The Real Definition of Faith (John 1)

I’ve often struggled with what it truly means to have faith in Jesus Christ. Without the true definition, how can I be sure I’ve been saved? Fortunately, the Word contains a book that clearly defines the characteristics of faith: 1 John. Simply believing in Christ’s life and death in the academic or historical sense is not enough. After studying 1 John for a few nights, here are some of the key points I learned.

Faith is Rebirth

Humanity was originally created in the Lord’s image, i.e. defined and driven by love for the Father and love for each other. However, the first sin separated us from God and the true image. To have true faith requires the death of the old self and being reborn in Christ — a restoration and a commitment to try and live like we were meant to live.

Faith is a Commitment

1 John 2:5-6 may be the most powerful verses of the book:

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

To believe is to obey God’s commandments, not just acknowledge that He exists.  These verses point out that God’s love for us and our union with Him is made complete through our obedience!  John goes on to say:

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (3:9-10)

Faith is clearly being defined as belief paired with action.  As an illustration, say there is a starving man who believes that eating food is necessary to stay alive.  If he does not act upon his faith and eat something, he will perish.  The same is true with us.  We believe that God’s teachings are necessary to live in Him (as we were intended), but actual faith requires action and commitment to the Word.

Faith is Love

Verses 4:7-21 describe faith as loving like Christ did: to love and care for each other as Christ did for us.  In order to truly believe and know Him requires us to, some degree, be like Him.  Since God, by nature, is love, to be like Him is to be driven by love.  In other words, to love like Christ is to have God within us.

Faith is to “Walk the Talk”

Consistently throughout 1 John, the Apostle John describes the person that claims to have faith, but fails to live his life accordingly. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is obviously important. To claim to believe in God, but not lead your life according to His teachings, the “truth is not in him.” (2:4)

Faith Removes Burden

In verses 5:3-4, John writes:

This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

I don’t know about you, but I find this incredibly relieving.  Of course, this is not saying that overcoming sin will be easy — this couldn’t be further from the truth.  However, in our re-birth, we are enabled and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to obey the Word.  By doing so, we’re able to gain victory over our sinful lives and absolute freedom through obedience.  Following His commands is no longer a burden, but a joy!  Talk about removing burden!

Faith is Confidence

Obviously, faith is the vehicle to our end goal: eternal life in the presence of God.  John states that, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (5:13)  To believe that Christ is the Son of God and died for our sins is the first step.  Following 1 John’s guidelines is the next step in order to know, beyond the shadow of doubt, that you will be blameless in front of God on the last day.

The Conclusion?

Faith is nothing without acting upon your beliefs and obeying God’s Word!  Loving like Christ, so that God can live within you, is the true definition of faith and will bring eternal life.