Belief is a mental and, optionally, spiritual
condition of agreeing with a set of "facts,"
regardless of whether those facts correspond
I'd like to concentrate on belief itself.
I do not intend here to define what must be
beleived regarding the Gospel. In addition
(or subtraction, as the case may be), although
I may touch on it in order to draw the
distinction between faith and physical actions,
I will not address the facts or object(s) of
faith. I hope you'll be tolerant that I don't
try to support any of my opinions at this time.
Rather than trying to argue my ideas, I will
merely try to define them.
As is pointed out in James 2:19,
Thou believest that there
is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe,
They give an intellectual assent to whom God is,
for they can "see" it for themselves. Yet
they rebel against things as they are and
seek to change the order of authority and
thereby their destiny. This is because they
reject a crucial fact: that God's authority
and their destinies are as they should be.
This crucial fact being rejected, therefore,
they have a belief in an incomplete set of fact.
The same incompleteness of beliefs infects
human belief, too. Though one may give
intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel,
if his pride prevents him from consenting
to some portion of it, then his belief does
not reach such a depth that it directs his
"will" and, indirectly through his will, his
actions. He has, as they say, missed
heaven by 18 inches -- the distance from
his head to his heart.
There are at least three major ways that
belief in the gospel can be incomplete.
The first way, already alluded to, amounts
to the lack of a complete set of the
fundamental facts (i.e., the minimum set of
facts which must be grasped in order to
gain a saving faith in Christ.
One can fail to accept the positive side of
the gospel (who God is, what He has done
for and promises to us), or one can fail to
grasp the negative side of the gospel (our
need for that which God has done for us).
The first error leads to wrong remedies,
but the second leaves one without motive
to accept the right remedy.
A common variation on factual incompleteness
is the acceptance of additional
"facts" which corrupt or nullify the basic
set of facts. I call this a form of
incompleteness because those who make errors
of this sort fail to grasp that the basic
set is complete and adequate and that the
additional "facts" are, indeed, erroneous.
The second way regards the degree of one's
intellectual belief. One asks, "How
certain am I of these things?"
Does one confidently state to himself,
"This is true," or does one require
having been there to see it for himself so
that no doubts would remain?
As one develops a mental belief that the
gospel is probable (not even necessarily
that it is certain), God may be gracious
to give him a depth of belief which is
spiritual. That is, one can bridge the gap
between uncertainty and certainty and
make a commitment of the will to act
as though those facts were certain.
This leap of faith, the acceptance of
facts not yet proven to be certain, runs
counter to the tendencies of our
fallen nature and is a gift of God.
Those who need encounters with the
supernatural such as tongues, miracles,
or visions, in order to "believe" have a
sight-based belief. Such belief, not
having the depth of faith, is incomplete
and subject to erosion in the absence of
continued reinforcement. When one has
"saving faith," supernatural proofs are
The third way that belief can be incomplete
occurs when one fails to redirect one's
will to correlate one's actions to one's
alleged beliefs. When this redirection
of the will occurs, one's actions will
follow. The actions are not part of the
belief; they are the resulting evidence
of that belief. The actions may be immediate
or delayed, obvious or too subtle to notice;
but if the belief is sufficiently complete
to be correctly called "saving faith,"
then either appropriate actions will
eventually manifest it, or the errant
believer will be disciplined by a Loving
God for his errant behavior.
There is a crucial distinction to be made
regarding faith and its resultant actions
(or the lack of either, as the case may be).
God sees the heart. He does not need to
wait for the actions which follow "saving
faith." We, on the other hand, do not see
the heart; we cannot see that faith is there
until the actions follow. Therefore, to be
justified before God -- or, more correctly,
to be justified by God -- all that
He requires is a complete faith (which will,
of course, result in corresponding actions);
whereas to be justified before oneself and
before others, one needs to wait for the
There is a danger to the human side of
the above statement. One can have a
counterfeit faith and act as though their
faith were genuine. The result is to fool
oneself and others into thinking that the
faith was "saving." The greatest danger
when such happens is that one has a false
sense of salvation and will therefore resist
coming to a complete belief.
On the other hand, one may not produce
the precise actions which are expected,
such that others will not accept him into
fellowship. Such is a sad situation, since
God has a unique set of priorities for each
of us. The greater danger, however, is
that people not having confidence in their
salvation needlessly fall into lives of
self-doubt, constantly seeking to earn
that which is already possessed and
unable to completely experience the
blessings of heavenly citizenship.
Faith is like sitting. For a chair to do me
any good, I must first assent to the chair's
ability to hold me up and consent to the
fact of my need to rest. I must then choose
to trust that chair despite any doubts I may
harbor. Finally, I must decide to sit in the
chair. At this point, my belief is complete,
"sitting faith." I may not be able to actually
sit on the chair yet, but the intent of my
heart is clear to God. The physical action
of placing my weight on the chair is an
outgrowth of my belief in "the gospel of the
chair" and not to be confused with the belief
itself. The limitation of this analogy is that
God is spiritual, not physical; and placing
the weight of one's sin upon God is a mental
and spiritual, rather than physical, act.
Belief, or "saving faith," is not only an
assent to the complete facts of the gospel,
but is also a consent to those facts; and it
has a depth which results in one's actions
being directed accordingly. Although
saving faith results in actions, it is not to
be confused with the actions themselves;
and although actions are evidence of faith,
we must use caution in judging faith on
the basis of such counterfeitable evidence.
[P.S., WRT Acts 19:2-9, the disciples of John
had an incomplete and inadequate set of facts.
Namely, they did not know that the One
toward Whom John was directing their faith
was Jesus. Also, the brevity of the passage
might mislead some into mistakenly thinking
that all the men needed to learn was the name,
Jesus, and not also of His redemptive death
and resurrection. It is unlikely that the
complete dialog is recorded. It would be
presumptuous to think that the men did not
state their belief, that Paul baptized them
while saying "in the name of the Lord Jesus"
and nothing else, or even that those words
("in the name of the Lord Jesus")
constituted Paul's pronouncement during
the baptism. I infer, then, that Paul
preached to them more about Jesus than
His mere name.