Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 5

Since during the last post we discussed repentance, from what it is, to why it is so important in the life of every believer, to the fact that Jesus, as well as all the Apostles preached repentance first and foremost, today we will be discussing faith toward God. We are discussing faith toward God today, because it is the second thing that Paul lists as an elementary principle of Christ, right after repentance. As I stated in the introduction to this series, we will be discussing these principles, or these fundamental teachings in the order that Paul laid them out and enumerated them.

If in Paul’s estimation it was time for the Hebrews to leave the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ behind, and go on to perfection, I fear that for many believers, in many churches today it is of utmost importance that they reacquaint themselves with these principles, and adhere to them once more.

No matter how beautiful a building, if the foundation is not built to specifications, if the foundation is weak, it is only a matter of time before it all comes crumbling to the ground. We are discussing the elementary principles of Christ, today and for some posts to come for this reason, so that you might have a solid and stable foundation in God, and continue to build upon it.

Although it might not seem like it at first glance, the doctrine of faith toward God is both deep and wide. It is by no means shallow, and there is much to discuss when it comes to the topic of faith. As an introduction to the doctrine of faith toward God, today we will be discussing the nature of faith.

Although there is a plethora of ideas, doctrines, formulations and hypothesis concerning faith in the world, today we will focus exclusively on what the Word of God has to say about it. Even those who do not know God, who have no relationship or fellowship with Him, use the term faith, but the faith they possess is not saving faith, for there is only one saving faith, and that is in Christ Jesus and what He did for us on the cross.

True faith has its origins, its roots, and its power in the Word of God, and this is why we must go to the Word in order to discover the nature of faith, and more importantly how to appropriate this faith toward God in our daily lives that we might grow, that we might mature, that we might be those faithful servants which God can use and work with.

As it is always wise to begin at the beginning, the first thing that we will do is look into the Word of God, and see the definition of faith. There is no more succinct and in-depth definition of faith in the entire Bible than that which we find in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. In fact it is the only passage in scripture that outright defines faith.

Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Now the two big themes that we must be aware of in this definition of faith, is that faith is substance, and also evidence. So what is substance?

Well, in its simplest definition, substance is defined as the invariable matter of which a person or a thing exists. Substance is matter, it is essence, and so in other words, faith is a sure and quantifiable work of the grace of God that is both felt and seen. Faith is a spiritual reality by which we can enter in to other spiritual realities. Faith is the doorway into the gifts and promises of God. It is the foundation, the substance, placed in us by God that we might attain those things which are out of reach for the human mind. Faith is the faculty, or the gift that perceives the unseen things, which cover the entire spectrum of spiritual reality. It is by no means an intellectual or human faculty, but it is the spiritual substance, the spiritual conduit by which we can have a connection with God and His unseen kingdom.

Spiritual substance exists, and it is as real as the material substance that surrounds us.

Just as our senses put us in touch with the physical world, faith puts us in touch with the spiritual. Now there is another nugget of truth that is worth mentioning, and that is just as our sense of sight is employed when there is light, and our sense of hearing when there is sound, faith is employed in perceiving the unseen and eternal.

By its very definition faith is very different from hope. There are some who would readily interchange faith and hope, but true faith goes far beyond what hope can carry us. Faith is certainty, and this certainty gives us the boldness to press on. Another glaring difference between faith and hope is that while hope is anchored in future things, faith is steadfastly anchored in the present. When one hopes, they merely desire that something or some desire will be fulfilled at a future date. When one has faith however, they walk in certitude, for faith is the evidence of things not seen.

Hope is an attitude of expectation, while faith is something real that has been placed in us for the present, for this time, and not some future time.

Before going further one last difference that I want to point out between hope and faith is that faith resides in the heart of man, it is an issue of the heart, while hope resides in the mind of a man, and is an issue of human reasoning.

The apostle Paul himself asserts this truth, and poetically so when encouraging the church of Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 5:8, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”

It is common knowledge that while a breastplate covers the chest, and the heart, a helmet covers the head. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with hope, hope is a glorious virtue, but we cannot confuse it or interchange it with faith. Hope comes from the mind of man, but faith springs up from the heart of man. Both have distinct and individual origins.

When faith is present in the heart of an individual, this faith toward God produces change. A faith that does not produce change, is no faith at all, and is merely hope that has been misinterpreted as faith. Faith produces transformation, it produces change, and one cannot possess true faith without being thoroughly transformed in their hearts.

Another way of looking at it is that faith produces fruit. One can claim to have faith, but if they have no fruit, then all it is, is a claim. The Apostle James even goes so far as to say that faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Faith is action, and absent of action, we either have a hope that is made up to look like faith, or a dead faith that does nothing to transform.

James 2:8, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Faith is not the logical acceptance of a thing, it is not metal agreement, it is transformative, and it begins in the hearts of man. Faith leads us to faith, and is received by faith.

Once again we defer to the Apostle Paul, who this time is writing to the Romans, and in the context of talking about the gospel of Christ, and the fact that it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, also says something truly profound about faith.

Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.”

In other words, once the righteousness of God is revealed to us through the Scriptures, it leads us to faith, but not only that, the faith to which the scripture leads us, will invariably lead us to greater faith still. We grow from faith to faith in Christ, having the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God to salvation for those who believe, as the spark that begins our transformation.

Once we receive the righteousness of God by faith, it propels us to greater faith, until we come to that point wherein we echo Habakkuk just as Paul did, and say ‘the just shall live by faith.’

Faith so changes your life, your emotions, your thoughts and your desires, that you come to the point of living by faith. Faith is not something we practice on the weekends, it is not something we employ only when we are among the brethren, it is not something that we plug into only when we’re in trouble, it is a way of life. That is true and saving faith.

I realize that in our modern culture, with all its trappings and distractions it might seem odd, even strange, to speak about or encourage living by faith. It is not I who is encouraging this however, but rather the Word of God is encouraging it. Yes, the just shall live by faith. What a marvelous thing.

For some even the thought of living by faith is anathema, and taboo, because they are still tethered to this world, and their hearts and minds are firmly anchored in this present age. They do not understand that to live by faith is not a negative, but rather the greatest of positives. It is a glorious thing when one has grown from faith to faith, and has come to that place in their relationship and intimacy with God that they can live by faith, having full assurance that the Father who sees all, will make a way in all things.

Faith toward God also operates in the present. We do not have faith that one day we will have salvation, but we have faith that we are presently saved. We do not have faith that one day we will have eternal life, but we have faith that we presently have eternal life.

As Jesus was speaking to a crowd that had gathered in the sixth chapter of the gospel according to John, He said something truly profound that sheds a greater light on what I am trying to convey.

John 6:47, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

Here we notice that Jesus did not use future tense, He did not say, ‘most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me will have everlasting life’, but rather, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. Faith is a present action, and it translates us into the kingdom and the promises of God. Eternal life works in us, here and now, and the power of eternal life is already operating in us. This is the beauty of faith, it works in the present.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

Sam said...

The difference between faith and hope was clarified for me in this post. It cleared up the blending of the two in my mind.