The noun “faith” occurs 552 times in The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB); the verb “believe” occurs 263 times in the same English translation. Obviously, faith/believe is a dominant concept in the New Testament. The frequency of the concept in the NT raises the question, “What is faith?” Cynics define faith as “belief without evidence in something said by one without knowledge of things without parallel.” All people, however, have faith in something. A naturalistic scientist, for example, makes certain faith untestable, unprovable faith assumptions prior to conducting scientific experiments.
The question “what kind of faith” takes precedence over the question what is faith.” The account of the healing of the official’s son in this passage illustrates various levels of faith. What kind of faith do you have?
First, faith may be a desperate faith (Jhn. 4:46-47). The royal official most likely served in some capacity to Herod Antipas (the leader responsible for the death of John the Baptist—Matt. 14:1-12). As an official serving the one who fancied himself a king, the father may have possessed a self-sufficient attitude. His attitude changed when his son became ill and he lacked the resources to heal him. The official traveled twenty miles to plead continually and persistently for Jesus to come back with him and heal his son. Life circumstances, at times, create desperateness within us.
Second, faith may be an inadequate faith (Jhn. 4:48). Jesus addressed this man and the others around him (you people) with a rebuke. You will not believe unless you see the miraculous. In John 2:23-25, the Apostle John commented on the shallowness of faith based upon miracles. People “trusted in His name” when observed miracles. Yet, Jesus did not “entrust Himself to them” because of the shallowness of their faith. Why did Jesus not “entrust Himself to them”—because their faith lacked personal trust in Jesus. Lord, if you will give me this job, heal, give me—then I will believe. The man commanded Jesus to come down (v. 49). Faith does not make demands; faith does not attempt to manipulate God.
Third, faith believes Jesus’ word and obeys (Jhn. 4:49-50). In response to the father’s command (come down), Jesus issued a command—“Go!” Jesus commanded the father to return home with a promise of the healing of his son. The father believed the promise of Jesus and obeyed the command to return. Faith is accepting the promises of Jesus and obeying the commands of Jesus. Through obedience, an individual demonstrates the nature of true faith. In the NT, faith and faithfulness are inseparable. Faith contains a personal element of trust. The Gospel of John proclaims a unique element of faith. Faith, according to John, is “believing into” Jesus—rather than believing “in” Jesus. Believing “into” Jesus expresses trust and commitment.
To what type of Christ do we commit ourselves in faith? Jesus performed the mighty miracle of healing the child without being physically present. Jesus is not physically present with us; yet His physical absence does not limit the operation of His power in our life.
Fourth, faith is dynamic, rather than static (Jhn. 4:53). A static faith fails to grow and develop. A dynamic faith grows deeper and stronger. The Gospel of John, in particular, emphasizes the dynamic nature of faith. In the Fourth Gospel, the noun “faith” never occurs.
In this Gospel, faith is always a verb.
Canadian Baptist pastor, Bruce Milne, affirmed, “There is a notable progression in the official’s response to Jesus, from seeking miraculous signs (48) to taking Jesus at his word (50), to believing (53).”
Is your faith growing and developing? Do you have a mature faith?
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