When Faith is not Faith
Often when faith is being discussed we are talking about something that is not faith as far as the Bible is concerned. We are told in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. As we have covered previously with the example of the Roman centurion, faith is based on the word of God. There are some who think faith can be had while not based on the word of God. I am going to give an example of this and we will then look at a critical component of faith that is almost always overlooked.
Anyone reading this has probably heard of Christians who believe that faith is all that is essential for salvation, that Christ lived a righteous life for them, and they are now free to sin because of His sacrifice. Such Christians are not thorough readers of the book of Romans as Paul deals with the fact that an upright life is the only condition for heaven. The last verses of chapter one show how those who sin are worthy of death. In chapter two we see that compliance with the law is necessary for being declared just. Paul ends chapter three by stating that faith does not make void the law, but it establishes it. Chapter six deals directly with the question of whether we can continue to sin because of God’s grace. The bottom line is Romans sets up the fact that we are saved from sin and not in sin. When a Christian expects to be saved in sin, we sometimes call that expectation faith when it deserves to be called presumption. They are presuming that God has promised to save them this way, and that is something that Scripture never teaches. Those who have gone into the grave with such views will be disappointed when they come out of it.
The problem I have just described is simply this: claiming a promise God has given without seeing if the conditions are met for claiming it. In the example above we have Christians claiming God’s promise of salvation while they miss the necessity of repentance and yielding the life completely to God which is shown in obedience to His law. God never promised to save anyone without that one repenting and yielding. There are other Christians that assume God has provided forgiveness and now it is up to them to make themselves fit for heaven. I know these exist because I use to be one. Such ones still run into the same problem as the other group by claiming something that God has not promised. The only reward for both groups is disappointment until they accept salvation on God’s terms. If we wish to exercise true faith and not presumption we need to be aware of the conditions of what God has promised.
To be thorough we need to look at some examples of this. In 1 John 1:9 we find the condition for forgiveness is confessing our sins. In Romans 4 we find it involves believing God. As you search the Bible you find more and more is said on this topic. We then need to examine if we have done the things that lie with us, and if we have then we can claim the promise in full assurance of faith. Such faith will not be disappointed because it truly leans upon God. In contrast we find the story of the children of Israel on Jordan’s bank the first time around and we are told in Hebrews 3:19 that they entered not in because of unbelief. Because they did not meet the conditions of the promise, they did not see the fulfillment of it.
In closing the words of the apostle Paul are adequate: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Hebrews 4:1.