Monday, May 19, 2008

Holy Faith

Now that we have studied the “Creation of Man” and “Man’s Plunge Into Chaos” we know who man was in the beginning and how his soul became “lost,” or separated from his life source through sin, we will begin our look into God’s wonderful plan of redemption.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25f NAS)

Man’s soul as a victim of his body is hopelessly trapped in a body of death. But God, being rich in mercy toward man pours out His grace by providing a substitute death for man’s sin debt (John 3:15).

And again he writes,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”
(Ephesians 2:8 NAS)

Faith is vital to man’s salvation (Hebrews 11:6), but we fear that in today’s Christian religion “holy faith” is not properly taught. Holy faith is that faith that is set apart from all other faith. There are many kinds of “faith” in the world, such as, emotional faith, intellectual faith, blind faith and etc., but there is only one soul saving “Holy faith” (Jude verse 20). “Holy” designates the pure faith that is from the one and only true Almighty God and is holy as He is holy (Ephesians 2:8ff NAS). In contrast, all other “faith” is of man and cannot be pleasing to God. Without holy faith there is no redemption and salvation for man, thus we will devote this writing to the study of God’s gift of faith.

“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man child with the help of the LORD.” And again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”
(Genesis 4:1-5 NAS)

Why was Abel’s offering pleasing to God while Cain’s was not? This question has been debated down through the ages. The answer lies in the true meaning of the word faith.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews writes,

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”
(Hebrews 11:4 NAS)

What does the writer mean “by faith he offered a better sacrifice than Cain?” Why was God not pleased with Cain’s offering? It seems like a “good thing” to do. How did Able know what to offer? Did Cain have the same knowledge? If Cain and Able both knew to bring an offering to God, then certainly both knew exactly what to bring. If so, how did they obtain such knowledge? Did their father Adam teach them or did God Himself speak directly to them? The answer to all these questions, and many more, lies in the true meaning and understanding of the word faith.

The word “faith” found in the New Testament of the Holy Bible is translated from the Greek word pistis, meaning primarily, “firm persuasion;” a conviction based upon hearing (akin to the Greek word peitho, meaning “to persuade”).

The Apostle Paul writes,

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ {the Anointed One}.”
(Romans 10:17 NAS)

So it must be that firm persuasion that brings about conviction and conversion comes from hearing God—not man. Thus to have faith one must hear the word of God, hence the word of God is the corner stone of faith. And also, throughout the Holy Scriptures the word “obey” is related to the idea of hearing. And obedience is doing that which one has heard, thus fulfilling the will of God

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
(Hebrews 11:7 NAS)

We see from this Scripture concerning Noah that God spoke by His Spirit, Noah heard His word, and because he reverenced God he believed God and obeyed Him. Noah, after hearing and believing God, went to work doing exactly as God, by His Spirit and Word, instructed him. He did not do his own “good thing” as Cain did; Noah, like Abel, was truly obedient to God and it was reckoned to Him as righteousness.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
(Hebrews 11:8 NAS)

God, because of His great love for man whom He had created, had mercy and desired to redeem mankind (Ephesians 2:4 NAS). By God’s election He chose Abram (Abraham). Again we see three elements at work just as we saw with Noah. God, by His Spirit, spoke:

  1. Abram hears the Word of God.
  2. Abram believes God.
  3. Abram obeys God. In the Holy Bible these three elements are called faith.
“By faith Abraham {believed}, when he was called {heard}, obeyed, by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith {hearing, believing and obeying God} he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;”
(Hebrews 11:8-9 NAS)

Had Abraham heard and believed without obeying he would have died in his father’s house without ever accomplishing righteousness that is by faith.

The Apostle James writes,

“What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?”
(James 2:14 NAS)
“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
(James 2:17 NAS)

Obedience to the word of God is doing the works of God, thus fulfilling and giving life to ones faith.

To Abraham was born Isaac, and to Isaac was born Jacob (later named Israel), and to Jacob was born twelve sons who were the forefathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. These were the men of faith who were the beginning of the nation Israel. These men lived by hearing God speaking by His Spirit, believing and obeying His Word from a heart of love; thus the very foundation of the nation Israel was build upon the “Rock;” God speaking by His Spirit, thus the Word of God was the “corner stone” and men of faith was the nation.”

“ (As it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be. And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness .”
(Romans 4:17-22 NAS)

Abraham never forgot whom he had heard and believed; therefore the object of Abraham’s “faith” was not God’s promise (the promise was the occasion of the exercise of faith); his “faith” rested on God Himself. The promises would not have meant anything to Abraham apart from believing that God loved him and that He was fully able to deliver on His promises.

From the Holy Scripture we have learned that the very first element of faith is what God has spoken by His Spirit and caused the hearer to understand. The second element of faith is a firm conviction that God’s word brings about causing the hearer to be established in an unshakeable love, trust and belief in Him. Element one and two brings about the third element which is, a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation of truth with complete surrender and obedience to the will of God from a heart of love. It takes all three of the above elements to constitute faith. If any one of the three is missing it is not faith.

Note: Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context in which it is used, but all three elements are always present in holy faith.

The entire works of God and all that He commands has meaning and purpose. When His people do as He commands they fulfill His purpose. It appears then that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is telling us that Able was instructed of God and caused to understand what He desired Able to do. Able, in reverence, believed and surrendered his own will to do the will of God; thus he obeyed and pleased God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. In doing according to God’s instructions Abel fulfilled God’s purpose in the offering of his sacrifice. Cain, on the other hand, apparently was instructed by God and caused to understand the will of God but he chose to do his own “good thing.” Cain’s offering was just an empty, meaningless ritual and he failed to please God.

“----Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous .”
(1st John 3:12ff NAS)

All the elements that make up faith were present in Able but were not present in Cain. In his disobedience he failed to do the works of God; thus Cain rejected the gift of faith; therefore he was not reckoned as being righteous (or in right standing with God).

As we continue our study we will test our definition of faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
(Hebrews 11:1 NAS)

Let us substitute our definition for the word “faith” in this verse of Scripture. Now hearing, believing and obeying God from a pure heart of love is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hearing God, believing and obeying Him from a heart of love brings total trust, peace and assurance of the things promised and hoped for and a deep, firm conviction of the presents of things though they are not seen.

“For by it {faith} the men of old gained approval.”
(Hebrews 11:2 NAS)

And again we substitute our definition, ----For by hearing, believing and obeying God from a pure heart of love the men of old gained approval. The Scripture testifies of their love and devotion even to death. In our next verse prominence is given to the first element of faith.

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”
(Hebrews 11:3 NAS)

If we substitute only the first element the reading would be proper but it would not be faith. For example-- By hearing God we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. It is possible to hear God and understand His message, and even believe Him, but if we do not love and obey Him it is not faith.

A simple agreement with a known truth is not faith!!

Even the demons believe God and know His truths but they do not love Him, nor do they do His good works; they do not have faith.

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.”
(Hebrews 11:5 NAS)

By hearing, believing and obeying from a pure heart of love Enoch was pleasing to God.

“And 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 seek Him.”
(Hebrews 11:6 NAS)

He who comes to God must believe that He is Almighty God who has authority and power over all; and that He is the Creator and Father of us all, and He is fully able to deliver on all that He promises.

The Apostle Paul asks,

“How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent (that is, called of God and anointed with His Spirit to preach)? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!”
(Romans 10:14-15 NAS)

Thus “----hearing {comes} by the word of Christ {the Anointed One}” (Romans 10:17ff NAS).

The anointed preaching of the “good news” of salvation through Jesus Christ gives life to the ear of the dead (dead because of sin) soul of the hearer causing him to be able to hear the convicting word of God spoken by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that speaks the word of God through the preacher and persuades, convicts, gives life to and teaches and guides the hearer---“So faith comes by hearing------” (Romans 10:17f NAS) .

Paul also writes,

“Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’ .”
(Romans 1:15-17 NAS)

The righteous shall live by hearing, believing and obeying God from a pure heart of love.

In the book of Matthew we find these words,

“He {Jesus} said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ .”
(Matthew 16:15-17 NAS)

According to Jesus God the Father had revealed to Peter that He was God’s Son. Peter evidenced his conviction with the words, “Thou art the Christ {the Anointed One}, the Son of the living God.” What was Jesus’ part in Peter’s revelation? Jesus was flesh and blood but was anointed with the Spirit of His Father to speak His word. It was the anointed teaching of Jesus that quickened the ear of Peter to cause Him to hear the convicting message from the Holy Spirit of the Father. By His Spirit God spoke to Peter through Jesus---Peter heard, believed and obeyed by following Jesus and became His devoted apostle even unto death.

Jesus continues His discourse with Peter,

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.”
(Matthew 16:18 NAS)

What “rock” is Jesus speaking of? It is the same Rock that was the foundation of the nation Israel---God speaking by His Spirit, the hearer believing and obeying from a pure heart of love. His church He speaks of is His nation; God the Father being the foundation “Rock” and His Son, the Word of God, is the corner stone, and men of faith are the church.

“My sheep {people} hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”
(John 10:27-28 NAS)

Death, the gates of hell, shall not prevail against His children of faith.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS)

Included in the “cloud of witnesses” is our Lord and Savior; He kept faith with the Father ‘til death on the cross, fulfilling the Father’s purpose. Jesus, the Living Word of God, is the author, the beginning, the corner stone and the perfecter of holy faith; He is our example.

“--- You, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
(Jude 1:20-21 NAS)

James C Sanford

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