Biblical Definition of Faith
Faith is the cornerstone of the Christian religion. Our world defines faith as any firm belief based upon confidence in the authority and veracity of another, rather than upon one’s own knowledge, reason, or judgment; earnest and trustful confidence: as, to have faith in the testimony of a witness; to have faith in a friend. However, our Bible defines faith as:
(Hebrews 11:1)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Biblical faith is hoping that the message of the Gospel is true. It is one of the theological virtues, a virtue that comes from God. The message of faithfulness? “That the good news is that Jesus died for our sins and bridged the gap between us and God. Because of His sacrifice on the Cross, there is a way for us to be right with God and spend eternity in heaven. The reality of the Gospel’s message can affect every part of our lives, change the way we think which, in turn, change how we behave.” Simply stated, that is the Gospel’s message of faith-filled hope.
The Gospel also tells us how to enjoy life, during our lifetime. Faith proves to our own minds, the reality of things that we cannot see by our human eye. Because of all that God revealed, we can see God as holy, just, and good, NOW. This Christian view of faith is be explained by the many examples of persons in history. It is the reason why the retention of history is critical to our hope and joy in this world. It has been through faith and an obedience to God those remarkable accomplishments have been achieved despite human failings and sufferings. It is the Bible that gives the most true and exact account of the origin of all these things. We are expected to believe them, and not rewrite them to fit a worldly human narrative. All humanity has already been given sufficient evidence to see the works of creation that were brought about simply by the command of God. Hence, God holds all power. It will be our faith in Christ that provides access to God’s power because Christ is God.
Without faith in Christ, there is no substance, no purpose, or strength in a person’s life. People may have faith in other worldly gods, themselves, or even material things, but this type of faith is temporal. For the faith we are talking about relies on an eternal source of energy. We witness this faith with power in God’s servants, from the very beginning of the world. Wherever the principles of the Gospel’s message have been planted, there is always a regenerating Spirit of God present. With the planting of the Gospel comes Truth and Hope. Our hope in the Gospel is that God will perform all He has promised us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our joy will come from knowing that our faith is built on Truth.
Example of Biblical Faith
Faith appears 458 times in the New International Version of the Bible. There are many stories about people faithful to God. The story we will look at is of a few minor biblical characters, Roman officers.
(Matthew 8:5-13) – “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, go, and he goes; and that one, come, and he comes. I say to my servant, do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment. “
To understand the source of faithfulness that emanated from this Roman officer, let us look at how the Bible and the world documents these men:
A centurion (pronounced cen-TU-ri-un) was an officer in the army of Rome. Centurions got their name because they commanded 100 men (centuria = 100 in Latin). Some were appointed by the Senate or emperor or elected by their comrades, but most were enlisted men promoted through the ranks after 15 to 20 years of service. They were hardened by battle. Centurions held important responsibilities, including training, giving out assignments, and maintaining discipline in the ranks.
At the time of Christ, most Centurions carried a gladius, a sword 18 to 24 inches long with a cup-shaped pommel. It was double-edged but specially designed for thrusting and stabbing because such wounds were more deadly than cuts. In battle, centurions stood on the front line, leading their men. They were expected to be courageous, rallying the troops during the tough fighting. Cowards could be executed. Julius Caesar considered these officers so vital to his success that he included them in his strategy sessions. They were the toughest of the tough, the “special forces” of the Roman army.
Several Roman centurions are mentioned in the New Testament, including one who came to Jesus Christ for help when his servant was paralyzed and in pain. That man’s faith in Christ was so strong that Jesus healed the servant from a great distance. Another centurion, also unnamed, oversaw the execution detail that crucified Jesus, acting under orders of the governor, Pontius Pilate. While Jesus was on the cross, the centurion ordered his soldiers to break the legs of the men being crucified, to hasten their deaths. However, the centurion who had watched the entire beating, crucifixion, and Jesus’ death on the cross, responds:
(Mark 15:39) – “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!'”
Later, that same centurion verified to Pilate that Jesus was, in fact, dead. Pilate then released Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea for burial. Yet another centurion is mentioned in Acts 10. A righteous centurion named Cornelius and his entire family were baptized by Peter and were some of the first Gentiles to become Christians. The final mention of a centurion occurs in Acts 27, where the apostle Paul and some other prisoners are put under the charge of a man named Julius, of the Augustan Cohort. A cohort was 1/10th part of a Roman legion, typically 600 men under the command of six centurions. When their ship struck a reef and was sinking, the soldiers wanted to kill all the prisoners, because the soldiers would pay with their lives for any who escaped.
(Acts 27:43) – “But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land.”
All these men knew what authority was about. Hardened by the realities of war, centurions would have a pragmatic view of the world around them. Yet, all could see the works of God, and the authority given to Jesus and Paul. These men had faith. Does your faith in God allow you to believe that God’s Word will do what it says? Can you see God in the world around you?
Ideas to Explore
Teaching about Biblical Faith can take many forms. One might be to have a group discussion on these stories. Here are some questions for a group to discuss.
Read Hebrews Chapter 11 before you start your discussion. This is the “Hall of Fame” for faithful people in the Bible.
- What visible things would you notice in someone who was a faith-filled person?
- Does such a person make friendship easier or harder? Why?
- In our biblical examples, we chose hardened soldiers. Why would men, hardened by both war and command (leadership positions) be viewed as a reliable source for an example of faith?
- How does the exposure to death change someone’s perspective on faith?
- Medical – emergency doctor, nurses
- Hospice volunteers
- EMT (paramedics) workers in our city fire departments
- What examples of a strong faith have you personally seen?
- What experiences have you had where your faith helped you get through a tough time that you can share with the group?
- In the career you have or are planning to have, how do you see a strong faith in Christ helping you?
Example of Historical Faith
The American Revolution may still be the single greatest event impacting the freedoms of ordinary people. Until 1776, the aristocracy ruled the world. Wealth brought respectability and assured dominance over ordinary people. The common person was held in contempt and there was little dignity in menial labor. Afterwards, in a manner unprecedented in history and not equaled elsewhere in the world, the revolution eliminated monarchy and created the concept of a republic. It gave people rights, something that had alluded them throughout most of history. The Revolution did not merely create a political and legal environment conducive to economic expansion; it also released powerful entrepreneurial and commercial energies that transformed the economic landscape of America. In short, the Revolution was the most radical and most far-reaching event in US history.
Our first Commander-In-Chief, George Washington, had little or no formal education, George Washington had a less than stellar record in the military. He had overseen Fort Necessity and lost it quickly to the French. He had never led an army in battle, never commanded anything larger than a regiment. And never had directed a siege. George Washington would be idle for 15 years before he again assumed the role of Commander-In-Chief. Yet, time after time, God would stand with him. George Washington believed that America had a covenant with God.
George Washington documented much of the Revolution through letters and notes. All retained and archived for posterity. His leadership style was firm, but you could always find him in the front of his troops, very much like the Roman Centurions. During the entire 8 years of war, Washington never took a salary (pay) but only asked to be reimbursed for his actual expenses. At the end of the revolution, George Washington accepted land as a grateful gift of compensation for his leadership. That land along the Potomac River is now Washington, D.C.
While his eagerness, ambition, and lack of experience got him into trouble (such as at Fort Necessity), other qualities emerged:
Toughness – Washington was a rugged frontiersman from an early age. He endured hardship on the frontier. He always camped and wintered with his troops.
Persistence – Most people would have pursued another career after the losses at Fort Necessity. George Washington did just the opposite, pursuing further military experience.
Organization – Following Braddock’s defeat, Washington was sent to western Virginia to protect citizens from Indian attack. Though these years were frustrating for him, Washington had to contend, on a regular basis, with matters of supply, morale, discipline, and communication. He developed critical experience in organizing and managing troops.
Incredible bravery – Washington repeatedly exposed himself to danger. At one-point Washington charged his horse between lines of his own men who were mistakenly firing at one another. During Braddock’s infamous march and defeat, Washington was among the only mounted officers to emerge unscathed. Four bullet holes in his uniform and two dead horses were ample testimony to his courage and providential protection.
Here are just a few examples of God’s protection of our first chief and of our cause for freedom:
- In July of 1775, an unprepared Washington came to retake Boston. The battle would be at Breed’s Hill. As our troops made ready for their assault, the British just abandoned Boston. Had the battle ensued, Washington would have lost. The American troops were no match for the British troops on that day.
- Then there was the battle of New York. In April of 1776, Washington prepared to defend the city. Outflanked by the British, our troops were on the verge of collapse when the decision was made to retreat. But the route across the Hudson River was open water and the British navy was on guard. On the night of August 29th, a fog covered Long Island and covered Washington’s escape. Our army survived to fight another day.
- Not long after a victory at Trenton where there were three crossings of the Delaware River, Washington was camped near the town of Saratoga. The British General John Burgoyne prepared to attack. However, Burgoyne was encumbered by his spoils of war, such as the stolen fine china he carried with him and a large entourage of prostitutes for his pleasure. Washington repeatedly condemned such behavior because he believed that the Americans were fighting under a covenant with God. Could this have been a factor in the surprising defeat of Burgoyne in October of 1777?
- To end our revolution at Yorktown, God sent the French navy and Lafayette, to block Cornwallis’ retreat by ship. The British navy, coming to free Cornwallis, would be stopped by the French at the Battle of Capes. The British navy re-provisioned and tried again, only to be blocked by a storm that kept them in New York. With Washington’s troops winning the siege at Yorktown, Cornwallis would try a nighttime retreat, only to be blocked by a nighttime storm. On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered.
Ideas to Explore
There is a year 2000 movie called “The Crossing.” It is a dramatization of George Washington’s perilous gamble of crossing the Delaware River three times and attacking the Hessian forces at Trenton, on Christmas Day. Directed by Robert Harmon and from the novel by Howard Fast. The movie stars Jeff Daniels, Roger Rees, Sebastian Roché and is 1 hour and 29 minutes long. This is an excellent film to introduce the sacrifice and faithfulness of the men who gave us our freedom.
Watch the movie as a group. Discussion on the movie should follow. One question to answer is why death and faith are so closely linked together?
Example of Historical Faith Occurring in Florida
In 1687 eight men, two women, and a nursing child escaped from Carolina to Spanish St. Augustine and requested baptism into the “True Faith.” Florida’s governor sheltered the runaways out of a Christian obligation and refused to return them when an agent from Carolina who came to reclaim them. The slaves’ “telegraph” quickly reported this out-come, and soon other runaways began arriving in St. Augustine. Florida officials repeatedly solicited Spain for guidance, and finally, on November 7, 1693, Charles II of Spain issued a royal proclamation “giving liberty to all … the men as well as the women … so that by their example and by my liberality others will do the same.”
By 1738, more than 100 freedom seekers had achieved asylum. In that year, a fortified town named “Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose’” was constructed on St. Augustine’s northernmost border. Located about two miles from St. Augustine, it was set up as a fortified town to protect the Spanish from attack by the British. The community was self-governing and economically self-sustaining. Because so few men came with wives, the remainder had formed unions with local African and Indian women, making Mose’ a multiethnic and multicultural settlement.
Florida’s governor at that time clearly considered the benefits of a northern outpost of ex-slaves carrying Spanish arms. The freedmen also understood their expected role and vowed to be “the most cruel enemies of the English,” and to risk their lives and spill their “last drop of blood in defense of the Great crown of Spain and the Holy Faith.” Mose’ was a valuable military resource for the Spaniards but also a continuing provocation to English planters. Mose’ was considered a town of “new Christians,” and its residents were the “subjects” of their leader Francisco Menéndez.
Menéndez, a former enslaved African, led the free black militia of Fort Mose’. He was granted the rank of captain. Francisco Menéndez was born in the Gambia in West Africa, Menéndez was captured and sold into slavery, being purchased by European slave traders, and shipped across the Atlantic to Carolina. He escaped into the Spanish colony of Florida soon after, taking advantage of legislation promising freedom to all fugitive slaves from the Southern colonies dating back to the 17th-century. Menéndez converted to Catholicism and enlisted in the colonial militia, settling down in this new settlement created for free people of color by the Spanish authorities. Participating in numerous conflicts on the side of the Spanish Crown, Menéndez was recognized by the Spanish Crown for his loyalty and courage through the numerous conflicts he participated in. For years, the Mose’ warriors valiantly protected St. Augustine.
Although some later freedom seekers were re-enslaved by a governor who tried to appease the Carolinians and avoid war, those not freed persisted in claiming the freedom promised by Spain’s king. Francisco Menéndez repeatedly petitioned the governors and church officials, but to no avail. As war with England threatened, however, Florida’s new governor reviewed their petitions and granted all the enslaved runaways unconditional freedom.
In 1740, the British attacked Fort Mose’, and Menendez’s militia successfully thwarted them. Fort Mose’ was rebuilt after the attack, but the community disbanded in 1763 when Spain ceded Florida to the British after the French and Indian war. Because the British laws regarding escaped slaves or freed black were far less liberal than Spanish laws, Menendez and many black residents of Fort Mose’ fled to Spanish Cuba. The town they built was named “Jesus Menendez” and is in the province of Las Tunas. Menendez is thought to have died in Havana.
Faith and freedom are closely aligned. The story of Fort Mose is one of faith-filled people seeking the freedom to worship Jesus and be free. It was the faith of each escaping slave that created the community called Fort Mose’ that established itself in St. Augustine.
Ideas to Explore
Over the years, the Fort Mose’ site was swallowed by marsh, and the important legacy of its community was largely forgotten. However, Fort Mose’ has since been designated as a National Historic Landmark, as it was the first legal free Black community in what is now the United States. Late in the twentieth century, a highly dedicated team of archaeologists, historians, government leaders and committed citizens helped restore Fort Mose’ to its rightful place of honor. Check the Fort Mose website for visitation details. Take a trip. Stand where these faithful people lived and worked. Spend time to tour the visitor’s center and museum that now holds the memories of Fort Mose’.
Practicing Acts of Faith
- A list of faith-building activities that can be done any time.
- Study the Bible and see what it says about faith. Feed your faith.
- Bring a Bible verse alive. Practice your faith by doing it.
- Do loving acts of kindness for people you both know and do not know. Be of service to others.
- Learn to forgive.
- Pray for one hour with no interruptions or pauses. Let your heart listen to the calling of the Holy Spirit.
- Speak to your faith – it will grow. Practice sharing your story of joy with each other.
- SPEND MORE TIME WITH LOVING, ENCOURAGING FAMILY/FRIENDS.
- 1NIV New International Version Translations