself upon God.
"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!" (James 2:19)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:9)
2. Growing Faith.
One frequently misapplied Scripture in Philippians says for Christians to "work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling." Many people take that to mean that their good works saves them or keeps them saved. This is not what the verse means. Upon closer examination of the syntax we see that true faith is a growing entity. Paul was merely saying that with our salvation comes a new nature which will manifest itself in work, so don't fight it or let sin hinder its growth but with fear and trembling (reverence and humility) strengthen your own saving faith. Faith really is the beginning of life in God. Each day brings new and exciting experiences to your faith, as you walk with the Lord. So we are looking at a condition of the spirit that matures with time. We all remember the mistakes we made as "new-born babes" in Christ. As our faith grew, we matured. We became more Christ-like, we did more good works. God wants us to have a growing faith.
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)
"And if by grace, then it is no longer works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)
3. Personal Faith.
Salvation itself, happens between God and individuals, on a personal, one-to-one basis. A person receives the indwelling Holy Spirit and their standing before God is changed. But, as we all know, the "old man," the fleshly part of us, wars with God. Part of every individual wants to sin. Our mind and our will want control. God wants us to give Him our whole heart, but until our faith matures, we hold back some things from God. God will expose those personal places inside of us and say, "You have given Me much of your heart, but what about this part?" Faith that's healthy learns to give more and more to God. The more we give to God, the more we grow and the more God gives back. The more of your mind you give, the clearer your thinking. The more of your will you give, the greater your works will be on earth and your rewards in heaven. God wants us to give Him all of us, a personal faith.
4. Obedient Faith.
Living faith is based on obedience. It's impossible to be disobedient to God and demonstrate faith at the same time. When we commit acts of disobedience, God will convict us, convince us personally of that sin. If we continue on that path, our fellowship with God is damaged or broken. Though you never lose your standing before God, your disobedience can take you as far as the "sin unto death" where God can remove you from this earthly life prematurely.
"Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion." (Romans 12:12-16)
"For we walk by faith and not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5)
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
The Bible says men need to come to God by faith. It says that Christians are to walk by that faith and not by sight. We are to obey, trusting God more than anything, even our own reasoning. He says that without faith, it is impossible to please Him. So cultivate, nurture your faith. Strive to remove sin from all aspects of your life. Look to the Lord to save you. Look to the Lord to grow you. Look to the Lord to do good works through you. Have faith.
Faith is something everyone has and it will manifest itself in the weirdest of places. When you come in and sit down, I doubt very much you examined the chair upon which you sat to note its construction before you sat. You simply trusted that the chair would hold you up. I submit to anyone saying that they do not need to have faith are lying to themselves. They are themselves exercising a trust in a hope that the Bible is wrong when it says that Jesus is the "only way of salvation." When the Scripture says that "you must be born-again," they are telling themselves that is not true and that it all will work out alright in the end. I submit that the opposite of that is true. All people need to come to Jesus to have life, "for there is salvation in no other." There is "no other name given among men whereby we must be saved." So consider, what have you done with Jesus? Is He your Savior or will He be your Judge? He died for you and He has provided you a way to get to heaven and that way is not hard or complicated. All you have to do is have faith. To recognize who Jesus is, what He did for you, who you are and what you need. Then all that is left is to call on Him to save you. Are you ready to believe? If you are examine yourself and see if you have that kind of saving faith.
Do you believe that Jesus is God in human flesh that came to earth to die for all mankind's sin, including yours? Do you see yourself as a sinner in need of a Savior? Do you also believe the Gospel which is that Jesus came to earth, died and was buried but in three days He rose from the dead? If you believe and you are ready to turn from your sin and turn to Jesus to save you, pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus: I know I am a sinner and I have sin that separates me from God. I am ready to turn from my sin and turn to You Jesus as the only way of salvation. I believe what the Bible says about You Jesus, that You came and died on the cross and that three days You rose again. Please forgive me of my sin and save me. I promise I will follow You all the days of my life. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
Other articles in this series: