Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.
– Heb 11:1-2
What is faith? This simple one-syllable word (two syllables in Greek and Hebrew) spawns a nest of definitions and qualifications, which infest your mind with confusion. If faith simply means you believe something exists, then why isn’t the majority of the Western world saved, since most people believe in God? Okay. So there’s got to be more to it. In fact, I implied that faith meant believing in God, but is that really accurate? Well, according to Jesus we should believe in him and in God (John 14:1).
Let’s just make things simple and say that belief involves our faith in Jesus and the Father. But what sort of belief? We can’t merely believe in God and Jesus’ existence (see above). Additionally, we can’t only believe the brute fact that Jesus saves through the father. I believed that for years before I became a believer. It looks like faith has a tricky mind knot, which needs untying.
My intent to un-complicate faith starts with Hebrews 11:1-2, where the text provides a definition of faith: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. Key words in this passage include assurance and conviction, which then receive vivid illustrations throughout the rest of the chapter as Old Testament believers evince their faith throughout their life.
Actually, Hebrews 12:1-2 also gives an illustration of faith-assurance-conviction in the person of Jesus:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
More important words include our “endurance,” Jesus as “founder” (starter) and “perfector” (finisher) of faith, which came through his “endurance” to take upon himself the cross. This shows that faith is an assurance-conviction-endurance-starting and finishing-faith-thingus.
This highly hyphenated definition fumigates notions of faith as simply “assent.” Faith certainly implies you believe in the existence of God-Jesus, but, according to Hebrews, faith’s primary meaning is an assurance-conviction-endurance-starting and finishing-faith.
So let’s clarify a few things: Faith means more than believing in facts. Faith means you both believe in facts and have an enduring, convictional faith that follows Jesus’ example of both starting and finishing in faith. The tricky question remains: what is necessary to know about Jesus and God, so that we may be saved? In other words, what do we need to have an enduring, convictional faith in, which allows us to be saved? The answer to that question will come soon.