As with the verb to believe, the noun faith[i] regularly refers to the faith exercised at the moment of conversion and regeneration, bringing immediate justification and all the blessings of union with Christ.[ii] As seen with the adjective faithful/believing, Scripture does not draw a sharp distinction in its usage of the noun faith between the faith exercised at the moment of regeneration and the faith continually present in all true Christians—the believer’s continuing entrusting of himself to Christ for justification, sanctification, and eternal life is simply the continuation of the state into which he entered for the first time at the moment of his conversion.[iii] Thus, all God’s people continually trust in Christ alone for their salvation;[iv] even those in a state of severe backsliding are preserved from the loss of faith by the intercession of their High Priest (Luke 22:31-34). Those who receive spiritual and eternal life at the moment of their justification by faith never have their faith or spiritual life entirely eliminated. Consequently, in all the saints their union with Christ by faith produces visible results, so that their faith is never isolated from spiritual graces and never without works.[v] Saving faith always results in justification, but not justification only, but also sanctification and its endpoint, glorification, for the exercise of saving faith always results in the “obedience of faith.”[vi]
The specific object of faith is Christ the Mediator, and through Him the Triune God,[vii] to whom one comes with an assured confidence[viii] in His ability and willingness to save, without any additional human requirements of works (Romans 3:27-28), in accordance with His promise, but it also encompasses the entire revelation and body of truth contained in the Word of God, which is “the faith.”[ix] “The faith in Christ”[x] includes, in addition to the direct act of faith in the Person of the Redeemer, the recognition of other Scriptural truths such as “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come” (Acts 24:24). “The faith” includes the gospel (Philippians 1:27), all that Paul preached (Galatians 1:23), and all the propositional and practical affirmations of Christianity (Ephesians 4:5), for it consists of all that has been revealed by Christ,[xi] the entirety of the Scripture, to which each true believer and church are commanded to conform and to which they will attain perfect conformity eschatologically (Ephesians 4:13-14). Loyalty to Christ and Christianity, to “the faith,” requires both justifying faith and faithfulness.[xii] Thus, those who are born again are “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7)[xiii] while an unconverted man who “turn[s] away . . . from the faith” rejects Christianity and refuses to come to conversion (Acts 13:8). Those who have Christ in them—which necessarily produces inward and outward holiness—are those who are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The faith[xiv] includes both doctrinal propositions[xv] and a holy lifestyle, including edifying speech (1 Timothy 1:4), care for one’s needy family members (1 Timothy 5:8), righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, patience, and meekness (1 Timothy 6:11), and both the avoidance of a love for money (1 Timothy 6:10) and profane babblings (1 Timothy 6:20-21). The propositional and practical elements of the faith are inextricably intertwined,[xvi] so that a sound or healthy faith includes both propositional and practical soundness.[xvii] Scriptural faith and faithfulness includes walking humbly with God.[xviii] Fighting the “good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and earnestly contending for the faith (Jude 3) involves a grace-enabled battle for both the propositional and practical elements of the faith in the church and the world while holding to them oneself; the believer is to possess and contend for a unhypocritical or unfeigned faith.[xix] The “faith of God’s elect” includes both “truth” and “godliness” (Titus 1:1); failure to tenaciously hold to faith and a good conscience leads to doctrinal and practical shipwreck concerning the faith.[xx] Obedience to Scripture establishes Christians and churches in the faith (Acts 16:5), for those who are reconciled to God “continue in the faith grounded and settled,” and are not “moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23).[xxi] Spiritual leaders and disciplers are to train others to faithful steadfastness in all the truths of the Word, acting as spiritual fathers who establish spiritual sons in the faith,[xxii] for sanctification includes being progressively built up upon the foundation of the faith.[xxiii] Believers commit themselves to “the faith” at the moment of their conversion and grow in their knowledge of, practice of, and ability to practice, defend, and propogate the faith in its propositional and practical entirety in their progressive sanctification.
[ii] Matthew 8:10-11; 9:2; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 14:27; 15:9; 20:21; 26:18; Romans 3:25-28, 30-31; 4:5, 9, 11-14, 16, 19-20; 5:1-2, 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; Galatians 3:2, 5, 7-9, 11-12, 14, 22-26, 5:5-6, Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
[iii] An examination of all or at least almost all the passages referenced in the previous footnote will validate this fact. As Abraham’s faith in his initial conversion began a lifelong entrusting of himself to his Redeemer, so the Christian’s exercise of saving faith leads to his being one who walks in the steps of the faith exercised by Abraham (Romans 4:11-12) for the word of faith includes both righteousness received at the moment of conversion and the confession of Christ before men and life of prayer that springs out of the presence of faith in the heart (Romans 10:6-17); initial receipt of the Spirit at the moment of faith is united to the presence of faith that leads to the exercise of spiritual gifts (Galatians 3:2, 5), and those who receive righteousness by faith are those in whom faith works by love (Galatians 5:5-6). A variety of texts speak of the faith present as a mark of all the people of God; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17 & the texts in the following note.
[iv] Thus, all the people of God have faith, Luke 18:7-8; Romans 1:8, 12; 1 Corinthians 2:5; Galatians 6:10; Colossians 1:4; Philippians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:2.
[v] James speaks of faith as the present possession of all the saints (James 1:3, 2:1, 5), and the kind of faith that they possess, the “faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1), is never without works (James 2:17-26). Hebrews similarly assumes justifying faith always results in perseverance, even in light of severe difficulties. Evidence from both James and Hebrews is explicated below.
[vi] uJpakoh\n pi÷stewß, Romans 1:5; 16:26. These two texts, the first and last references to faith in Romans, both mentioning the “obedience of faith” through which pagan Gentiles are transformed into a‚gioi, holy ones or saints (1:7), illustrate the fact that Romans teaches that the salvation which is received through faith includes not justification only (3-5), but sanctification also (6-8, 12-15).
[vii] In texts such as Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:22; Epheisans 3:12; Philippians 3:9 the pi÷stiß Cristouv, “faith of Christ,” and their related phrases are objective genitives, signifying “faith in Christ.” Compare Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:18; & pgs. 81-98, Chapter 7, “On the pi÷stiß Cristouv Question,” On Romans: And Other New Testament Essays, C. E. B. Cranfield. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998. Carson & Beale note:
[P]rior to the 1970s the construction pistis Iēsou Christou was almost universally understood to mean “faith in Jesus Christ” (the so-called objective genitive), but in recent decades many scholars have argued that it should be rendered “the faith/faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (subjective genitive). . . . [T]he arguments usually advanced against the traditional interpretation are either irrelevant (e.g., some scholars point to the absence of pistis + objective genitive of a person in classical literature, but this absence is precisely what one would expect in documents that do not otherwise speak about the need for believing in a person) or based on an inadequate understanding of the objective genitive (e.g., that it is not natural, or that it does not apply in this case because pisteuō is construed with the dative or with a prepositional phrase). The ambiguity inherent in genitival constructions can be resolved only by examining unambiguous constructions in the immediate and broader contexts, preferably if they use the same or cognate terms. The NT as a whole, and Paul in particular, regularly and indisputably use both pistis and pisteuō of the individual’s faith in God or Christ, but they never make unambiguous statements such as episteusen Iēsous (“Jesus believed”) or pistos estin Iēsous (“Jesus is believing/faithful”). These and other considerations explain why the early fathers who spoke Greek as their native tongue never seem to have entertained the idea that this genitival construction has Jesus Christ as the subject of the implied action (pgs. 789-790, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007).
Similarly, Warfield noted:
[The] object [of] pi÷stiß is most frequently joined to [it] as an objective genitive, a construction occurring some seventeen times, twelve of which fall in the writings of Paul. In four of them the genitive is that of the thing, namely in Philippians 1:27 the gospel, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 the saving truth, in Colossians 2:12 the almighty working of God, and in Acts 3:16 the name of Jesus. In one of them it is God (Mark 11:22). The certainty that the genitive is that of object in these cases is decisive with reference to its nature in the remaining cases, in which Jesus Christ is set forth as the object on which faith rests (Romans 3:22, 26; Galatians 2:16 [2x], 20; 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; 4:13; Philippians 3:9; James 2:1; Revelation 2:13; 14:12). (“The Biblical Doctrine of Faith,” Warfield, in Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 of Works.)
Compare the many pisteu/w + ei˙ß contructions with Christ as their object (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; John 1:12; 2:11; 3:15-18, etc.), although such faith directed toward Christ includes faith in that God who sent Him as well (John 5:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 1:21).
[viii] Acts 17:31; Romans 4:21. While personal assurance of salvation is not of the essence, but is of the well-being, of faith, faith does necessarily involve certainty about the ability and willingness of God to save in accordance with His gospel promises.
[ix] In Galatians 3:23, 25, “the faith” refers to the fuller revelation in the New Testament, as set in contrast with the Mosaic dispensation, that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the promised Messiah; saving faith now involves trusting that the son of Mary is the crucified and risen Redeemer.
[x] thvß ei˙ß Cristo\n pi÷stewß.
[xi] Revelation 2:13; 14:12. “The faith” is “the faith of Jesus” (th\n pi÷stin ∆Ihsouv), who calls it “my faith” (th\n pi÷stin mou), because it is revelation from Him and about Him, a body of truth that pertains to Him and, being possessed by Him, is communicated to, received by, and practiced by His people.
[xii] Revelation 2:19; 13:10, etc. It is very clear that pi÷stiß refers, at times, to faithfulness, rather than to the subjective act of faith; see, e. g., Romans 3:3; Titus 2:10.
[xiii] uJph/kouon thØv pi÷stei. The imperfect uJph/kouon includes more than just obedience to the Divine summons to pardon and justification.
[xiv] All the references to pi÷stiß in in the pastoral epistles relate to the faith as a body of truth, while some to faithfulness also, and to the subjective exercise of faith in sanctification, with one or the other side of pi÷stiß emphasized to different degrees in the various passages; see 1 Timothy 1:2, 4–5, 14, 19; 2:7, 15; 3:9, 13; 4:1, 6, 12; 5:8, 12; 6:10–12, 21; 2 Timothy 1:5, 13; 2:18, 22; 3:8, 10, 15; 4:7; Titus 1:1, 4, 13; 2:2, 10; 3:15. The study entitled “The pi÷stiß word-group in the Pastoral Epistles” (pgs. 213-217, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, I. H. Marshall & P. H. Towner. London: T & T Clark, 2004) has some value, despite various errors, including those derived from rationalism.
[xv] 1 Timothy 4:1, 6; 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:18.
[xvi] 2 Timothy 3:8-16; 4:1-7.
[xvii] Titus 1:10-16; 2:1-10; Jude 3-20; Revelation 2:13-16; cf. the results of coming to “the unity of the faith” in knowledge of and likeness to the Son of God in purity of doctrine and of life (Ephesians 4:14-16), in love for God with all the mind and all the heart and soul.
[xviii] Matthew 23:23, referencing Micah 6:8. Micah’s “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (:ÔKy`RhølTa_MIo tRk™Rl Ao¶EnVxAh◊w dRs$Rj tAbSh∞Aa◊w ‹fDÚpVvIm twôøcSo) is referenced in Matthew as “judgment, mercy, and faith” (th\n kri÷sin kai« to\n e¶leon kai« th\n pi÷stin). Compare also Zechariah 7:9.
[xix] A pi÷stiß that is aÓnupo/kritoß; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5. The believer, and especially the spiritual leader, must not be a fake or be disingenuous in his doctrinal profession or his lifestyle.
[xx] 1 Timothy 1:19; cf. 3:9.
[xxi] The “if,” ei¶ge, of Colossians 1:23 introduces a first class, not a third class conditional clause; Paul assumes that the Colossians will continue in the faith.
[xxii] 1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4.
[xxiii] Jude 20. Jude opens and closes his epistle with a reference to “the faith” (Jude 3, 20), so “building up yourselves on your most holy faith,” thØv aJgiwta¿thØ uJmw◊n pi÷stei e˙poikodomouvnteß e˚autou/ß, refers to individual and corporate Christian edification on the basis of and grounded upon “the faith,” so that in this manner growing spiritually, believers will be protected from apostasy and “keep themselves in the love of God,” e˚autou\ß e˙n aÓga¿phØ Qeouv thrh/sete, Jude 21.