Archive for August, 2011

The Principle of Faith towards God

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” [1]  It is important to remember that while this verse, speaks of ‘leaving’ these principles and ‘not laying again the foundation’; the Author of Hebrews is not hereby suggesting that the principles are unimportant, or that they should not be taught and learned. The motivation for ‘leaving’ or not having to constantly re-lay this foundation is that we should progress to maturity in Christ, rather than remaining spiritually immature, needing to be constantly taught these basic or elementary principles over and over.

Why do we need Faith?

God’s dealings with mankind and more specifically Israel throughout the Old Testament were very visible, tangible and material in nature. For example His blessings upon Israel were shown by the abundance of their crops and the fruitfulness of their wombs in producing physical children. He opened the Red Sea before their eyes and fed them with physical edible manna in the wilderness. Their enemies were physical armies and God gave them visible, quantifiable victories in battle. They were also given a Geographical land mass for their inheritance.  Their faith was based upon what they saw and later generations of Israelites were reminded numerous times in the Psalms of God’s many wonderful works, by which they were to believe in and trust the God of their fathers.

In the New Testament Jesus introduced the ‘new and living way’ by which we are to interact with God. He did this in His discourse with Nicodemus [2] where He told him that unless a man is ‘born again’ he would not see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus, although well versed in Old Testament teaching, could not understand what Jesus was talking about because he could not grasp the transition from the tangible to the spiritual. Jesus also told the woman at Jacob’s well that “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”[3] In other words, no longer a Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night to indicate the visible presence of God and no longer the visible glory of God in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, but God is Spirit, invisible to us and incomprehensible to human minds. It is for this reason that we need to exercise faith in the invisible God. There is no other way to interact with an invisible and incomprehensible God.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”[4]

Faith vs Positive Thinking

Most of our blessings, interventions and interactions with God in the New Testament are spiritual and are therefore invisible, intangible and not physically quantifiable; it is for this reason that ‘Faith’ is essential to lay hold of and experience these blessings. It may be argued that this faith appears to be just wishful thinking or the ‘power of positive thinking’; however there is a very big difference between the faith of the New Testament and positive thinking.

So called ‘Faith’ that is in fact positive thinking and not Biblical faith at all is based on an imagination, dream or positive future outcome that we desire. This ‘power of positive thinking’ is exploited by false teachers and false prophets to stir people into a positive frame of mind. One of the distorted uses of this psychology of creating in an audience a positive frame of mind, is that it makes people more generous to give their money when urged to do so. This ungodly exploitation and manipulation is in fact wicked extortion. The so-called ‘Faith Movement’ also referred to by some as the ‘name it and claim it’ Movement , employ the principle of ‘positive thinking’, which is based on an individual visualising an item or an outcome and then applying their will and full concentration upon the desired outcome, until it (hopefully) occurs. It is also falsely taught that this ‘faith’ forces God to answer our prayer, but this is not Biblical faith at all.

Biblical faith is based upon the actual promises that God has made to us in Christ, through His written Word, understood in their correct context. And all truth in the Bible is only true in its relationship to Jesus Christ, because He is The Truth.[5]

Proponents of the ‘Faith Movement’ would argue that they base their teaching on what Jesus said; “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”[6]However, Jesus both demonstrated throughout the years of His earthly ministry and by His own declaration on many occasions, that He could do nothing Himself but that the works he did were only the works that His Father instructed and enabled Him to do.[7] Jesus further made it clear to His disciples that in the same way that the Father had sent Him, He was sending them.[8] The context in which John chapter fourteen and verse fourteen and similar verses is therefore to be understood, is that as we apply ourselves to do the Father’s will as Jesus did, we can ask anything in His name and the Father will respond to our request according to His will. John also confirms this understanding in his epistle; “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”[9]

God will never do anything contrary to His will no matter how much positive thinking or positive confession we can muster. James confirms this very clearly by saying, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”[10]

Do we need Blind Faith to believe in an invisible God?

It may also be argued that in order to believe in an invisible God for invisible blessings with no tangible evidence; that we need ‘blind faith’ like someone stepping off a cliff and believing they will fly. However, true Biblical faith is not about jumping blindly into the unknown; it is basing our confidence and absolute trust in what God has promised to do for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

God has provided an abundance of tangible evidence of His existence and His character and person in the whole of creation. We are told that God created the universe by speaking words. We know that words are used to communicate, therefore it is to be understood that the whole of creation is in fact a message. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”[11] By close inspection of the immense creation and the amazing design in everything that has been made, we are given some understanding of God’s eternal power and Godhead or Trinity. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”[12]

God has also provided us with irrefutable evidence of His message to us in the Bible. The Bible in its original languages was inspired by God[13] and is completely reliant for its credibility on the accuracy of its predictions or prophecies. Many of these prophecies have already been fulfilled down to the tiniest detail. Jesus also endorses the credibility of the Bible by telling us, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”[14]

Our faith is therefore not mindless or blind faith, but is based upon the absolute assurance that God does exist and that He will honour His word and His promises to us. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”[15]

How is Faith generated in our hearts?

This is a very important aspect to understand. Paul made it clear that it is possible for our faith, confidence or belief system to be based on the wrong information, such as the wisdom of men. “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”[16]

It is a fatal error to measure our faith against the success or lack of success in obtaining answers to our prayers from God, for the simple reason that there are many other factors, other than our faith, why our prayers have apparently not been answered. We may be asking for the wrong reason, or we may be asking contrary to God’s will, to mention just two factors.

The basis of our faith must be very securely founded upon the Word of God and the power of God to fulfil His Word and not on what men say or what we think. The question is how do we do this? Paul answers this question with these inspired words, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”[17]This ‘hearing’ means comprehending deep in our hearts what God is saying through His Word.  Comprehending, understanding, internalizing or hearing God’s Word is the unique and exclusive work of the Holy Spirit, whom God has sent to us for this specific reason. As Jesus taught, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”[18]

To understand this process we need to consider how faith was first sparked in our hearts. When the Gospel is presented to a sinner, the Holy Spirit convinces the individual of sin. In other words for the first time they are confronted with the offense that their sin is to God.[19] The Holy Spirit then lights up the reality and existence of Jesus Christ in their heart and for the first time they realise why Jesus died and that He is alive. All of this revelation can only come by the work of the Holy Spirit.[20] No amount of sales pressure or clever argument will bring about this supernatural understanding. It is at this point that faith comes by ‘hearing’ these facts, the sinner then needs to act upon this faith and respond to God’s call.[21]

The great emphasis on ‘hearing’ what the Spirit is saying throughout the first five chapters of Hebrews and in the message to all of the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three underline the importance of hearing and comprehending what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through God’s Word, throughout our Christian walk with the Lord. This hearing is our only source of true faith in Him.

The Two unbreakable Pillars of our Faith

Faith is the imperative requirement for a relationship with the invisible God and to enable us to embrace the wonderful benefits of eternal life in Jesus Christ. For this reason God has reassured the heirs of salvation (those who have responded to the Gospel) by two immutable things that can never be changed or broken. The first is that God has made a promise that Jesus will represent us as our High Priest until we are safely home in Heaven and the second is that God confirmed this promise with an Oath, using His own Name as security. In these two things it is impossible for God to lie, therefore we have the strongest possible reason to have confidence that what God has promised, He will definitely do.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. [22]

The Principle of Faith towards God

Based on all of the above considerations we are now able to define the ‘Principle’ of faith rather than the doctrine or teaching on faith. The principle of faith towards God is “absolute confidence in the Person and work of Jesus Christ” This principle is expressed in the verse previously quoted, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”[23] In other words we believe that God is everything that He says He is in the Scriptures and that He will reward us by fulfilling all His promises to us, if we diligently seek Him by faith. Further to this we understand that all that God is, is fully revealed in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.[24] Also, all that God has promised, He will fulfil by His Son, Jesus Christ.[25]

Faith should never be based on our feelings, circumstances, hopes and dreams, but firmly upon the revelation of the truth to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which truth is to be understood in Jesus Christ who is The Truth.

The Principle of faith towards God = Absolute trust (confidence) in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

[1] Heb 6:1

[2] John 3:1-12

[3] John 4:23-24

[4] Heb 11:6

[5] John 14:6

[6] John 14:14

[7] John 5:19

[8] John 20:21

[9] 1 John 5:14-15

[10] James 4:3

[11] Heb 11:3

[12] Rom 1:20

[13] 2 Tim 3:16

[14] Matt 5:18

[15] Heb 11:6

[16] 1 Cor. 2:4-5

[17] Rom 10:17

[18] John 16:13-14

[19] John 16:8-11

[20] 2 Cor. 4:6

[21] Acts 2:21

[22] Heb 6:13-20

[23] Heb 11:6

[24] Heb 1:3 and Col 2:9

[25] 2 Cor. 1:20


Read Full Post »