TWO ASPECTS OF FAITH
We need to consider carefully the meaning of faith in 1 Thessalonians 3. In verse 2 faith is not only subjective, referring to the saints’ believing, as in verses 5, 6, and 10, but also objective, referring to what they believe in, as in 1 Timothy 3:9; 4:1; and 2 Timothy 4:7. These two aspects of faith involve each other. Our believing (subjective faith) is out of the things we believe and in the things we believe (objective faith).
The word faith in 1 Thessalonians is somewhat difficult to understand. The reason for this difficulty is that in the New Testament there are two aspects of faith, the objective aspect and the subjective aspect. Doctrinally speaking, the objective aspect comes first and produces the subjective aspect. The objective faith denotes those things in which we believe for our salvation. It includes the content of the new covenant. Thus, the content of the new covenant is equal to the objective faith. This aspect of faith is emphasized strongly in a book like 1 Timothy. For example, 1 Timothy 1:19 speaks of the faith. The faith in that verse is objective and refers to the things we believe in. However, the same verse also mentions subjective faith when it speaks of “holding faith and a good conscience.” This subjective faith refers to our act of believing.
Christians often speak of the faith in an objective sense. Someone may ask what your faith is, meaning what you believe. This aspect of faith, the objective aspect, is not a matter of our action of believing, but a matter of what we believe. This objective faith includes the contents of God’s New Testament economy.
When we receive a word concerning the objective faith, the contents of God’s New Testament economy, spontaneously subjective faith is produced in us. We respond to the objective faith by believing. This means that we hear of the objective faith, and then subjective faith rises up in us. This subjective faith is our act of believing.
Subjective faith does not happen once for all. On the contrary, from the time we began to believe, the action of believing has been going within us, for the Christian life is a life of faith, a life of believing. Day by day we are living a believing life. We do not live according to what we see; we live according to what we believe. As Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by appearance” (2 Cor. 5:7). Our walk is by faith, not by sight.
All the matters we are talking about in these messages are matters of faith. For example, Colossians 1:27 says that Christ is in us to be our hope of glory. We receive this word in faith. By faith we believe in His coming back, and by faith we await a crown. Our speaking concerning these things is altogether by faith. Therefore, those who do not have faith do not have any idea of what we are saying. To them, our word is either superstitious or nonsensical. They can neither believe it nor accept it. Worldly people, unbelievers, do not have faith. As a result, they cannot understand what we are saying or the way we are living. Our living is absolutely a life of believing.
The objective aspect of faith is profound. We cannot say that we are perfect or altogether complete with respect to the objective faith. God’s economy is profound. The content of His economy is Christ as the all-inclusive and all-extensive One. It is because God’s economy is so profound and rich in its content that we dare not say that the objective faith has been perfected among us. We need to see that our objective faith includes the all-inclusive and all-extensive Christ as the content of God’s economy. We do not yet know this content adequately or realize it fully. Thus, we still need to lay hold of more of the all-inclusive Christ, more of Christ as the content of our objective faith.
Praise the Lord that this objective faith produces subjective believing! When we receive a revelation concerning Christ, we cannot keep ourselves from believing in Him. Faith is spontaneously infused into our being, and we automatically believe in Christ. Unbelievers find it impossible to believe that Christ is in us. We, however, cannot help but believe that Christ lives in us. He is in us to be our life, our life supply, and our everything. We have seen a vision of the indwelling Christ, and we have no choice except to believe that He is actually in us. Because we have seen a revelation regarding the content of God’s economy, we cannot help believing in what we have seen. We have been infused with the ability to believe, and now we have subjective faith, the inward action of believing.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)