When Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi, a jailer asked “what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” (Acts 16:30-31). In the book of Romans Paul shows how a person is justified by faith. He wrote, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Romans 4:5). We might notice that belief and faith are used interchangeably. They share the same Greek word (pistis) in common, which means trust, faithfulness, fidelity.
Abraham was justified apart from works (Romans 4:1-4). The works to which Paul is referring to are the works of the law, which he adamantly said does not justify (Romans 3:20). The gospel is founded upon belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning death (Romans 3:24-25). It is the law and system of faith which is able to justify a sinner (Romans 3:27). Justification is not accomplished through keeping the works of the law
Understanding the nature of faith is important if we want to know how we may be justified by faith. Faith and belief are an expression of our trust in God—“Abraham believed God…” (Romans 4:3). He did not just believe in God’s existence, but he believed God’s promises (Genesis 15:4-6).
When God first appeared to Abraham and spoke to him, calling him to leave Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham obeyed (Hebrews 11:8). He trusted in God’s word and promises and followed through. Faith has a strong foundation, the word of God—“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17).
By faith Abraham obeyed and we should walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:12). The steps of faith, walking by faith and not by sight is what believers are to do in this life. Having faith is commanded by God and it is doing the work of God (John 6:28-29). Jesus declared to His disciples, “believe in God, believe also in Me,” (John 14:1).
Abraham continues to be an example of what it means to believe God and obey Him. Faith trusts in God and cooperates with His promises (Romans 4:18-20). God promised that Abraham and Sarah would have a son; no other heir would be used. Abraham and Sarah would have a son and they cooperated with God’s promise. When God fulfilled His promises, Abraham glorified God (Romans 4:20).
Faith, belief, and trust is a removal of self-will and self- reliance. Faith and trust is putting our complete confidence in God to save us through His Son Jesus Christ. Our obedience, coming from the heart, is the true expression of faith in God (Romans 10:9-10).
by Sean P. Cavender