A dead faith is better than no faith at all!
I used to hear that phrase quoted often in my younger years, usually by someone desperately trying to reassure themselves that their loved ones escaped hell when they died – the same loved ones who said the sinner’s prayer, but then continued to live out their lives as wanton heathens.
And, like all the other lemmings, I said “Amen,” in agreement.
Give me a break, I didn’t know any better. I was only following my programming.
Maybe you haven’t heard the exact same expression, but something similar.
I think we’ve all sat in the congregations and listened to preaching that promotes the idea that anyone can make it into the Kingdom by the skin of our teeth if we will only believe God exists and that Jesus was born of a virgin, died and rose again on the third day.
Oh, and don’t forget the sinner’s prayer and salvation card.
Now, this perception of salvation turns my stomach, because I actually read my Bible and realized that most of what the church preaches about faith and salvation is a complete lie.
The faith that we have been taught is not the same faith in the Word.
Most of the modern day church defines and promotes the concept of faith as follows:
Faith is giving mental assent to the existence and capabilities of a divine being. In the case of christianity, this would be God and His Son, Jesus Christ. All you have to do is believe in the virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ and you can include yourself among the righteous.
This is obviously not word-for-word, but it’s the general idea.
In this post, I hope to convince you that the “faith” the mainstream church promotes is not only shortsighted and incomplete, it is deceptive in nature and demonic in motive. I’m also going to take you deep into Scripture and show you what it means to have “the Faith of Abraham.”
Before you start, I want to warn you that it’s going to be very tempting to want to throw up mental walls of defense and close your mind to this teaching. Many of us consider faith to be such an elementary concept that we think we have it all figured out.
Many of us have no clue that we’ve been duped.
I beg you, just this once, not to assume that you know all that there is to know about faith and salvation. I guarantee that this post will violate your traditional understanding. PLEASE stick with me through this whole study!
Come on! “Renewing your mind according to the Word” is fun!
The “substance” of our faith is not insubstantial.
Most of us who have been saved any length of time know the following verse by rote.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
This verse is almost poetic as it rolls off of the tongue, isn’t it?
We quote it like a mantra, haphazardly picturing our internal belief as the “substance” referred to in the verse. It comes naturally to us. It’s in our christian DNA. Most churchgoers will teach their children the same concept.
“It’s simple, junior… if you believe something, that shows you have faith in it!”
If you take a closer look at Hebrews 11:1-2, the words “substance” and “evidence” should jump out at you. These words imply something physical, something external that someone else can actually see and touch.
Let’s take a look at what Dictionary.com has to say about the word “substance” (link)
Dictionary.com definitions are useful, but it’s always better to prove Scripture with Scripture. Let’s continue on with Hebrews 11.
- Through faith worlds were framed (v3)
- By faith, Abel offered (v4)
- By faith, Enoch was translated (v5)
- By faith, Noah … prepared an ark (v7)
- By faith, Abraham … obeyed; and he went out (v8)
I’m sure by now you get the idea. Read the rest of Hebrews 11 and you’ll see that the great forefathers (and mothers) of our faith ACTED on what they professed to believe. Their internal belief manifested itself by their outward actions.
But isn’t it enough to “…believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead?”
No – at least not in the way most churchgoers understand it.
In fact, the “internal belief” faith that most church people have been taught, and have confidence in, is the same kind of faith that demons have… (keep reading, I’ll get to it).
And this is the same kind of faith that most will teach their children, unless we stop the cycle.
Abraham – the Father of our Faith
Another favorite verse that the unwitting wolves use to pass off internal belief as faith is Galatians 3:6-9.
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Another very similar verse is Romans 4:1-5.
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
When you read the above two passages, it would be very easy to embrace the concept that all you have to do is give mental assent, and you would be saved. But we have to look deeper, saints.
Let’s keep going.
If Faith is only an internal belief, then Abraham failed.
In both passages mentioned in the previous section, Paul was quoting Genesis 15:6, which says:
And He brought him forth abroad, and said, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them:” and he said unto him, “So shall thy seed be.” And he believed [aman – H539] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
People are trained to read that and think:
God promised to multiply Abraham… Abraham believed what he was told… the mental assent to God’s promise was counted to Abraham for righteousness.
But that is not what it means. In fact, in the very next verse it says:
And He said unto him, “I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”
If Abraham believed God according to the conventional definition, he wouldn’t have asked “How am I going to know?” in the very next breath.
But most pastors won’t teach this. In fact, I doubt that they even noticed. They’ve been trained too well by their cemetery (seminary) teaching.
There are a few more times in Scripture where Abraham failed the “belief test.”
- If Abraham believed God according to the conventional definition, would he have taken Lot with him when God told him to leave everyone? (Genesis 12:1)
- If Abraham believed God according to the conventional definition, would he try to pass Sarai/Sarah off as his sister to the Egyptians? (Genesis 12:11-13)
- If Abraham believed God according to the conventional definition, would he have tried to fulfill the God’s promise through Hagar? (Genesis 16:3-4)
Let’s just be honest here. Thus far in the narrative, Abraham has not been much of a role model in realm of faith… at least, according to the way we’ve been taught.
That’s why our understanding has to change when it comes to faith. You see, ladies and gentlemen, Abraham was RIGHTLY named “our father Abraham.” (Luke 1:73, John 8:53, Acts 7:2, Romans 4:12)
Keep reading and you’ll find out why.
What does the Bible mean when it says “Abraham believed God?”
Before we go any further, let’s study the Hebrew meaning of the word “believed,” used in Genesis.
We need to ask ourselves “What does it mean to ‘believe?'”
Better yet, “What is God’s definition of ‘belief,’ according to His Holy Word?”
Is it purely mental assent? Is it just internal belief?
And he believed [aman – H539] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
The Hebrew word for “believed” is the word “aman” [H539] which means “to support, confirm, be faithful to.” (Strong’s link)
The Hebrew word for “faith” (which is only found only 2 times in the ENTIRE KJV Old Testament) is the word “emuwn” [H529]. (Strong’s link)
“Aman” (belief) [H539], found over 100 times in the KJV Old Testament, is its root.
When you look at the Hebrew definitions of “emuwn” and “aman,” you will find that they are virtually interchangeable. I am going to be treating them as such in this post.
So, from here on out, establish it in your minds that, even though our English definitions of “faith” and “belief” may allow for some differences, their Hebrew counterparts, “emuwn” and “aman” do not.
They are the same.
To “support, confirm, be faithful to” means SO MUCH MORE than having an internal belief … or a mental assent.
Abraham was considered “righteous” because he was faithful and obedient in a couple of key areas.
What most of us never consider, as we religiously stand on the man-made doctrines handed down to us, is that BEFORE God counted Abraham as righteous, Abraham had already obeyed God’s command to leave his people to follow Him, without any knowledge of the destination.
Coming out when you are called out is an ACT of faith.
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
BEFORE God counted Abraham as righteous, Abraham had already rejected the riches of Sodom, pledging allegiance to the Most High and choosing to rely on Him for his blessings.
And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
Refusing the carnal riches and customs of this world is also an act of faith, if you have decided to rely on the Most High for your sustenance.
You see, it’s obvious that Abraham had an ACTIVE FAITH even before God declared him righteous on account of his “belief.” This was because Abraham’s belief, his “aman,” was not based upon what he thought about God, or what he felt about God, or even on his belief about God, but on his willingness to actively support, obey and be faithful to God.
Abraham, the Father of our Faith, obeyed God because of his faith. This FAITH-FULL obedience, as an outward manifestation of his internal belief, gained him the title… “the friend of God.”
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Abraham’s faith manifested in obedience to God’s commandments.
God did not consider Abraham “righteous” because of his works; we’ve already seen the imperfection of his humanity. Nor did the Most High consider Abraham “righteous” because of his internal belief; we’ve already observed Abraham’s doubt in the exact same encounter.
Righteousness was IMPUTED to Abraham because of his willingness to follow when “called out,” and his reliance upon Yahweh for his well being, his destiny and the fulfillment of the promises.
Righteousness was IMPUTED to Abraham because he was willing to obey God’s commands, even in the midst of his imperfection… even in the midst of his failure.
Abraham’s faith was such that he was EAGER to obey God’s commands. It was his willingness to obey, even though it meant leaving his entire life behind, and even though it meant refusing “easy money” from Sodom. Even though he would stumble, he was determined to ACT OUT his internal conviction.
I mean, for crying out loud, at 99, the man “snipped” himself the VERY SAME DAY that God commanded him to do so.
Believe me, that takes more than just “mental assent”… that takes COMMITMENT and FAITHFULNESS!
Abraham was even willing to kill his only son Isaac [the very fulfillment of God’s Promise], when he was instructed to do so.
I mean, think about it – he had bound his son and raised the knife before God interrupted him. Talk about a last minute change of plans!
But that’s the kind of “belief” that we are called to, ladies and gentlemen. This is the SAME “belief” that Paul was talking about in Romans and Galatians.
Can a “dead faith” save you?
I hope you are starting to see the difference between the “faith” that our churches teach and true Bible faith. Let’s look at what James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, says.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Look at this! James is asking a question: “Can your faith save you if you do not have works?”
When you read this question and understand the context, you can’t help but realize the implications for those who have been “saved” under the impression that all they have to do is believe in Jesus.
This should cause all of us to take a step back and look at our Walk with God.
I do not believe for one second that James thought the answer should be, “Why yes, James, all you have to do is believe in Jesus. Don’t you realize what Paul wrote? ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’“
Did James and Paul contradict each other? The answer is “No, they did not.” I’ll have to address this in another post, though. Let’s keep going with this passage.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
So, it’s obvious from the apostle’s words, that dead faith is not good. It doesn’t do anything for anybody (including you). But, again, is a “dead faith” good enough to save you? I believe we have answered that already, but James has more to say.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
In this passage, James, once again – the leader of the Jerusalem church, equates a dead faith (a faith with no works) to the faith of demons.
What most people don’t know is that even demons have a “belief/faith” in Jesus. They know full well that He exists, that He was born of a virgin and rose again on the third day. They believe that He rewards those who diligently seek Him with all their heart. They believe that He is returning to set up His Kingdom here on earth.
When Jesus walked the earth with His disciples, the demons knew Him and they even worshiped Him! They couldn’t stop themselves from worshiping Him! (Mark 5:6)
And yet, for all this… for all their belief in the Son of God, for all their worship, their “faith” cannot save them. They are destined for hell. Why?
Because their “inner belief” is not coupled with acts of obedience, through faith in the Word of God or the voice of God. They, like the modern day church, have no desire to see His Kingdom come. They have no desire to live in an Everlasting Kingdom that will be ruled by a King, who will teach the nations His Law from Sinai (Isaiah 2:2-3).
Their condemnation is just.
Based upon the scriptural evidence presented thus far, I do not think it unreasonable or presumptuous to interpret James 2:20 as saying “Faith without works is NOT faith.”
I challenge you to find one Scripture that calls “dead faith” a viable substitute for “faith.” It’s not there.
When the spirit departs, you’re only an empty shell.
I loved my grandma.
Every time I came to her house, she would have hot chicken noodle soup and cold chocolate milk ready for me. She knew it was my favorite.
She was a large lady and she gave the warmest, longest, softest hugs ever.
Almost every other week, I would stay overnight at her house. Each morning, she would wake me up with a gentle nudge, and in that sweet, southern, Oklahoma drawl would say, “Wakeyuppy Kevvy baby!”
The sound of her voice is a sound I will always remember.
Last year, I visited her in the nursing home just a few days before she passed, and I knew that her warm hugs would have to be a memory. I looked at her skinny and frail frame, a hideous byproduct of her organs shutting down. It was hard to believe that her life was still in there.
At the funeral, I looked at the body that lay in the casket. My sister came along side me and said, “Kevin, it doesn’t even look like her.”
I said to my sister, “That’s because it’s not her, sis.”
What I’m about to say is pretty blunt, but it’s true, so please don’t misunderstand it as being disrespectful.
When a person dies, their body is delivered to those who do their best to make the corpse look like it’s still living, but who are we kidding?
Everybody knows the corpse is not alive.
The person who was once in the body has gone on to their eternal destination, whether it be a reward or damnation. But what is left behind is only an empty husk of who they once were. At this point, the body is not the person; it is only a decaying vessel that is soon to return to the dust.
Even so, it is with our faith. A “dead” faith is NOT faith, no matter how you try to justify it. It is merely an empty husk that once contained life. This is why works are so important. They are “the substance” that shows our hope – our Living Hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
As disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, our hope should be on the things above, not on our temporal circumstances and wants. It’s not that we abandon the temporal, but it’s a given that, as we focus on the eternal, the temporal loses its urgency.
We seek the Kingdom, coming out from among the lifestyle we have always known, doing the things the Father tells us to DO and perfecting our faith in the process.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Look at this group of Scripture altogether. It says that Abraham was justified by works when he offered his son and THAT ACT FULFILLED the Scripture that said, “Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Even James believed that faith and obedience were not 2 separate concepts.
We need to have the Faith that overcomes the world.
And, no matter how you slice it, the kind of faith spoken of in the Word is not a lazy, apathetic, “belief-only” oriented faith.
The Father knew a thing or two about “our father, Abraham.” Before speaking to Abe about the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah, God told Himself:
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Abraham, “our father,” provided for us the right example. His faith was action-oriented, and not merely internal. (BTW: Make sure to study those words… “tsedaquah” and “mishpat”)
The “faith of Abraham” is the real definition of “faith.”
Abraham was showing his “aman” (his belief) when Yahweh told him to pack up and move out of Ur of the Chaldees… and he went! He further showed it when he refused the spoils of Sodom.
Oh, and did I mention, the old man circumcised himself? [[shudders]]
Likewise, we are to ACT OUT what we believe. When we do that, we can truly call it “faith.” Otherwise, we are just showing that we never really believed our own confession.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
If you are born of God, your faith will also overcome the world – both the world outside, and the world(liness) in you!
If this is not the case, you may want to ask yourself, “What do I truly believe?”
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Related Reading: How to Understand the Difference Between Legalism and Obedience