The Bible says that without faith we can’t please God and that the goal of our faith is salvation. God wants us to have living faith so we can grow in our relationship with Him. So what is faith, and how do we receive it and grow in it?
Acts 8 tells the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, a high official under Queen Candace, who was confused by what he was reading in the book of Isaiah. He believed the Bible and strove to follow God’s way, but he didn’t yet understand about Jesus Christ. God sent Philip to explain more of God’s truth to him and to help him take the next steps in his relationship with God.
After reading the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:7-8, the Ethiopian official asked Philip, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ ‘Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. ‘Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ “Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God’ Acts 8:34-37
The Ethiopian eunuch demonstrated his belief—his faith—in our Saviour Jesus Christ and was ready for the next step in his growing relationship with God.
Faith is an essential part of our relationship with God. It is a prerequisite to beginning the conversion process, which is a necessary step on the road to salvation and eternal life.
Essentially because if we don’t believe in Him and believe Him, we won’t really be trying to please Him! In the New Testament, both faith and belief are generally translations of the Greek word pistis. People who live by faith as followers of Jesus Christ are called ‘believers’, Acts 5:14.
‘The main sense of the word ‘faith’ in the NT is that of trust or reliance… [Pistis] bears the sense not of faithfulness alone, but of the reliance and trust that is the basis of man’s faithfulness, i.e., the faithfulness that expresses confidence in the faithfulness of God’ (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 1982, article, ‘Faith’).
Faith goes beyond what we can perceive with our physical senses, so it does not work by the rules of science. Faith allows us to believe that the invisible God can do what is physically impossible. In that sense, faith is built and grows on a spiritual plane, not a physical or scientific one.
But that doesn’t mean observation, science and rational thinking aren’t part of how we come to believe in our miraculous Creator God in the first place. In fact, there is no contradiction or conflict between godly faith and true science. After all, since God is the Creator of everything, science is the study of God’s creation.
God’s way is rational, and He wants us to test it out and prove that it works. But there is more to faith than what we process in our rational brains. There is a spiritual and emotional component that is a gift from God and grows as our relationship with God grows.
As we saw in the last lesson, our relationship with God starts with God. He calls us and opens our minds to understanding and believing. That initial seed of faith is a gift of God and, as we will see in a future lesson, faith is also a fruit that comes through using God’s Holy Spirit.
Mark gives this poignant example of a father recognising his lack of faith and asking for God’s help. God is pleased when we recognise our own inadequacy and seek His strength and encouragement.
Hearing and studying the Word of God can help us see God’s faithfulness in the past and His solid promises for the future.
God wants us to believe in Him. God also wants us to believe what He says. He wants us to diligently seek Him, which is done through prayer, Bible study, and meditation.
Gospel means ‘good news,’ and the news about the return of Jesus Christ to set up God’s ultimate Kingdom is the best news this troubled world can hear! When we believe the gospel, we will be motivated to share this good news, Matthew 24:14 / Matthew 28:19-20.
When we believe what God says, we should do what God says.
Just calling Jesus our Master isn’t enough, and just saying we have faith isn’t enough. Our growing belief in God will motivate us to strive to obey God, to do His will and obey His law.
Real, living faith motivates our actions. There is no conflict between James and Paul, as some believe. Paul said we were, ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’, Ephesians 2:10.
As we saw earlier in Mark 1:15, Jesus commanded us to repent and believe the gospel. God’s goodness leads us to this next step in turning our lives toward God. And as John the Baptist mentioned, repentance also involves fruits or changes in our lives.