What is faith?

“I do believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1 is not a definition of faith, rather, in context, it is communicating what happens when we have faith and confidence in God – when we have real trust and faith in God and Christ, the results are assurance, hope, and a stability of conviction about truth. see the immediate context before 11:1 in 10:36-39 and really all the way back to Hebrews 1:1-3 must be taken into account. Hebrews 10:38 has a quote from Habakkuk 2:4, which is also quoted in Romans 1:17 – “the righteous man will live by faith” – which inspired Luther to understand the doctrine of “Sola Fide”. “We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone” (Galatians, Romans, John, Acts, 1 Peter, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:9, etc.) (But true faith does not stay alone. James 2:14-26; Ephesians 2:10) The writer of Hebrews expects us to have read Hebrews 1:1 – 10:39 first, in order to understand 11:1. Faith is not a substance or thing. Trusting in God and Christ, includes faith in who God is as Creator and faith in Christ and who He is – Hebrews 1:1-3; 6; 8, 10-12 – those verses all point to the Deity of Christ. True faith includes trust in what Christ did on the cross – Hebrews 10:10-14, Romans 3:24-26; and His resurrection – Hebrews 13:20-21. and ascension – Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 12:1-2)

But even after we trust in Christ and are converted, there are times of struggling against doubt and unbelief, as that father in Mark 9:24.

Faith in God and Christ is not “a thing”, rather it is a verb – of trusting in someone as a person; trusting in God as a person; and Christ has revealed who God is for us. (John 1:18; John 14:9) Here is a great quote from Matt Slick:

“Faith does not save you.  Got that?  FAITH DOES NOT SAVE YOU!   Faith is not a substance that you put in a jar or detect with a meter.  Faith isn’t a cream you apply to protect you from something.  Faith is belief, trust, etc.  The key to understanding faith lies not in faith itself but in the OBJECT of faith:  God!  Faith is only as good as who you put it in.  Faith in a false god (i.e., Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, etc.) is useless and it doesn’t save you.  But faith in the TRUE God DOES save you.  Do you see?  Faith is only as good as who you put it in.  Faith in the true God results in salvation (Rom. 5:1Eph. 2:8).  Faith in a false god results in damnation.

Finally, faith “works” because of who it is placed in.  It is not a thing that depends upon you for its vitality.  It is not made real by YOU.  It is made real by WHO YOU PLACE IT IN; that is why true faith in the true God is independent of your circumstances.”

Matt Slick, Devotional on Faith – read the entire article at www.carm.org

John Piper talks about the faith as a mustard seed as understanding the mercy of God.


Faith and the mercy of God

Faith, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” (Mere Christianity, p. 140) and to “teach your moods where they get off” (Ibid, p. 141) “Consequently, one must train the habit of faith.” (ibid, p. 141) Lewis goes on to write that is why daily prayers and reading Scripture and church going are so necessary for the Christian life.

Calvin, in commenting on Mark 9:24, wrote:

“As our faith is never perfect . . . it our duty to shake off the remains of infidelity that adhere to us.” (Tabletalk magazine, Ligonier, June 2021, p. 60)

Shake it off! Tell your moods to “get off”. Feed your mind on truth and speak to your moods, emotions, feelings, melancholy, imaginations, etc.

Sometimes Faith in God expresses itself in a prayer, a cry to God for mercy and grace and help, as this beautiful song does, based on Psalm 102:


See also, the late R. C. Sproul on “What is Faith?”

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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