Exercise Faith Based on Truth
“Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—HEBREWS 11:6.
1, 2. How was Adam’s faith put to the test, and with what result?
FAITH calls for more than believing that God exists. The first man, Adam, had no doubt about the existence of Jehovah God. God had communicated with Adam, most likely through His Son, the Word. (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17) Yet, Adam lost the prospect of eternal life because he failed to obey Jehovah and exercise faith in him.
2 Adam’s future happiness seemed to be jeopardized when his wife, Eve, disobeyed Jehovah. Why, the very thought of losing her put the first man’s faith to the test! Could God solve this problem in such a way as to ensure Adam’s continued happiness and welfare? By joining Eve in transgression, Adam showed that he apparently did not think so. He attempted to solve the problem his way, rather than earnestly seeking divine guidance. Failing to exercise faith in Jehovah, Adam brought death upon himself and all his offspring.—Romans 5:12.
What Is Faith?
3. How does the Bible’s definition of faith differ from that given by one dictionary?
3 One dictionary defines faith as “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Far from supporting that idea, however, the Bible stresses just the opposite. Faith is based on facts, on realities, on truth. The Scriptures say: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1) A person having faith has a guarantee that everything promised by God is as good as fulfilled. So strong is the convincing proof of unseen realities that faith is said to be equivalent to that evidence.
4. How does one reference work support the Biblical definition of faith?
4 In the New World Translation, the causative form of the Hebrew verb ʼa·manʹ is sometimes rendered “exercise faith.” According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, “at the heart of the meaning of the root is the idea of certainty . . . in contrast with modern concepts of faith as something possible, hopefully true, but not certain.” The same work says: “The derivative ʼāmēn ‘verily’ is carried over into the New Testament in the word amēn which is [the] English word ‘amen.’ Jesus used the word frequently (Mt 5:18, 26, etc.) to stress the certainty of a matter.” The word rendered “faith” in the Christian Greek Scriptures also means belief in something firmly based on fact or truth.
5. How was the Greek word rendered “assured expectation” at Hebrews 11:1 used in ancient business documents, and what significance does this have for Christians?
5 The Greek word (hy·poʹsta·sis) rendered “assured expectation” at Hebrews 11:1 was commonly used in ancient papyrus business documents to convey the idea of something that guarantees future possession. Scholars Moulton and Milligan suggest the rendering: “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for.” (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament) Obviously, if a person possesses the title deed to property, he can have the “assured expectation” that someday his hope to obtain it will be realized.
6. What is the significance of the Greek word rendered “evident demonstration” at Hebrews 11:1?
6 At Hebrews 11:1, the Greek word translated “evident demonstration” (eʹleg·khos) conveys the idea of presenting evidence to demonstrate something, particularly something contrary to what appears to be the case. Positive or concrete evidence makes clear what previously went undiscerned, thereby refuting what only appeared to be the case. So in both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures, faith is by no means “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” On the contrary, faith is based on truth.
Based on Basic Truths
7. How do Paul and David describe those denying God’s existence?
7 The apostle Paul stated a basic truth when he wrote that the Creator’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that [opposers of truth] are inexcusable.” (Romans 1:20) Yes, “the heavens are declaring the glory of God,” and “the earth is full of [his] productions.” (Psalm 19:1; 104:24) But what if a person is unwilling to consider the evidence? The psalmist David said: “The wicked one according to his superciliousness [“arrogant as he is,” The New English Bible] makes no search; all his ideas are: ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 10:4; 14:1) In part, faith is based on the fundamental truth that God exists.
8. Those exercising faith are able to have what assurance and discernment?
8 Jehovah does not simply exist; he is also trustworthy, and we can rely on his promises. He has said: “Surely just as I have figured, so it must occur; and just as I have counseled, that is what will come true.” (Isaiah 14:24; 46:9, 10) These are not meaningless words. There is clear proof that hundreds of prophecies recorded in God’s Word have been fulfilled. With this enlightenment, those exercising faith are also able to discern the ongoing fulfillment of many other Bible prophecies. (Ephesians 1:18) For example, they are seeing the fulfillment of “the sign” of Jesus’ presence, including the accelerated preaching of the established Kingdom, as well as the foretold expansion of true worship. (Matthew 24:3-14; Isaiah 2:2-4; 60:8, 22) They know that soon the nations will cry “Peace and security!” and that shortly thereafter God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3; Revelation 11:18) What a blessing to have faith based on prophetic truths!
A Fruit of Holy Spirit
9. What is the relationship between faith and holy spirit?
9 The truth upon which faith is based is found in the Bible, a product of God’s holy spirit. (2 Samuel 23:2; Zechariah 7:12; Mark 12:36) Logically, then, faith cannot exist apart from the operation of holy spirit. That is why Paul could write: “The fruitage of the spirit [includes] . . . faith.” (Galatians 5:22) But many reject divine truth, contaminating their lives with fleshly desires and viewpoints that grieve God’s spirit. Thus, “faith is not a possession of all people,” for they have no basis upon which to develop it.—2 Thessalonians 3:2; Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 4:30.
10. How did some early servants of Jehovah show that they exercised faith?
10 From among Adam’s descendants, however, some individuals have exercised faith. Hebrews chapter 11 mentions Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel, along with many unnamed servants of Jehovah, who “had witness borne to them through their faith.” Notice what was done “by faith.” It was by faith that Abel “offered God a sacrifice” and Noah “constructed an ark.” By faith Abraham “obeyed in going out into a place he was destined to receive as an inheritance.” And by faith, Moses “left Egypt.”—Hebrews 11:4, 7, 8, 27, 29, 39.
11. What does Acts 5:32 indicate as regards persons obeying God?
11 Obviously, all those servants of Jehovah did more than just believe in God’s existence. Exercising faith, they trusted in him as the One who is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) They did what God’s spirit directed them to do, acting upon the accurate knowledge of truth then available, though it was limited. How different from Adam! He did not act in faith based on truth or in accordance with the direction of holy spirit. God gives his spirit to those only who obey him.—Acts 5:32.
12. (a) In what did Abel have faith, and how did he show this? (b) Despite their faith, what did pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah not receive?
12 Unlike his father, Adam, godly Abel had faith. Apparently from his parents, he learned of the first prophecy ever uttered: “I [Jehovah God] shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) God thus promised to destroy wickedness and restore righteousness. How this promise would be fulfilled, Abel did not know. But his faith that God is the Rewarder of those earnestly seeking Him was strong enough to move him to offer a sacrifice. He had likely given much thought to the prophecy and believed that the shedding of blood would be necessary to fulfill the promise and lift mankind to perfection. Hence, Abel’s animal sacrifice was appropriate. Despite their faith, however, Abel and Jehovah’s other pre-Christian witnesses “did not get the fulfillment of the promise.”—Hebrews 11:39.
13. (a) What did Abraham and David learn about the fulfillment of the promise? (b) Why can it be said that “the truth came to be through Jesus Christ”?
13 Periodically through the centuries, God revealed additional truth about how the promise regarding ‘the seed of the woman’ would be fulfilled. Abraham was told: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18) Later, King David was told that the promised Seed would come through his royal line. In 29 C.E., that Seed appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. (Psalm 89:3, 4; Matthew 1:1; 3:16, 17) In contrast with faithless Adam, “the last Adam,” Jesus Christ, was exemplary in displaying faith. (1 Corinthians 15:45) He lived a life of devoted service to Jehovah and fulfilled the many prophecies foretelling the Messiah. Jesus thus made the truth about the promised Seed clearer and put the things foreshadowed by the Mosaic Law into the realm of reality. (Colossians 2:16, 17) It could therefore be said that “the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.”—John 1:17.
14. How did Paul show the Galatians that faith had taken on new dimensions?
14 Now that the truth had come to be through Jesus Christ, there was an enlarged foundation upon which to base faith in “the promise.” Faith had been made firmer, had taken on new dimensions, as it were. In this regard Paul told fellow anointed Christians: “The Scripture delivered up all things together to the custody of sin, that the promise resulting from faith toward Jesus Christ might be given to those exercising faith. However, before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody, looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed. Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor. You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus.”—Galatians 3:22-26.
15. How only could faith be perfected?
15 The Israelites had exercised faith in God’s dealings with them by means of the Law covenant. But now this faith needed to be augmented. How? By exercising faith in the spirit-anointed Jesus to whom the Law had been designed to lead them. Only in that way could pre-Christian faith be perfected. How essential it was for those early Christians to ‘look intently at Jesus, the Chief Agent and Perfecter of their faith’! (Hebrews 12:2) Indeed, all Christians need to do so.
16. How did holy spirit come in an intensified way, and why?
16 In view of increased knowledge of divine truth and the resulting perfected faith, was holy spirit also due to come in an intensified way? Yes. At Pentecost 33 C.E., God’s spirit, the promised helper of which Jesus had spoken, was poured out upon his disciples. (John 14:26; Acts 2:1-4) Holy spirit was then operative upon them in a completely new way as anointed brothers of Christ. Their faith, a fruit of holy spirit, was strengthened. This equipped them for the huge disciple-making work that lay ahead.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
17. (a) How has truth come and faith been perfected since 1914? (b) What evidence do we have of the holy spirit in action since 1919?
17 Faith arrived when Jesus presented himself as King-Designate over 1,900 years ago. But now that he is a reigning heavenly King, our basis for faith—revealed truth—has grown tremendously, thus perfecting our faith. Likewise, the operation of the holy spirit has been intensified. There was clear evidence of this in 1919, when holy spirit revitalized God’s dedicated servants from a condition of near inactivity. (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Revelation 11:7-12) The foundation was then laid for a spiritual paradise, which has in the ensuing decades become more obvious and more glorious year by year. Could there be any greater proof of God’s holy spirit in operation?
Why Analyze Our Faith?
18. How did the Israelite spies differ from one another as to faith?
18 Shortly after the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, 12 men were dispatched to spy out the land of Canaan. However, ten of them lacked faith, doubting Jehovah’s ability to fulfill his promise to give Israel the land. They were motivated by sight, by physical things. Of the 12, only Joshua and Caleb showed that they walked by faith, not by sight. (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:7.) For exercising faith, they alone among those men survived to enter the Promised Land.—Numbers 13:1-33; 14:35-38.
19. How is the foundation upon which to build faith deeper today than ever before, and yet what should we do?
19 Today, we are standing at the borders of God’s new world of righteousness. If we are to enter it, faith is essential. Happily, the foundation of truth upon which to base that faith has never been deeper. We have the entire Word of God, the example of Jesus Christ and his anointed followers, the support of millions of spiritual brothers and sisters, and the backing of God’s holy spirit in unprecedented measure. Yet, we do well to analyze our faith and take steps to strengthen it while we yet can.
20. What questions would it be appropriate to ask ourselves?
20 ‘Oh, I believe this is the truth,’ you may say. But how strong is your faith? Ask yourself: ‘Is Jehovah’s heavenly Kingdom as real to me as a human government is? Do I recognize and fully support Jehovah’s visible organization and its Governing Body? With eyes of faith, can I see that the nations are now being maneuvered into final position for Armageddon? Does my faith compare favorably with that of the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11?’ —Hebrews 12:1; Revelation 16:14-16.
21. How does faith motivate those who have it, and how are they blessed? (Include comments from box on page 13.)
21 Those possessing faith based on truth are moved to action. Like the acceptable sacrifice offered by Abel, their sacrifices of praise are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15, 16) Like Noah, a preacher of righteousness who obeyed God, they pursue a righteous course as Kingdom preachers. (Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5) Like Abraham, those with faith based on truth obey Jehovah despite inconveniences and even under the most trialsome circumstances. (Hebrews 11:17-19) Like Jehovah’s faithful servants of ancient times, those with faith today are richly blessed and cared for by their loving heavenly Father.—Matthew 6:25-34; 1 Timothy 6:6-10.
22. How can faith be strengthened?
22 If you are a servant of Jehovah but find that your faith is weak in some way, what can you do? Strengthen your faith by diligently studying God’s Word and letting your mouth bubble forth the waters of truth that fill your heart. (Proverbs 18:4) If your faith is not regularly strengthened, it may become weak, inactive, even dead. (1 Timothy 1:19; James 2:20, 26) Be determined that this will never happen to your faith. Beg for Jehovah’s assistance, praying: “Help me out where I need faith!”—Mark 9:24.
What Are Your Answers?
□ What is faith?
□ Why can faith not exist apart from truth and holy spirit?
□ How did Jesus Christ become the Perfecter of our faith?
□ Why should we analyze how strong our faith is?
[Box on page 13]
THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH. . .
□ Speak about Jehovah.—2 Corinthians 4:13.
□ Do works like those of Jesus.—John 14:12.
□ Conquer the world.—1 John 5:5.
□ Have no reason to fear.—Isaiah 28:16.
□ Are in line for everlasting life.—John 3:16.