What It Means To Do Something By Faith


To please God, all that is done must be done by faith for "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews11:6).  But, what does it mean to perform an action by faith?  Does it simply mean the person must believe in God?  Certainly, the person "who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).  However, as we shall see, more is required than just mental recognition of God's existence and basic nature.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews mentions several things that were done by faith.  This is a good starting point for this study.  For example, "by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Hebrews 11:4; NKJV).  Since Abel's offering was by faith "he obtained witness that he was righteous."  That is, he pleased God because he did what was right.  Such is not affirmed of Cain's offering.  On the contrary, his was not pleasing to the Lord (Genesis 4:5).  Thus, it can be deduced that it was not by faith.  An important point is that both brought offerings to the LORD but one was by faith and the other was not.  Did both believe that God existed?  Of course they did.  So what explains the difference?  Abel pleased God by doing what He had specified.  How can we know this?  Well, since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17) and his offering was by faith it follows that He did what he was told.  Surely, this would please God.  And, conversely, failing to do what one had been told would be failing to do it by faith and would bring God's displeasure.

This argument stands the test of further scrutiny in the book of Hebrews. Consider another example. "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7).  God had told Noah how to build the ark.  He specified the material and dimensions.  The scriptures record that "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did" (Genesis 6:22; ct. 7:5).  He left nothing out and followed the directions he had been given.  We also know Noah built the ark for the reason indicated - to save his house from the impending flood.

The book of Romans also shows that it is essential to do what God commands for the reason He gives.  Otherwise, the action cannot said to be "by faith."  In chapter six of Romans Paul reveals the point at which a person ceases to be a sinner and becomes a saved soul.  The line of demarcation comes when "you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered" (Romans 6:17).  Doctrine has reference to teaching. However, it is not just any teaching.  It is quite specific in that it is called a form of doctrine.  This indicates a pattern of instruction that can (and must) be carefully followed (ct. 2 Timothy 3:10).  If the commands of God are not performed for the reasons God has given then they are not being done by faith since they are not

in harmony with the form of doctrine.  When God specifies the reason for a command it is part of the pattern of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13).

Baptism must be done by faith for the lost soul to be saved.  Has God specified any reason for baptism or is it sufficient to do it simply "to obey God?" If God had said, "Repent and be baptized" but did not specify any reason for doing so, it would be OK to be baptized "to obey God's command."  However, He did specify the reason for being baptized.  It is for the remission (i.e., forgiveness) of sins (Acts 2:38).  Therefore, if we wish to do so by faith it MUST be with the knowledge it is to save us!


You have my permission to use this article in any non-commercial way (e.g., bulletins, web sites, e-mail). All ask is that you reproduce the article in its entirety including the original title and author's name.  Douglas Hoff, August 27, 2008; Flat Rock church of Christ, Flat Rock, MI