In 1 Corinthians 13, as the apostle Paul concluded his great treatise on love, he wrote And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Setting aside the final statement of the superiority of love, we note that each of the three abide, and wish to focus the attention of this article to the first of the three, faith.
What does it mean that faith abides? The term can be understood most simply within the context of the passage. Paul was here comparing the spiritual gifts, destined to cease with the coming of that which is perfect with love, which is enduring. While the need for and presence of spiritual gifts would one day be no more, such is not so for faith, hope and love. As long as the world endures, and men are upon it, these three things will continue.
What is faith? It is described by the Hebrew writer as, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The writer uses the phrase to introduce a litany of men and women who lived in ancient times, faithful to God despite great odds and terrible hardships. He describes a man named Abraham, who left his country and sojourned his entire life in a strange land, trusting in the promise of God, though he would live and die before its accomplishment (11:8-10). He mentions Abrahams wife Sarah, beyond the age of childbearing, who nevertheless had a child born by the promise of God because she, judged Him faithful who promised (11:11). Concerning them, as well as Abel, Enoch, and Noah, the writer said, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (11:13). Thus, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Though they all lived and died before receiving the redemption found in Christ, they trusted in Gods word, and embraced those promises as true. That is faith.
Faith in God is a powerful thing. It is powerful because it is based in a Being who is not only capable of keeping His promises, but is, without fail, righteous in His dealings with man. He is capable of keeping His promise because of His foreknowledge, omniscience and omnipotence. Where circumstances may arise to thwart our attempts to faithfully execute our word, nothing can thwart the Almighty. Too, He has shown himself to be loving and righteous in all His ways, utterly trustworthy in His dealings with man.
Faith in God is necessary for salvation. Again in Hebrews 11, the writer records, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (11:6). Faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins (John 8:24). When his hearers asked him, Who are you? (25), Jesus answered, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him (28-29). The eunuch, as Philip preached unto him Jesus, asked if he could be baptized. Philip answered him, If you believe with all your heart, you may (Acts 8:37a), the eunuch responded, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (37b).
Some think faith is received in some mystical way. Some feel it is reserved for only a few who are chosen by God. In reality, faith in God is possible for all, and easily cultivated. This was affirmed by Paul in Romans 10:17, when he wrote, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. If anyone wants to believe in God, all he must do is read the testimony of scripture, or hear it ably and truthfully preached by a child of God.
Sometimes you come across individuals who say, I believe, when they have no real knowledge of God and His word. Such faith is superficial at best, and incapable of producing real conversion in the hearts of men. However, when the gospel is preached, and it falls upon a good and honest heart, faith is produced. The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). It cannot be emphasized enough that our faith must be bound up in scripture rather than the doctrines or commandments of men.
Faith is inextricably tied in with the word of God. Scripture gives us everything we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). If we wish to have that faith, without which it is impossible to please Him, then we must immerse ourselves in the hearing of His word. May we all do this very thing.