Frequently we hear the term faith used but seldom do we hear it defined. In news reports and in popular culture, for example, we frequently find references to “people of faith” or bumper stickers telling us to “have faith,” but the object of faith is not given. Apparently, we are supposed to think that trust in something—in anything—is the key to success and even salvation.
Scripture rejects this assumption, explaining that the worth of one’s faith is determined by the object of that faith. There is no point to trusting in “worthless idols” and not in the one true God, the Lord of Israel, who made heaven and earth (1 Chron. 16:26). True, biblical faith is not a mere mental assent to the truth of a proposition, although that is part of it. Biblical faith is the actual entrusting of oneself to the one true God for one’s salvation.
Today’s passage helps us understand this. In Hebrews 11:5, the author told us that Enoch pleased God by faith, and in verse 6 he explains that pleasing God is impossible without faith. He then gives us a further definition of faith, which expands on his earlier point that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (v. 1). Faith, he says, means believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
Unsurprisingly, belief in God’s existence is necessary to true, biblical faith. Obviously, one must believe that God exists before one can believe in God; otherwise, we are just talking about fairy tales. Yet, believing that God exists is insufficient for biblical faith. Lots of people believe God exists. In fact, all people know that there is a Creator even if they suppress this knowledge in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18–20). It is good and necessary to believe that God exists, but believing that God exists in itself does not please Him.
Belief that God exists must be coupled with belief that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Though he does not explicitly say so, the author of Hebrews clearly understands that we must believe that God rewards those who seek Him through Christ. Here is the element of personal trust that is essential to biblical faith. It is possible for anyone to believe that God exists, but the faith that is pleasing to God is the faith that actually believes that He will respond and bless those who approach Him through Jesus Christ alone. Faith is an act of personal commitment that rests one’s eternal destiny in the hands of the Father through Christ Jesus and receives Christ for salvation.