What is faith?
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” – 1 John 5.1-5 (NLT)
Faith is a word that is used a lot on contemporary culture. Having faith in our government, or our jobs, in technology or in human intellect and so forth is common place within society. I might call much of that misplaced faith. Governments change and make different decisions, jobs come and go, possessions fade and people ultimately fail and pass on. John directs to the one person whom we can have full faith and assurance in, Jesus the Son of God. So what is that faith? According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, faith is defined as “trust in the Bible and reliance on God who is Himself trustworthy.” I like to expand on that definition and add “trusting in the promises of Scripture and the ultimate revelation and salvation found in Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God.” So faith is more than hope. It’s a continual reliance on the character and promises of God. And John tells us that this faith is responsible for overcoming the evil in the world. Faith is also cyclical. What I mean by that is if we have faith in the character and promises of God, then we will love Him and desire to obey Him, and in turn He will grant us stronger faith which will allow us to love Him and obey Him more and so on. As true children of God, John tells us, we should desire to wholeheartedly follow His commandments, because we no longer see them as a chore but a delight.
Where do you stand?
“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. ” – 1 John 5.11-13 (NLT)
John lays it all out. He has spent the majority of this letter explaining the character and nature of God, and the character of those who wish to follow Him. He’s given us signs of believing, challenges to remain convicted of, ways to test true and false teachings and encouragement towards a fuller faith in Christ. John’s concluding remarks spell it out plain as day, either you have Christ or you don’t. This is where the heart check comes in. After reading through the epistle of 1 John, where do you stand? Do you testify to truth faith in Jesus Christ who gives eternal life? Do you love God and wish to follow His commands? Where do you stand? We can not escape with a casual reading of 1 John. This text forces us to constantly evaluate where our own hearts lie. Take some time to pray and read through 1 John again and affirm to God where your heart is.
As I read through 1 John, I can’t help but think about the early church. Here are some things that the world accused the early Christian church of:
- Atheism (because they wouldn’t recognize any other god except the True One of Scripture)
- Anti-social (because they chose not to participate in the worldly desires of those around them)
- Cannibalistic (because they took the sacrament of the Lord’s supper so seriously)
- Incestuous (because they were so adamant about recognizing one another as equal brothers and sisters in Christ)
John did not touch on these issues specifically, but his writing reminds me of how fervent the apostles were to teach exactly what Christ taught and exactly what God expects of His people. Click here for more readings from the early Christian apologists. The early church was marked by persecution because they were doing exactly what they were called to do. And if they were not doing as they should, the apostles and early church fathers admonished them to do what was proper in the sight of God. John has done this for us here. He has written so that we may believe and, in believing, that we would live out the life of Christ in every aspect. I pray that this letter from John has encouraged you to evaluate your own faith, and know why you believe what you believe. This coming fall we will begin our study in the first eight chapters of Romans where Paul will systematically lay out the deep root of our faith; justification through Christ alone by faith through grace. Take care and have a great week in the Lord!
By His grace,