Explaining faith etc.

Explaining Faith, Repentance, and Baptism

I. Explaining faith.

1. “Believe” and “have faith” are two ways to translate a single Greek word. The word is a form of “convince,” and means “to be convinced.”  (that is, you are convinced by someone or something).

2. Faith is more than knowledge: faith means we know, accept, and trust. James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”  (See “1. THAT AND IN” at bottom of page)  

3. We trust in objects that are appropriate to give us what we need. It is appropriate to trust in a chair to rest in, but for getting to heaven, Jesus is the only appropriate object to trust in.

4. Sometimes people say “I not interested in talking about faith because I am not religious.” We can help them by saying that everyone has faith.(See 2.TAP WATER at bottom of page)  You may not be able to prove to someone else why you believe, but you do have reasons.  It may be faith, but it is not blind faith..

5.  Faith is contrasted with sight in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “We walk by faith, not by sight.”    If you see something, you don’t need faith; faith is there for the things you cannot see.

6. Some people say, “I don’t have a strong enough faith.” It will not help them to say “try harder.” To help them, put their attention on how strong the object of their faith is.(See 3. ICE SKATING at bottom of page).

7. Some say, “I want to have faith, but I can’t do it.” It will not help them to say “make yourself have faith.” (See 4. AIRPORT TAX at bottom of page)   As we come to know someone, we discover that we begin to trust in them.   In ordinary life, I tell someone the good points of a person, and this results in my listener trusting that person.  In the Bible, I tell someone about Jesus, and in this way I provide the data needed if my listener is to come to trust Jesus.   This “data” about “who Jesus is” and “what he did” is called “the gospel.”  That is why the Bible says that the “gospel” is the message that saves people.  Romans 1:16 says “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes.”

8. How do we find out whether someone has faith? We accept them according to their words (according to their confession of faith).(See 5. BANK TELLER at bottom of page).

9. Faith is SHOWN by obedience, similar to this verse about love: 1 John 5:3 “This is love for god — to obey his commands).  Some say, “I obey all the Lord’s commands, so therefore I am accepted by God.” It is actually the opposite, for “faith” is contrasted with “works” in Ephesians 2:8-9 “By grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, NOT OF WORKS. God accepts us first, because we trust Jesus. Our obedience is the way that we show our relationship. (See 6. CHORES FOR WIFE at bottom of page).  When we do not obey, we have another way to show our relationship — by asking for forgiveness.  Note the difference between point 8 and point 9.  We do not judge someone by their obedience: someone may have faith, but not obey in a given instance.

10. “Faith” is the word for our relationship to God. Galatians 2:20 “The life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

11. This faith-relationship is created by the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 12:3 “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” We cannot make people have faith: we have a small role. Our role is to share the gospel.

12. In this faith-relationship, we depend on Jesus for acceptance by God. (In other words, we do not depend on “self” or on other gods). Romans 5:1 “Now that we have beenjustified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Justify means “although we are guilty, God calls us innocent.”)

II. Explaining Repentance

1. One evidence that the Holy Spirit has put us into a faith-relationship with God is that we are willing to repent of our sins.

2. Jesus has already paid for our sins, so there is no reason to delay repenting. Our forgiveness is already assured. 1 John1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins.”

3. Two wrong views that we should avoid:

A. Some say, “I repented but later I sinned again, so therefore I did not truly repent.” This is not true. Overcoming habitual sins is sometimes a long process. (Repenting is a part of that process, but it may require many days of repenting and asking for help).

B. Some say, “It doesn’t matter if I sin, because God is forgiving.” This statement shows that the person does not understand repenting. Repenting involves sorrow over sins.

4. The balance between the two extremes seen above is clarified in the Greek word for repenting: CHANGE + MIND. It happens in the mind: therefore it is different from behavior change. It truly is a change, though. We change the way we think about our sins. In the past, we were not serious about our sins. Now we look at our sins from God’s viewpoint: God hates our sins.

III. Baptism.                         

1. If someone already believes, they will want to be baptized, since their Lord Jesus says “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… ” (Matthew 28:19).

2. Because of baptism, the believer can rely on the promises of baptism, such as: He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16:16); Sins are washed away (Acts 22:16); being united with Christ (Galatians 3:27)

3. In regard to babies, Jesus says “Let the little ones come to me, do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:14.) Baptism is the biblical way to bring babies to Jesus. In Jesus, they have forgiveness and a relationship to God. Titus 3:5-7: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us generously through Jesus Christ our savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs of eternal life.” About the prevalence of infant baptism in the early church, see paragraph 4 at chapter 20  of this website’s survey of church history.  Worksheet on Baptism   Preparation for baptism


1.THAT AND IN.  When we use the word “believe,” sometimes we say “believe that” and sometimes we say “believe in.”  These two uses have different meanings.  For example: I believe that there is a God” means you agree that he exists, but it does not indicate any particular relationship to him.  If you say, “I believe in Jesus” it means you are placing your trust in Jesus; you are depending on him.

2. TAP WATER.  Did you brush your teeth last night?  Did you use water from the faucet?  Did you test the water first to make sure it was not poison?  If not, you showed a great deal of faith — you did something even though you had not proved it.  You did not have proof, but you did have reasons — it was not blind faith.  Your reasons were probably such things as “I did it the night before, and I did not get poisoned;” “I trust the chemists who test the water at the city water-works.”  You had reasons, but not proof.  You had faith, but it was not “blind” faith.

3. ICE SKATING. Imagine a ten year old boy who can’t wait to start ice-skating.  The first cold winter day, he quickly puts on his skates and glides out on the glistening pond behind his house.  He is so eager that he fails to notice the sign “danger — thin ice.”  He is full of faith — but if the ice is not thick enough, he will fall in.  The problem was not with the amount of faith — the problem was that the “object” of his faith — the ice — was not strong enough.

Now two months go by.  He is restored to health, and he finally overcomes his reluctance to try again.  He cautiously creeps out onto the ice.  His level of faith is very low.  Nevertheless, if the ice is thick enough, it will hold him up, no matter whether he has much faith or little faith.  The effectiveness of faith depends on the strength of the “object.”

4. AIRPORT TAX. If I get off the plane in Taiwan, and ask one of the teachers who has come to greet me to lend me a hundred dollars for the airport tax, there is not a large likelihood that she would be willing to do so.  Even if her principal chided her by saying “that’s our new teacher from America — you should have faith in him,” there is not much likelihood that she would suddenly have faith in me.  But eleven years later, when the same group escorts me to airport to leave Taiwan, and again I suddenly realize that I need money to pay the airport tax, she is more likely to lend it to me.  What has changed?  She has come to know me.  That is why in hoping that someone will come to faith in Jesus, our approach is to help them get to know Jesus.  We don’t concentrate on faith, but on the object of faith, Jesus.

5. BANK TELLER/  Your application to work at the bank is accepted.  You show up, and begin to draw a weekly pay check.  But on the first day, your boss will not let you start to serve customers without training.  You are a bank employee on paper — but you do not yet know how to “act” like a bank employee.  In the same way, from the day a person trusts Jesus, that person is in God’s family — but may not yet look like it or “act” like it.   Even if you die before your “training program” is completed, you have a relationship with God and you have the promise of eternal life.  In many world religions, you have to attain a certain level (of goodness or of experiences) before you are accepted by the God.  In Christianity it is the opposite.  God accepts you first, and then God gradually transforms you.

6. CHORES FOR WIFE.  A man may tell his wife, “I love you,” but the truth of that statement appears when the wife says, “it’s time to take out the garbage.”  True love shows itself in action.

Return to Invitation page                    Return to Key Bible Topics menu