Grace is the overflowing and ever-flowing stream of God’s love, and faith is one of the things that enables us to experience that love more fully. Sometimes that experience comes at God’s initiation even without faith, as in moments of great crisis.
It’s important to distinguish between belief and faith –
- I believe that a parachute can hold me and take me safely to the ground.
- I don’t have faith enough in that belief to actually trust my life to it and jump out of the plane.
We can think similarly about belief and faith in relation to God –
- many people believe that God exists
- a different (smaller?) set of people act on that belief with their faith
- some people even have faith without much belief (content, doctrine) behind it
- If you have to choose between belief and faith, I think faith will take you further into peace and joy
Some people confuse faith & belief with fully understanding everything – “I won’t / can’t have faith because I don’t understand xyz about God, life, the universe” this often happens when people can’t reconcile ideas – such as the relationship between science and religion (which are compatible) or when bad things happen to good people, or when “believers” behave badly.
For Christians (and Jews and Muslims) faith is the active living of the relationship with the God in whom we have come to believe through our religious tradition (scripture, teaching, practices, etc). Followers of Jesus have the added blessing that our faith is rooted in Jesus, the Christ, who we believe to have been the full embodiment of God on earth, and also fully human. He is therefore at the same time (1) our object of faith, (2) our source of grace, and (3) our model for how humanity lives in faith and receives grace. One could say that Grace is God’s way of showing us love, and active faith is our way of showing our love to God. Yet even faith itself is a gift of God’s grace “so that no one can boast.” and we have received this gift of faith by grace because “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2)
A brief word study from the New Testament (using www.BibleStudyTools.com)
One of the translation difficulties lies in the fact that the Greek word “pistis” is sometimes translated “faith” and other times translated “belief”. Either way, in the biblical usage it is always to be understood as an active verb – as something one acts upon, or upon which one stands. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 1:1)
- Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Grace is the intentional and relational sharing of love that takes action and produces results in the recipient’s life. Divine Grace is God reaching out to us to bless us. Grace is sometimes defined as “unmerited favor – the giving of an undeserved gift” whereas mercy is “unmerited leniency – the withholding of a deserved punishment”.
Grace and Faith together
On the relationship between the two – Faith is one of the gifts that comes through God’s grace, and it only comes as a gift of grace.
- Romans 1:5 NIV 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.
- Romans 4:16 NIV 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
- Romans 5:2 NIV 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
- Romans 12:3 NIV 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
- 2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
- Ephesians 2:8 NIV 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
- 1 Timothy 1:14 NIV 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Grace & Faith