In four-part series, let’s examine God’s expectations for mankind in the New Testament – particularly to enter into a right relationship with Him and be saved from eternal punishment. Part 1 will deal with the expectation of faith; part 2 will deal with the expectation of repentance; part 3 will deal with the expectation of confession, and part 4 will deal with the expectation of submitting to water baptism.
The Necessity and Meaning of Faith
The Bible explicitly states that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb. 11:6). Anyone who desires to be saved should pay careful attention to this verse. Clearly, faith is important to God – but what exactly is it? Many conceptualize faith as something that one possesses in the absence of reliable evidence – they would contend that faith allows you to take a “blind leap.” However, the biblical definition of faith is far different – far better – than this gross oversimplification. On the contrary, biblical faith is firmly rooted in the evidence that God “is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Hebrews 11 further reveals a pattern of people whose faith pleased God. Very simply, these individuals trusted God and they obeyed God. Though they may not have ever experienced the very thing that God expected of them or promised them, they knew that if God said it, they could take it to the bank. They believed – had faith – in who God was and that He was trustworthy to follow through on His promises.
The Origin and Development of Personal Faith
Many of the characters in Hebrews 11 had God speaking directly to them and this would have been helpful in the development of their faith. But what about us, today? How are we to develop a trusting faith? Rhetorically, Paul asked, “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard” (Romans 10:14)? Thankfully, God has provided for us exactly what we need for belief: His word (written) and the Word (incarnate). In response to his rhetorical question, Paul answers – “faith comes by…hearing the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). In the written word of God, we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). In other words, everything that God knows we need to produce faith in Him has been provided for us in His word. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul declares that “all scripture…thoroughly equip[s] [man] for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). And when we truly hear it by listening and letting it sink down deep into our hearts and minds, faith is produced. Within the written down word of God, we also have available to us the record of the human manifestation of God – what the Gospel of John also calls the Word (John 1:1, 14). Not only does the written word of God develop our faith, but so also does Jesus Christ – God in the flesh – as He is revealed in scripture. The entire Gospel of John is written “that [we] might believe” (John 20:31). More specifically, those things were written that we might believe and trust in Jesus as our Lord and perfect sacrifice – because a belief (or a faith) in Jesus results in life through his name. Belief and faith are not just a mental acceptance of the facts of God’s word in totality – but more fully, it is a trust and confidence in Jesus’ powerful work on the cross.
The Foundational Nature of Faith
Ultimately, contrary to what some may assert, an acceptance of fact – or believing – is not sufficient for a right relationship with God (Js. 2:19). Rather, faith is a prerequisite for meeting God’s three remaining expectations for entering a right relationship with Him. A true faith not only trusts God internally but also does what he says actively. Faith in Jesus as Lord leads one to repentance; faith in Jesus as Lord leads one to confession; faith in Jesus as Lord leads one to submit to water baptism. We will further investigate these ideas in further posts.