What is faith?

Faith is a way of knowing things. We gain very little of our knowledge first-hand. Most of what we know, we know through evidence and testimony. Faith is the acceptance of evidence or testimony after being persuaded that it is reliable. By accepting reliable testimony we can know things we did not experience personally.

For example, how do you know that Socrates was a Greek philosopher? You know this by faith. You believe what Plato and others wrote about him, although Socrates himself did not leave any writings. What you know about Socrates is based on faith in testimony.

Faith is defined thus in the Bible: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Through faith one is convinced on the basis of evidence that something is true, even though he has not seen it himself.

Have you heard someone say, “I’ll believe that only when I see it”? This is not reasonable, because if you see something, faith is not required.

But faith is required for most things we know! Actually, for everything that we did not experience ourselves. Faith is a valid way of knowing things.

If you saw the words, “God is good!” formed with sea shells on the beach, what would you conclude? Could anyone make you believe that the waves had accidently washed the shells into such a form? No, you would know that someone had been there who formed the words on the sand.

Faith in God is also based on evidence and testimony. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). A creation proves the existence of its creator. No one could persuade you that a beautiful painting had come into being without a painter!

When we observe the intricate living systems on earth, we come to the reasonable conclusion that Someone made these things: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

John says that Christian faith rests on testimony: “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5:9, 10).

We accept many things by faith in the testimony of men. God’s testimony is greater. There is no excuse for not accepting the truths to which He testifies. If we reject God’s testimony we are calling Him a liar.

There is evidence of God as Creator in the intricate and wonderful things He has made. There is written testimony in the Biblical record of His dealings with man.

Knowledge that God exists because of the evidence in nature and knowledge about God from the Holy Scriptures, is based on faith in evidence and testimony as is most knowledge we possess.

Some say, “You do not know God exists, you just believe He exists.” They are mistaken. I know God exists! My knowledge is based on faith, that is true. But the testimony is reliable and the evidence is conclusive.

Do you know that Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo? Yes, you know this, but not because you participated in the battle, but by faith in written testimony.

In the same way, we know that Jesus rose from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul lists people who saw Jesus after His resurrection. He says: “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Christian faith is based on the testimony of eyewitnesses. Their testimony is recorded in the New Testament.

John testifies: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life - the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us - that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:1-3).

Peter testifies: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

Our faith in Jesus is based on the testimony of people who knew Him, who heard Him teach, and who saw Him after He rose from the dead.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.