What is faith? Regardless of whether you are checking a Hebrew or Greek lexicon or an English dictionary, the noun faith essentially means “trust, reliance, dependence.” The essence of faith is dependence. The verb believe means “to trust in, to rely on, to depend on.”  Personally, in modern English, I think “to depend on” articulates the key idea of the verb form. In the Bible, dependence is to be on God based on His word (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17). Therefore, putting it simply, faith is God-dependence.

“To depend on” implies you must choose to transfer your dependence. This choice of dependence is based on your understanding and subsequent agreement with what is understood. Therefore, believing is volitional, an act of the will, and not merely intellectual and affective. In other words, believing involves the entire soul of man: mind (understanding), affections (agreeing, where you allow what you understand to affect you), and will (choosing to depend according to what you are convinced of).

Scripture emphasizes this thoroughness by the inspired clarity believe in Jesus (John 3:16) or believe on Jesus (John 6:47). The inspired wording involves the entire soul moving beyond believing about Jesus to believing in or on Jesus. The emphasis is critical to properly understanding biblical faith.

Beyond understanding the essence of faith, what truth must one know in order to be saved? Since the natural man cannot spiritually comprehend (because he does not yet have the Holy Spirit – 1 Cor. 2:14), what hope does he have for salvation?

Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). This specialized illumination is the unbeliever’s hope. These same three truths are presented in the gospel declaration: “Christ [righteousness] died [judgment] for our sins [sin]” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Therefore, one must be convinced by the Holy Spirit of his sin, of his deserved judgment in hell, and of his need for the credited righteousness of Jesus Christ in order to believe in Jesus for salvation. An understanding of these three truths, a necessity for salvation, involves the intellect. Heartfelt agreement with these truths—another necessity—involves the affections. And finally, the volitional transfer of trust that is necessary for salvation involves the will.

The essence of faith for salvation is depending on Jesus to save you from sin and judgment. Amazingly, the simplicity of believing has two extremes of misunderstanding. And what are those extremes? The next two articles will address them.

John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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