As one reads through the first four books of the New Testament, in connection with the earthly life and teaching of Jesus he finds a number of statements about faith. The same is true of the contents of the Book of Acts – a lot is said about this vital theme. Let us highlight some of these matters, understanding that while “faith” is a noun and “believe” is a verb, to say that someone has faith is equivalent to saying that he believes. So, we are searching for faith-believe concepts in this great book about the early history of God’s church.
- “Faith-believe” is used in at least three distinct ways. In Jerusalem, a large number of Jewish priests “were obedient to the faith” (6:7). “The faith” is the “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5) – the system of faith of the gospel. To say that one obeyed “the faith” is the same as saying that he obeyed the gospel (Romans 10:16).
Sometimes faith-believe means one aspect of a person’s personal response to the gospel – he is persuaded by and accepts the message. For instance, in Corinth many “believed and were baptized” (18:8). In that same verse, we read that Crispus “believed on the Lord.” In this latter case, “believe-faith” is used in a third manner – as a synecdoche, where one condition of salvation, faith, is used to stand for all that is required for a lost person to be saved (see the same usage of “believe” in 4:4).
- Faith-believe stands between a lost person and salvation. Faith must be present in one’s heart in order for him to be forgiven. A jailer from Philippi was told that he must believe to be saved (16:30,31), and Cornelius and those who assembled with him were taught that the remission of sins is received by those who believe in Jesus (10:43). Those who refuse to believe stand condemned before the Lord (John 3:18).
- God-pleasing faith involves more than just proclaiming, “I believe.” The apostle Paul asked, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe” (26:27). The man’s believing, however, did not move him to obedience, as he himself said that Paul “almost” persuaded him to become a Christian (26:28). While it is true that people are justified by believing (13:39), it is not true that one is justified by faith only (18:8; 2:36-38). The faith that saves includes trusting God and submitting to His will.
- Faith-believe is produced by hearing the word of God. Faith does not just randomly “spring up out of nowhere.” Those Jews who received the apostles’ message on the day of Pentecost first heard the words of the gospel. More than once they were told to heed or hear the apostles’ words (2:14,22,36,41). In fact, in every instance of conversion that is recorded in the book of Acts, saving faith came about only when people first heard the gospel. Peter looked back on the conversion of Cornelius and observed, “. . . God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (15:7). Note again the aspects of the Corinthians’ conversion: “hearing, believing and were baptized” (18:8). Yes, faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).
- It is by faith that people are sanctified. The Lord commissioned Paul to preach to the Gentiles, saying, “. . . that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (26:18). Sanctified how? “By faith.”
- It is possible for Jesus’ disciples to grow in and demonstrate a mature faith. Stephen was “full of faith” (6:5), as was brother Barnabas (11:24). Paul teamed with Barnabas to exhort disciples “to continue in the faith” (14:22). And, congregations became stronger: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily” (16:5). Today, the church is still blessed to have godly members who are full of faith, who continue in the faith, and are strengthened in the faith. Are you such a person?
- Let us not miss how the word “believer” is used throughout this book. We read about “all who believed” (2:44), “the multitude of all those who believed” (4:32), “believers” who were added to the Lord (5:14), “Jews . . . who have believed” (21:20), and “Gentiles who believe” (21:25). These statements about “believers” or those “who believed” refer to members of the Lord’s church. Those who in the religious realm believe in something, but have not yet obeyed the gospel, are not “believers” in the biblical sense. As we use the word “believer” today, we need to use it in harmony with the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).
The Book of Acts is filled with teaching about faith-believe. Let us learn these lessons well, apply them in our own lives, and teach them.
— Roger D. Campbell