We who consider ourselves to be part of the Reformed school of theology are big on grace. Big on teaching it, highlighting it, studying it, appreciating it, and naming our churches after it. Speak the word ‘grace’ to a Reformed guy and he’ll start to get warm and cuddly feelings on the inside like a girl with her first crush.
Mention things like faith preaching, faith ministries, faith for miracles, faith healings and sometimes even the world ‘faith’ in general and an uneasiness begins to settle in on many a Reformed believer. They believe in ‘faith’. They know it’s a biblical word and concept but they are nervous about throwing it around lightly because of the way the word has come to be used over the years.
In much of the evangelical world the word ‘faith’ has become somewhat synonymous with a formula for getting what you want. When you are struggling or desire something it is not uncommon in the evangelical world to simply be told to ‘have faith’ as a remedy for your troubles or as a means to achieve what you desire.
For Reformed thinkers the word ‘faith’ holds the extra connotation of being somewhat representative of the other side of the debate about what to emphasise in the process of salvation. Generally, if we were to ask the question ‘How are we saved?’ a Reformed thinker would answer ‘by grace’ and a non-reformed thinker would answer ‘by faith’.
Both are true in scripture. The bible says we are saved ‘by grace’ (Eph 2:5) and that we are saved ‘by faith’ (Luke 7:50). Ultimately the way these two concepts work in tandem is best summarised by Ephesians 2:8 that says ‘By grace you have been saved through faith.’ Grace is the source and inspiration of our salvation but faith is the means God has chosen to achieve our salvation.
My purpose in this post is not to focus on how these two relate together, however. That has been covered in depth elsewhere. My point is that those who consider themselves to be a part of the reformed school need to spend just as much time studying faith as they do grace.
The word ‘faith’ is used 296 times in the New Testament in the ESV translation of scripture compared to just 124 usages of the word ‘grace’. This statistic is somewhat skewed because on numerous occasions the word faith is essentially used as a synonym for ‘the way’ or ‘the new system of belief’ that Jesus taught. It does help us though to see just how much time the New Testament authors talked about faith.
According to scripture our faith makes us well (Mark 10:52), is crucial to having our prayers answered (Matt 21:22) and is how we please God (Hebrews 11:6). It is counted to us as righteousness (Romans 4:5) we are justified by it (Romans 5:1) and we are to live by it and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). So its obviously very crucial to our Christian life.
As a way to start some further study on the topic of faith (and to demystify it somewhat) why not take the biblical definition of faith given in Hebrews 11:1 and apply it to scripture. Hebrews 11:1 says ‘Faith is the evidence of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.’ Read through the rest of Hebrews 11 and instead of reading the word ‘faith’ each time you see it, try reading ‘the evidence of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.’ Its an encouraging and enlightening exercise that I hope you’ll get a lot out of.