A series of spiritual messages on:
THE FAITH IN CHRIST and ITS FUNCTIONING
“…The just shall live by faith.” (Rom.1:17)
- · “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
Part 1b: Faith, its meaning and importance
We examined in the first part (1a) briefly what, actually the words “BELIEVES IN HIM”, do not mean and what they mean. We will now examine in part 1b the characteristics of faith and the part of God and the part of man in man’s salvation.
3c) Characteristics of faith
I would like to refer to certain basic points which constitute integral part of this series of studies concerning faith in Christ:
The importance of faith
Its great importance lies in the fact that faith blots out the injustice that man committed or continues to do against God dishonoring Him by unbelief; unbelief offends God both as far as His love or his good intentions towards man are concerned. Unbelief offends, insults and, as a consequence, commits an injustice. This is the reason why God counts man’s faith in Him as justice… Faith touches God and, as a result, the sources of His power. Unbelief has separated man from God and faith unites him again with God. I remember the case of a young lady who was telling me a lot of lies because she was afraid that I would reject her if she would tell me the truth and I would stop supporting her. I knew that she was lying to me and cheating me; I was sorry and troubled because she did not trust me; I was almost decided to stop helping her. When she finally was obliged to tell the truth, our spirits were at peace and our spiritual communion was re-established. The confession of her sin had quite the opposite result: When the young lady found out that I forgave her sin, that she was not rejected by me and that she would continue to be supported by me, she was deeply humbled before the Lord and I was honored in her eyes! Her unbelief dishonored me and her belief honored me… The problem, however, was that there was not yet proof of her producing fruits of repentance! This is just a poor example in the context of human relations.
The unbeliever in order to be saved must ask for the forgiveness of his sins, believe that his sins are forgiven and take the decision to follow Christ sincerely and wholeheartedly, that is as the Lord of his life. Certain people try to believe without repentance: It is in vain! Faith is the mother of repentance and of obedience. Along with this crediting of faith as righteousness, God also gives on the basis of Christ’s atoning – by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost – mercy, grace for salvation, for obedience and for sanctification (Tit.3:5-7). Nothing, absolutely nothing, but Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at Calvary can constitute the ground for justification and reconciliation of man with God.
Difference between the verbs “believe” and “trust”
A man of God said – while he was preaching – that he was trying hard to find a promise of God to “believe”, lean upon it for the healing of his wife who was seriously ill. Finally, as he did not manage to find the promise he was looking for, he decided to “trust” God’s character: His love, His plans, His faithfulness, His providence etc.! He said in the depth of his soul: “The Lord Jesus loves my wife more than I do and He will do for her what is best for her. Then, let His will be done”. His soul retrieved his peace… It is difficult to distinguish the difference between these two terms, because one cannot trust somebody if he has not faith in his words. However, we cannot exclude the case when you can be sure that someone tells the truth but you cannot trust his character, that is to say, that you have to do with a person of love, of good will, of faithfulness etc…. It is not, however, the case with our omnipotent God who is a God of love, of wisdom etc…
Numerous are the cases in which our faith cannot find a specific promise to lean on either to rejoice in the hope of our deliverance or in order to be patient in tribulations (Rom.12:2). Consequently, many are the cases in which our faith can be tested: Such might be, for example, a serious disease, the lack of sympathy from the part of men, poverty, discouraging conditions, mockers, divine delays, decrease of strength, efforts that appear to be useless etc., etc. Our soul may pass from darkness and difficult testing that God permits though we fear and respect Him. The prophet Isaiah said: “Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay on his God.” (Isa.50:10). The only thing we can do is to trust in God’s everlasting love (Jer.31:3), His plans of peace aiming at our good (2Thes.1:11 and Jer.29:11) and find rest and peace. An excellent example of trusting in God is Job’s case who declared: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job13:15).
Repentance and good works form integral part of faith
Faith is an activity of the whole being, bringing into movement the intellect, the emotions and the will. Anything less than this cannot be considered as Biblical faith. Saving faith is that act of the soul by which a man lays hold on Christ and has peace with God. By repentance man detests himself; by faith he leaves himself and seizes the grace of God. What saves is faith, but faith which saves is always combined with repentance. The faith which saves produces obedience and creates a new “way of living”. Faith is the mother of obedience. Faith and works are like the light and the heat of a candle; they cannot be separated. Faith justifies the person and works prove his faith. Unfruitful faith is as useless as useless words. All the promises of the Bible depend on the fear of God, on faith in God and on repentance. The faith which saves is a faith which leads to repentance. Repentance and faith are twins. The faith which saves is interwoven with repentance and repentance is interwoven with faith. The faith which saves is a living faith in an alive Savior. The faith which does not love Jesus-Christ sincerely and does not obey Him, which does not show true interest for the work of the kingdom of God and which does not resist actively against sin cannot qualify as true faith. He who wants to be saved must stick to and follow Jesus as the Lord, the Great Boss of his life. True faith produces commitment and dedication!
Let my insistence on this point be excused. When man is saved and is regenerated, it is IMPOSSIBLE to remain as he was! The Holy Spirit that regenerates him changes radically his intentions and desires of his heart, in the twinkling of an eye and sets him free from the love of sin, because the Holy Spirit writes His laws in man’s heart. He or she who thinks that has been saved but continues to be slave to sin, he or she is in error and in self-deception… He or she has never truly believed. His/her faith is but theoretical. We have simply to do with a religious person! True faith is never unfruitful but it is exercised in love and good works. Justification, regeneration and sanctification are inseparable qualities, just as light and heat from the rays of sun. Where there are no good works, there is no true genuine faith and, as a consequence, neither justification nor salvation. Faith is manifested by obedience in whatever God commands.
Faith and doubts are incompatible
True faith should not be “infected” by doubts, despair and hesitations. True faith has the strong conviction, the assurance and the boldness that God IS and that HE HEARS and GRANTS whatever we ask Him, provided it is according to His will, rewarding us for our faith in Him: It is written:
- · “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them (‘you have received them’), and you will have them.” (Mrk.11:24)
- · “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen………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.” (Heb.11:1-6).
- · “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (Jas.1.6-8)
So, faith, as a hand, receives – if of course he asks with faith, without hesitating – God’s promises. So, he honors God who is love and establishes an intimate communion with Him. But what does it receive? Surely God’s mercy, grace and promises. It is good, therefore, to remember the phone number that God has put at our disposal which functions 7/7 and 24/24: Mark 11:24: “Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” But, let us not be deceived: God loves also the unworthy sinner and even his enemies (Rom.5:6-10); and let us never forget that Jesus Christ responds favorably to the man who humbly and sincerely goes to Him to confess his lack of faith: “…I believe, help mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24 – DRB). The problem is that in spite of His love for them, their sin and their enmity do not give Him the possibility to save them and have communion or fellowship with them! Has it ever happened to you to love someone, to want to show him/her your loving care and be hindered on account of his/her character or attitude?
All spiritual things are under condition
Our salvation and God’s promises are therein included! The ‘sine qua non’ condition is our sincere faith in Jesus Christ! This is the reason that more than 1.500 “IFs” exist in the Bible. All is under condition! The only thing that is unconditional is God’s love towards us. HE loves us as we are and in spite of what we are. If a man lives in incredulity, he dishonors Him and commits an injustice against Him; on the contrary, by faith he honors Him and does justice towards him…Faith or better trust in God is an act of justice because faith in His words and trust in His character honor God that God is just and true. Repentance is an act of justice because it recognizes that God is just and that man is sinful and guilty. When I humbly say to God: “Yes, Lord, I have sinned, what I did was not just etc.”, then I do an act of justice. God on the basis of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ considers me righteous and justifies me! No Church and no good work can justify and save me!
By faith man becomes complete in Jesus Christ
The first thing that man receives when he repents and believes in Jesus Christ is the remission of his sins and his reconciliation with God the Father. The fruit of having made justice towards God, by trusting God, is that he is justified by God through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and has peace with God (Rom.5:1-2). The grace that he receives restores his relation with God. Man has fallen by incredulity but by faith he is rehabilitated. God imputes his faith in Him as justice. God covers him with privileges that even the angels desire to look into… (1Pet.1:12). HE makes him partaker of the divine nature (2Pet.1:4) and He makes him complete in Christ (2Col.2:10). Henceforth – clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph.3:16) – he is called to walk before Him worthy of the vocation with which he is called (Eph.4:1). The true believer sticks to and follows Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life. True faith produces consecration and commitment!
3d) God’s part in salvation and man’s part in salvation
We must, at this point, notice the following truths:
- · No man can forgive his own sins, regenerate his own heart and declare himself justified and cleansed concerning his sin before God. Only Jesus Christ can do it for man: He, Jesus Christ, could die for us but He cannot repent and believe for our account! Adultery or lying or anger or murder or hatred or love of money, for example, is an act of man for which he must accept full responsibility. If we TRULY repent and believe we will not continue practicing our sins: “For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.” (2Cor.7:10)
- · It is true that faith and repentance are given by God under certain conditions (Ac.11:18; Lu.24:25; Ac.16:14), BUT whether we shall act upon that faith and repentance or not depends completely on us. Many so-called Christians ‘believe’ without having first repented and having taken a hostile position against sin. They try to have faith without having the intention to bring their lives into moral conformity with the will of God.
- · God cannot appropriate salvation for us. Only man can appropriate by faith God’s offered salvation.
May God’s Spirit open our spirit to understand, with our heart, these great truths of the Gospel!