Faith

“If we emphasize faith does that mean we can forget about the law?”  Paul asks at the end of Romans 3. And then he answers himself:  “Of course not!  In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”

It seems to me that the first 4 chapters of Romans are primarily about sin, law and faith and the relationship between all three. And up to now we have learned that we all sin, that the law doesn’t help but instead just makes the sin more obvious and that faith is somehow the answer to it all. Paul has also introduced the concept of grace/ undeserved favour. In chapter 4 Paul tries to explain faith using Abraham as an example.

First of all it is as well to establish that Abraham was a sinner. He mistrusted God on at least two occasions we know of and put Sarah in a compromised position, he had a child by his wife’s servant – as well as several other liaisons. He also committed murder on several occasions – or at least he was involved in war – and would have killed his own son if God hadn’t stopped him (Genesis 22). By the way, it looks like Sarah had had enough after that incident since we don’t see her with him again until she is dead. You wouldn’t blame her for not wanting to stay with a man who said God told him to kill their son.

But the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Romans 4:3). Abraham, just like us, needed a saviour – a God who forgives sinners. And it was the trusting relationship with God that enabled God to pass on that forgiveness to him. There was no way he could be with God, believing God, and not be forgiven since he couldn’t stand before God’s holiness except in a place of forgiveness.

“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin!”  as David says (Psalm 32: 1-2 quoted in Romans 4:7.8).  Another man who needed a saviour.

The death of Jesus looks back as well as forward in its effects.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Part 1)

A couple of blogs back I wrote about the conflation there is in our terminology when referring to the Word of God.  Jesus Christ is the Spirit behind the words, the Power in them and the Way, the Truth and the Life of them.  The words on the pages of the Bible without His presence in them are like a dead body – instead of giving life they produce death (John 6:63, 2 Cor. 3:6).

So we have to hear His Spirit speaking to us when we read His words.  And when we do what wonders can follow!

“For nothing is impossible with God” – Luke 1:37

“All things are possible to those who believe.” – Mark 9:23

“Everything that you ask, believing, you will receive.” – Matthew 21:22

“Is there anything too hard for God?” – Genesis 18:14

“If you ask anything in My name, I will give it to you.” – John 14:14

are just a few of the things that He says to us.

But what about something specific?  Is it possible to hear about that?  Well I believe it is and that it is essential we do hear specifically.

When David was going to fight against the Philistines, he clearly heard the tactics he was to use straight from the mouth of God (2 Sam 5:17-25):

17 Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?”

And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim. 21 And they left their images there, and David and his men carried them away.

22 Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. 24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 25 And David did so, as the Lord commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.

On two occasions he heard Him and the tactics were different in both cases (he went directly against them the first time and circled around them the second – v. 19, 23,24).

David was an example of someone depending on God on a daily basis and not just someone using a past method that succeeded to do something very similar again the same way.  Had David done the same thing twice, without waiting on God the second time, the results would have no doubt been different.  The first time He heard God, the second time he would have been presumptuous.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  He is not limited to using the same formula time and again.  There is no relationship with God involved in taking a phrase like “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) and using it again and again like a mantra.  I’ve seen people do this and I don’t know of any situation where it achieved the results that they were expecting.  Unless someone hears Jesus say that word specifically in relation to a specific situation then no faith will come, just a kind of stubborn, desperate act of the will and flesh.

There is a school of doctrine that emerges in various places in the Christian churches from time to time. It says something along the line of “If you have enough faith then you can always see someone healed.”  I’d ask the question “Faith in what?”  If it is faith in a sentence plucked from the Scripture, even those I’ve quoted above, then I would ask “Did you hear the Holy Spirit say that to you about this situation or did you just take the words without the power in them?”  The truth is that if you have enough faith you will see someone healed or raised from the dead or whatever.  But faith only comes through hearing the Word of God.  We have to hear Him speak the words to us not just read them and think we can apply them like some kind of lotion.

However, I am still learning, there is much to learn about this area.  If I experienced more miracles of healing on a level that a disciple of Jesus should experience according to the gospels, I could speak with more authority.  I could be wrong.

For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

Galatians 6:3-5

In my next blog we’ll explore this topic further with some real life examples.

Abraham and Isaac

The post below is an attempt to imagine what both Abraham and Isaac were thinking as they went through the ordeal described in Genesis 22.  I also bring out the similarities between the story and that of the death of Jesus Christ at the hands of His Father. It was a very long trudge up […]