Without faith it is impossible to please him: for
he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a
rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6).
THE CLEAREST examples of faith are offered in certain
Biblical cases in the life and ministry of our Lord. When He walked the
earth and mingled with men and women in need, every response of genuine
faith was followed by expressions of divine pleasure and action. Jesus was
genuinely happy to find faith manifested.
The Roman centurion came to Jesus with great concern
for his sick servant. When Christ promised to come and heal the sick man,
the centurion replied, "[Just] speak the word only and my servant
shall be healed. . . . When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them
that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no,
not in Israel" (Matt. 8:5-10).
The Importance of Faith
Matthew 15 tells the story of a journey Jesus and His
disciples made to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman came seeking help for
her daughter who was "tormented by a devil." She would not be
put off in spite of several apparently negative responses. She pressed her
case even to the point of disbelieving what Christ said (when He was
testing her) and cast her entire trust on Him as the Son of God. Seeing
her earnestness and humility Jesus replied, "ĎWoman, what faith you
have! Be it as you wish!í And from that moment her daughter was restored
to health" (verse 28).
Jesus invariably commended people for their faith. So
it was in the healing of the rulerís daughter and the woman with a flow
of blood (chap. 9: 8-22), the men who let the paralytic down through the
roof (Luke 5:18-26), the repentance and forgiveness of Mary Magdalene in
the house of Simon the Pharisee (chap. 7:36-50), the healing of the blind
man near Jericho (chap. 18:35-43). In every case Christ went into action,
without hesitation, in response to simple faith.
The familiar saying about faith moving the mountain
shows that faith has to do with what God alone can perform; it is
letting God go into action. . . . Apart from faith, which involves
personal acceptance of Jesus, Jesus does not actó CARL HENRY, Jesus
of Nazareth, Saviour and Lord; article by James P. Martin,
"Faith as Historical Understanding" (Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Win. Eerdmans, 1966), p. 193. Used by permission.
The vital necessity of faith is further emphasized when
Christ said, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find
faith on the earth?" (verse 8). The implication of the question is
that genuine faith will be difficult to find.
In this passage Jesus was not suggesting that when He
comes again, men will be lacking in knowledge and in consistency in what
they know. Faith defines a certain and distinct attitude to God on manís
part. By its very nature it transcends the search for information and
verification and attaches supreme value to God, to Jesus Christ, and to
the Word of God. Valuable as sound thinking and knowledge of truth are,
men become Christians or believers only when they take their stand within
Godís saving power and righteousness and commit themselves with the
whole of their person to Jesus Christ.
"The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17).
These simple, clear words do verily contain the key to life here and in
the hereafter. Where salvation and eternal life are provided by God and
offered as a gift, there must be some responsive action or attitude on the
sinner' s part that signifies his acceptance of and commitment to it. That
response is faith. Man is not thereby merely searching for knowledge, but
for life. Faith apprehends the reality of the living God. Faith links us
up with God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, speaking to His listeners, said:
"Therefore I did you put away anxious thoughts
about food and drink to keep you alive, and clothes to cover your
body. . . . Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow and reap and
store in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. You are worth
more than the birds! . . . How little faith you have! No, do not ask
anxiously, ĎWhat are we to eat? What are we to drink? What shall we
wear? All these are things for the heathen to run after, not for you,
because your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your
mind on Godís kingdom and his justice before everything else, and
all the rest will come to you as well" (Matt. 6:25-33, N.E.B.).
Christ is not reproving His listeners for their
ignorance or their inconsistency regarding Godís care and provision for
their lives, but because of their lack of trustful reliance on Him.
Luke puts the divine action of God in Christ at the
root of salvation. But this does not mean that all men are saved. It
opens the door. But if men are to enter, it is necessary that they
should receive this salvation. This means that their attitude must be
that of wholehearted submission to God. . . . Jesus praised the faith
of the centurion (Luke 7:9). . . . By contrast there is castigation
for faithlessness (Luke 9:41). . . . Jesus . . . is seen as demanding
from men . . . an attitude of wholehearted trustó LEON MORRIS, The
Cross in the New Testament, p. 102.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath
great recompence of reward. . . For yet a little while, and he that
shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by
faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in
him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them
that believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 10: 35-39).
The Meaning of Faith
What is the meaning and the sense in which the
Scriptures use the word faith? How did the great men of faith use
it in the Bible? The Greek word for faith is pistis, and the verb
form is pisteuo. Neither word is ever intended to be equated with
simply knowing something. It goes further than that. It has in mind the
idea of trust, reliance upon, allegiance to.
Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest
well: devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:19).
The devils know the correctness of God and His Word.
What they know in their minds actually corresponds to the eternal truth
about God and what He is and has done. They know that Jesus is the Son of
God. They acknowledged that several times when our Lord lived on the
earth. Rational agreement with divine realities does not mean that one has
A dynamic faith involves far more than coherence,
intellectual illumination, or knowing something to be true. There are many
things we know to be true without placing confidence in them. We believe
that man is mortal and subject to death. We believe all men are sinners
and born without God in the world. We believe in the final destruction of
sin and the wicked. But we do not trust in these facts, even though we
acknowledge them to be true.
Faith . . . is not merely an intellectual awareness
of the truth, or even an intellectual acceptance of the truth. You can
have that and still be without faith. Faith means a real trusting in
Him and what He has done on our behalf and for our salvation. . . .
The man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself,
and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he
once was. . . . He does not look at what he hopes to be as the result
of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His
finished work, and he rests on that alone.ó MARTYN LLOYD-JONES, Romans,
Almost never does the Greek word for faith stand alone,
but is connected with prepositions expressing the idea to believe on or
This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent (John
While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children
of light (chap. 12:36).
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me
Paul speaks of having "faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:25).
"Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal.
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who
first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard
the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after
that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him
that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness
The use of the prepositions is significant. To believe
someone may mean simply to believe what he says and nothing more. To
believe in or on a person means to attach great value so as to have
confidence in him. Believers are to trust in the promises and in the Word
of God, because the God who makes a promise and who speaks is always true.
He keeps His word. The truth about this Person, the promises He makes,
have come to have real meaning. They take a believer out of himself and
satisfy his need for that which is trustworthy. Life is largely a search
for those persons in whom we can trust completely. This very attitude of
faith is no simple intellectual assent, but an act of the manís whole
Knowledge does not become belief until it involves
action. This holds true in our relation to doctors, dentists, or any
branch of services to be rendered. Knowledge that can be taken for granted
is of little value until it is trusted and acted upon.
To say that faith is not merely an assent to truth
is not to say that faith does not involve truth. To make the knowledge
of faith anti-intellectual would be to remove it from the area of
factuality in the objective world. It is a fact that Christ is Lord;
it is false to say that He is not. And the lordship of Christ is a
fact affirmed by the intellectó LEWIS B. SMEDES, All
Things Made New, p. 210.
Faith is personal response and surrender to the total historical
claim which Jesus the Christ makes upon us.ó CARL HENRY, op.
cit., p. 196.
The action of faith shifts the center from self and
self-confidence to Christ. This action or basic move in the life is not
accomplished easily. Faith makes people think hard about themselves in
relation to God. It stirs the mind to the deepest concern for the right
relationship to God.
There is nothing superficial in what the New Testament calls faith,
in its relation to this ultimate truth in God; . . . it is his
absolute committal of himself for ever to the sin-bearing love of God
for salvation. It is not simply the act of an instant, it is the
attitude of a life; it is the one right thing at the moment when a man
abandons himself to Christ, and it is the one thing which keeps him
right with God for ever. It is just as truly the whole of Christianity
subjectively as Christ is the whole of it objectivelyó JAMES
DENNY, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation, p.
Faith earns no merit. Faith means wholehearted reliance
on Christ. This reliance is no fiction. We acknowledge our total
dependence on Him for salvation, for life, and for righteousness. This
relationship of continued trust and commitment to God restores man to a
life that God originally planned for him in the Garden of Eden. Salvation
must begin at this point. It is Christís life we choose, not ours.
Faith is never an easy acceptance of Christ. It
involves a decided commitment that we want Christ, His life, and His will.
When God sees this kind of faith, He treats us as righteous, according to
what we have committed ourselves to be in Christ. Such a faith has already
entered upon the way of righteousness and obedience to the will of God.
The act of faith is as much being held by God as
holding Him; the power of faith is exercised as much in capitulation
as in conqueringóthe faith that overcomes the world is capitulation
to Christís great victory.ó G. C. BERKOUWER, Faith and
Justification (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Win. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 1954), p. 190. Used by permission.
The Exercise of Faith
What is the starting point for faith? Where is the
right place to begin? "Looking unto Jesus the author and
finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). Saving faith is not
self-generated. It is the gift of God. Godís revelation of saving
righteousness in His Son, Jesus Christ, initiates our faith and continues
it from start to finish. "For therein is the righteousness of God
revealed from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:17).
Faith arises because of its object, Jesus Christ. This
is of supreme importance. To have genuine faith means that the object of
faith cannot be false. It must be true. The error of false religions is
that the objects of their faith are not real, but false gods. The mind
seeks certainty and trust in one thing: that the object of faith be real
and genuine and not a creation of fancy or of the minds of men. Where the
object of faith is false, then professed belief in a false god dissolves
Come, open your plea, says the Lord, present your
case, says Jacobís King; let them come forward, these idols, let
them foretell the future. Let them declare the meaning of past events
that we may give our minds to it; let them predict things that are to
be that we may know their outcome. Declare what will happen hereafter;
then we shall know you are gods. Do what you can, good or ill,
anything that may grip us with fear and awe. You cannot! You are
sprung from nothing.
I ask a question and no one answers; see what empty
things they are! Nothing that they do has any worth, their effigies
are wind, mere nothings (Isa. 41: 2 1-24, 28, 29, N.E.B.).
Every man lives by faith to some degree. He trusts in
someone. Even trust in ourselves, in our abilities, or in our friends
gives some meaning and value to this life on earth. We speak of faith in
the doctor, in the builder, in the pilot of a plane. Faith is based on
what these men are in themselves as persons worthy of trust. Faith differs
according to the nature and quality of the person. Faith directs the value
of the doctor to us in terms of his ability to heal and to save life.
If we put our trust in money and possessions, which are
all transitory, then we have no future. Actually no one thing or person
can be trusted absolutely. Apart from trust in the true and living God
everything else is relative. We live in time and are creatures of time.
Only by faith in the eternal God will we belong to eternity. Faith in
Jesus Christ means that life has ultimate meaning, a guarantee of life now
and life in the hereafter. All other things are transitory.
Solomon learned his lesson and put it this way:
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, . . . all
is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh
under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation
cometh: ... I have seen all the works that are done under the sun;
and, behold, all is vanity an(I vexation of spirit.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands ha(l
wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all
was vanity (Eccl. 1:2-11; 2:11).
This is where the fortitude of Godís people has
its placeóin keeping Godís commands and remaining loyal to Jesus
(Rev. 14:12, N.E.B.).
How does God win back the allegiance of sinful men? How
can God once again secure manís trust, confidence, and personal
allegiance? What method can God use to lead men to abandon self-dependence
and self-sufficiency? Here the God of heaven emerges in His true
character. He Himself invades our world in the person of His Son, Jesus
The appeal of the gospel always asserts the priority of
Jesus Christ. At the same time it presents the facts to us in terms of a
divine revelation set in human history. The vital thing about the One who
redeems us is that He is truth, righteousness, and love in His person.
Therefore God has given man every reason for trust. Only as we trust the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ can life have meaning at all.
This love of God seen in Christ is never something we
can be glib about. The repetition of religious clichťs is not enough:
sin, salvation, the truth, the message, finishing the work of God. They
should be more sparingly used, not simply as a shallow reference
vocabulary that covers indifference and neutrality. Faith grasps the
reality for which these terms stand. We must make sure that our use of
religious terminology is not an escape from spiritual reality.
Faith is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The
end is the believerís saving relationship to Christ. Genuine faith means
that the object of our faith does exist, that Jesus Christ is the living
God, that our lives are directed and controlled by this supreme sovereign
Power. Faith does not save. Jesus Christ does that. We trust the promise
of Christ to come again and we are saved through hope. We trust in the
redemptive work of Christ; otherwise we have no assurance that our sins
are forgiven and our future salvation secured. By faith we calí stand
the transitory nature of life and face death unafraid. We can live in
security because we know that God is responsible for our lives and not we
ourselves. We exclaim with the apostle Paul:
With all this in mind, what are we to say? If God
is on our side, who is against us? He did not spare his own Son, but
gave him up for us all; and with this gift how can he fail to lavish
upon us all he has to give? ... Then what can separate us from the
love of Christ? Can affliction or hardship? Can persecution, hunger,
nakedness, peril, or the sword? . . . In spite of all, overwhelming
victory is ours through him who loved us. For I am convinced that
there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or
superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be,
in the forces of the universe, in heights or depthsónothing in all
creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our
Lord (Rom. 8:31-39, N.E.B.).
There is nothing in faith that makes it our saviour.
Faith cannot remove our guilt. Christ is the power of God unto
salvation to all them that believe. The justification comes through
the merits of Jesus Christ. He has paid the price for the sinner s
redemption. Yet it is only through faith in His blood that Jesus can
justify the believer.ó The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen
G. White Comments, on Rom. 5:1, p. 1071.
Faith is directed to its glorious object, Jesus Christ,
without the mind being diverted in the smallest degree by a consideration
of faith itself as something to congratulate oneself about. This is why
the weakest and simplest person should not hesitate to trust a Saviour who
is fully able to save to the uttermost. The believer should not dwell on
the excellence of faith, but on the excellence of Christ our
Righteousness. Where the believer has his thoughts directed to the
inherent worth of faith, he might conclude that faith contributes to his
salvation and has merits in itself. Faith has value only as it is grounded
We do not believe with him, or by his help, but in
him. . . . And in him . .. we have our power to believe. He is not
only faithís object but also faithís world. He becomes our
universe that feels, and knows, and makes us what we are. Deep as the
thirst for God lies in the soul, nowhere but in Christ do we have the
communion that stills it. . . . The possession of God is sure for
every age and soul only in Jesus Christ as its living ground.ó P.
T. FORSYTH, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ (London:
Independent Press, Ltd.), p. 56. Used by permission.
It is the trick of Satan to get us occupied with
ourselves instead of looking to Jesus Christ. Faith is worth nothing until
it disregards the weaknesses of ourselves and others and commits us in
total allegiance to the One who never fails.
A life in Christ is a life of restfulness.... Your
hope is not in yourself; it is in Christ. Your weakness is united to
His strength, your ignorance to His wisdom, your frailty to His
enduring might. So you are not to look to yourself, not to let the
mind dwell upon self, but look to Christ. Let the mind dwell upon His
love, upon the beauty, the perfection of His character. Christ in His
self-denial, Christ in His humiliation, Christ in His purity and
holiness, Christ in His matchless loveóthis is the subject for the
soulís contemplation. It is by loving Him, copying Him, depending
wholly upon Him, that you are to be transformed into His likeness....
When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away
from Christ, the source of strength and life. Hence it is Satanís
constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour and
thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. The
pleasures of the world, lifeís cares and perplexities and sorrows,
the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfectionsó to any
or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. Do not be misled by
his devices.... We should not make self the center and indulge anxiety
and fear as to whether we shall be saved. All this turns the soul away
from the Source of our strength. Commit the keeping of your soul to
God, and trust in Him.... Rest in God. He is able to keep that which
you have committed to Him. If you will leave yourself in His hands, He
will bring you off more than conqueror through Him that has loved you.ó Steps
to Christ, pp. 70-72.
He who takes Christ and the Word of God seriously must
face the exercise of faith in terms of his becoming personally involved.
Jesus Christ, His person, and His saving work have now become a personal
matter. So we sincerely ask, What must I do to be saved? How can Christís
righteousness avail for me? God actually loves me. He will receive me. The
nature of Christ, the atonement, His priestly work in heaven, have meaning
for us in a particular individual sense. Faith is an individual response.
This was Paulís experience, as he said:
[We] whose pride is in Christ Jesus,... put no
confidence in anything external. Not that I am without grounds myself
even for confidence of that kind. . .. I could make a stronger case
for myself.... But all such assets I have written off because of
Christ. I would say more: I count everything sheer loss, because all
is far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for
whose sake I did in fact lose everything. I count it so much garbage,
for the sake of gaining Christ and finding myself incorporate in him,
with no righteousness of my own, no legal rectitude, but the
righteousness which comes from faith in Christ, given by God in
response to faith. All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the
power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, in growing
conformity with his death, if only I may finally arrive at the
resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:3-11, N.E.B.).
Faith is a human act, sweeping our whole life into
its power, a human act that affirms in will, word, and work that
Christ begins in us. Faith is decisive. And it is total. . . Faith is
an authentic human action without which there is no union with Christ.
Our faith is our total response to Christís initiative.ó SMEDE5,
op. cit., p. 201.
There is always the temptation to remain distant in
order to consider Biblical facts objectively without any personal
involvement. Saving faith does not divest the truth of sound evidence, but
it is more than some logical procedure such as we find in mathematics or
scientific investigation of a problem or a case. While we must seek to
make the truth of righteousness by faith as clear as possible, faith is a
personal response due to the work of the Holy Spirit. We should bear in
mind the scripture:
And without controversy great is the mystery of
godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world,
received up into glory (1 Tim. 3:16).
There is an urgency about salvation that makes it
undesirable that we should keep on waiting to act until we have weighed
every difficulty and every question in the delicate balance of logic. If
we keep on raising questions, the necessity to exercise faith in Jesus
Christ will elude us. Faith is a moral and spiritual necessity more
indispensable to life than physical hunger and food. It is not worthwhile
to doubt and dispute continually about the Word of God. It is not good to
set an understanding of Christ within the limits of our own thinking. We
must make sure that our discussion of religion is not a cover-up for the
lack of spiritual reality.
Granted that manís response to God cannot be blind
reception. We must see and understand the truth before we can appropriate
it. Christian experience cannot progress far beyond our discernment of
Bible truth. However, the Word of God turns the searchlight of truth not
just upon manís reason, but upon the whole man.
[Faith] means for Paul manís total surrender to
Godís saving act. The faith which is reckoned for righteousness is
not a psychic force, or an achievement of almighty reason, or the
perfection of religious virtue; it is the realization of God alone as
Saviour, the one and only way of opening the door to the revelation of
the one and only true object of faith.ó G. QUELL AND G SCHRENK,
Personal involvement brings us into the custody of this
divine Person and Power. It gives the Holy Spirit admission to the whole
of our lives. It takes command of us and breaks the slavery of sin and
self. One cherished sin, the withholding of one part of our lives from
Christ, will arrest spiritual progress, pollute spiritual insight, blind
the mind, and make faith impossible.
Faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit. "All men
have not faith" (2 Thess. 3:2). The gift of faith is never withheld
from those who earnestly and sincerely seek God according to the
Scriptures. Peterís confession of faith was followed by our Lordís
statement: "Blessed art thou, . . . flesh and blood hath not revealed
it unto thee" (Matt. 16:17). That is, faith does not arise by virtue
of the wisdom and the natural efforts of men.
Faith itself is not my independent work; it is the
work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. Only God Himself has the power to
bring my stubborn and rebellious will to the point of surrender. . . .
It is when the cross of Christ has shattered our self-sufficiency,
humbled our pride, and raised us again from the dust by the power of
his loveóonly when this has been done that the Spirit of God can
flow into our souls and take control of us. . . . The Spirit brings
home to our hearts what Christ has done for us, and awakens that
response which is faithóthe Amen of the soul to Godís judgment and
Godís mercy.. . . The Spirit creates faith, and faith receives the
Spirit.ó LESLIE NEWBIGIN, Sin and Salvation (Philadelphia,
Pa.: The Westminster Press, 1956), pp. 99, 100.
Faith is always a divine gift, always a work of the
Holy Spirit. . . . Faith is not conceived by flesh and blood.ó BERKOUWER,
op. cit., p 190.
Personally to desire God, to seek God, to open the mind
and heart to receive Godóthis is faith. Not simply to believe something
about Him, but to believe in Him; not simply to hold an opinion or a
conclusion, but to lay hold of Christ Himself. Under the moving influence
of the Holy Spirit we turn ourselves completely over to Christ. We know it
to be the one supremely true thing, the one eternal reality that can
change our lives.
Faith and Emotionalism
It is a serious mistake to identify faith with feeling.
A looking to oneís emotions or dependence on oneís reason makes self
the ultimate court of appeal, which is in part the original sin of all
men. Obviously manís own feelings cannot create or maintain faith. Manís
weakness and impotence cannot form the basis for trust in God. No
mastermind of intelligence or reach of emotion can ever provide man with
ultimate certainty. Man can easily fall victim either to his own limited
mental ability or to his own feelings. Men are easily given to deceptions
and errors both of the mind and of the heart.
This is the day for religious awakenings and great
stirrings of the heart. Religious excitement presents itself in
bewildering array. Here lies the peril. The ignorance and the gullibility
of multitudes offer these religious fadsóno matter how false their
premises may be, no matter how Biblically inadequate their foundation, or
how flimsy their authorityóa fertile field for deception and
counterfeit. Millions of people of the world will have great difficulty
extricating themselves from the religious confusion unless their faith is
intelligent, moral, and spiritually grounded in the Word of God.
There is great danger that some of the religious
revivals that push people into abnormal excitement will result in verdicts
rendered against the truth, which could have been avoided had each person
held himself personally and intelligently and morally responsible to the
revealed Word of God. Under the plausible pretense of having an ecstatic
encounter with the supernatural, men err from the path of righteousness
and from obedience to His Word.
Manifestations on a grand scale are appearing in some
of the religious revivals, which threaten the churches by a deceptive
counterfeit. The spiritual problems and needs of our time cry out for a
message that will not only help men and women recognize the need for
enlightened minds on the truth of God but will stabilize menís moral
conduct and lead the life along the path of divine truth.
Faith that is founded on that which is divinely true is
ageless, changeless. To the man of truth faith is no blind leader of the
blind. He has a fine receptiveness for the truth of Godís Word. His
mental and spiritual vision is clear, and his faith is based on divine
realities. Manís aspirations after God cannot be satisfied or his mind
at peace unless confidence be reposed both in Jesus Christ as Saviour and
Lord and in His Holy Word. Men are in peril who claim to have an encounter
with God, yet who fail to submit the mind and the life to the clear
teaching and guidance of the Bible.
Fellowship with God is not a subjective disturbance
that must be artificially aroused at intervals. It is impossible to
experience Christ unless we understand and appreciate that such terms as forgiveness,
repentance, justification, the new birth, and sanctification have
a distinctive personal meaning for us, experienced in the whole of our
Any effort to push a man over the brink emotionally is
deceptive. We must not seek to lure people with a false bait. Faith is not
an emotional feeling that has to be whipped up. Any playing on manís
emotions is destructive to faith. Sensationalism is a bad thing. We must
not degrade our relationship to Christ to the level of emotional
excitement or spirit excitation.
Multitudes are being deceived by offers of spiritistic
encounters with the supernatural. Because one is beside himself with some
form of religious ecstasy does not mean that he has met the Lord Jesus
Christ. Pagan peoples and religions offer the same kind of wild religious
entertainment. There is not a religion in the world that is without this
kind of spirit manifestation. The history of world religions gives lurid
insight into the claims that one can experience the supernatural.
Today millions are carried away by the sensational in
religion. At the bottom of it all there lurks the temptation to believe
that genuine faith in God as taught in the Bible does not belong here at
all. Today the claim to spiritual power of righteousness by faith in
Christ is being silenced by thrills of the flesh and emotions that soar in
irrational music, that laugh and shout and clap and stamp, with the idea
that God is there.
Christ moved among men with humility, meekness,
dignity, reverence, and majesty. How little of the loud and the
sensational there was in the ministry of Jesus Christ. In the Scriptures
all manifestations of the presence of God immediately produced great awe
and quietness in the hearts of those present.
The gifts of the Spirit and the presence of God are so
profound and so delicate that there is no loss of self-control. The
presence of Christ in the life knows nothing of an excitement that departs
from moral purity and good works. Faith in Christ and in His Word never
exalts the devotees to the clouds where men are exempt from obedience to
the law of God and beyond the claims of the Ten Commandments. True faith
absolves no one from the operation of a sound mind in harmony with truth.
Faith that holds fellowship with Christ is no lashing of the mind into
frenzy. True faith refrains from every manifestation that jeopardizes the
soundness of mind and life.
The alternative to this transportation into ecstasy is
not lukewarmness and spiritual indifference. The Holy Spirit kindles the
mind and makes the Word of God come alive. It makes man hungry for the
righteousness of Christ, with a passion to save the lost. The tongues of
men become instruments of God in proclaiming and witnessing to the wonders
of Godís love and transforming power.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keeps
life in balance and fills the inner man with lasting joy in contrast with
an external hilarity of the moment. There is no exaggerated stimulus to
emotional indulgence, but a manifestation of heavenís love, joy, and
peace. These fruits of the Spirit are a perennial experience. The man of
faith in Christ, in the superiority of heavenly truths, experiences an
aroused activity of the mind where all is uplifted and "all that is
true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable
and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable" fills the mind and
the life (Phil. 4: 8, N.E.B.).
"Let This Mind Be in You"
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ
Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal
with God: hut made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form
of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in
fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:5-8).
The difficulty in exercising faith is not upon the side
of God. No sinner is ever more eager for righteousness than his Redeemer
is to give it to him. No desire to repent of sin on the part of man ever
exceeded the eagerness of God to meet man with complete forgiveness and
the saving righteousness of Christ.
Christ Himself showed us the way. In His human life on
earth, our Lord lived by faith in His Father. He said: "I can of mine
own self do nothing" (John 5:29). He exhorted men: "Take my yoke
upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall
find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Since Christ in His perfect
life reveals this to be the true attitude of faith and dependence on the
Father, how much more do unrighteous men need to have this same attitude.
Christ spoke to this point in the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be
comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for
they shall he filled (chap. 5:3-6).
These words speak of the mind that we must possess if
we are to exercise true faith. They speak of the bankruptcy of the human
heart because of sin and pride. He who hungers and thirsts after
righteousness confesses his lack of that righteousness that can be
supplied only from beyond himself. He who is poor in spirit and who knows
his need is the man who is ready to receive help from God. He who is meek
does not assume that his own mind is the source of great wisdom, that he
can trust in himself.
Faith fares badly by the concentration upon oneself,
where the emphasis has shifted from sufficiency in God to
self-sufficiency. Men easily come to depend upon themselves. The world of
human achievement breathes the desire for self-exaltation.
Even in the church men inadvertently come to believe
that progress in the cause of God is achieved by human methods: by
programs, by policies, by human ingenuity and agency without depending
upon the Holy Spirit. The fatal mistake is to believe that the church can
accomplish the work of God by the wisdom of men rather than by the
regenerating, sanctifying, and transforming power of God.
True faith in God leads away from the autonomy of man.
To be more sure of ourselves than we are of Jesus Christ is the height of
folly. Righteousness by faith excludes every jot and tittle of self-esteem
and self-assertion, every thread of pride. In these sophisticated times we
have fallen heir to a complicated system both in theological thought and
in church life, which has to be bolstered up with all kinds of activities
and techniques to impress people. Consequently, the emphasis can easily
shift to ourselves.
No airtight theological system and no expertise in
human methods can give us a triumphant faith. Difficulties arise when, as
professed Christians, we set up an ecclesiastical pattern and practice and
then grow complacent and self-righteous by virtue of our conformity to it.
It is imperative to make faith in Christ attractive, irresistible, and the
opportunity for the highest adventures in Christian living, expressive in
sacrificial service for the sake of Christ. Our faith in Christ must so
involve us with God that we venture all we have for the sake of spiritual
victory and the triumph of the kingdom of God.
We must be absolutely honest when facing the claims of
Christ upon the whole of our lives. We must reject all practices in life,
in business, in pleasure that leave Jesus Christ out of the domain of our
thinking and living. Once the professed Christian refuses to open himself
entirely to Christ, the integrity of the person begins to crumble. The
peril of self-deception sets in. Back of most of our spiritual failures is
our unwillingness to face the truth about ourselves in the presence of
No profession of faith will last unless we permit
Christ to cleanse the innermost parts of our souls. To seek to hide our
secret faults and selfishness from Christ ultimately spells disaster.
The answer to all our rationalizations about ourselves,
to our superficiality, must be a life, not merely a series of
religious propositions. Faith that works by love enables us to face
ourselves as we are. We accept the gift of God. We come with no false
claims. We let Christ break through with His purity, His unselfishness,
His power to cleanse, His truth. Such a faith unites us with that divine
power that makes us truly Christian before God and man.
The Fight of Faith
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal
life, whereunto thou art also called (1 Tim. 6:12).
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. . . Now they do
it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore
so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any
means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a
castaway (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
There is peril in the phrase "only believe"
if one imagines that salvation involves an easygoing attitude, leaving
people unaware that God calls for the whole of their lives, that since
Christ has done all, the Christian needs to do nothing.
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church....
[We supposed] that the account has been paid in advance; and, because
it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.
[Costly grace] . . . is the kingly rule of Christ,
for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to
stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves
his nets and follows him. . . . It is costly grace because it costs a
man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true
life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it
justifies the sinner.
The only man who has the right to say that he is
justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.
This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our
own spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ it has
closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us
in our disobedience. . . . Seduce us to the mediocre level of the
world, quenching the joy of discipleship by telling us that we were
following a way of our own choosing, that we were spending our
strength and disciplining ourselves in vainóall of which was not
merely useless, but extremely dangerous. ó DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, The
Cost of Discipleship (New York, The Macmillan Co., copyright
1963), pp. 45, 47, 48, 55, 58, 59.
A vital faith is not a tense effort to believe, holding
a strenuous attitude of mind. Trusting God is exactly the opposite of
that. Faith relinquishes the tense responsibility we feel for ourselves
and depends on Christ "who . . . is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).
Christians who exert every effort to have faith inevitably fail because
they are looking to themselves rather than to Jesus Christ. Faith does not
come by sheer will power, nor by exhortations to exercise faith.
Yet the Bible speaks of the "fight of faith,"
the conflict that goes on in the life of the Christian.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall
not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the
one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Gal.
The fight of faith centers in the battle for the
control of the mind, between the spiritual forces of light and the
spiritual forces of darkness.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the
things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of
the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually
minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:5, 6).
Because of previous tendencies and habits of sin, man
does not easily respond to God. Faith moves within the salvation and the
spiritual power provided by God. But it is not always easy to stay within
these areas. Living a godly life is not free from conflict.
The warfare against self is the greatest battle
that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the
will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God
before it can be renewed in holiness.ó Steps to Christ, p.
We live in and from our minds. This is the person we actually are.
"He [God] will work by His Spirit through the mind He has put in
man."ó Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 725.
What kind of mind does God work through?
Faith in Christ . . .calls for an acknowledgment of
the enlightened intellect controlled by a heart that can discern and
appreciate the heavenly treasure. óChristís Object Lessons, p.
The issue here is this: It is a fight to keep an
enlightened intellect on the Word of God, and a heart that can discern and
appreciate the things of God. To develop and possess such a mind
determines oneís ability to exercise and to live by faith.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the
word of God (Rom. 10:17).
The revelation of Godís truth in the Bible is Godís
recognition and compliment to the believer upon whom God has endowed his
noblest mental possibilities and moral response. Christians unquestionably
must affirm of themselves a faith that rests on the Word of God, working
through a mind that is sensitive to the will of God. Faith does not stand
alone. It is produced by the Word quickened by the Spirit.
"Go, your son lives." The man believed
what Jesus told him and went. "Because you say so I will let down
the nets" said Peter. "just say the word" says the
Roman captain, and he believed. (See John 4:50; Luke 5:5; Matt.
To be strong in faith one must become strong in the
Word. God addresses men as intelligent beings and assumes that
enlightenment of the mind is a condition of genuine faith. Every fact and
truth of the Bible is the basis for faith. There is no genuine faith that
is indifferent to truth. It is profoundly and soundly rational and
thoroughly spiritual. A religion that neutralizes or paralyzes the mental
faculties disables people spiritually. If thoughtful men are to be strong
in faith it will not be because they are asleep or because the mind has
been drugged by the trivial and the superficial. The credential of a
genuine faith is a mind reverent and intelligent in the understanding and
acceptance of the truth of God. The fight of faith requires knowing,
living, and obeying all the truth of God.
No man will reach heaven by inaction. The indifferent
and the willfully blind must be awakened and roused up in order to be
saved and changed. Faith is an act of the mind, an act of the whole person
that carries the whole of life with it. It is the most vital and vigorous
activity that can be conceived of.
The exercising of the mind unto godliness is no simple
or easy matter. The fight of faith involves staying alert to the deep
movings of God, of His truth, and of the Holy Spirit. It is not easy to
stay spiritually alert these days. The fight of faith means that we no
longer live our lives on the shallow surface of things.
The mind occupied with commonplace matters only,
becomes dwarfed and enfeebledó Education , p.
The reason it is so difficult for men and women to
live religious lives is because they do not exercise the mind unto
godliness. It is trained to run in the opposite direction. Unless the
mind is constantly exercised in obtaining spiritual knowledge and in
seeking to understand the mysteries of godliness, it is incapable of
appreciating eternal things because it has no experience in that
direction. This is the reason why nearly all consider it uphill
business to serve the Lord.ó Testimonies, vol. 2,
The fight of faith means daily awareness and commitment
to maintain oneís union with God, to encourage and feed every hunger and
thirst for God. Some who believe in salvation by grace alone believe that
therefore, living the Christian life requires no effortóalthough
everything else in life does. Living by faith calls for our most serious
cooperation with Christ. When faced with temptation, we are urged to
search the Scriptures. When tempted to become discouraged, we are invited
to fix our eyes on Christ and on the promises of God. At such times it
requires effort to think Godís thoughts and let Christís mind prevail.
If we would practice and exercise faith in Christ with
the diligence that men put forth in pursuit of the temporal and shallow
aims of the world, the Christian life would be transformed. Often people
spend far more time learning to play music or a game than to live by faith
in Jesus Christ. As Christians, do we spend anything like the effort and
the time to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God that we spend on
worldly enterprises, in the search to be well-fed, well-dressed, and
well-amused? If we truly believe in salvation by faith, then let us
practice it with all we have.
I have always respected and admired men like Moses
whose faith centered on Christ and cooperated with God for the realization
of their divinely appointed destiny.
By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son
of Pharaohís daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the
people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of
Egypt. . . By faith he forsook Egypt, . . . for he endured, as seeing
him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).
It is not easy to do this. The tendency is to emphasize
more the side of the secular rather than the spiritual. It is easy to be
religious, but very difficult to be spiritual. The excessive occupation
with things of time and sense, the growing interest in secular pleasure to
the neglect of prayer and the study of Godís Word, takes so much of our
time that we have neither time nor energy left to grow spiritually.
Moses "endured, refused, chose, forsook"ó
all strong words of action involved in the meaning of living by faith.
Nowhere does the Bible say the saints are carried on beds of ease, God
doing everything and man doing nothing. The plain reason why we are not
better Christians, victorious Christians, is not because faith in Christ
is inadequate, but because when the pressure and the temptations come we
are not totally committed to Christ. We yield to self and to sin.
Spiritual failure in the life is a problem for many who seem incapable of
controlling the passions, abnormal appetites, and sinful desires of the
human heart. They take their eyes off Christ and from His promises. No
Christian ever loses the fight of faith until he allows sin to blind the
mind to the truth of Christ and to dull the ears to the truth God speaks
to him through the Bible.
Perhaps no better Bible character is set forth as an
example of a strong and genuine faith than Abraham. Faith expressed his
fervent and unwavering trust in God.
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as
pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by
works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith
the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for
righteousness (Rom. 4:1-3).
Abrahamís faith did not justify him or save him. The
Lord Jesus Christ was the divine reality from which his faith proceeded.
The living God was the moving cause that made his faith strong and enabled
him to do those things that pleased God. The events and the decisions for
God in his life are remarkable.
Abraham was born in sin as all men are. He was an
idolater. "They served other gods" (Joshua 24:2). But God
appeared to him. He was convinced of the folly of idol worship and of the
importance of serving the true God and trusting in Him for salvation. He
looked to the Saviour for forgiveness and redemption. A radical change was
wrought in his life. Ever after he was a worshiper and a follower of God.
The Scripture says that Abrahamís faith was strong, firm, unmovable. His
faith did not stand alone. It was characterized by prompt, cheerful, and
self-denying obedience. First God commanded him to leave his country, his
kindred, and his fatherís house and take up his abode in Canaan, an
unknown land to him (see Gen. 12:1-4).
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into
a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and
he went out, not knowing whither he went. . .For he looked for a city
which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11 :8-
The faith of the apostle Paul also involved obedience,
when the risen and ascended Christ met him on the way to Damascus. Paul
said later that he conferred not with flesh and blood, but proceeded
immediately to fulfill his mission as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Obedience is essential to faith for it illustrates
the truth that faith is not autonomous and self-sufficientó that it
capitulates in total surrender. . . . Faith is the basic concept which
is further described and characterized by the expression obedience
of faith. That obedience of faith is consistent with sola
gratiaóthe obedience of faith . . . is . . the total response to
the gospel.ó BERKOUWER, op. cit., pp.
Abrahamís second great test of faith came when God
had promised to make him the father of many nations, yet did not give him
a son until both he and his wife, Sarah, were too old, they thought, to
As it is written, I have made thee a father of many
nations, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the
dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who
against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many
nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And
being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when
he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarahís
womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was
strong in faith, giving glory to) God; and being fully persuaded that,
what he had promised, he was also able to perform. And therefore it
was imputed to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:17-22).
Abrahamís third great test of faith came when he was
commanded to offer up his son, Isaac (see Heb. 1 1:17, 18). God tested
Abrahamís faith as to whom he loved most, his child or his God. Without
hesitation Abraham proceeded to obey Godís command. Until the last
moment he fully expected to sacrifice his son.
Abrahamís faith was a living, working faith. He
subordinated all earthly values to heavenly things of which he had so high
an appreciation in comparison with those of the world. He looked upon
himself as a stranger and pilgrim here on earth.
Thus faith requires an intelligent, moral
responsibility to Godís Word. Faith never asks in callous indifference:
What is truth? Men are in great peril when they claim to believe God and
His Son Jesus Christ while trying to exclude their lives from the moral
and spiritual claims of God. Says the apostle John: "This is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).
The goal of faith is to live a life worthy of the
Lord. Therefore, to say in faith that "Jesus is Lord" is
also to commit oneself to obedience.... The obedience of faith is not
a new form of legalism. . . . Faith is never done with because it is a
renewed act of obedience in every situation of life.ó SMEDES, op.
cit., pp. 202-204.
Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who
is obedient believes. . . . Faith is only real when there is
obedience.ó B0NH0EFFER, op. cit., p. 69.
The relation between our commitment to Christ and
Christís living out His life in us is fundamental. A life of faith is
distinguished by the power received from God. It is powerful in its
ability to exercise assurance, certainty, and moral obedience to God.
"Take up the great shield of faith, with which you will be able to
quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16, N.E.B.).
When Satan comes in all his deceptive forms, the Christian discerns who he
is and with power from God resists his temptations and emerges from the
battle of life victorious. What a glorious privilege to be kept so firm
and true to God. "With great power gave the apostles witness"
(Acts 4:33). How wonderful to be so possessed by God, to give a courageous
witness, to realize the fulfillment of Godís will.
The danger in our day is that menís calling upon
Christ and the use of His name is so light and casual, so cozy and
easygoing, that it goes for nothing. We must be prepared to pay the price
for a faith and firm allegiance to Christ and to His Word. The Christian
is summoned to exercise a faith that leads to obedience. "Faith
without works is dead" (James 2:20). Faith without obedience is dead.
Faith is never opposed to right works. * [Works refer to the
deeds and behavior of men. Works can be marks of genuine faith and love,
or they can be marks of a legalistic response and an effort to gain favor
with God. Works of the law refer to deeds done in an effort to keep the
law of God. The works of faith are those of love, honesty. purity,
righteousness, and the fruits of the Spirit. The Christian is created in
Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph. 2:10). He is to be fruitful in every
good work (Col. 1:10). Christ urged His followers so to live that men may
see your good works. and glorify your Father which is in heaven"
(Matt. 5:16). Good works are contrasted with evil works (John 3:19; Col.
1:21). "Dead works" are works that have no life in them from God
or from the Holy Spirit.] It is only opposed to no works. Faith is
never the competitor of obedience to the commandments. It is the
motivation for obedience.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God
forbid: yea, we establish the law (Rom. 3:31).
The Holy Spirit illumines, convinces, persuades,
enables, guides, and sanctifies. Faith is never guilty of the high crime
of disobedience to the will of God. The gospel of righteousness by faith
is an act and a power so all-embracing and so total that it does for the
Christian what the law could never do. Never is a man more committed and
active and never does he so fully keep the commandments as when he lives
by faith in Jesus Christ.