Faith and The Faith
Having faith in something is an act of will. Man chooses to believe or to disbelieve. It is also man’s choice as to who he will believe. Adam and Eve believed in God’s words, then chose to believe in the serpent’s words (Genesis 3). They acted according to their faith in both instances. So it is with us. If we believe God’s word, we will do as God speaks. If we believe someone else (even ourselves), we will do accordingly. Obeying God results in blessings whereas disobedience incurs consequences. Each person must develop his own faith. In this sense, faith is personal. I cannot believe for you or vice versa.
However, faith is used in another way in scripture. Jude wrote of a common salvation based upon the faith in Jude 1.3: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints.” Here, “the faith” is referring to the gospel message. We see this also from Acts 6.7: “The word of God kept spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
The gospel is a message that must be obeyed, not merely believed. We find from 2 Thessalonians 1.8-9 that those who do not obey the gospel will be punished with eternal destruction. In Acts 13.8, Elymas, in opposing Barnabas and Paul, sought to turn the proconsul away from the faith (i.e., the gospel that they were proclaiming).
The apostle Paul also encouraged Christians to continue in the faith (i.e., continue being obedient to the gospel message), “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14.22). When Paul preached the faith, he was preaching the gospel. “…But they only kept hearing, ‘The man who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1.23). "The household of faith” (Galatians 6.10) refers to Christians. One becomes a member of “the household of faith” by obedience to the gospel message. Obedience is involved in being born anew (John 3.3,5).
In describing our spiritual life after the new birth, Paul wrote to the saints in Philippi, “Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1.27). This describes obedience. Spiritual growth is described as being “established in your faith” (Colossians 2.7; Jude 1.20). To summarize this, it may be said that we are to have faith in the faith. The word of God is what our faith must be placed in; not a doctrine of man (Romans 10.17).
Faith is common in that it is “like precious” (2 Peter 1.1). In this way, faith is similar to salvation: common, but individually required. Each must come to their own knowledge of truth (1 Timothy 2.4) before he or she can be saved. Likewise, repentance is common as each must turn from his own sins (2 Peter 3.9).
Faith and salvation are common in another way. Salvation is dependent upon faith in the faith. Peter acknowledged that God purifies Jew and Gentile in a common way. Acts 15.9: “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Paul wrote that it was God’s purpose from eternity to unite all from any nationality (Jew and Gentile) into one body, through a common faith, thus sharing a common salvation (Ephesians 2.16 - “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.”).
Righteousness is defined by God, not man. “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10.34-35).