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Query for the Month

of January 2000

 

Next up-date: February 1st, 2000 (God willing).

 


Query:

Romans 1:17

"For therein [in the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'."

What is faith and how does it work?

Response:

There is a text which reads:-

Galatians 5:6 Faith which works

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision [rituals or non-rituals]; but faith which works by love.

Here we can see that love is the underlying power of faith.

Then we are also told:-

Hebrews 11:1-4 What is faith?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Through faith [evidence] we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks.

Put in other words:-

Faith is the confident assurance, based on a promise of God, that something is going to happen. It is the certainty based on personal experience that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. Men of God in days of old were famous for their faith.

It is through faith that we believe that God made the universe from nothing, simply by speaking it into existence, because He has done that to us when creating us into Christians.

It was by faith that Abel obeyed God and brought an offering that pleased Him more than Cain's offering did. God accepted Abel and proved it to Cain by consuming Abel's gift with fire as He did Gideon's so much later. (See Judges 6:21). And because of this even though Abel is dead his faith is known to all.

The big difference between Abel and Cain was shown in their offerings. Genesis 4:1-5. Abel brought an animal and spilled its blood as a picture of his total reliance on the death of Jesus as his Saviour. (Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world", Revelation 13:8).

Cain brought "the fruit of the ground" which was a picture of his own works, and therefore that which had no use in God's sight, for our own attempts at righteousness cannot save us.

A practical example of faith in the Old Testament:-

When Daniel's three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (aka Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) were faced with punishment by fire if they did not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's idol, they were given an assurance by the Spirit that they would survive. He directed their attention to some verses in Isaiah which read:-

Isaiah 43:1-3

But now thus says the LORD that created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you.

For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour: I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for you. Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honourable [you have lived a righteous life since your conversion], and I have loved you: therefore will I give men for you, and people for your life.

This was at first just a general statement made about 150 years before which had no direct application to anyone in particular. However, while the three young men were praying for guidance regarding the king's command they had their minds directed to it by the Spirit, and He told them that this promise was for them at that time. They believed His word and set themselves accordingly, for "faith is the confident assurance based on the word of God that something will happen".

But there is a great difference between "general" and "specific" orders, or promises. To use a "general" promise when a "specific" one is required is to presume on God's intention and is called the sin of presumption. God can forgive such a sin, but it is a hard one for us to recognise and confess. If we do not distinguish such behaviour it can lead on to the "unpardonable" sin, which is simply not recognising the voice of the Holy Spirit at all, and therefore not being led to repentance.

When the three promised ones came before the king on that fateful day,

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful [not worried] to answer you in this matter.

If it be so [if this your decision], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not [even if you change your mind], be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.

They were certain of their God - they were not certain of the king.

As the story progressed we see that their faith was rewarded by the presence of the LORD Himself who came to be with them. Daniel 3:24-25. They were all chatting comfortably in the fire until the king called them out. They had not "presumed" that the promise was for them but acted only on a direct notification from the Spirit.

Another example:-

1 Samuel 17:28-40 David and Goliath

And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, "Why came you down here? and with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart; for you are come down that you might see the battle."

And David said, "What have I now done [to you]? Is there not a cause [a reason for my being here]?"

[He had been given the assurance by the Spirit of God that he would defeat the giant].

And he turned from him toward another, and spoke after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. And when the words were heard which David spoke, they rehearsed [repeated] them before Saul: and he sent for him.

And David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."

And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth."

And David said to Saul, "Your servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and [another time] a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Your servant slew both the lion and the bear [under direction from God]: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God."

David said moreover, "The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine [because He has promised me personally]."

And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you."…

And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

You know the rest of the story...

Just in passing, note that God's intention was that David would only stun Goliath with one of the stones which He supplied. It was David's decision to take Goliath's own sword and cut his head off. Thus David added presumption to faith! Goliath had brothers (see 2 Samuel 21:19-22) and it may have been God's desire to save them all to work on His side. When He worked on His own He stopped Saul of Tarsus in his tracks and changed him into Paul the apostle. Acts 9:3-9. The great enemy of God became one of His greatest workers!

Another view of faith and presumption:

There was a man named Shimei of the house of Saul who cursed and threw stones at king David when he was leaving Jerusalem because of his son's rebellion. 2 Samuel 16:5-6. David did not have him killed even though some of his men wanted that. He thought that maybe Shimei was being led by God to tell him the truth.

When David returned to Jerusalem Shimei came and asked forgiveness of him and this was granted. 2 Samuel 19:15-23.

Just before he died David reminded his successor, Solomon, of this man's actions and gave him an insight into his character. 1 Kings 2:8-9. Solomon acted with the wisdom of God and told Shimei that he should stay in Jerusalem as a city of refuge and he would not be harmed. 1 Kings 2:36-38.

Three years later Shimei's character showed itself when two of his slaves ran away and he presumptuously chased after them, thereby breaking his sworn oath and leaving the protected area. Because of this he died at at the hand of one of Solomon's soldiers. 1 Kings 2-39-46.

Conclusion:

Faith and presumption are very close to one another. But faith is fuelled by knowing that the word of God is for you personally NOW, while presumption is claiming the promise without the assurance that it is yours (just believing). Under this latter condition you go on your own without the power of God!

To go from faith to faith is to grow in personal experience through co-operation with the Spirit of God.

If you would like an excellent illustration of how faith "works" try this story. "The Anointing at Bethany".


Spiritual Dictionary:

Faith and Presumption:

Faith and presumption look very much like each other. But faith is fuelled by knowing that the word of God is for you personally NOW, while presumption is claiming the promise without the assurance that it is yours (just believing). Under this condition you go on your own without the power of God!

To go from faith to faith is to grow in personal experience through co-operation with the Spirit of God.


Next thought. To be discussed from February 1st 2000.

 

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