WHAT IS FAITH?
"For a number of years my heart has been troubled over the doctrine of faith as it is received and taught everywhere. Great emphasis is laid upon faith in orthodox circles, and that is good; but still I am troubled. Specifically, my fear is that the modern conception of faith is not the biblical one; that when the teachers of our day use the word they do not mean what Bible writers meant when they used it." ---A.W. Tozer
There is one meaning of the word "faith" that has, to a large extent, eluded the Church and should be understood by God's people so that we can live out our lives in a way that pleases Him. This meaning of faith is not the general system of Christian belief, as in "the faith," nor your trust in the Lord, but rather God's will revealed to you by Him.
This communication of His will to you can be directly from Him, or from His ministers of the Word, or from the written Word. If this kind of faith comes via His written Word, then it will be His communicating to your spirit from His Holy Spirit within you. This discernment of God's will is not merely an intellectual understanding. It is the deepest level of knowing. That is, knowing with your spirit, and not just with your mind. In every case the revelation of His will to you will not be contrary to His written Word, nor will any new doctrine be revealed not already contained therein.
This sort of faith is the kind that Satan despises the most. In fact, the enemy (Satan and his demons) endeavors to keep you from knowing God's will, including His specific will for your life. The enemy works in many ways toward blinding God's people to this kind of faith, even to the extent of knowing what this kind of faith is. Satan's working in this area is manifested, for example, by the false doctrine of many of those who call themselves Charismatics and live worldly lives, and yet say that God speaks to them all the time. The other extreme is manifested by many of those who call themselves Dispensational Fundamentalists (and others) and say that since we have the completed written Word, God no longer speaks to us directly.
Even when a man of God knows what this kind of faith is, demons relentlessly try to deceive him by speaking to his mind, trying to imitate the voice of God. This is one reason the gift of discerning of spirits is essential for the Church today. The Church is being barraged in this late hour by demonic spirits who initiate false doctrines and perpetuate them through unsuspecting leaders.
The truly spiritual man who has sold-out to Jesus Christ---a disciple according to the three conditions set forth in Luke 14---and who has been baptized with the Holy Spirit, will know what it is to have God speak directly to Him. This is the man that can grasp this meaning of faith. This is the kind of faith that moves mountains when you tell them to move, because it is God's revelation to you to tell the mountain to move. And God's power is so great that the analogy of faith from Him as small as a mustard seed is all it takes to move something as large as a mountain. When God reveals to you that it is His will to do something through you, it is as good as done, if you obey Him---of that you can be sure.
It is by this kind of faith that you "know." It is not merely the believing with your mind a statement that is true; this is the essence of "textualism" that pervades the Church today. Textualism (not to be confused with textual criticism) is a term that describes the condition of thinking that when you "understand" a text with your mind, you have the truth. It is orthodoxy without the Holy Spirit. This has been a serious problem in the Church including men who have been considered "Bible scholars" for centuries. There is a great difference between being Bible-taught and being Spirit-taught from the Bible. Many false prophets, for example leaders in the Roman church, have received the former kind of teaching rather than the latter. It is important to see this truth about textualism and how it is a deception from the enemy to try to mislead God's people about what this kind of faith really is.
The man of God today who lives by faith---led by the Spirit---is the same kind of man led by the same Spirit as those written about in the New Testament: "The Spirit said unto him" (Acts 10:19) and, "They, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost" (Acts 13:4) and, "They...were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia." (Acts 16:6). "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhema] of God" (Rom. 10:17).
But the first, and most important, revelation of God's will to you is the faith that comes from Him regarding your salvation experience. That is to say, His revelation to you that you are a sinner and need to repent, receive forgiveness, and be saved: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Paul wrote to the Galatians, "O foolish Galatians...Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:1-2). He wrote to the Romans, "The word [rhema] is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and thy heart; that is the word [rhema] of faith, which we preach" (Rom. 10:8).
All of this kind of faith comes from God. "God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). The apostle wrote to the Ephesians, "Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 6:23).
Jesus is the Author of faith (Heb. 12:2). All Christians should live by faith, but much of what many do today is not of faith. Many think that simply because they are born again they live by faith. They interpret passages such as "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7) as automatically applying to them. But a close examination of this passage will reveal that Paul is speaking of himself and Timothy (2 Cor. 1:1).
Everything that you do must come from this kind of faith (must originate from God) or else it does not please Him. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). "But the just by My faith shall live" (Habakkuk 2:4, Septuagint).
When Jesus came to this planet and was born of a virgin, completely submissive to the will of the Father, He lived by this kind of faith. Truly, everything He did was by faith. That is, He said and did only those things that the Father told Him: "Then Jesus said...I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things" (Jn. 8:28). "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (Jn. 12:49). Our Lord said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (Jn. 6:38). We should meditate on the words that our Lord spoke to the Eleven who had been prepared over a period of three years: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (Jn. 20:21b).
Your will should also be to do God's will; that is, to live by faith. Two requirements for knowing His will are given by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans: "...Present your bodies a living sacrifice...And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:1-2).
Paul and Timothy prayed for the Christians in Colossae: "We...do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col. 1:9-10).
Parachurch organizations including missionary societies, publishing houses, and seminaries have no precedent in the work of the early church, and, more importantly, have no scriptural warrant. Nonprofit corporations, and even unincorporated entities, have been conceived after the pattern of similar worldly organizations. And while the intention may be good, it is an attempt to do God's work in a way that is not according to the Scriptures---that part of the work is not of faith.
Faith without works is dead (James 2:26), and "God's work...is by faith" (1 Tim. 1:4 NIV). "We are...created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). When God reveals His will to us (gives us faith) we should act upon it; "faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (James 2:17). But much of the work done by the Church today is not God's work---it is not of faith. One evidence of this fact is in the cases in which debt is incurred to carry out the work; this clearly violates Scripture (Prov. 22:7; Rom. 13:8).
To live by faith we should live in accordance with all of God's will that has been revealed to us up to the present time. His will is revealed to us from His written Word as the Holy Spirit gives us a correct interpretation, or from a minister of the Word, or directly from God Himself. Never will these means of receiving faith from God contradict the written Word when the source is truly Him.
Concerning matters not explicitly contained in the Scriptures, spiritual men can act by faith as the Holy Spirit guides them in making decisions. To walk by faith you should "let the peace of God rule in your hearts" (Col. 3:15). If you do not have peace in your spirit when trying to discern God's will in any given matter, then you can be sure that what you have in mind is not God's will---it is not of faith---or it could be that what you have in mind to do is God's will, but it simply is not the right time to do it. You must wait on the Lord. If you are not sure, it is not of faith.
Even in the Old Dispensation there were men who lived by faith, listening to and obeying God: "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house" (Heb. 11:7). "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out..." (Heb. 11:8). "These all died in faith...having... confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb. 11:13).
Faith is God's will revealed to you by Him. It is the "substance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1). "Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:15-17).