What is Faith?
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
1 Thessalonians Lesson #009
July 17, 2014
As we continue our study in 1 Thessalonians today we're going to look at the end of chapter 1. Chapter one basically serves as the introduction for Thessalonians and what we see when we come to the last two verses is a sort of summary statement of what will be covered in the rest of the epistle. Many times you find this in Scripture where the writer gives a bit of an outline or a topical sentence somewhere in the introduction. Sometimes it's a little harder or more difficult to find than other times but usually we will find that.
This is true in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 where Paul says, "For they themselves declare [those outside Macedonia] concerning us, what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." That's sort of the present tense reality. That's what happened in the past and summarizes the present tense spiritual life and testimony of the Thessalonians. This goes from 1 Thessalonians 2:1 to the end of chapter 3. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 gives us the second part which is "And to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." That's the eschatological or future orientation that is the topic that is covered in chapters 4 and 5, one of the great passages in the Bible on the Rapture.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 serves as a general introduction to the epistle and verses 9 and 10 give us a rough outline, verse 9 being developed in chapters 2 and 3 and verse 10 being developed in chapters 4 and 5. Thessalonica in the ancient world is called Salonika today. It's located in what at that time was Macedonia. It was a major seaport. Paul was only there for a short time on his second missionary journey. Some people think he was only there for a few weeks. I think he was there for two or three months. During that time he was there long enough to communicate a basic framework of doctrine to these new believers who were composed of both Jews and Gentiles.
Paul had something of a hostile reception from the Jewish community there so he had to leave rather quickly. It wasn't long before he received Timothy and Titus while he was in Corinth and they had brought with them some questions from the Thessalonian believers. He's responding to that in both the first and then the second epistle to them.
It was on a major trade route, the Via Ignatia, which was one of the major east/west highways so there was a tremendous amount of commerce. This would have been one of the reasons that Paul can talk about the fact that they have become examples to all [verse 7] the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. We often think in our age of mass transit, mass travel and mass communication that word travels pretty fast but they had their own systems of communication and word would spread through those systems of communication, maybe not quite as rapidly as we have today which is hours but certainly within a few weeks and a few months.
The fact that a group of Thessalonians had become Christians and were making an impact on the culture around them spread throughout both areas of what we call Greece, both in Macedonia and Achaia. It was because of their spiritual growth that they're making an impact and this is forming their testimony and their reputation. They became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
Today what I want to do is look at the next three verses and talk about some of the things that are mentioned in these verses for further understanding and clarification. In 1 Thessalonians 1:8 we read, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place." That goes back to understanding the trade routes and their location on those routes. What had happened in Thessalonica was that the testimony they had was carried not only regionally but was also beyond the region up into areas that would have been to the northwest, such as the areas today of former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania. That was an expansion just to the east and north of the Adriatic Sea. It would have expanded also into Thrace, so the entire area here would have heard what was taking place in Thessalonica. That certainly has an impact or application in our world.
We live in a world that in some sense here in Texas we're still pretty much influenced by the Bible Belt. There are a lot of churches and so you don't necessarily have a reputation that develops. But over time there should be a reputation that develops among certain churches. We can think of different kinds of churches we have in Houston and yet, we as a small congregation, should be known for certain things. The most important things, I think, are an emphasis on the Word of God, spiritual growth, application, evangelism, and missions. These are things that ought to be priorities in any local church. It's not wrong for churches to be known for their music or for some of the other things many churches have in terms of various programs but it shouldn't be where the Word of God is not at the center of the focus of the church.
When we read this verse we read, "For from you…" That is a Greek phrase, apo plus the second person plural pronoun indicating from the totality of them. "For from all of you the word of the Lord has sounded forth." The word of the Lord should be understood contextually that this is talking about the word of God. If you look back to 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul says, "And you became followers of us and of the Lord having received the word in much affliction." So what they're receiving is the message of the Lord.
We're not talking necessarily about scripture because at this stage very little of the New Testament is scripture. What they're offering is an interpretation of the Old Testament and applying Old Testament prophecy to Jesus as the Messiah. Of course we could apply this to the word of God in terms of the Bible. At that time there were only a couple of New Testament books had been written. 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the second and third epistles that Paul wrote. He wrote Galatians at the end of his first missionary trip. Of the Pauline epistles this is only the second epistle. James was probably written before this. Matthew possibly was written before this or approximately at this same time so at this stage the New Testament canon is probably not even clearly understood because so little has been written.
This is not talking about the Bible. You can't say "For from you the Bible has sounded forth". It would be more the gospel, the message of the Bible, the proclamation that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, came and died for the sins of the world. Probably more than that, considering the fact that they have grown in their Christian life. It's a result of the fact that they have become imitators of Christ that Paul is emphasizing. He said they became followers of us, that is imitators of us and the Lord. They have learned a good bit of doctrine and they're applying it. It's not how much you know intellectually. It's what gets transferred into application that's important. That's what built their reputation.
Paul praises them and says, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth." They've been involved in evangelism. They've been involved in teaching opportunities and this has expanded through the regions and territories and Macedonia and Achaia and beyond that. That's what's indicated in the phrase "also and in every place." Now the verb that is translated "sounded forth" is a verb that is used only once in the New Testament, execheo, and it means to sound forth or to blast out like a trumpet or to reverberate like an echo. It's not a mild word. It's a very dramatic word that Paul has used that they are announcing throughout the ancient world of Greece what is happening. They are very overt and outspoken in the way they are talking about Jesus Christ and in the way they are challenging the pagan culture around them. This has built a reputation for them throughout that region.
Then the next thing that we see here in the verse, the last sentence as it's broken up into English is, "Your faith toward God has gone out so that we do not need to say anything." The important things are the words "your faith toward or in the direction toward God". This is a Greek preposition that indicates direction to or toward. With the accusative here it has the idea of with reference to God. We would say your faith "in God" but this says with "reference to God."
We need to talk a little here what he means when he says "your faith." We need to define faith. We need to understand that there are two different kinds of faith in the New Testament and we need to describe what faith means. So I'm going to cover this in several points. The first point is basically introductory issues. Just some of the questions that need to be addressed: Is Biblical faith a supernatural faith or a natural faith in a supernatural object? This is a major issue that's discussed today, especially in debates over the nature of the gospel and debates between Calvinists and Armenians. In strict Calvinism saving faith is a unique kind of faith, a faith that is a gift from God. They say it's not the same as every other kind of faith.
People recognize that every day we utilize faith in many different ways. You sit in a chair and you think it's going to hold you up. You really didn't think much about it. You believe when you get up in the morning that you're going to go in, flip a switch, and turn the coffee pot on and you believe that it's going to work. Every now and then something doesn't work and our faith isn't well founded. But we believe that certain things are going to happen and we trust that it's going to take place as it should take place. Is that the same kind of faith that is saving faith or is saving faith some kind of supernatural gift that God gives? That's a major issue, especially in the free grace versus lordship debate. So we have the question, is there a faith in Jesus that saves and a faith in Jesus that doesn't save? This also is a major issue.
Another category that comes up is the area of head faith versus heart faith. We have to understand something about the nature of faith especially if you're talking to someone who comes from a purely empirical, scientific background or someone who is taught from the empirically based modernist Christian denomination that doesn't really believe in supernatural revelation. They say, "Well, I can't explain that logically. We just have to believe it by faith." They juxtapose faith with knowledge. Hebrews 11 says that faith is a different kind of knowledge. It is rational so one of the issues in discussing faith is whether faith is rational or irrational. Some people think that you just believe it even though it's absurd. You believe it even though it's not rational because that's what your religion says but your religious belief over there is totally separate and distinct and doesn't need to conform within science and maybe science hasn't correctly interpreted the data. They see this kind of juxtaposition where faith is juxtaposed and is contradicted to scientific knowledge. The reality is that you can't have any kind of knowledge without faith.
We have this question raised, is faith inherently rational or irrational? Is faith something you believe despite evidence or is faith something that operates on the basis of evidence? You'll even find some kind of evangelical Christians who don't understand this issue. Throughout the scripture you have an emphasis on evidence and the value of evidence as confirming what God has said. It doesn't prove it. Those are important distinctions in those words but confirming it. One of the reasons you make a distinction there is that if it proves it, then there's some level of approval over the Word of God. There used to be a little cliché that was reduced to bumper stickers some years ago. "God said it. I believe it. And that settles it." It has those three lines in the wrong order. It indicates that the settling of the issue follows believing it. The reality is that God said it and that settles it.
Now the issue is whether or not we're going to believe it. That has to do with faith and whether we trust God and believe Him. Throughout the Old Testament God gave many forms of evidence. The greatest evidence in the New Testament is the resurrection of Christ after which Luke states in Acts 1 that Jesus appeared to His disciples, giving many convincing proofs. The faith of the New Testament is something that is built upon evidence, built upon that which is rationally defensible, not on something that is irrational or illogical.
When it comes to discussing faith one thing that is often heard and is confusing for a lot of people is that pastors, theologians, Sunday School teachers, Bible teachers often teach that faith involves something more than simply belief, something more than assenting or agreeing to something as true. They usually add things like commitment, obedience, some sort of moral change, or turning from personal sin. How do you know you have real saving faith, they ask? Well, it's because you've committed your life to Jesus or you've seen some sort of moral transformation or you have turned from personal sin. These are often added to a concept of faith. It's often faith plus. It's not faith alone. Then what they've done they've very subtly imbedded in their definition of faith these other ideas so that for them faith means commitment. Faith means obedience or moral change to them. Without those other elements, they say it's an inadequate faith or a non-saving faith.
Of course, one of the more popular ways that faith is described is through this kind of distinction between a head faith and a heart faith. You'll hear people say that you have to have a heart faith because a head faith is just intellectual. They think a heart faith is what truly saves you. You'd be amazed at how much stuff there is about this. I did a search on the internet of head faith versus heart faith and you can just find hundreds and probably thousands of sermons and papers and things trying to support this idea that there are two different kinds of faith. But the Bible never makes that kind of distinction.
Often when they do this they misidentify what the Bible means when it talks about the heart. When you look at the scripture, the emphasis there for the Christian life is always on thinking. The Bible almost never talks about the head as the location of thought. It talks about the heart as the location of thought. It's not using the heart in reference to the physical organ. In fact the Bible never uses the word leb in the Old Testament or kardia in the New Testament as a physical organ. It's always used in a metaphorical sense. It refers to that which is at the center or the core of something.
Often it's used with a broader meaning, almost as a synonym for psuche or soul or nephesh for soul in the Old Testament. Often it is used primarily for the thinking part of the soul. There are only a few places where you can see an emotional connotation in the Old Testament. About 95% of the time it refers to the thinking part of the soul.
In the New Testament, of course, you have an emphasis on thought or thinking. Romans 12:2, "Be transformed by the renewing of our mind." 1 Corinthians 6 we are to focus on the thinking, the mind of Christ and in Luke 24:45 when Jesus was explaining the Old Testament to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he said that he "opened up their understanding." That means He opened up their mind. How do we comprehend the scripture? It is through the mind.
Whereas the heart is indicated as a place of thinking. For example, in Genesis 6:5, "Then the Lord saw the wickedness of man was great upon the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart." The heart in the Bible is a place of thinking and intellectual activity. Deuteronomy 15:19, "Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart." Psalm 15:2, "He who walks uprightly and works righteousness and speaks the truth in his heart." That has to do with your thinking when you're just thinking to yourself, just quietly inside your mind, inside your heart in the core of your being. Psalm 49:3 says, "My mouth shall speak wisdom and the meditation of my heart shall give understanding." So we see that meditation here in this verse preceded comprehension or understanding.
Now remember that because when we come back to talking about the components of faith, one of the components is understanding. It seems to me that you can't believe something you can't understand. Just because it makes sense to you, just because the pastor has said it and you think he's always right, doesn't mean we understand it. We've all been there in the process of our Christian life and we hear things and we just sort of take it that we don't understand it at all but he said it so it must be true. What we see here in the scripture is the distinction between understanding something and just knowing it or having heard it and generally agree. I don't think we can believe something we don't understand. That doesn't mean we understand it comprehensively but we have to understand what something means and what is intended or communicated by a sentence.
I've asked people at times in Bible class what something means. They say they don't know so I ask if they believe it. They say yes and I don't know how they can believe something they don't know. You can't tell me what it means. You need to be able to put something you believe in your own words. It gives you a sense that you truly understand what you claim to believe. The last verse I want to call your attention to is Acts 8:22 states, "Repent therefore of your wickedness and pray God that perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you." Once again this is talking about the heart being the location of thinking. Here's another passage from the Old Testament where we see a synonymous parallelism, "Thus my heart was grieved and I was vexed in my mind." Heart and mind here are juxtaposed here as synonyms. In many places, if not most places, in the Old Testament heart means the location of the thinking within the soul. This is very important to understand that.
So in terms of introductory issues we have to address the issue whether there are two kinds of faith. I believe there are two kinds of faith but not the two kinds that you have from lordship salvation; that one is supernatural and one is not. I believe the Bible talks about faith in Christ for salvation and another is faith directed toward God for spiritual growth. It's the faith of the spiritual life after salvation. They both mean the same thing but when we look at a passage we have to understand what is being addressed here. Are we talking about Phase 1 justification faith or are we talking about Phase 2 spiritual life faith? There's no Phase 3 faith because we walk now by faith and not by sight but when we're in Heaven we're going to walk by sight. So in glorification there's not a faith system that works. Faith is only operational in this particular life.
Then we have to recognize that this very popular but misguided distinction between head faith and heart faith just can't be substantiated in the scripture. The verse that people go to to say you've got to have a heart faith is Romans 10:10 where we read, "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness." If you read a meaning into heart that is not Biblical then you will misunderstand this. The heart is the place of intellectual activity. Faith is an intellectual activity so you do believe with the heart but the heart is not referring to emotion. It's not referring to anything other than intellectual activity in the soul.
The second point is that every passage you read in the Bible is either addressing how to have eternal life or how to live on the basis of your possession of eternal life. It's one of two things. One is either telling you how to get justified. The other is telling you how to live now that you are justified. Every passage of scripture is addressing either getting saved or living the Christian or spiritual life after salvation. Those are different kinds of faith in the sense of their object of faith. One's object is the gospel and one has to do with the promises and principles of scripture so they're related to different objects of faith but they're not different kinds of faith in terms of supernatural versus natural, which is what we see from the lordship theologians.
Romans 1:17 says, "For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." It's talking about faith at Phase 1 as we've talked about in the past, that instant when we trust in Christ as Savior to faith that comes after salvation. Then there's a quote from Habakkuk, "The just shall live by faith." So we always have to address a passage by asking what kind of faith this is talking about. Is it related to getting saved or justified or is it related to the spiritual life? In 1 Thessalonians 1:8 it says, "Your faith for God has gone out." This could include the gospel but especially their Christian life because it goes on to talk about the fact they have turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. This is not the gospel message. This is what comes after salvation. This passage is talking primarily about that faith that comes after salvation. The objects of faith after salvation are the promises and principles of God's word, in other words, everything the scripture teaches.
Now faith in the Bible as a noun is referred to as a verbal noun. It describes something of action, something that you do, something you believe. Often the word faith represents the content of knowledge that you believe. It is also related to our spiritual life. As we grow spiritually, we learn what the Word of God teaches. We learn the content of what we believe and that becomes our faith, in other words, what we believe. So in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul is talking about their faith in terms of their advance in their spiritual life, in terms of their understanding of doctrine. So this is the primarily the second kind of faith.
For the third point I want to go back and talk about faith. This is really a huge area of discussion in understanding the gospel in the debate that exists between the free grace versus lordship groups. There have been some developments that have taken place in terminology. The term free grace has come to be a little bit muddy. The term "free grace" was initially emphasized by people who were opposed to lordship salvation. It was a term adopted very strongly by Zane Hodges, a professor at Dallas Seminary. I took 1st year Greek under Prof Hodges when I was at Dallas. In terms of free grace you had GES, the Grace Evangelical Society.
Everybody has some little odd idiosyncrasies to their theology and Prof Hodges certainly had some to his. Some of those idiosyncrasies became blown out of proportion and I don't believe that they were actually scriptural. One of the views that he had was that you really don't have to believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, you don't have to believe in His substitutionary death, you don't even have to know that Jesus died for your sins. All you have to do is believe Jesus can save you in some sort of rough generic sense. This has come to be known pejoratively as the "crossless" gospel, which I think is an accurate term. This has been promoted by the head of the GES, Bob Wilkin and some others within GES, and this led to something of a split about ten years ago, between about 2004 to 2007. A lot of these issues percolated out and caused a split within the so-called free grace movement.
Another thing that happened about that time is that another organization started called the Free Grace Alliance (FGA). It actually started for a different purpose. It wasn't a reaction although I think that when some of these doctrines related to GES became a little more pronounced, then people tended to see FGA as an answer to GES. I was at one of the first meetings, some of the formative meetings of FGA at Pre-Trib. I think this may have been as early as 2003. I remember we were at the Harvey Suites so that would have been a good while ago. The purpose was that GES was seen as primarily an academic association defending the gospel and dealing with issues related to the gospel but this group of men saw the need for another organization that would focus on starting seminaries, Bible colleges, and supporting missionaries.
This was a much broader movement within which the gospel would be clearly taught. It was promoting more than the application in a sense of a free grace theology as opposed to dealing with the academic intricacies of free grace. Unfortunately, in terms of FGA, they have annual meetings and I went to a couple of them and I wasn't at all convinced they were that beneficial. J.B. Hixson who had a full time position with FGA for a while left that organization.
He has a paper out called "Why I'm No Longer Free Grace" and he sort of co-opts from a statement Ronald Reagan made one time early on when asked why he became a Republican. He said, it wasn't because he changed his beliefs. It was because the Democrat Party left him. That's sort of how J.B. saw this. He hasn't changed any of his beliefs in the gospel. It's that these organizations have become associated and known for some unusual, if not aberrant views, of doctrine. He's tired of saying that he believes in free grace and they want to know if he believes in a cross less gospel. Or do you believe that Christians who are failures at the Judgment Seat of Christ go to sort of a thousand year purgatory during the Millennial Kingdom?
Some of these other views have been tightly associated with that. Some people have come along that want to use the term "True Grace". Another group uses the term "Bold Grace". The issue is that it's really grace versus some sort of diluted or perverted definition of grace. Grace means that God does it all. We don't frontload or backload the gospel with works either as something that confirms genuine faith or that is necessary to be in addition to faith. We always have these battles. I think Satan attacks us through vocabulary and it seems now there's a battle over whether free grace is really a good term because it's picked up some connotations because of the way some grace groups have emphasized certain strange doctrines that have become too much associated with their movement.
One of the core issues in understanding grace, going back to the very beginning coming out of the impact of Zane Hodges books which were very thought provoking, is the issue of what is faith. What exactly does faith mean? Faith is a mental activity. We believe in our heart. The heart is the base for intellectual activity. We believe something. When you look at secular literature on the field of epistemology and theology, faith is viewed as a mental activity. It's something that is triggered by volition. You choose to believe something. The reason you choose to believe something is because you have become persuaded that it is true.
Persuasion is an intellectual activity. The Greek verb is a cognate for peitho or the verb form pisteuo which is the Greek word for faith. They're related but they're not synonyms and they're not identical. This is another thing that came out of the GES group is those that were saying persuasion was the same as faith so you don't make a volitional decision to believe something. Now as I've read some of their articles I think we have to nuance what they're saying in light of what they're countering. There seems to be a group within evangelicalism that emphasizes the decision moment in faith. That is you don't know when you made a decision for Jesus then maybe you're not saved. They emphasize that you have to know the moment of decision. Some people have called it decisional theology. They're not really saying that volition is not involved. They're just emphasizing that you should know the moment you made a decision. It got a little bit squirrely. The way they tried to argue it too often came across as if volition wasn't involved.
At every stage, if you are talking to someone and you don't agree with them and they're trying to persuade you of the point they're making, at each point if you were to graph this on a timeline, slow it down at every second, it would mean that at each second you have to decide whether or not you're going to accept whether or not their argument is true. Decisions occur all along the process. Now this may seem that people are butting heads over something, but there was a pastor's conference in Southern California at Chafer Seminary and there was a huge head-butting contest over this. What was happening at that time, over ten years ago, there was already beginning to appear this split between those who believe in free grace and those who didn't.
There were some on the faculty that had fallen completely under the sway of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin and they were arguing for this. I remember Charlie Clough, myself, George Meisinger, and a couple of others and we were working through this. It was not a pleasant scenario. This went on for several years and was one of the factors why Chafer Seminary sort of moved out of Southern California. We ended up going to Albuquerque. This just shows that there are some real divisions and some real squirrely thought in the so-called free grace movement, specifically the GES.
As we look at the concept of faith we say it's a mental activity triggered by volition. We make decisions as to what we're going to accept to be true. It's based on understanding arguments and being convinced of the veracity of something. Therefore, faith is not emotion. It's intellectual. It has to do with understanding and also just in terms of basic syntax and grammar in Acts 16:31 we read, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." The word "believe" there is pisteuo in the Greek. It's an aorist active imperative. Believe is something that is addressed to the volition. Any command in the imperatival mood is addressed to the volition for you to make a decision to do something or not to do something. So faith just in terms of the grammar indicates a mental response to a command.
Something else we have to understand about faith is that faith is always directed toward an object, which can be expressed in a proposition. Let me break that down for you. You believe something. The reason it's expressed as a proposition is that someone says something. A proposition is a technical term in logic for a statement that we would call a declarative sentence. The statement can either be proved to be true or proved to be false. What did you do last night? Is that a proposition? No, because it can't be proved to be true or false. Go to the store. Is that true or false? No, that's a command. It's neither verifiable nor falsifiable. But a proposition is like this: The sky is blue. It rained last night. These are statements that can be proved to be true or false because they're verifiable. There is some sort of evidence to support their veracity on one side or the other.
I've heard lots of people say that they're not believing in a principle, they're believing in a person. That sounds good but it's hogwash. None of us have had a direct encounter with Jesus, I hope. He doesn't appear to people. Paul had a direct encounter with Jesus but the core issue of his faith could be expressed in terms of a proposition which is "Jesus is the Messiah who died on the cross for my sins." Either you believe that is true or you don't believe it's true. This is what John says in John 20:31, "These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." What do we believe? We believe a statement: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins. So it's expressed as a proposition. Belief always focuses on affirming a proposition to be true. It's not a function of emotion. It's a function of reason and we believe with our mind.
Now historically faith has been broken down into three categories, three elements to faith. This is a very traditional way of talking about faith. The Latin terms for these three elements are notitia, which means understanding, assensus, which means to assent or to agree, and fiducia which means believe. The way this is explained historically is that first you understand what the proposition is saying. If you're saying that Jesus died for your sins then you have to understand who Jesus is, what the death involves and you have to understand that He died for you. You have to understand the concept of substitution. Once you comprehend that and it can be at a basic level. It doesn't have to be at an exhaustive level. Then you can agree or disagree. Then you have the second area where you say, "I believe that's true." Or "I don't believe that's true." The third element is fiducia.
What has been argued by a number of people, not only free grace people but in a little book by Gordon Clark called "Faith and Saving Faith" who is a five point Calvinist. He taught philosophy at Butler University. What he shows in that book is that when you assent to something, you believe it's true. You hear people say that faith isn't intellectual assent. They believe it's something more than that and go to Hebrews 2:19, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons do and tremble." These people say, "See the demons just have an intellectual faith. They have a head faith, not a heart faith." Wait a minute. What is it that the demons are believing in verse 19? Are they believing that Jesus died for their sins or anything that is a salvific proposition? No. They're believing that God is one. Is that what you believe in order to be saved? Not at all. From the very beginning what I find in reading theologians and those who assert this is that they don't understand that verse has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with belief in monotheism.
Secondly, their belief is an efficacious belief. How do we know that? Because they tremble. They know it's true so they assent to its truth. Anyway, when we agree that something is true it is intellectual. There's nothing else with which we can believe. There's no other part of our body with which we can believe. We believe with what exists between our ears. That's our brain. That means belief is intellectual so what happens in traditional reform theology is fiducia is used to add something more to make it saving faith. This is an essential problem.
We have to understand that faith is always directed toward a proposition and that proposition is a verbal expression of something that can be true or false. In order to be saved we have to believe the right proposition. The right proposition is not, "I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus died for my sins." Or "I believe that my parents told me that Jesus died for my sins." Or "I believe that my Sunday School teacher told me that Jesus died for my sins." None of those are going to get you anywhere. It's like saying if I were talking about creation versus evolution I might say, "I believe that Darwin teaches that we evolve from monkeys." That doesn't mean I believe that we evolve from monkeys. Those are two radically different statements. Some people who have a wrong faith in Jesus don't really believe it for themselves. They believe something someone else says. They have never said, "I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins." There's a difference between saying "I believe Jesus died for my sins." And "I believe the Bible says Jesus died for my sins." Those are not the same thing. So we have to understand what the correct proposition is and that is that "Jesus died for my sins in my place and paid the penalty."
This takes us to the fifth point that we don't believe directly in a person or come to salvation through a relationship with Jesus. Often you'll hear people express the gospel by saying, "Do you have a relationship with Jesus?" It didn't do much for Judas. He had a great relationship with Jesus, hung out with him for three years or more but it didn't get him anywhere. The issue isn't a relationship with Jesus or have you believed in the person of Jesus versus the proposition that you either believe Jesus died for your sins or not. The conclusion of this is that faith must be rational and not irrational. We must be able to describe the content of faith rationally and logically and therefore be able to discuss it.
Point six, faith is an activity of the mentality of the soul which is directed first and foremost to something which is expressed as a proposition. Now we get into point seven, which is what brings faith merit. Faith has no merit in itself. It's not the kind of faith that I have. It's what I'm believing in. All the merit lies in the object of faith. If I believe that I have a thousand dollars in my checking account and I'm wrong and I only have a dollar in my checking account, I'm in trouble. I'm going to bounce some checks because I have agreed to the wrong thing. I have affirmed the wrong proposition. I have believed the wrong thing. Therefore, it's what we believe, not the kind of faith that we have.
Eighth, just as a reminder, faith as an intellectual activity excludes emotion. Emotion is not compatible with faith. Faith is related to belief in something so it involves understanding and then as we understand it, we believe it. This takes us back to the basics that there are four different ways we know something. They're all related to knowledge. They're not faith versus something. Some people were taught that faith was in contrast to reason and empiricism but that's not true.
Rationalism is basically a system where you start with innate ideas in your mind and argue to conclusions deductibly but ultimately it's a faith in human intellectual ability. The method is an independent use of logic and reason. Empiricism is based on sense perception and accurately interpreting our sense perception but it means we believe we can accurately interpret our sense perception. Rationalism is ultimately grounded on faith and first principles. Empiricism is ultimately grounded on faith in our sense perception and our ability to interpret it so both of those operate on faith. Mysticism also operates on faith. It's a faith in my feelings, my intuition, my sense that something is true is accurate. Mysticism is rationalism gone to seed. It's not based on logic. It's based on non-logical, non-rational, non-verifiable content. Then in contrast to that is not faith but it's revelation. We believe what God said. We believe the Bible to be true. It's not in contrast to logic or reason but uses logic and reason in a dependent way in relation to revelation.
Then we have the ninth point that faith is not something we do but it's the channel by which we appropriate what God has done for us. Therefore, the merit isn't in the faith, it's in the object of the faith. We're not saved by grace because we have the right kind of faith. We're saved by grace through faith. It's a different syntactical construction in the Greek.
In conclusion, we see faith is divided into two types in the Scripture: salvation faith and spiritual life faith or what we call the faith-rest drill. Just to give you a little bit of a test to see how some of this is wrongly applied in Christianity we have the hymn, "I Know Whom I Have Believed". The first verse is great, "I know not why God's wondrous grace to me He hath made known, Nor why unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own." Then the refrain comes out of 1 Timothy 1, I believe, "I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that Day." Great statement on eternal security. Then the second verse says, "I know not how this saving faith to me He did impart." See this shows the view of the writers that it's a different kind of faith. It's a faith that's imparted to me from God. It is not faith that is directed toward the correct object. So the second verse misidentifies the nature of faith and buys into the idea that there is a separate kind of faith. I'm going to stop here and next time we'll come back and look at 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 and wrap that up.