This post is an introduction of sorts to a short sequence of posts I intend to write concerning the nature and place of the doctrine of faith in the Christian life. As Reformed Christians the concept of faith is one of the most familiar and oft considered, as surely many can attest. We hear about faith all the time in the preaching, in personal and family devotions, in the classroom of the Christian school, and so on. This is good! Indeed wonderful, for it was not always so. The centrality of the doctrine of faith is part of our heritage from the Reformation. A precious heritage indeed!
There is a veritable wealth of Reformed literature on this topic to which one might turn for enriching instruction in this area. It is truly a blessing from God that we have such unprecedented quantities of good books and other spiritual resources literally at our fingertips. Whether or not one is an avid reader, we all ought to avail ourselves of these resources. A foremost example, to pick one, is Herman Hoeksema’s magisterial work of the Catechism, the Triple Knowledge. Hoeksema’s exposition of Lord’s Day seven has served by and large as the stimulus for me to write a few brief posts concerning this subject. And so there are therefore a number of good reasons to continually revisit this topic, and even to repeat these oft repeated themes because of their beauty, power, and spiritual resonance with the believing heart. We can turn to them over and over again, and find new, refreshing insights, especially given our aptitude to forget or at least to become dulled toward spiritual things in a world that is all too physical. This is an unavoidable aspect of the fact that we are still sinful people who must daily contend with the old man of sin. This is our battle of faith, a battle which is as much, if not more so, a struggle within ourselves to subdue the unruly and rebellious old man who still loves his father the devil. In his marvelous work of regeneration the Lord by his grace has given us hearts of flesh, and yet the battle continues, for the old man cannot be fully mortified until we pass the final barrier of death and are raised incorruptible in Christ.
Yet here and now sin still hinders us and hounds us. How often do we not have to chisel away the stony shell which develops around our hearts, turning our faith cold? Our sin has a petrifying effect upon our hearts, and such petrified hearts do not throb with zealous love for God. By faith we know these things to be true and by faith we press on in the present battle though sometimes beleaguered. Faith is the means by which we fight this evil, and it is also the means by which we are comforted by the knowledge of God and the assurance of our redemption in Christ. It is with this in mind that I hope a few reflections on the nature of faith and what it means to live and walk according to this faith may be of some benefit and encouragement. Considering the nature of Christian faith is an exceedingly comforting topic upon which to reflect, for it reveals to us that we are saved by grace alone through faith, and that this is a gift of God and not of works. To meditate on the nature of faith is to consider the unbreakable bond by which we are engrafted into the family of God and into the benefits of Christ our redeemer. In so doing we see all the more clearly the victory over sin and death which we have in Christ the object of our faith. Thus our consideration of faith will proceed to follow the definition of faith which the Catechism provides in question and answer twenty one. “What is true faith? True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.” The Catechism offers us a clear and succinct definition of what faith is, namely a certain knowledge and an assured confidence. Next time we will attempt to take a closer look at what it means that faith is a certain knowledge.