Lesson #1 - What is Faith?

Bible student

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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Thank you for your decision to consider the reasons to believe in God, the Bible, and Jesus. Please read each lesson and take the time to look up and read the Scriptures that are mentioned (unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are quoted from the New American Standard Version). Then answer the questions at the end of the lesson, and submit the lesson to us for grading. We will grade the lesson and email you the results.

If at any point in the course, you have any comments, questions, or disagreements, please enter them in the comments box at the end of each lesson. We will do our best to give you a Biblical response. The course is completely based on the Bible and not on any human creed. We are simply Christians seeking to explain why we are Christians and why you should be a Christian, too.

The goal of this first lesson is to explain the meaning of “faith” and to show that true faith must be based on evidence. We ask, “How does a person come to accept anything as true?” There are three ways:

  1. By direct proof. We accept some things to be true because we have experienced them ourselves through our five senses. We have seen, touched, smelled, tasted, or heard them. These are the things that we know. We know the sky is blue, that ice is cold, that garbage stinks, that lemons are sour, and that sirens are loud.
  2. By indirect proof. We accept many things to be true that we have never experienced with our senses. For example, we accept that Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States during the Civil War. How do we know that Abraham Lincoln is a real person and not a fictional one? How do we know that he was President? How do we know that there was a Civil War?
    We don’t truly know these things, but we believe them. “Faith” is reasonable trust or confidence that is based on evidence. No one living today saw Lincoln or witnessed the Civil War. Yet the evidence provided by photographs, letters, newspapers, and books makes these things easy to believe.
  3. Without any proof. Some people are gullible; perhaps even we ourselves have been gullible at times. We are gullible if we accept things to be true even if they are unreasonable and there is no proof of their truthfulness. Many schemes prey on people’s gullibility, saying things like “Take our pill, then eat all you want, don’t exercise, and lose weight while you sleep”.

Let’s put all three ways we can come to accept something as true into one illustration- the way that a jury in a criminal court is designed to operate. A jury, if properly chosen, has no knowledge of the crime or the alleged perpetrator. They will not make a judgment of the guilt or innocence of an individual based on knowledge (that is, from direct, firsthand information). And juries should not be gullible. They should not base their decision on something like a person’s looks- “He looks like an outlaw” or “She looks too sweet and innocent to ever have …”. How then, are juries supposed to make judgments of guilt or innocence? That’s right… by faith! They must examine all the evidence, and based on the evidence, reach their conclusion.

“Faith” then is not just a “religious” concept. It is something we use every day outside of spiritual matters.

When it comes to “faith” in the spiritual realm, even many religious people think that it is the same as gullibility- that before going into church you have to “check your brain in at the door.” Once I saw this message on a church sign, “Faith closes its eyes to reason.” But “faith” is not blind acceptance. “Faith” in spiritual matters is the same as it is outside of matters of religion. It is trust that comes from the mind considering indirect evidence and reaching a reasonable conclusion.

The questions that this course seeks to answer: “Is there a God?” “Is God the author of the Bible?”, and “Is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God?” cannot be answered by knowledge. We can’t see God. We didn’t see Him write the Bible. And, we can’t see if Jesus is on a throne in heaven. However, this does not mean that these things must be gullibly accepted, if they are accepted at all.

Rather as photos, letters, newspapers, and books, could be laid in front of someone to convince them of Lincoln’s existence and greatness, evidence will be laid before you in this course to convince you of God’s existence and greatness- and that He wrote the Bible and that Jesus is His Son.

Christianity is a religion based on faith. Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight”. (2 Cor 5:7) But the Scriptures teach that “faith” is based on evidence- “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1, KJV). Christians are told to prepare themselves to give a defense of the gospel to everyone who asks them why they have the hope that they do- “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Pet 3:15).

Paul’s teaching in the city of Thessalonica is an excellent example of how people were brought to faith. Paul “for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded…” (Acts 17:1-4) To convert people to Jesus, Paul made an appeal to their mind- to their reason. He explained. He presented evidence. He persuaded people to follow Jesus because of this evidence.

In the N.T., converts to Jesus were never made by encouraging people to:

  1. Pray for a warm feeling in their heart. Emotions prove nothing and may leave us just as quickly as they come.
  2. Wait on an experience from God. God, not man, is waiting. He is waiting for men to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). He draws men to Him, not by sending them some mysterious and overwhelming experience, but by the teaching of His Word. Men hear, they learn, and then they come (Jn 6:44-45).
  3. Accept Jesus because of the personal testimony of what He had done in the lives of believers- healed them of their sickness, given them a job, made them rich, etc. No testimonies like this are found in the N.T. What so many promise today, God did not promise. God never promised that if you become a Christian, then all of your problems will clear up and you will be financially blessed. God actually uses the trials of His people to make them more spiritually mature (Js 1:2-4).

Conclusion

If you are not a convert to Jesus, we hope that by the end of this course you will be persuaded by the evidence to believe in Him.

If you are already a Christian, as you study, make sure that you have not just gullibly accepted Jesus. If necessary, replace your shallow basis of faith, with a solid foundation built on evidence. May you be strengthened to live faithfully to Jesus daily, better prepared to give an answer for the hope you have within you.

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Questions for Lesson #1
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True or False?
Faith is not blind acceptance.
True
False
Faith is knowing something is true only if you can experience it with your five senses.
True
False
Faith is only a religious concept.
True
False
Faith is a conclusion reached without evidence.
True
False
In court, people should be found guilty or innocent based on faith.
True
False
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
True
False
Christianity is a religion that can be defended with logical arguments.
True
False
If a person has a good warm feeling about God, the Bible, and Jesus, then this enough evidence to go on to become a Christian.
True
False
God has done His part in salvation and is waiting for man to respond.
True
False
If one becomes a Christian, he will never have trials again.
True
False
Multiple Choice
Which of the following require faith?
taking medication from a pharmacist
taking your car to a mechanic for repairs
accepting that a country exists that you have never been to
accepting what history books say about famous people who lived before your lifetime
all of the above
none of the above
Faith is:
blind acceptance
gullibility
direct knowledge
absolute proof
reasonable confidence
an irrational leap
Faith is:
sight
based on evidence
the foundation of hope
a religious tradition
b and c
a and d
Converts to Jesus are made today by:
stirring people’s emotions
performing miracles
giving personal testimonies
hearing the Word of God
all of the above
none of the above
Short Answer
Give a non-religious example of something in everyday life (not mentioned in this lesson) where a person must accept something by faith (trust) rather than knowledge.
Comments
Do you have any comments, questions, or disagreements with this lesson?
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