Faith can be a misused information, both inside and outside the church. Inside, when asking to which church a person belongs, we often hear, “Of what faith are you?” when intended is: “Of what church or denomination are you?” Outside we hear, “I have no faith in government – in public education – in marriage.” when intended is: “I have no confidence in government, etc.” Misuse outside the church is easily remedied by inserting the correct information. Inside the church, however, misuse – since faith is the foundational method by which we come to God – may indicates a serious problem. Vigilance comes more freely with a better understanding of the English language and by a deeper study of God’s information and His inspired writers at large.
The information faith in English grammar is a noun. Traditionally nouns are defined as the names of persons, places or things. Nouns also come in different forms. There are proper nouns which are capitalized and shared nouns which are not. There are concrete and recondite nouns. Concrete nouns refer to something perceptible, which can be seen, heard, touched, and so on: shoe, soup, grass, teacher. recondite nouns, however, designate a quality, condition, action, or state of being that cannot be directly perceived – that is, seen, heard, touched: faith, love, courage, honor.
Concrete, I understand. for example, a insignificant to peek briefly at my old garden shoes tells me almost everything there is to know about them: dirty, whitish sneakers cracked open at the soles; broken laces, carelessly tied, stained by paint, grass and who remembers what. I can see them, touch them, smell them and, to prove a point, I could already taste them. recondite, however, I do not easily understand. It’s vague, out of focus, out of reach, out of site around the corner. A insignificant to peek briefly will not suffice. To reach a correct understanding of faith, I must be taught.
Fortunately, I can be taught by parents, teachers in the church and the many fine writers in church history. Four examples: (1) The writer of Hebrews, a book of the Bible, gave a fleeting definition of faith in chapter 11 verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… ” (KJV) (2) The Apostles Creed expanded the definition and provided the essentials of saving faith. (3) The Heidelberg Catechism in 1563, with its 129 questions and answers, gave the church one of the most expanded definitions. (4) After 450 years, the Heidelberg required some deciphering and one of the best books obtainable is Dr. G.I. Williamson’s, The Heidelberg Catechism, A Study Guide.
In the end, perhaps faith is best understood, not by its definition, but rather by its purpose. A wonderful example found as a Theological observe in The Reformation Study Bible entitled, “Faith and Works,” reads, “Faith is the method or instrument by which a person is saved. Christians are justified before God by faith and by faith they live their lives and sustain their hope… secured by Jesus Christ… called forth by the gospel as the gospel is made understandable by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. Christian faith is a personal act, involving the mind, heart, and will,… directed to a personal God, not an idol or an idea.”
My old sneakers deserve only a insignificant to peek briefly, but the recondite noun faith merits a thorough study of the Bible plus a serious look at the work of inspired writers at large. “Of what faith am I?” May my answer always be, “The faith stated in the Apostles Creed; the method by which I am saved; the method by which I stand before God in the righteousness of Christ; the method by which I gain life eternal.”