Some will not make it into God's Kingdom — and all because of their faith! What about you?
Without faith you will not be saved — you cannot qualify for God's Kingdom. Yet no subject pertaining to salvation is more misunderstood in professing Christianity than that of saving faith! Some time ago, I had lunch with some friends who considered themselves Christians. A couple of the men asked me, during our conversation, to prove that what I believe is true. Being put on the spot at a lunch table, it was difficult to come up with all the right scriptures. But I was able to quote several, only to find that nothing I said made much difference to these particular individuals. Even though I proved several of my beliefs — I particularly remember proving that the Sabbath should be kept today — it still had little effect on those men. The element they were missing — and, it seems, the common missing element among those who leave God's Church — was faith. Not just faith in the Church or a man, but faith in God's Word. Faith in God's ability to solve problems. And, of course, they lose the faith that this is God's Church. Did these men lose their faith long before that day at lunch? Or did they ever have the right kind of faith to begin with? Eventually, they became quite vehement and began to ridicule me, saying I was blinded and not really objective about things, and asking where my human reasoning was. Some of you may have gone through a similar situation. I remember this one well, and it shook me for quite a few days, because I had looked up to these men for years. But I saw that their self-generated faith could not stand the test. Their faith was killing them just as surely as a disease. They were on their way to the grave. They had forgotten — or, more likely, never understood — that human reasoning is not true, godly, saving faith. So what is faith? Where does it come from? How do you get faith — or can you, indeed, "get" faith? How often have you heard somebody say "My faith is weak" or "I don't have much faith" or "I think if I had a trial, I'd crack up"? Have you heard such statements? I have; I've even said them myself. Why not take a look at how your faith compares with what God says faith is?
Why do we need faith?
Ephesians 2:8, Authorized Version, tells us, "For by grace are ye saved through faith." In other words, without faith you will not be saved. It's pretty plain right there! Many of us lack the faith to receive answers to our prayers. We lack the faith to free our minds of the fears and worries of daily life. We lack the faith to be healed. Faith is an indispensable element in the Christian life — it is like glue, holding everything else together. We need it to obey God, to be submissive, to believe that God is in control and to know that He will work things out in the end. The submissive wife of Ephesians 5:22 needs faith not in her husband, but in God. If your faith does not move you to keep God's law in all its ramifications, then your faith will be the death of you. James 2:26 says, "Faith without works is dead." Faith must be coupled with actions or deeds. Inactive, static faith is not pleasing to God. It leads, ultimately, to death — eternal death!
What is faith?
The apostle Paul, inspired by God, described what faith is: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Verse 3 says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." Through our five senses we receive physical information, but faith does not come to us that way. Faith has nothing to do with the physical world — it's a spiritual matter. Faith is the confidence or assurance that we will fulfill the human potential God has given us. In other words, if you have the conviction to believe that medical science will some day rid the world of all disease, that's a type of faith — faith in man. But faith in God is the belief that God will do what He has said He will do. Faith is believing that God's Word, as revealed in the Bible and through God's servants, IS true.
Where does it come from?
How do we get faith — if we can get faith? Can we generate faith ourselves? God says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8, AV). So that's where faith comes from — from God. God gives it to us through His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." So we receive faith partly by reading and studying the Bible, God's Word. To have faith, we need to draw close to God, to know Him. We need to repent of past transgressions against God's law, to do God's will, to pray, to fast, to grow in grace and knowledge of God (II Peter 3:18), to ask God to give us true faith. Jesus had tremendous faith in God. He said, "I can of Myself do nothing" (John 5:30). He relied on God completely and believed God implicitly. We need the kind of faith that Jesus Christ had. And Galatians 2:16, AV, shows that the faith God will give us through His Holy Spirit is actually the very faith of Jesus Christ — the same faith Jesus had! Notice: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ." What about your faith? Is it from God — the very faith of Jesus Christ Himself — or something you worked up yourself? Will it stand the test, or will it mean your eternal death? To help us understand real, Christ-like faith more fully, let's look at one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible. It is an example of faith that even Jesus Himself marveled at — the living faith of the Roman centurion (Luke 7). This story gives us valuable insight into how Jesus, the Son of God, looks at faith. It also clearly shows up the pitiful faith that is taking many of this world's professing Christians absolutely nowhere.
The faithful centurion
Luke 7 relates how a Roman centurion sent for Jesus, requesting that Jesus come and heal the centurion's servant. The inspiring story starts by showing us how the centurion's faith translated into love. He loved his neighbors, and they loved him. We are told that the centurion's servant (the correct translation is "slave") was "dear" to him (verse 2). In other words, he loved his slave. This was unusual in those days, as slaves were commonly looked on as just property to be used and sold at will. Verses 3-5 show that the centurion was loved and respected in turn by the leading Jews of the city, who willingly and instantly pleaded with Jesus to come and heal the slave, even saying that the centurion "was worthy" of the miracle. "For he loves our nation," they explained, "and has built us a synagogue." The centurion had given of his own money to build the Jews a place where they could worship God. This, too, was unusual, since relations between the Romans and the Jews, a subject people, were not the best. Let's be honest with ourselves. Do our neighbors have such a high regard for us as so-called Christians? Would our neighbors put out so much effort on our behalf if we were in the place of the centurion? Do your neighbors care much about your welfare? Unfortunately, too few of us show enough concern for our neighbors. Sometimes we don't offer them much love or service. But death will be our reward if we don't express faith with love! Clearly, the centurion knew who his neighbors were, and his concern for them was based on the royal law as recorded in James 2:8: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well." The centurion represented something hateful to the Jews of his day — the government of Rome, a harsh occupation army. The centurion was able to overcome this by his love for his neighbors, the Jews. Jesus knew all these things and measured the love the centurion showed by the high regard the Jews had for him in return. How does your love measure up? The centurion's love was just one element of his faith because, as we see in James 2:20, "Faith without works is dead." The centurion's work in this case was loving his neighbor, as Jesus admonished us to do in Luke 10:25-27.
Jesus Himself marveled
The next event in the story shows that the centurion's faith manifested itself in another important way — humility. Jesus already had decided to go with the elders to see the centurion and his slave, but before He could reach the house, friends of the centurion came out to Him saying, "'Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You...'" (Luke 7:6-7). This is a tremendous example of the centurion's perspective of himself, even though the elders said he was worthy. Though he was a centurion, a man of rank and high office, accustomed to being shown honor, he did not have an inflated opinion of himself. He knew that he didn't deserve anything, not even considering himself worthy to speak to Jesus personally, but instead cast himself before Jesus, through the messengers, in meekness and humility. The centurion's faith reaches a crescendo and explodes across the pages of time with his next statement, giving us a rare and valuable example of what saving faith is: "But say the word, and my servant will be healed." The centurion obviously knew that the very forces of the universe were under Jesus Christ's control. Notice verse 8: "'For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, "Go," and he goes; and to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it.' " Here we see the final icing on the cake. What better man to understand obedience and how government works than a centurion — a military man. He said he was also "a man placed under authority." He understood that Jesus was under the authority of His Father, under God's government, but that Jesus had at His command all the power of the universe if He needed it. It is in the next few words of verse 9 that we get that wonderful glimpse into the mind of God. Jesus Christ, called Immanuel, or "God with us" (Matthew 1:23), revealed what He thought about the whole affair, about this man's faith: "When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, 'I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!'" Yes, Jesus Himself marveled at this centurion's incredible faith. And there is a lesson here for us today. Our concept of faith may be based on hope or trust, but Jesus saw the centurion's faith was also expressed in love, humility and the understanding of government through obedience to the authority of God. For more understanding, you need to read Herbert W. Armstrong's foundational booklet What is Faith? It's absolutely free. Do you have the kind of faith that the centurion had — the faith that Jesus Himself would marvel at — or is your faith the self-generated kind that is weak in times of stress?
Ask God for this faith
Are you one of those who is trusting in human strength, not realizing that you don't really have faith? Do you have the saving, spiritual faith of Jesus Christ, or your own physical faith based on human reasoning? Be warned: Your own faith — faith that is not of Jesus Christ — will be the death of you. If you think your faith is of yourself and not of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9), then go to God in prayer. Ask Him to give you the faith that His Son had while He walked this earth. Remember, without faith we cannot be effective Christians and make it into God's Kingdom. In Hebrews 12:2, we see that Jesus is "the author and finisher of our faith." Through Jesus Christ we have salvation, and through Jesus Christ we can obtain the faith that we need to keep God's law, please God and qualify for God's Kingdom. What of my friends at lunch that day? They have gone now out of God's Church and back into the rat race of this world. They seem spiritually dead. If they don't repent, their self-generated faith, not God's gift, is going to be the death of them. Remember the Roman centurion — his faith was marvelous to Jesus Christ. Don't let yours be the death of you.