Faith in God

This is the second of six foundational teachings on the Christian faith. The six topics are: ‘repentance from dead works’, ‘faith in God’, ‘instruction about baptisms’, ‘the laying on of hands’, ‘the resurrection of the dead’ and ‘eternal judgment’, as listed in Hebrews 6:1-3. 

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Along with God’s word, the Bible also records the responses of those He spoke to: some in faith and others not.

Abraham is shown to be a man of faith. God said to him: Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing … all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:1-3). We then read that Abram left, as the LORD had told him … they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there (Genesis 12:4-5).

While Adam and Eve doubted God’s word and disobeyed, Abraham believed and acted on it. Faith is the reverse of Adam’s sin and the way back from Adam’s fall. We have ‘faith in God’ when we believe that He exists and does what He has promised for those who chose to follow Him (Hebrews 11:6).


Man’s faith is made possible by God’s faithfulness. God remains true to His nature and acts according to His word (Micah 3:6, Jeremiah 1:12). He is gracious and caring (Exodus 34:6) and concerns Himself with man, even in his fallen state, working for our redemption and nurturing us into a relationship of trust.

God promised to restore Abraham and his descendants into His perfect rule in Paradise. Faithful to His word, God protected and preserved the Israelites over many generations. After He brought them out of Egypt where they had become enslaved, He established them in the Land of Canaan and sent many prophets to keep their hope alive. The promise was eventually fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah who brought forgiveness and reconciliation first to Abraham’s descendents and then through them to all nations on earth. Jesus restores us to the rule of God by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and gives us by his resurrection a living hope into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3).


Abraham left his home and family in response to God’s promise, with nothing to go by except his confidence in the One who had called him. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:8-9)

On arriving in the Land, Abraham found a severe famine and was forced to migrate to Egypt, where he exposed his wife to possible molestation because he feared for his life (Genesis 12:10-15). Yet, these adverse circumstances did not cause Abraham to doubt the promise or to turn back to his original home.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Faith is the believing part of the transaction, not the receiving part. This is what the great men of the Bible were commended for  (Hebrews 11:1).

While some consider immediate results as the evidence of great faith, the Bible recognises a far greater faith in those who continue to believe and wait patiently on God while circumstances seem to go against the promise. Hope that is realised is no hope at all  (Romans 8:24) and faith is no longer necessary once it obtains its reward.

Abraham waited more than 20 years for the birth of the son through whom God promised to make him a ‘great nation’ and a blessing to ‘all the peoples of the earth’ (Genesis 21:12). Abraham had not by the end of his mortal life obtained the promise. The birth of Isaac acted as a deposit, the firstfruits of what was to come.

Thomas (known as the doubting Thomas) would not believe in the resurrection of Jesus until he put his fingers in his wounds. After Jesus allowed him this proof, he said to him: because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).

Many come to God for a quick solution to their problems and are soon disappointed. Abraham did not arrive in a land flowing with milk and honey, but in the place where he would wait patiently, even in difficulties, and see God’s purposes unfold.

Abraham was not a perfect man. His willingness to compromise his wife for his own safety and his decision to have a child by her slave girl are signs of human failing. But God is not unaware of our human weaknesses and is patient with us, because He is longsuffering, and not willing that any of those who set out in faith should perish (Exodus 34:6, Hebrews 4:15, 2 Peter 3:9).

This is a further lesson: God will sustain us despite our failures. If we are faithless, God will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself  (2 Timothy 2:13).

When the greatest test came, Abraham stood firm. Again the scriptures tell us: by faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be counted.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death(Hebrews 11:17-19).

God will stop at nothing to fulfil His word – ultimately He will even raise the dead in order to bring about the complete fulfilment of His promises in the world to come.


It is written of Abraham that he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Adam’s rejection of God’s word brought separation and death, believing brings reconciliation and life.

The generation of Israelites that received the Law at Mount Sinai failed to learn faith. God nurtured them from the time of Pharaoh’s plagues and the opening of the Sea, and provided them manna from heaven and water from a rock. In spite of this they did not trust Him to bring them safely into the Land that He promised Abraham. For their lack of faith, God caused them to die in the wilderness when He swore on oath that they would never enter His rest  (Psalm 95:11, Hebrews 3:11).

Scripture makes it is clear that without faith it is impossible to please Godbecause anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). We, too, are made right with God through faith. In the gospel message a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’ (Romans 1:17).

We believe in God’s atoning sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness and restoration of man, i.e. that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God  (2 Corinthians 5:21). By believing we receive forgiveness and restoration.

Some who strive for righteousness through holy living and religious observances are offended by this notion – considering faith too small an effort for such a great reward. But Abraham’s example shows that true faith is not passive. Faith is shown to be real when action flows from belief. The apostle James asks us:What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? … You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder … Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did … his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did (James 2:14, 19-22).

A belief that is too vague to offer anything specific to act on, or too feeble to lead to a significant and lasting response, does not amount to faith.


Faith in Jesus is no different to faith in God, because Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promises as recorded in the books of Moses and the Prophets. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Jesus is the seed of Abraham through whom both Abraham and all the nations have been blessed. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith(Galatians 3:8-9). We believe that God both made the promise and then fulfilled it in Christ.

God also promised Moses: I will raise up for [the people] a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name, I Myself will call him to account (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). Jesus was this prophet and spoke the word of God. He told the people: These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me  (John 14:24), and challenged the Pharisees: If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me (John 5:46). We believe in Jesus’ teaching as the word that God spoke through him.

God also promised to make a New Covenant with the Israelites, because they broke the covenant He made with them at Mount Sinai. The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more  (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

To believe in Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant(Hebrews 9:15) is to believe also that God has fulfilled His promise. Faith in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2) is at the same time faith in God who has fulfilled His promise to ‘forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more’.

Jesus came as God’s fullest revelation to man: He is described as the image of the invisible God,  the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of His being (Colossians 1:15 & Hebrews 1:3). We gain the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ  (2 Corinthians 4:6). It follows that anyone who rejects Jesus, rejects God and he who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him (John 5:23).


Everything Jesus did was predicted by the prophets long before his birth. Jesus did miracles because God had said, through the prophets, that he would. For example, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah: I, the LORD … will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7). Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:6).

Jesus’ miracles are thus also spoken of as signs – signs that he is the one the prophets had spoken of.

The faith by which many received healing was their belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of David, the one who would do what the prophets had said (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 20:30, etc.). But the most important healing is not from diseases and the other symptoms of our separation from God, but from its causes.

The same sin that alienates us from God is the cause of all misery and suffering (see Deuteronomy 28:58-61). Jesus healed by his authority to forgive sins. He raised a paralysed man with the words, Son, your sins are forgiven  (Mark 2:5). When the Pharisees challenged him, Jesus explained: Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk’?  Jesus did it this way, that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:9-11).

Every time Jesus healed, he temporarily reversed the symptoms of sin in this mortal world. But all those he healed, even those he raised up from the dead, grew old and frail and eventually died. The reason for Jesus’ coming was not to improve our conditions in mortal life, although he has compassion on us in our sufferings. Jesus came to restore us to the original condition of Adam, so that we may enjoy a perfect life with God in eternity.

The greater consequence of the forgiveness wrought by Jesus is reconciliation with God and a living hope for the life to come. This is where our faith should be focussed.

Even if Jesus had never restored sight to anyone or never delivered a demon-possessed man, he would still have fulfilled the prophecies that says that he would open eyes that are blind, and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. The blindest of all are those who can’t see beyond this present life, and the most captive those held in bondage to sin by the fear of death. It is ultimately from these that Jesus came to deliver and set men free.


So exceedingly great is God’s power for those who believe in Jesus, and walk in his ways, that Jesus taught: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it  (John 14:12-14).

Many Christians are convinced by these verses that the purpose of their faith is to perform healings and wonders as done by Jesus and the apostles. In this way they encourage people to focus on their present condition rather than eternal glory in the life to come.

What did Jesus mean by greater things and what should the man of faith ask for in his name? In every encounter that the lame and the blind and the leprous had with Jesus, the sickness that brought them to him was as great a miracle as the healing that sent them home rejoicing. God uses the suffering and frustration we experience in mortal life to foster a longing for the restoration of His perfect order in Paradise, and to draw us back to Him in repentance. The apostle Paul explains that the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:20-21).

God puts our eternal destiny above temporal well-being. Jesus taught: If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off, and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire  (Matthew 18:8).

Eternal life is the Father’s will, although – we are warned – that only few will find it (Matthew 7:14). Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father  (Matthew 7:21). Jesus explained: my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40). Once we understand this, God requires that we come into line and work with Him towards this purpose.

The power of our faith is the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). The greater things that Jesus promised his disciples would do, was to take this gospel and God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name (John 15:16).

To ask for something in his name is to ask with the purpose of reconciling God’s lost children to Him for eternity. If we are motivated by any other objective, we are not rightly asking in his name. Thus, many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers  (Matthew 7:22-23).


True faith is to take hold of God’s promises for the life to come and then to live in that expectation and reality in the present time – being free from the fear of death, from sin, from worldly ambitions and the love of passing things – and by this testimony leading others to the same hope. We are assured that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires  (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Confidence in these great and precious promises comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ for those who believe in him for the forgiveness of sins, for reconciliation with God and for the resurrection of the dead leading to eternal life. As we live by faith in that hope, we also see His provision and care for us from day to day, as He nurtures us into faithfulness, providing for our daily needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The Bible contains many promises to sustain us as we wait for the renewal of all things. Whoever trusts in Him will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11).


We are told that Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the Land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops (James 5:18-19).

Why does Scripture present Elijah’s prayer for a national disaster as an encouragement and example for us to follow?

Elijah lived under the Law of Moses and knew what God had spoken to the Israelites, concerning unfaithfulness to Him. It is written in the Law: be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and He will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you(Deuteronomy 11:16-18).

Elijah saw the whole nation and its king in flagrant idolatry (1 Kings 16:29-34) and trusted God to remain faithful to His word and to do what He had said. Elijah simply believed God and acted on His word. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain for three and a half years.

At the time of the Exodus, Moses twice stopped God from destroying the Israelites – relying on God’s zeal for His name and calling on His forgiving and compassionate nature (see Exodus 32:10-14, 34:6-7 & Numbers 14:17-23).

Elijah and Moses took their stand on God’s faithfulness to His nature and His word. This is how we show faith in God, even today. Elijah was a man just like us and God will act in response to our faith as he did to the faith of Moses and Elijah thousands of years ago.


To follow Jesus example and to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) requires that we know and understand what He has spoken to us. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

Our knowledge must be accurate and based on sound doctrine. To hold expectations contrary to God’s will and nature will lead to disappointment and diminish our faith. The Bible speaks of believers who lost their faith because they were taught wrong ideas (see 2 Timothy 2:17-18).

Paul prayed for the Ephesian church, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe (Ephesians 1:17-23).

Once we know God and act on this knowledge, and begin to experience God’s dealings with us in a way that affirms and vindicates His word, we then live by faith in the way that shapes and distinguishes the life of a Christian.



1. How can God expect us to believe when we have so little evidence? The Bible does not set out to prove the existence of God, but takes this to be self-evident from creation (see Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19:1). Many who choose to believe in scientific alternatives to God base their faith on mere hypotheses or spurious claims that are less certain in scientific terms than the claims of the Bible. The most important commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Creation, and other claims of the Bible, are perfectly rational and do not require that we ignore our intellect or take a naïve leap of faith. God has chosen to relate to man on the basis of love, and this requires that He gives each of us the freedom NOT to believe. The rejection of God is a moral choice – when people do not believe, it is because they do not want to (Romans 1:18). If suddenly we were presented with conclusive evidence for God’s existence and the truth of the Bible – evidence that is irrefutable and incontrovertible even to the mind of the worst of all cynics – it would result in many people being sorely disappointed, as they would then have to acknowledge and submit to God against their will. The notion of blind faith is altogether unbiblical. God reveals Himself as a nurturing God. (Exodus 34:6 speaks of compassionate, but nurturing is a more accurate translation of the original Hebrew). God is both the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), building and sustaining it as He proves Himself faithful to all who call on His name. What God did indeed prove is that He will judge the world on a day that He has determined, by Jesus – whom He has appointed to this purpose. He proved this to all men by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). 

2. Why should we not promote miracles, when Jesus did them? The greater things spoken of in John 14:12 are those that lead people to salvation and eternal life. It is wicked and perverse to places greater importance on a leg that grows two inches than on a sinner doomed to hell entering the kingdom of God.The mission of the church is to call sinners to repentance and teach the faith of Jesus in order to prepare us for eternity. When physical healings and other miracles promote this purpose, then they may be rightly prayed for in His name and to His glory. 

3. Don’t faith healings and other miracles always bring people to Christ? After Jesus fed the multitude from a few loaves and fish, the same crowd that had witnessed and shared in that miracle followed Jesus to the other side of the lake and asked him: What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? (John 6:30). As in this case, miracles often result in a desire for more miracles, rather than an enduring faith. The same person who believes because of a miracle, may cease to believe when he fails to see the next one. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus warns that those who do not believe on account of the Scriptures, will not believe even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31). It is only a knowledge and acceptance of the truth that can lead to a lasting faith. Those who teach Christianity as the way to obtain worldly success – the healing of every type of disease and deliverance from poverty and oppression – have failed to learn from Jesus that many of those who turn to him out of these motives will neither see nor enter into the Kingdom of God. Jesus never measured success by the number of his followers. After his first miracles great crowds followed him around but he said to them, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life (John 6:53). At this many were offended, and left him. It is thus a misconception that the church must find ways of drawing the crowds, and that those coming for miracles will surely receive the faith of Christ. 

4. Is it wrong to trust God for a prosperous and successful life? The difficulty is not in wanting success and prosperity, but in defining these things in a carnal way. Often verses such as this one in Malachi are quoted to boost church income and to foster hopes of material success: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test  Me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it (Malachi 3:10).   However, in New Testament terminology the harvest is always understood as souls entering into the kingdom. It is indeed God’s desire and glory that our faith should bear much fruit, but His desired fruit is not earthly treasures but fruit that will last (John 15:16). The treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal, are the enduring prosperity of any Christian. Paul warns Timothy against men of corrupt minds, who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:5-6). Many with temporal expectations of material prosperity have not yet learnt to fix their eyes on the unseen –for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal  (2 Corinthians 4:18). Such people cannot yet say, as Paul did, that they consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8), or that they have learnt the secret of being content in all circumstances. 

5. Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  Surely ‘anything’ means anything? The mistake people make with this promise is in misunderstanding what is meant by the words in my name. An ambassador is only acting in the name of a country in so far as he is promoting its interests. Whatever he does in his private capacity is clearly not done in the name of his country. No one would ask God in the name of Jesus for an opportunity to murder his wife. In every request we make to God we must discern His will and aim to promote His kingdom, doing what will lead people to repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus. Even then, we may not discern correctly, so the same John that wrote the words ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name’ in his gospel, later wrote in one of his letters: This is the confidence we have in approaching God – that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15). Much of what is prayed for ‘in the name of Jesus’ boils down to witchcraft. This phrase is often used to punctuate every form of human greed and vanity – a religious substitute for “abracadabra”.  Many misuse the name of Christ to obtain their own desires. But we must remember, you shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name(Exodus 20:7). Faith expects God to act according to His will and nature, while witchcraft promises a specific outcome through the use of a formula – without considering whether the outcome is desirable to God or not. 

6. There are those who seem to distort scripture to satisfy their own lusts and pray for things that would seem to be outside of God’s will – and yet they get everything they ask for. How do we explain this? Some are deliberately handed over to a delusion to confound them in their error. It says that God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:11). This happened with Balaam when his desire for riches prevented him from accepting the truth (Numbers 22:2 Peter 2:15). Psalm 73 assures us that the prosperity of the wicked is short-lived. 

7. Why does God fail to answer my prayers? There are a number of possibilities –  

  • I am not in a covenant relationship with God (Acts 19:13-16);
  • I have sinned and not repented (Isaiah 59:2);
  • I am praying with the wrong motives (James 4:3);
  • God is testing my faithfulness; or
  • He has answered, but His answer is ‘no’. 

Others do not pray in genuine faith. What many call faith actually amounts to willpower or positive thinking. Man cannot by his own resolve and sheer determination bring about the consequences of God. Faith in God always depends on Him, relying on His faithfulness and is effective because of His incomparably great power for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19). 

8. How about someone who has genuine faith in God, but whose faith is founded upon the Koran or the Talmud or some other claim to divine knowledge or revelation? The Bible says that God rewards those who diligently seek him. A Muslim or Jew or Hindu with a genuine quest for God has a far greater assurance of coming to a true faith in Jesus than a nominal Christian.  At the same time, we must recognise that faith, no matter how sincere, may be misguided or unfounded. Paul says of the Jews that they are zealous for God, but not according to the truth  (Romans 10:2). It is also possible to be devout, yet self-seeking. Many pursue religion with the same motive as those who pursue the occult – to harness some hidden but accessible power to employ for their own temporal benefit and well-being. This is not a genuine quest to know God and cannot result in a revelation of the truth. Many who are not Christians have received answers to their prayers and it is a testimony to God’s awesome grace that He may honour even a misguided faith, and, due to His gracious and condescending nature, respond to a person who is seeking Him in ignorance. But, if the relationship is genuine, it will eventually result in a revelation and acceptance of the truth.