The Hearing of Faith
The word faith in the New Testament has two aspects. The objective aspect (1 Tim. 1:19b; Jude 3) refers to the things we believe in—the entire New Testament revelation concerning the person of Christ and His redemptive work. The subjective aspect (1 Tim. 1:19a; Heb. 11) refers to our act of believing. This subjective aspect of faith is the focus of this article.
Many think faith is something we must summon up in ourselves in the face of any environment or condition to believe in God and please God. It is true that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), but we ourselves are not the source of that God-pleasing faith. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham being called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive as an inheritance.” Abraham obeyed by faith, but his faith issued from God’s calling and appearing to him. Acts 7:2 tells us that the God of glory appeared to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, an idol-worshipping country. This appearing of God was an infusion of God into Abraham, attracting and strengthening him to obey God’s calling to leave his idolatrous homeland. Through God’s repeated appearing to him (Gen. 11-24), Abraham believed not only God’s promise concerning the land he would inherit but also the son that would be born to him through Sarah (Rom. 4:20-22).
Abraham’s experience shows us that the source of our faith is God; faith is not something initiated by us.
Abraham’s experience shows us that the source of our faith is God; faith is not something initiated by us. It is not our endeavoring or striving to believe, for we do not have any believing ability in ourselves. Faith is something allotted to us by God (2 Pet. 1:1) and is actually “the faith of Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:20; Rom 3:22), which becomes ours through our hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:14, 17; Acts 4:4a; Gal. 3:2).
To explain how this faith comes into us, a picture is worth a thousand words. Our heart is like a camera. When we hear the word of the truth of the gospel (Col. 1:5), we are presented with the lovely scenery of the New Testament (the objective faith). As the scenery of Christ is presented to us, the Spirit works with the word as power and light. When the light shines on the scenery, our heart “clicks”—opens a little—and there is an exposure “inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone but in tablets of hearts of flesh” (2 Cor. 3:3b). That exposure brings in a reaction, which is our faith. As we hear of Christ and appreciate Him, faith is born in us (Gal. 3:1-2). Our subjective faith is our spontaneous response to the truth of the objective faith, the scenery of the New Testament.
Faith is the unique way for God to carry out His New Testament economy with man (1 Tim 1:4 and footnote 4). When we continually look unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), He as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b) transfuses us with Himself as the believing element—faith. The more we see Him in all His beauty with all His riches, the more we appreciate Him and the more faith we have. This faith enables us to receive all His “precious and exceedingly great promises” (2 Pet. 1:4) and to take His way (Heb. 12:1).
For further reading on this subject, please see footnote 3 of Hebrews 12:2 in the New Testament Recovery Version; The Stream 20, (December 2000); The Conclusion of the New Testament, message 121; and Elders’ Training Book 6, The Crucial Points of the Truth, chap. 5, published by Living Stream Ministry.
From Issue No. 36, April 2001