Faith is therefore the substance…

Now faith is the substance (υποστασις) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Faith is a spiritual virtue, it does not belong to the human plane. It comes from God; it is the Creator who grants it to man. Man cannot generate faith by himself; a man that operates in faith, or claims to have it, is because he has received it from God who has placed it within him.

The popular concepts spread by the religious media qualify faith as a natural consequence of human conviction, a product of its conscience before the divine reality; however, the Scriptures clearly stipulate that faith does not belong to everyone.[1]

The apostle Paul is forceful in pointing out that in life in Christ nothing is obtained by human work, to avoid glory being taken away from God and being diverted to man. No matter what man can do to produce faith, he cannot act on it without divine intervention. Paul states categorically that what man has comes from God.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of Godnot of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

The Gospels record in Jesus’ teaching that there are epochs of time, and even regions, where faith is scarce. Luke’s gospel records that one of those times is precisely the time before Jesus’ return to earth: But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?[2]

As for regions and generations where their inhabitants lack faith, it had already been recorded since ancient times.

And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.

Deuteronomy 32:20

But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.

Jeremiah 7:28

It is important to understand the spiritual value of faith because despite our devotion to Jesus, we have acted arrogantly in believing and arguing that rational and logical belief has been the basis of the faith we hold; and worse, we have allowed our convictions to be strengthened by a philosophical humanism rather than by supernatural dependence on the Eternal, Almighty God.

Faith is unique and exclusive to a person who has established a relationship of communion with God. The Scriptures clearly establish the need for spiritual communion with God as the necessary and absolute condition for receiving faith:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

In Jesus’ teaching this need for communion is presented in terms of a new birth, according to the teaching presented to Nicodemus.[3]  It also appears in terms of possessing Eternal Life, according to the teaching of the rich young man.[4]  In both teachings the need for communion is the condition for becoming a man of faith.

Therefore, for the man of faith what is sufficient for him is a faith the size of a mustard seed to operate,[5] because the relationship of communion that he has established with God is the one that will make his actions protected by the powerful hand of God. There is no super-faith, because it throws away that faith comes from God. It is the communion that man and woman have established with the Creator that makes things that are not, be made.

Moses explained to the people that the reason why God spoke with a loud voice was so that the people would believe God and establish communion with Him:

And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee forever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord.

Exodus 19:9

The message of the prophets was directed to the restoration of communion with God, lost because of the presence of the idolatrous worship of Baal, or some other Canaanite deity.

And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.

2 Chronicles 20:20

It is communion with God that is the basis of faith, not just belief, for as James says, even the demons believe and tremble.[6]  The incongruence in the account of the Sermon on the Mount of those who are classified as evildoers,[7] can only be understood by taking into account that belief in Jesus is only the gateway to life in Christ, but the purpose is to establish communion with Him. Only those who have communion with Jesus will be able to do His will.

Active faith operates through action. Faith is not only the capacity to believe, as is taught in many academic circles, but more so, and above all, to act, for it is by action that one measures the conviction of what one believes. Faith moves a person in the direction of the particular Word presented by God. James in his epistle clearly states that faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.[8]

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?…    18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.…     20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?…     24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.….      26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 2.14-26

Belief is important, for unbelief can hinder the development and growth of faith, for we read in the biblical account that Jesus did not do many wonders there, because of their unbelief;[9]  yet it is action that ultimately makes known who the person is who has and executes in faith. The father of faith, as Abraham is known, was characterized because his faith consisted in the fact that in spite of the absurdity and ridiculousness of the demands made upon him, he moved in the direction of what was asked of him, and believed even in hope against hope.[10]

So, if it was counted to Abraham for righteousness, and his righteousness is action before the Word of God, and since the Word states that those who are of faith, such are the children of Abraham,[11] it means that faith is evaluated by the ability to move in the direction of the Word and not just by believing it.

But what good is faith to us?

Most of those who confess faith in Jesus have the concept –erroneous, by the way– that faith serves to ask, to make possible the materialization of what we are asking for, or needing. In short, to make things that are not, to make them happen.

It is a false concept because the Scriptures clearly state that even though the lilies of the field do not work or spin; God dresses her that way, and it stands out that God is obligated to dress us without our having to ask Him. The text emphasizes the confrontational question: – will He not do much more to you, men of little faith?

It is a false concept because the Scriptures clearly state that even though the lilies of the field do not work or spin; God dresses her that way,[12] and it stands out that God is obligated to dress us without our having to ask Him. The text emphasizes the confrontational question: –will He not do much more to you, men of little faith?

Faith was not given to us, nor is it in this world as a spiritual tool to ask for, or to materialize things, faith has been given to us to operate according to God in the execution of His purposes.

Faith helps us to understand God, to read Him, to interpret Him, to know what He wants us to do. Faith is the spiritual capacity to interpret and understand God. Only those who know how to understand God do and are willing to execute what He demands of them.

The epistle to the Hebrews established the spiritual principle that without faith it is impossible to please God. This principle shows us that it is only possible to please someone when you understand what the other person wants. John established it in the following way: And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.[13]  The reason the Father was pleased with Jesus was precisely because He always did what the Father was pleased with.[14]

Faith is a capacity that is only achieved by those who take time to understand God. God’s main complaint is precisely the presence of people who were exposed to God, but never developed the capacity to understand Him.

Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:  

Psalm 95:10

Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

Hebrews 3:10

The purpose of the Scriptures is that the man of God should be perfect, thoroughly instructed for every good work;[15] that is, that man should know God, and know His will, and act in accordance with it.

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

Deuteronomy 7:9

The first phase in Abraham’s instruction was precisely to know the God who called him. We observe this in the way Abraham intercedes for the case of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah:

That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Genesis 18:25

A case that deserves to be highlighted is the case of Nebuchadnezzar, who in spite of being a pagan and idolatrous king, the Almighty revealed himself to his life, and he understood God.

34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Daniel 4:34-37

Faith helps us to understand God’s times. Although we often confess that we do not walk in darkness, and that we know about God’s times, the reality of the case is that a great majority of us who profess life in Christ do not have a clear conscience of the times we are living in.

And it is not a question of lack of teaching, for as the apostle John rightly pointed out, the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.[16]  Even if we do not know in detail about precise dates, for no one knows the day or hour,[17] we are sure of the times we are living in.

The apostle Paul wrote in the same vein as John to the Thessalonian community of believers, who had no need to write to them about the times and moments, because regarding the return of Jesus to the earth, they knew well, that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.[18]   However, we find in another of his epistles that there were those who had gone astray from the truth, saying that the resurrection is already done, and they upset the faith of some.[19]

So, it’s not about absence of the respective teaching, it’s about absence of faith, because faith is the spiritual virtue from God that serves us to understand about the times, and to be warned even of dangers that hover over our heads.

Cases that deserve to be highlighted are the cases of Simeon and Anna, who at the time of the presentation in the Temple of Jesus, according to the prescription of the Mosaic law, were at the precise moment when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the Temple.

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Luke 2:25-38

In the account of the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews all the cases of men of faith that are presented in that entire section, in none of them is faith highlighted as a tool to ask, but as a tool to wait according to the times that had been revealed to them by the Spirit.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:17-40

Why, if the Scriptures do not highlight faith as a tool for asking, do we have to? The reason is because, as he rightly pointed out in his epistle, James, it is because you ask wrongly, to spend on your delights.[20]

The only case where one is exhorted to ask in faith, in the epistle of James, is to ask for wisdom to act according to the Will of God. This is something that today’s believing communities need to correct.

pastor Pedro Montoya

[1]  2nd. Thessalonians 3:2: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

[2] Luke 18.8

[3] John 3:2

[4] Luke 18:18

[5] Mathew 17:20

[6] James 2:19

[7] Mathew 7:21-23

[8] ditto 2.17

[9] Mathew 13:58

[10] Romanos 4:18

[11] Galatians 3.7

[12] Mathew 6.28

[13] 1st. John 3:22

[14] John 8:29

[15] 2nd. Timothy 3:16

[16] 1st. John 2:27

[17] Mathew 25:13

[18] 1st. Thessalonians 5:1

[19] 2nd. Timothy 2:18

[20] James 4:3