That faith is the critical issue in man's relationship to God is taught everywhere in Scripture. There are few who think who would dispute this. However, though the primacy of faith is accepted, the disputes continue. There are several issues involved. First, what is faith? Second, what is the critical object of faith? And third, where does faith come from? In this article I will briefly address each of these three questions, and then I will develop better answers in articles to come.
What is faith? This question seems, on the surface of it, to be rather simple to answer. But, like many other apparently simple things, the simplicity disappears once we look at the matter carefully. There are problems surrounding the issue of faith's identity that we will address later. For now, let us just say that the Bible gives us a basic definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1. There we read: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (KJV). When we compare these words to the examples given in the rest of Hebrews 11, we come to the conclusion that faith is a mind set that gives both substance and evidence to things that are not presently visible. And, not only that, but it motivates the believer to act upon the content of his faith in the same manner as a person acts upon data that is present and visible. In other words, faith is an attitude of conviction that allows a person to behave just as he would if the thing believed was present to his physical senses.
For example, if Jesus was physically present, if He did the same miracles in our sight that He did 2,000 years ago, if He said the same things He said then--our belief would be based upon presently visible evidence. But faith allows us to act the same way we would have if we had been there 2,000 years ago even though He is not physically and visibly present to us. Thus, faith is a solid conviction that enables behavior that is consistent with the thing believed.
This raises the second question: what is the correct object of faith? Since everyone believes something--that is, we all act in a manner consistent with what we believe--the critical issue is no longer whether we believe, but what we believe. The Bible tells us that even the devil and his demons believe in God. Their belief causes them to tremble (action that is entirely consistent with their faith) because they only believe that He exists as God and that He is adamantly opposed to them. Thus, the devil is a believer in God. But his faith is in the existence of God and His opposition to him, as well it should be, for the Bible tells us that the Lake of Fire was created for the devil and his angels. But my point is that the issue has shifted from whether we believe to what we believe. That means that we are faced with the critical question of what we should believe.
So, where does a proper faith in God and His Word come from? Some believe that man is able to believe truth without any power outside of himself. Others believe that faith is a gift from God that can only be exercised because He has granted the ability to believe. Who is believing the correct view? We shall see.