Without trying to define or redefine faith, I do think it is imperative that Christians appreciate at least one distinction in the whole discussion of faith: the distinction between belief in God and believing God.
It seems that too many of us get caught up in whether someone believes in God. And, if that someone happens to believe in the same God we believe in and generally displays that belief in the same way we do (church attendance, cross or fish paraphernalia, political alignments, etc.), we deem them to have faith.
However, the only place in scripture where I have come across this concept of faith is in the book of James.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19 (NKJV).
Yet, it seems our preoccupation is in persuading non-believers to attain only this level of faith which James mocks. In fact, throughout scripture, this level of faith is assumed. I have yet to come across a character in my Bible who doubts the existence of God. So, why are we content to persuade non-believers to attain this belief?
They key is in distinguishing between a belief in God and believing God. Belief is mocked, believing is praised. “For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ ” Romans 4:3. Abraham not only believed in God, but he believed God, and it was his believing God that was credited to him as righteousness. Why? Well, that’s a good question.
Faith is about believing God and not believing in God because human faithfulness is flawed, God’s is not. The issue is not whether we believe in God because our beliefs can change from day to day. Even devout believers might subscribe to one theological stance one day and another the next. This is particularly true with doctrinal questions pertaining to spiritual gifts, baptisms, law keeping, the list is endless. I doubt that any one theology is exactly right, no more so than any one theologist is right. I don’t mean to criticize believers who cross denominational or theological lines, I have myself. I only mean, however, to show the frailty of human belief.
True faith, on the other hand, is not belief in God, but rather believing that God is faithful. This distinction very appropriately resembles one of the theological questions mentioned above. Not only was humanity unfaithful in keeping the law, humanity is incapable of it. Fortunately for us, God IS faithful. And we are made righteous not through our faithfulness, or lack thereof, but through our believing in His.
So, you believe in God, you do well. You believe God, you become the righteousness of God.
What does believing God mean? I will try my best to answer that in my next post.