Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | February 4, 2015

Walking By Faith: What It Is, And What It Is Not

  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation for everyone who believes; first for the Jew, and then for the gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed; a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17)
In the above portion of scripture, Paul is talking about a faith that continues past that first, initial time of salvation when one hears the gospel, believes it and responds to it with faith by essentially saying, “Yes, I believe that Jesus died for my sin and rose again, and I’m putting my trust in Him for forgiveness of my sin and imputed righteousness, eternal life, and a restored relationship with God.” He’s talking about a faith that continues “from first to last”… from beginning to end…..and reinforces this truth by saying “The righteous shall LIVE by faith.” I believe many of us “start” in faith…. that is, we hear and believe and respond to the gospel message and receive grace and new life in Christ, but never move past that…we never mature and grow to the place of actually living day to day, month to month, year to year by faith through our relationship with God. Personally, I believe that one of the main reasons for this is that there are so many churches out there whose leadership has such a limited understanding of the implications of the New Covenant upon the life of the believer, and what it means to live by faith, that they can’t possibly introduce others to it. Today, we’re going to explore together what it really means to live by faith. Some of what I say may come as a surprise to some, but that’s OK. We’re all here to learn and grow together. Biblical faith….. before discussing what faith is, and what it looks like, I first want to share what biblical faith is not.
  1. Faith is not us engaging in new age imagination processes in order to create some desired outcome. “If you can imagine it, you can have it! Just believe it long enough and hard enough, and confess it enough, and your dream can become reality!” This is not the “living by faith” that Paul was referring to.
  2. Likewise, me developing my own plan or vision statement and then supposedly stepping out “by faith” and “believing God to bless it and to cause my plan to become successful” is not faith.
  3. Following the “8 steps to create the life you want,” as one recent author’s book exclaims, is not biblical faith.
  4. Faith is not me jumping up and down, or shouting praise to God at the top of my lungs in order to “work God,”…. to “get Him to move,” or to “enter into His presence.” This is nonsense. Faith is initiated by God, not by us. Trying to coerce God to move through our spiritual calisthenics is not living by faith, by any means.
  5. Living by faith is not the practice of spiritual disciplines or principles in order to achieve a certain level of so-called “Christian maturity.”
  6. Many Christians would define living by faith as believing the scriptures; believing “what is written” in light of the New Covenant. Study the bible, discover the promises of God, see what the Bible says about who we are in Christ, and believe it; that this is what it means to live by faith. Well, this is an example of faith; however, even this is not what Paul was specifically referring to when he speaks of the righteous “living by faith.”

Now, as a means to ultimately get to where we are going with this, I want to paint a scenario for you. Please take a minute to contemplate the following:

Imagine that you woke up tomorrow morning and:

  1. Your church building had been bulldozed to the ground. Not only that, every church building everywhere had been bulldozed to the ground.
  2. There was no more access to TV ministries
  3. There was no more access to radio ministries
  4. There was no more access to online ministries, blogs or anything else online
  5. There were no worship CDs
  6. There were no Christian bookstores
  7. There were no Christian books available anywhere, including in your own home.
  8. You had no Bible

Question: If this were the case, how would it affect your relationship with God from that day forward? Just silently think about that for a moment, and answer the question to yourself.

Now, let’s take a step back in time to the early Church. Book of Acts, after the day of Pentecost:

  1. There were no church buildings. Believers met in the marketplace, in the temple courts like Solomon’s Colonnade, or in their homes.
  2. There was no TV
  3. There was no radio
  4. There was no worldwide web
  5. There were no worship CDs
  6. There were no Christian bookstores
  7. There were no Bibles like we have today. There were scrolls in the synagogue that certain qualified people would read from, but they certainly weren’t reading to reveal Christ….Jews for Jesus were being thrown out of the synagogue. It was possible for a Jew to own his own scrolls, but historians and scholars overwhelmingly agree that it would be very rare for a common Jew to pay a scribe to hand-write scrolls that he would carry around with him.

OK…no church buildings, no TV, no radio, no computers, no Christian bookstores, no CD’s, and no Bibles.

Question: Were they obedient to God? Did they walk by faith?

Of course they did.

  But how? What did it look like?

  The “living by faith” that Paul is talking about is this: Hearing from God, and doing what He says. Hearing from God, either through Holy Spirit inspired preaching, teaching, encouragement, instruction, conversation, or through direct communication by the Holy Spirit to our hearts, and doing what He says.

I love the Bible. Have one right here next to me. But in our culture, there is such an overemphasis on reading and studying the Bible that many people have become numb to the leading, direction and “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and many aren’t even open to the reality that there is a Holy Spirit who has been given to us to be our helper, our guide, our counselor, our strength, and the means by which to live the “life of faith” that Christ has called us to live.

In Romans 10:17, Paul says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Now the way most all of us have been taught regarding this scripture, including myself, is this: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The Word of God is the Bible. Therefore, read it, study it, memorize it, etc…because that’s how faith comes.” Well, although faith can come through reading the Bible, that’s really not the point that Paul is trying to convey through this particular scripture. For them, “Hearing by the Word of God” couldn’t possibly mean “Reading the Bible” because there was no Bible, and even if there was one, the literacy rate in Jesus’ day (according to most scholars) was no more than 20%, so most people wouldn’t even be able to read it if they had one!

So what is Paul referring to when he talks of the “Word of God” in this passage?

Well, there are 2 Greek words that can be used to define the word, “word.” The first Greek word is Logos, which specifically refers to the written word of God. But the other Greek word is Rhema, and this refers to the “here and now” spoken Word of God, either through oral instruction or encouragement, or through the Holy Spirit speaking directly to the heart of the believer. When I refer to the Holy Spirit “speaking,” I’m referring to what can be described as a prompting, an impression, a deep knowing, or what some describe as a “still small voice.”

The correct reading of Romans 10:17 in the Greek is this: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the “Rhema” Word of God.

For example, let’s say you’re around someone who is teaching the Word, or perhaps just in deep conversation with someone. Well, during that time, the Holy Spirit is there to give you RHEMA….that is, to take the words you’re hearing and have them speak to you in a way that’s uniquely powerful to you in a personal way, thus bringing positive change. Then, there’s the example of the Holy Spirit giving RHEMA directly to the heart of the believer. You may be at work and sense the prompting of the Holy Spirit to offer an encouraging word to someone, or to pray for someone, or to choose one of two directions set before you, or you may receive a deep knowing on how to handle a specific situation. It can be described as a “still small voice” of sorts.

Now, there’s some who think the Holy Spirit is not for today. “Oh, He spoke to and directed believers back in the early church, but that’s not for today…that was just for the times of the Apostles. All that stuff, and the gifts of the Spirit have passed away. For today, God has given us “the Bible” and this is the “full counsel of God” and that’s all we need and all we’re supposed to have.”

Utter and complete nonsense. The temple of the Old Covenant has been replaced by the indwelling of the New Covenant. Do we not know that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? God, by His Spirit, lives in the hearts of those that believe. And He doesn’t live in us to be silent! No no… Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit are for today just like they were back then.

One night, back in 1993, I was driving from a local church back to my home. On the way, I had the desire to get an ice-cream at Friendly’s (Anyone out there know of Friendly’s?). As I’m driving through downtown Albany, NY, I had a sudden prompting in my heart that I needed to lock my doors. Initially, I just “brushed it off” and continued on my merry way. But once again, perhaps 30 seconds later, that same impression came to my heart, telling me to “lock my doors.” Well, my 1978 Ford Mustang didn’t have power door locks, but nonetheless, I obeyed the prompting and just went ahead and locked each door and continued on my merry way.

What happened next, I will never, ever forget.

Perhaps 30 seconds later, I came to a stop light; there was one car stopped in front of me. Another car was coming toward us from the opposite direction. That car abruptly stopped parallel to the car in front of me, and two guys got out with baseball bats and started beating mercilessly upon the car. I specifically remember one guy jumping on the hood and smashing out the windshield. They proceeded to open the doors of that car, pulled one guy out and started beating him. This all lasted about 60 seconds. The two men with bats then jumped back in their car and sped away.

The driver of the car in front of me walked towards my car. As he did, I rolled down my window and asked him if he was alright. I looked at him and all I can say is that I saw eyes of rage. He pointed at me and yelled, “Get out of the car!” I said, “What?” He once again yelled to me, “Get out of the car” and attempted to punch out my window with his fist, but his fist partly caught the metal frame above the window. Once that didn’t work, he immediately lunged for my car door and pulled up on the handle to open it. But it was locked.

He actually fell back after trying this, which gave me just enough time to put my car in drive, pull between his car and the curb, and escape down the side-street at that intersection.

And it was at that very moment that I became aware, for the first time in my walk with Christ, that I had heard from the Holy Spirit. I then proceeded to roll down my window to shout praise, with one hand on the wheel and the other hand raised out the window, not caring in any way what folks on the sidewalk thought!

I share the above testimony to make the following point:


Friends, we need the Holy Spirit. He is alive and well today, just as He was 2000 years ago with the early Church.

In closing, I want to share real-life examples of walking by faith….first, from the Old Covenant.

First, consider Abraham. God said to Abraham, “Abraham, get up and go to a land I’m going to show you..” Abraham heard from God, and did what He said.

Then there is Noah. God said to Noah, “Noah, there’s a flood coming. I want you to build an ark…” Noah heard from God, and did what God said. The result? He saved himself, his family, the animals on the ark, and he prolonged the human race!

Then, there’s Joshua. God said to Joshua, “Joshua, I want you and your army to march around this city once for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, March around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets, then give a loud shout and the walls of Jericho will come down and your army can go in.” Joshua heard from God, and did what God said. The result? The walls came tumbling down, and the Israelites took the city.

The outworking of hearing is faith, the outworking of faith is obedience, and the outworking of obedience is seeing the plans and purposes of God fulfilled in our lives. By the way, Abraham, Noah and Joshua are all mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the chapter that gives examples of those who walked by faith; that we should follow in the same example of faith.

Now, lets move to New Covenant examples of what “living by faith” looked like. Listen to the following scriptures in the Book of Acts that give a glimpse of how these men walked by faith:

  Acts 16: 6-7: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching in the province of Asia.”

Acts 20:22-23: Paul said to his friends, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

And in Acts 21:4, we see how the disciples, through the Holy Spirit, warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

So, we see the Holy Spirit very active in directing, guiding, leading and speaking to God’s people.

  Then, there is Jesus Himself, the greatest example of what it means to walk by faith.

  “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the Word was God….and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1,14)

Jesus. He was 100% God, and 100% man. Yet when He lived on the earth and during His public ministry, He never did anything through His “Godness.” He operated as 100% man on the earth, filled with the Holy Spirit, and He never did anything apart from first HEARING from His Father! He lived in relationship with His Father and His ear was tuned to His voice. He heard from His Father, and did what His Father said, even being obedient to death on a cross. He’s the ultimate example of what it means to live by faith.

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees in John 8:28-30 says, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own, but speak just what the father has taught me.” And again, in John 12:49-50, Jesus says, “For I did not speak on my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Now, listen to what Jesus has to say about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives:

  “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:15-27)

  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. (John 15:26)

  “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15)

In closing, I want to touch some more on the implications of the New Covenant and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the scriptures below. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to bring “Rhema” to our hearts…to open our eyes to see and understand the Holy Spirit for who He is, and who He wants to be in our lives:

  “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:1-14)

  “Do you not know that you yourselves are the temple of God and God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

  “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal…the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

  “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:17-22)

  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed…not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, to will and to work according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

  “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:24-29)

When God speaks to us, may we respond by doing that which He directs us to do. May we focus on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, with ears to hear and hearts to obey.



  1. Great teaching.I believe that the time for this to be understood,is NOW! What a NOW word.


    • Thanks, Jim. Always great to receive some feedback. Won’t see you this weekend but will see you next weekend. Stand fast in His grace, my friend!!


  2. Powerful!! Yes, faith is trusting God, no matter what your circumstances around you. But there are levels or steps of faith… and you reach these higher levels of faith as you overcome each step. And as we walk in faith and learn to trust God totally, we become Spirit-led… walking in the Spirit… as we allow Him to lead and protect us as He did you that day. What an awesome God we serve!! God bless you!!


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