Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Salvation is by faith, but not by faith alone (James 2.14–24). Faith without obedience is not a saving faith. Every example of saving faith emphasizes obedience (see Hebrews 11). The demons are the only group identified as possessing a type of faith without works (James 2.19). But “saving faith” produces good works (Ephesians 2.8-10).
But what of other types of faith? Indeed, the New Testament discusses various types of faith, not just the saving kind.
According to Matthew 8.10, there is “great faith.” Jesus praised a centurion for believing that Jesus could heal his sick servant from afar. Jesus remarked that He had not encountered such faith in anyone in Israel.
Paul writes that Abraham had “strong faith” (Romans 4.20). Abraham, a devoted follower of God, trusted the Lord’s promise to bless him and make him the father of many nations. Paul says that Abraham believed God’s promise to him and acted accordingly; his faith never wavered, even after being asked to sacrifice the son for whom he had waited.
Peter serves as an example of “little faith” on one occasion. Jesus invited Peter to walk on water with him in Matthew 14. Before Peter took his focus off of Jesus and onto the raging sea, he was doing fine. However, after taking his gaze off Jesus, he found himself sinking. Peter begged Jesus to rescue him. Jesus did so but rebuked him for his lack of faith (Matthew 14.31).
Romans 14.1 informs us that there is “weak faith.” A weak faith belongs to a brother or sister who stumbles over his brethren’s scruples in judgment rather than doctrine. It’s worth noting that Paul says that the stronger brother should keep his or her freedom in check so that the weaker brother doesn’t stumble. Paul says they shouldn’t argue about it or condemn a weaker brother for having a different view. We can easily see the compassionate nature of Christianity in this, as one would typically expect the one with weak faith to capitulate to the one with stronger faith.
Lastly, there is a dead faith. James reminds us that faith without works is dead (James 2.17). We should have faith that manifests itself in our actions rather than just words, as this shows others that we are sincere in our beliefs. In 2.16, James says that seeing someone hungry but telling them to be filled rather than feeding them is an example of ineffective (i.e., dead) faith.
Though not called “living faith,” we realize that the New Testament also implies the existence of living faith. Fruit is proof that the plant producing it is alive. In Galatians 5.22-23, faithfulness is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. Those led by the Spirit will possess this living faith.
While thinkers like Martin Luther and John Calvin have indeed clouded the waters when defining faith, we must be careful not to underestimate its significance. Faith saves us. All we have to do is make sure we’re on the same page about faith and how to explain it to others.
Regarding the various faiths we’ve seen, a weak believer can strengthen his faith. One with little faith can embiggen it. A person with dead faith can resurrect it through repentance and obedience. But a demon cannot rehabilitate his faith. Demons are powerless to change their fate as a result of their punishment. So, let’s check our faith to ensure it’s still living and saving so that other people can see that we have a great and strong faith.