Sermon #9 — Habakkuk Series
Title: What is faith?
Text: Habakkuk 2:3-4
Subject: Faith in Christ
Date: Tuesday Evening — October 12, 2010
Tape # Habakkuk #9
Readings: Larry Brown and David Burge
What is faith? That is my subject. — What is faith?
We often here people refer to themselves and/or others as “people of faith.” They speak of faith as a moral virtue, or a commendable characteristic. Almost all of our politicians, even the most immoral among them, claim to be people of faith.
Š Some are Papists. Others are Protestants.
Š Some are Methodists. Others are Muslims.
Š Some are Baptists. Others are Brahmists.
Š Some are Liberal. Some are Conservative.
Š Some are Quakers. Others are Queers.
But almost all of them call themselves people of faith.
When I hear, “He is a person of faith,” or “She is a person of faith,” I take that to mean they believe in something and practice some kind of religion, or more precisely, they believe in themselves and are very careful not to allow religion to interfere too much with their lives. Whatever the word “faith” means in that context, it has nothing to do with saving faith, the faith God gives to sinners, that faith that is set forth in the Word of God.
What is faith? —— There is no subject in all the world more important, and no subject about which there is more confusion. I daresay, men and women in our society are more ignorant and confused about faith than about any other subject they presume to understand.
Proposition: The word “faith,” as it is used in Scripture, refers to the God-given confidence believing sinners have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Anything other than this God-given confidence in Christ is not faith; but only a delusion of the soul.
“In” and “On”
Yet, even when we speak of faith in Christ, few there are who understand what it is, or how it is obtained. Several weeks ago, Bro. Todd Nibert called to ask me a question. He asked, “Is there a difference between believing in Christ and believing on Christ?” I answered, “I’m sure there is. Many believe in Christ theoretically. (They know the doctrine of Christ and give assent to it.) who do not commit themselves to Christ. They do not trust him.” Then Bro. Nibert asked, “Is it possible for a person to believe in Christ and not believe on Christ?” I said, “That is exactly what I am saying. Saving faith is not just believing the doctrine of Christ. Saving faith is acting upon what we believe. It is trusting ourselves to Christ, committing ourselves to him.”
We have a very clear example of this in John 2. After turning the water into wine in Cana and purging the temple in Jerusalem the Lord Jesus declared that after he was put to death as our Substitute he would rise from the dead (John 2:19-22). Then, in verses 23-24, we read…
“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men.” (John 2:23-24)
When the Holy Spirit tells us “many believed in his name” and then tells us “but Jesus did not commit himself unto them,” in the original language, the words are exactly the same. They believed in him; but the Lord Jesus did not believe himself unto them. —— The word translated “believe” and the word translated “commit” are exactly the same. You cannot commit yourself to Christ without believing in him; but multitudes believe in Christ who never commit themselves unto him. The same word is accurately translated either “believe” or “commit.” The proper translation is determined by the way the word is used.
In the Word of God, it is common for us to have the same word translated in different ways. The words “eternal” and “everlasting” are exactly the same in the original text; but the word is used differently. That should not surprise anyone. Every language has certain words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same, but are used to mean various things.
I’ll give you one example. In preparing this message I thought it would be good to give an example. I thought, the word “light” (l-i-g-h-t), will be a good example. That word might mean several things, “illuminate,” “make visible,” “weigh little.” Then I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary. I was astonished to read 88 different meanings for the word “l-i-g-h-t.” That’s right, 88 different meanings! And the only way to determine the meaning is the way it is used.
Getting back to this matter of faith in Christ: — I repeat, many believe in Christ who never believe on Christ. After my conversation with Bro. Todd, I looked up every passage in which the words “believeth in” and “believeth on” are used in reference to our Lord Jesus Christ. In every passage the two English prepositions “in” and “on” are identical in the Greek. The Greek preposition is “εις.” It is a primary preposition indicating direction. Like the English words “eternal” and “everlasting,” which, as I stated a few minutes ago, are also translated from the same Greek word (αιωνιος). The translators determined which word to use in the translation by the context in which it was used. Look at a very familiar text — John 3:14-18.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18)
Here the Holy Spirit gives us a clear distinction between two aspects of saving faith. John 3:15 and 16 both indicate assent to revealed truth. But verse 18 refers to the believer’s commitment to Christ by which we receive (experience) free justification unto eternal life in Christ. —— We live by faith as we believe on, commit ourselves to, the Lord Jesus Christ! — The devil himself believes in Jesus, as do all the demons of hell; but on God’s elect believe on the Son of God.
With that as the background, I want you to turn with me to Habakkuk 2:3-4.
“For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:3-4)
As we saw Sunday night, the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to use the words of verse 4, “The just shall live by faith,” three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38); but in Hebrews 10 the inspired writer urges us to patience and perseverance in faith, telling us that the promise spoken of in Habakkuk 2:3 is the promise of our Lord’s glorious second advent. It seems obvious to me that God the Holy Ghost gives us his own commentary on Habakkuk 2:3-4 in the Book of Hebrews. So let’s look at the passage in Hebrews, beginning with Hebrews 10:35.
(Hebrews 10:35-39) “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”
Continue in the faith, confidently looking to Christ, and you shall receive the promise of life eternal with him in heaven. In just a little while the promise shall be fulfilled. Christ will appear in his glory! This is the promise made by God through his prophet Habakkuk.
(Habakkuk 1:5) “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.”
(Habakkuk 2:3) “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”
Go back to Hebrews 10. Paul is continuing to explain Habakkuk’s words.
(Hebrews 10:38-39) “Now the just shall live by faith: but if [any man] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
Paul has told us that “the just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38), and that those who have faith “believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).
Now, let’s read Hebrews 11:1-6 together. Here the inspired Apostle explains to us what faith is, and gives us examples of it.
(Hebrews 11:1-6) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (2) For by it the elders obtained a good report. (3) Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (4) By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (5) By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (6) But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The substance, the ground, the foundation of our confident hope of eternal salvation is our faith in Christ. And that faith is the evidence of our eternal justification and everlasting salvation (v. 1).
Faith understands what the most learned scientists cannot fathom. Faith understands that “the worlds were framed by the word of God,” for faith simply believes God (vv. 2-3).
Abel understood that the only way a guilty sinner can approach God is by blood atonement. His brother, Cain, did not. Cain thought that a man could please God and win his favor by works. Abel believed God. Cain did not. Believing God, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, Abel had witness from God in his own heart and conscience that he was righteous (v. 4). — God reckoned him righteous; and he reckoned himself righteous because God did!
Enoch understood that the only way a man can please God and be accepted of him is by faith. So Enoch walked with God by faith. And before he left this world, indeed before he could be translated to heaven, he had this testimony from God in his soul, that he pleased God.
And, in verse 6, Paul tells us that the only way to be saved, the only way to be accepted of God, the only way to walk with God, the only way to please God is by faith, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. — “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Divisions: I want to answer four questions and I will be done.
What is faith?
There are many forms of false faith by which the souls of men are deluded. Judas, Demas, and Diotrephes all had faith. But theirs was a false faith. Many people have a denominational faith. I do not say that their faith is without sincerity, devotion, and zeal. But unless they have that faith which is described in the Word of God, their faith is damning to their souls. James tells us that even the devils have faith. But what is that true, saving faith, that faith by which a man pleases God? That is the question I want to answer in this message.
There is but one true faith. And you and I must examine ourselves and prove ourselves on this point, whether we be in “the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Faith, true, saving faith, consists of three things: knowledge, assent, and trust. If we would be pleasing to God, if we would come to him and be saved by him, we must know the revelation of God in the gospel, we must give assent that God’s revelation is truth, and we must trust him whom God reveals.
The first aspect of faith is knowledge. — Knowledge is not faith. Yet, there is no faith without knowledge. Paul says, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Faith in Christ is a heart work. But it is not a leap in the dark. It is based upon knowledge. In order for us to trust, there must be someone or something known for us to trust (Isaiah 53:11; John 17:3). Two things, according to Hebrews 11:6, must be known:
(John 17:3) “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
1st In order for anyone to have faith, he must know the Lord God, as he is revealed in the Person and work of Christ (John 1:18; 14:6-9; Hebrews 1:1-3).
(John 1:18) “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
(John 14:6-9) “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (7) If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (8) Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (9) Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”
(Hebrews 1:1-3) “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, (2) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (3) Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
You must know that God is. You must know that God is who He says He is. You must know that God is what He says He is.
And the only way man can know God is by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the God-man, our Mediator (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
(2 Corinthians 4:5-6) “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
And 2nd you must know that God is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Isaiah 55:3, 6, 7; Jeremiah 29:13-14). — He rewards those who seek him with mercy, grace, salvation, and eternal life!
(Isaiah 55:3) “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”
(Isaiah 55:6-7) “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: (7) Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
(Jeremiah 29:13-14) “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (14) And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
All who seek the Lord, all who come to God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be rewarded with eternal life and everlasting salvation. This too must be known. But how can we know that God will reward every believer with eternal salvation? — By the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 3:24-26).
(Romans 3:24-26) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3) “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”
Š The Lord Jesus earned righteousness for His people (Romans 5:19).
Š The Son of God purchased salvation for His elect (Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:12).
Š God has promised that salvation to all who trust His Son (John 3:14-16, 36; Romans 10:9-13).
This is the point I am making –— Gospel knowledge is essential to saving faith. And the matter of paramount importance in the knowledge of the gospel is the redemptive work of Christ.
Unless a person knows these things, he cannot have faith, he cannot please God, he cannot be saved; but, merely knowing these things is not faith. Knowledge is necessary. But knowledge alone is not faith.
Along with that knowledge, our hearts must give assent that these things are true. — Many people know the truth. They have heard it for years. They have been catechized and trained in gospel truth from their infancy. But saving faith involves a willing, voluntary, deliberate, considered assent to the truth of God. Faith embraces the Revelation of God as the Revelation of God.
(1 John 5:9-13) “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. (10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
At this moment, you are being confronted with the truth of God. Your Bible is open on your lap. The truth is staring you in the face. God is speaking directly to you. Now you will make a decision. You will either embrace the testimony of God as the Truth, or you will reject it and declare that God is a liar (1 John 5:10).
(1 John 5:10) “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”
Have you now embraced this gospel of God’s free grace as the truth? If you have, you are not far from the kingdom of God. But still, there is something else necessary. Faith knows the gospel and gives assent to the gospel of the truth. But there is more: —– Saving faith trusts the Lord Jesus Christ. A person acts upon what he believes; and the act of faith is trusting Christ.
Illustration: The Woman with an Issue of Blood
Trusting the Chair
“He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved, be his sins never so many; but he that believeth not in the Lord Jesus must be damned, be his sins never so few” – (Thomas Brooks).
Why is faith in Christ necessary?
That is my second question. — Why is it necessary for sinners to trust the Lord Jesus Christ alone in order to be saved? —— Four Reasons…
1. No one has ever pleased God and been accepted of Him except those who have simply believed.
Hebrews 11 records the names of 17 men and women, whose histories are well known, who pleased God. How did they do it? By faith alone! Many others, mentioned in the Bible have perished under the wrath and curse of God, though they did many good, commendable things.
2. Faith is necessary, because without faith there is no vital union with Christ.
Illustration: The Grafted Branch
The Member and the Head
3. Faith is necessary, because God plainly declares that works have nothing to do with salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
(Ephesians 2:8-9) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Illustration: Cain and Abel
4. Faith is necessary, because salvation is by grace alone (Romans 4:16; Galatians 5:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:9).
(Romans 4:16) “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.”
(Galatians 5:2-4) “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
(2 Timothy 1:9-10) God “hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Š Faith brings nothing!
How can I obtain this faith?
Š Not by Heredity (John 1:11-13).
(John 1:11-13) “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Š Not by Education.
Š Not by Reason.
Š Not by Ceremony!
Faith in Christ is the free gift of God’s sovereign grace. — If you obtain faith, you will get it by God’s appointed means – Gospel Preaching (Romans. 10:13-17).
(Romans 10:13-17) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (14) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (16) But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? (17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
If you obtain faith, you will get it by Divine Revelation (Matthew 16:16; Galatians 1:15).
If you obtain faith, you will get it by regenerating grace and the irresistible call of God the Holy Spirit, by the almighty operation of God (John 6:63; Ephesians 1:18-20; Colossians 2:12).
(Ephesians 1:18-20) “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (19) And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (20) Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”
Do I have true, saving faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ?
It is possible for men and women to know whether or not they have faith in Christ (1 John 5:13).
(1 John 5:13) “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
If I have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…
Š I renounce all personal righteousness!
Š I trust Christ alone!
Š I willingly surrender to the rule of Christ as my Lord.
(Luke 14:25-33) “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, (26) If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (27) And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (28) For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (29) Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, (30) Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (31) Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (32) Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. (33) So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
Application: Mark 16:16; 1 John 5:10-13.
(Mark 16:16) “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
(1 John 5:10-13) “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
1. Trust Christ, and He will save you. – Indeed, if you trust him, he has saved you.
2. Confess Christ in baptism. – Follow the Lamb!
3. Children of God, honor Christ. – How? By faith.
Š Faith in Christ pleases God.
Š Faith in Christ honors God.
Š Faith in Christ is honored by God.
What is faith? Here is a sevenfold definition of faith I picked up from a sermon by Ebenezer Erskine a long, long time ago.
1. Faith is the gift of God. It is not the product of a free will. It is the operation of the Spirit of God by the Word of God and is the parent of all other grace.
2. Faith has Christ Jesus as its principal object, for it is faith in Christ Jesus — our Lord, Savior, Mediator, and Hope. Christ is the bread; faith is the mouth which eats. Christ is the brazen serpent; faith is the eye that looks.
3. Faith is receiving Christ, not just hearing about Him or acknowledging Him, but a committal to Him. Is Christ meat? Then eat! Is Christ living water? Then drink! Is Christ the refuge? Then flee to Him! Is Christ Lord? Then worship Him!
4. Faith is to rest upon Christ. “Rest in the Lord” (Psalm 37:7). Faith is not an isolated act based upon an intellectual knowledge of some facts, but is a trusting in and resting upon Christ to perform all that I need.
5. Faith is to rest upon Christ alone! The word “alone” is important. Most men, by nature, try to add something to the sacrifice and intercession of Christ. God has established a bridge of communication between heaven and earth by the obedience and blood of Christ, and every other passage is blocked by the holiness and justice of God.
6. Faith rests upon Christ as he is presented in the Gospel. We ask no other sign than the Word of God. Faith is to believe the record that God hath given concerning His Son. — “He that hath the Son of God hath life.”
7. Faith rests upon Christ for salvation, sanctification, righteousness, and full redemption! The goal of faith is the salvation of our souls; and this our Lord undertook in the eternal covenant and which He completed on Calvary when He cried, “It is finished!’’
“Nothing, either great or small, nothing, sinner, no;
Jesus did it, did it all. long, long ago.
It is finished!’ yes, indeed, finished every jot;
Sinner, this is all you need; tell me, Is it not?”
Oh, may God the Holy Spirit grant you faith in Christ! May he be pleased to perform in you that mighty operation of His grace, without which you will forever perish! O Holy Spirit of God, perform that mighty operation in me continually, ever cause me to trust my Savior, and thus believing Him to ever be found pleasing and honoring my God.
O gift of gifts! O grace of faith!
My God, how can it be
That Thou, who hast discerning love
Shouldst give that gift to me?
Ah, grace, unto unlikeliest hearts
It is thy boast to come;
The glory of thy light to find
In darkest spots a home.
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 “Of all the poison which at this day is diffused in the minds of men, corrupting them from the mystery of the gospel, there is no part that is more pernicious than this one perverse imagination, that to ‘believe in Christ’ is nothing at all but to ‘believe the doctrine of the gospel!’ which yet we grant is included therein.” – John Owen