09 Fruit of the Spirit: Faith - Bible Study | WednesdayintheWord.com

Faith as a fruit of the Spirit is not a feeling or belief, but a transformative worldview based on four core convictions.

Key Points

  • Faith is not positive thinking, confidence in yourself or believing without reason.
  • Saving faith consists of four core convictions which you must believe to be saved.
  • Faith is a life-long journey to stand firm in the gospel.
  • Word: Strong’s G4102.
  • Passages: Ephesians 6:10-17; 1Thessalonians 5:1-11; Philippians 1:23-26; 1Thessalonians 3:1-3.

Next: Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Previous: Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Series: Fruit of the Spirit

Faith as a fruit of the Spirit

In this series, we are searching for an understanding of the ideas on the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Today, we’ll be talking about faith. We are exploring Scripture to see what Scripture says about these concepts and, therefore, what Paul was thinking when he wrote the list.

I have been arguing that the items on this list are not feelings. Rather, they result from a profound shift in worldview. As the Spirit of God teaches us truth, our perspective changes and that new perspective changes how we act, respond, and treat each other.

We find this list in Paul’s the letter to the Galatians. Let me briefly remind you of the context. Paul spends most of the letter refuting the teaching of the Judaizers and arguing that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

In Galatians 5, he argues that freedom from the law does not mean that we are free to pursue sin. He argues that keeping the law produces a fake moral transformation. We are only changing our external behavior, not who we are inside.

However, once we have faith in Christ, God gives us His spirit. His spirit teaches us truth and changes us from the inside out, which produces the qualities on this list.

Faith or Faithfulness

Today we’re looking at faith. Both the English Standard Version of the Bible and the New American Standard Bible translate this word as ‘faithfulness.’ The Greek word is the normal word for ‘faith.’ While it can be translated faithfulness, the vast majority of times Paul uses this word, he’s talking about faith. Especially when he’s talking about something that’s true of believers.

I would translate this faith, but assume we should think of this as the quality of faithfulness. What would that mean? Paul could mean reliable. When we describe someone as having faithfulness, we typically mean they are dependable and trustworthy. Faithful people do what they say they will do something. But nothing in the context or the way Paul uses this word suggests he has reliability in mind.

Faithfulness can also mean steadfast, loyal, or persevering. The faithful hold on until the end. While perseverance seems more likely in context, what are we being faithful to? Faith. We persevere in the faith, so we might as well translate it faith.

Faith is not believing in yourself

Let’s start by talking about what faith is not. Even famous athletes, journalists, actors and people who laugh at the gospel sometimes extol the virtue of having faith. But to them, faith often means believing in yourself.

Believing in yourself is a central theme in many Hollywood movies. We’re repeatedly told if you believe good things will come your way, they will. You only need to believe you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to, and you will do it. Believe that some higher power (whoever it is) is looking out for you and you’ll be fine.

Faith is not belief without reason

Sometimes we’re even told it doesn’t matter if what we believe is true. What matters is how sincerely we believe it. Believing in something in and of itself is the virtue, regardless of whether our belief is true.

The Bible repeatedly tells us not to believe lies. There is no virtue in believing something we have no reason to believe. Believing something without reason is foolishness, not faith. The Bible never encourages us to the kind of positive thinking that says: ‘Good things will come my way if I just keep a good attitude.’ That is not faith

Faith is not only a one-time event

In the church, we sometimes think of faith as the act of belief at the moment of conversion. In this view, having faith is like throwing a switch. We used to reject the gospel. But at a certain point in time, we flipped the switch. Now we believe the gospel is true. Faith is a settled issue. Now, we concern ourselves with how to improve as disciples of Christ.

The Bible does not present faith as a done deal. While there is a moment of conversion, saving faith is more complex.

Faith is not accessing spiritual power

Before I explain that, I want to look at a third view of faith, which is a variation on this idea that faith is a done deal. This view says the issue of having faith is settled at conversion, but now you’ve got to deal with daily life. Under this view, we can only lay hold of God’s blessings if we believe enough.

You may have heard the term carnal Christians. Under this view, the carnal Christians will be saved because they threw the switch. But they will not be sanctified, because they have not learned to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit. “Spiritual Christians” enjoy God’s blessings because they believe enough. This view teach if you believe something sincerely enough, you’ll get it. If you don’t get it, it’s because you don’t have enough faith.

I would argue that is not a biblical picture either. The Bible does not teach God only blesses us in this life only if we have enough faith. Paul is not talking about sincerely believing what we want to be true without any reason to believe it. He’s not talking about flipping a switch once to get to heaven. And, he’s not talking about appropriating God’s blessings today because I believe hard enough.

Saving Faith has 4 core convictions

The Bible teaches that faith is a set of beliefs which transforms the way we see the world and therefore changes how we live. To have faith is to believe the gospel and to live in light of those truths. Faith is believing what God has said is true.

While we could go into great detail everything we believe is true, I summarize saving faith into four core convictions. By saving faith, I mean the essential truth that you must embrace to be saved forgiven by God and to enter heaven. The clearest teaching of these four convictions is found in the Beatitudes, which are in the Sermon and the Mount in Matthew’s gospel. I’m just going to give you an overview here.

I would summarize that teaching into four core convictions. These are the things we must hold to be true to be considered to have saving faith.

Conviction #1: We are sinners.

The Bible teaches every human being is a sinner. We all start out rejecting and disobeying God. We typically think of sin as breaking one of God’s rules, and that is a sin. But sin also includes failing to do what is right. We can sin against someone both by mistreating them and by failing to act for their benefit. Further, the Bible teaches that sin is a state of being that rejects God and races towards selfishness.

Believers recognize sin for what it is and long to be freed from it. We long to be made holy or morally beautiful in the way God is good. The first conviction of saving faith is a genuine desire for holiness. We long for the day when God will make us holy and free us from sin, selfishness and all forms of death.

Conviction #2: We cannot save ourselves.

We recognize we can do nothing to solve our problem with sin. We are slaves to sin and we cannot free ourselves. Resolving to stop sinning changes nothing because the thing inside us that makes us choose good or evil, selfishness or sacrifice, is broken. We will always choose sin, evil, and selfishness. Trying harder, acting religious, seeking to be obedient will not free us from sin. We are trapped, and we need a Savior.

Conviction #3: God is not required to save us

We are guilty and deserve punishment. God is not obligated to save us. God is not required save or forgive us because of anything we’ve done or who we are. No amount of obedience will earn God’s favor. There’s no divine spark in a corner of our being that requires God to save us. His saving anyone is purely an act of grace and mercy.

Conviction #4: God will save us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We have a firm trust that God will forgive us, make us holy and grant us eternal life in heaven, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. His death removes our guilt and reconciles us to God.

One day, God will send His Messiah back to bring both judgment and mercy. On that day, God will conquer sin and death. He will establish His righteous rule over all creation through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God will save those who have trusted in the forgiveness secured by the cross.

Faith changes your life

But we need to do more than make a claim to faith. This has to be more than how we would vote on a theological test. Genuine saving faith necessarily changes our lives. Every day, we face situations that force us to choose between what God says is right and what the world says is right. If we consistently reject what God says is true, then our claim to faith is in doubt. Eventually, we need to repent and seek to follow God.

The moment of conversion begins a lifelong journey of living what we now believe is true. Faith weaves itself into the fabric of our worldview, so that we see the world the way God sees it and we act on that belief. Saving faith itself is a gift of God. Once He gives it, He does not take it away. But I’m not going to explain that today.

For our purposes in understanding faith as a fruit of the Spirit, I want to focus on this aspect of faith as a lifelong journey. The Christian life today is about working on our faith because every day confronts us with choices over how and whether to live like the gospel is true. Our primary goal in this life is to stand firm in the faith and grow in faith. Let’s look at a few passages that make this point.

Ephesians 6:10-17

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  – Ephesians 6:10-17

I think people misunderstand this passage because they think that faith is a settled issue. If we’re putting on armor and battling spiritual forces, then we need to find a worthy battle. We need to end poverty or crime in our city, establish racial reconciliation or solve the problems of the homeless. The battle must accomplish some grand new plan that changes the world.

Don’t misunderstand me. All those causes are worthy battles to fight. Christians should bring the light of the gospel to bear on them. The problem with that perspective is it ignores what Paul actually says repeatedly in this passage. The battle is to stand firm (Eph 6:10; Eph 6:11; Eph 6:13).

By standing firm, he means persevering in the faith. To stand firm is to not be pushed aside or knocked off the path. We will not be moved. We will hold to the promises of the gospel and not deviate. Even if all the forces of darkness line up against us, we will not be moved.

We are in a battle with the powers of evil for our souls. Satan hits us with lies, temptation, and deception to draw us away from the truth. We can’t ignore or escape this battle.

Paul is not saying, ‘now that the question of heaven is settled, let’s go kick Satan in the shins and win a few victories in the marketplace.’ The battle is over your soul. Will you persevere in the faith? The way we stand firm is to put on the armor of God. That metaphor is just a different way of describing what it means to live as a believer in this life. What’s important is what the armor represents.

Paul’s concern in Ephesians 6 is not claw back a piece of the kingdom for Christ. Paul’s concern is the battle for your eternal soul. Remember the salvation you’ve been promised. Seek after God’s kingdom and fix your hope on the gospel.

It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. It’s easy to get distracted and forget the real battle. Instead we start thinking, ‘my real problem is whether or not I get a new job. Or I save enough money or I improve my health. Or I win all the family squabbles with my siblings.’ We all get distracted by our circumstances. We get emotionally overwhelmed by the problems in this life. Then we forget there is a bigger battle going on.

1Thessalonians 5:1-11

1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  -1Thessalonians 5:1-11

Paul is talking about the return of Christ and he borrows language Jesus used to describe his return. What characterizes a thief? You don’t know he’s coming. You go to bed thinking tomorrow will be a day just like yesterday. But the thief comes in the middle of the night and steals everything of value. But you were asleep, you didn’t see it coming. Thieves count on the element of surprise. They show up when you least expect them.

To non-believers, the return of Christ will be like a thief in the night. They’ll go to bed thinking tomorrow is just another day, but then everything will change. But for believers, the return of Christ does not come like a thief in the night.

The difference is we know Jesus is coming, so we are prepared. We know Jesus is coming as a judge, so we have taken steps to secure his mercy. When he comes, we have already confessed and received a pardon. He’s not coming like a thief in the night to believers.

Once again, Paul uses this image of armor. Why are we not asleep? We are awake. We are ready. We are alert with our armor on. And what is that armor? It’s the hope of salvation. We have faith and we are standing firm in it.

Philippians 1:23-26

Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from jail. At this point, he does not know whether he will be released from prison or be executed. But he thinks he’s going to be released and we know from history he was, in fact, released.

23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:23-26

Paul says, if he is executed he will be with Jesus, But, he’s not executed, then he can keep preaching the gospel. But he expects to be released because God still has a job for him to do.

What is that job? Paul describes his job as continually reminding them what they believe so that their faith might progress, so that they might gain more understanding, more joy. He thinks it would be better for the Philippians if he stayed around a bit longer. He sees his continued existence as an opportunity to encourage and help the Philippians mature in the faith. For their sake, he wants to teach them more truth so their faith might progress.

1Thessalonians 3:1-3

Paul speaks in the third person plural here, but he means himself or the first person. I’ve talked about Paul’s peculiar pronoun use and other podcasts.

1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. – 1Thessalonains 3:1-3

Paul describes Timothy as doing the same job he described himself as doing in Philippians. Timothy’s job was to establish and exhort them in their faith. Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to remind them what faith is all about, to strengthen that faith, to encourage them based on what they believe to be true.

Again, this shows that faith is a journey we start at conversion. It is something we are to persevere in. It’s not a switch that we can throw and then forget about. The goal of this life is to mature and stand firm in the faith.

Like all the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, faith grows and matures in us over time, and the Spirit of God brings that about.

Even as Paul describes faith as a fruit of the Spirit, he also calls the Galatians to pursue it. God knows He’s going to get us across the finish line. But from our perspective, we need to hang on tightly and stand firm.

The struggle in this life is to firmly believe the gospel and then live like it. But the further good news is that we have an ally who makes sure we succeed. God has graciously given us His spirit. His spirit is teaching us what’s true, and His Spirit will not fail us.

The only place to find stability, peace, and calm in the storm is to stand on the rock of the gospel and believe that it is true. That’s why faith deserves to be on this list of the fruit of the Spirit. It is a profoundly significant fruit that the Spirit is producing in us. He takes rebels, mockers and scoffers like us and teaches us the gospel is true. Then each day he teaches us to stand firm on that truth and let it change the way we live our daily lives.

Copyright © 2024 · Krisan Marotta, WednesdayintheWord

Photo by Bill Williams on Unsplash

Season 24, episode 09

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