Faith That's in Vain
The word "vain" is defined as emptiness, fruitlessness, or worthlessness. Hence, faith that is in vain is one that is empty, fruitless or worthless. The value of faith is shown in that without it one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). It is acquired by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Religious matters not taught in the Word of God cannot be held by faith but must be placed in the realm of human opinion. We walk by faith (2 Cor. 5: 7) only as we walk in harmony with divine truth.
It is possible that one may have faith that is in vain. The incurable may believe in his recovery, but his faith may be in vain. A mother may believe in her son's returning safely from war, but her faith may be in vain. Such cases are pathetic, but no more so than those whose religious faith is in vain. Paul taught the Corinthians that they were saved by the gospel unless they had believed in vain (I Cor. 15: 2). This illustrates that one's religious faith may be vainly based, upon the mere "hope" of men, rather than the word of God.
Faith in Wrong Person
One's faith is in vain if it is in the wrong person. "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (Jno. 8: 24). One must believe in Christ as the Son of God or else he will die in his sins and where Christ has gone, he cannot go (Jno. 8:21). Such religions as Judaism, Masonry and Mohammedanism deny this, yet they entertain hope for an. eternal home of the soul with God. Their faith is one that is in vain.
Faith in False Doctrine
One's faith may be in vain by believing the wrong doctrine. He may believe in the right person, Christ, and then be taught doctrines not in harmony with that of Christ. Contrary to popular religious sentiment, it does make a difference what one believes. Paul taught that some would depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1) and left Timothy at Ephesus that he might charge some not to teach a different doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3).
When one goes beyond the doctrine of Christ, he no longer has God (2 Jno. 9). Following the doctrines and commandments of men causes our worship to be in vain (Matt. 15: 9). Human error, though honestly believed, cannot be substituted for divine truth without rendering one's faith vain. One must believe the right doctrine as well as in the right person, or he has a faith that is in vain.
Faith Without Works
One's faith is in vain if it has no works. James teaches that by works faith is made perfect, that by works a man is justified and not by faith only, and that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:22-26). Inspiration taught that the faith that avails is one that works by love (Gal 5:6), and that Christ is the author of salvation to those who obey him (Heb. 5:9). How different l this is from the teaching of men that affirm l that salvation is by faith only. Faith that does not lead to obedience, like faith in the wrong person or doctrine, is a faith that is in vain.
Faith That Does not Continue
Finally, one's faith is vain if it is not an abiding or enduring faith. Such passages as Heb. 3:6, 14; 10:23, 35; emphasize the importance of holding fast our confidence or the profession of our faith. Jesus talked about some who believed for a while but in time of temptation fell away (Lk. 8:13) Those who do this are of that number that draw back unto perdition and do not believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 10:38). Hence their faith is in vain.
Our salvation is by faith but it is by a faith that's placed in the right person, Christ, and in the right doctrine, the doctrine of Christ. It is by a faith that expresses itself in obedience to that doctrine and one that abides and endures throughout our lives. Faith that falls short of this is a faith that is in vain.
Truth Magazine VII: 9, pp. 4