The Anatomy of Faith

Does faith have an “anatomy?” you may ask. Doesn’t it just happen? It happens when we understand and accept a certain truth or proposition. But every time we say, “I believe,” that is not to say we have fully embraced that truth or proposition. Evidence of this is given in several places in the New Testament. We began in John 8:28-31 where Jesus was preaching to the Jews during the Feast of Tabernacles. He was speaking to them of His crucifixion and of His deity and we read in John 8:30 “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.”

What was Jesus’ response to this “believing” of the Jews? Did He immediately take them by the hand and say, “Well then, repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved?” No. As a matter of fact it seems that He did quite the opposite,

John 8:31-37 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  32  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  33  They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”  34  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  35  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  36  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  37  “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.

Jesus challenged these “believers” at the point that they professed faith. He began to talk about sin and their need to be freed from its bondage and they did not like the rest of His message and went from believing to being ready to kill Him. Did Jesus blow it with this group of potential converts? Could He have coaxed a profession out of them that would have gotten them saved? Many modern Evangelical Christians might think so. But Jesus knew that there was more to faith than just mental assent or agreeing with the facts. There must be three aspects to saving faith as we see it in the Bible. Historically in Protestant Theology these are known as Notitia, Assensus and Fiducia.

Notitia is the information that needs to be believed. It is our message. We see that the Jews were willing to believe a part of the message, but they were not willing to believe one of the most important parts of it. Believing that Jesus was from God and that He would be “lifted up” or crucified was comfortable enough for them, but being accused of sin when they were so meticulous to keep the Law of Moses was unacceptable to them. Many modern people, though far less scrupulous in their religion are much the same way. The have no problem that Jesus came as God in the flesh or that He died and was raised on the third day, but when it comes to their dire need for this service that He rendered they cannot abide with the idea that they are desperate and hopelessly lost without His atoning sacrifice. So, the message must be complete, that is the responsibility of the one who preaches.

Assensus, that is understanding the truth or proposition and mentally saying, “I understand and agree.” Many stop here and say well, what more can you ask for? But the Bible says that this is not enough. James 2:14 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” James teaches us that a “said faith” is not a saving faith. Faith must motivate us to action. True faith is demonstrated by the life of faith that is lived.

John 2:23-25 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.  24  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,  25  and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

You see, Jesus understood what superficial faith was. People began to believe in Him early on in His ministry but as they “believed” in Him, He did not “commit” Himself to them. “Commit” in verse 24 is the same in the Greek as “believe” in verse 23. The word pistuo is also often translated as “faith.” Even though the people believed in Jesus, at this point He did not believe in them, John 2:25 “and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” They needed to move on to the next level.

Fiducia, that is absolute trust. It is easy to get the sense of this word as it is used in the English language. Fiduciary is used in the banking industry as related to the handling of other people’s money. There is not much more concern than what someone will do with your cash. Trust is the key word here, and so we often see the words Bank and Trust together.  This often falls short as an illustration with the banking industry as it stands, but you understand why that word is used in this situation. It comes down to the question, Can I rest all of my hope upon this thing that I believe?

Titus 3:4-5 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  5  not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

Am I trusting in something that I have done to repair my relationship to God or completely resting in His mercy and grace? Do I think that I need to add my own righteousness to the equation or is His sacrifice and resurrection sufficient for all of my hope? You see, I can believe that Jesus is God and that He died and rose again as the payment for sin, but if I add the slightest bit of me to that equation it is not the kind of faith that saves.

Truly resting in the righteousness of Jesus Christ will indeed provoke me to live differently, this is evidence that my faith is real as James points out in the second chapter of his epistle. But I do not count on those works to satisfy the justice of God in any way.

I encourage you to listen to the message and I pray that as you do you see clearly what faith is and what faith does.

The Anatomy of Faith – John 8:28-31

In Christ!

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