How do the Scriptures present true faith in God?
It is not unusual for people to profess to have ‘faith’—whether they are outwardly religious or not. To some, such faith is seen as a commendable thing, but they fail to appreciate that faith in itself has no intrinsic value—its worth lies in what we have entrusted ourselves to.
Many put their faith in religious ‘experts’, and are “always learning, and never able to come to [the] knowledge of [the] truth” (2 Tim. 3: 7). Rather as a man may rely on his lawyer for legal matters, so they rely on the preacher or priest for things relating to God. Remove the human focus and their faith collapses—or latches on to another gifted human vessel. The objective of real preaching, however, is belief in God and His Word: “that your faith might not stand in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power … who then is Apollos, and who Paul? Ministering servants, through whom ye have believed” (1 Cor. 2: 5; 3: 5).
Another mistake is to equate faith in God with faith in God’s existence. The latter, encompassing everything from a detailed theology right down to the vaguest of concepts, is often taken as evidence of salvation. The testimony of Scripture, however, is quite different: “Thou believest that God is one. Thou doest well. The demons even believe, and tremble” (James 2: 19, my emphasis). Faith in God (provided it is genuine), involves trust—believing what He has said—and trust implies relationship. This is much more than simply acknowledging God’s existence. Hence, Abraham “believed God” and had his faith “reckoned to him as righteousness”, but he was also the “Friend of God” (James 2: 23). He knew God, and He trusted and believed what God had told him. Indeed, faith in God is the same as faith in His Word. There is no real difference, and faith in God necessitates faith in His Word.
Such faith was a characteristic of the Thessalonian saints: “In every place your faith which [is] towards God has gone abroad” (1 Thess. 1: 8). But how could these men and women have faith in a God they had never seen? Only by believing what He had told them. That is why Paul gave thanks to God “that, having received [the] word of [the] report of God by us, ye accepted, not men’s word, but, even as it is truly, God’s word, which also works in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2: 13). Again, if “Abraham believed God” (Rom. 4: 3), it was because he believed what God had told him. He “believed in hope to his becoming father of many nations, according to that which was spoken” (v18, my emphasis). Faith in God necessitates a revelation from God—hence there is no genuine faith in God that does not involve faith in the Bible.
Faith in God and His Word has always been a requirement for fallen man—hence the writer of the book of Hebrews could speak of “not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God” (Heb. 6: 1). However, now that God “has spoken to us in [the person of the] Son” (Heb. 1: 2), Christ is presented as the object of the believer’s faith, and hence the vast majority of references to belief and faith in the NT are connected with that blessed Person. Indeed, there is no faith in God in the present day without faith in Christ. As Peter says, (speaking of the Lord Jesus), “who by him do believe on God, who has raised him from among [the] dead, and given him glory, that your faith and hope should be in God” (1 Pet. 1: 21). The Gospel testimony is “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20: 21), for He is the One “whom God has set forth a mercy– seat, through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3: 25). One of the peculiar marks of the current dispensation is the presence of the Holy Spirit here as the sent One of the Father, but the Spirit never presents Himself to the believer as an object of faith. The object of faith that the Spirit presents to the soul is the Man in the glory: “he shall bear witness concerning me” (John 15: 26).
Now if true faith in God assumes a relationship with God, then it necessarily leads to faith in God as Father: “But Jesus cried and said, He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me; and he that beholds me, beholds him that sent me … For I have not spoken from myself, but the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12: 44, 45, 49). The Christian is thus introduced by faith into a relationship of intimacy and love with God that far exceeds anything available before. As the Lord says, “for the Father himself has affection for you, because ye have had affection for me” (John 16: 27).