Saturday, January 24, 2009

Just Believe (part 1)

John 5:17-25 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (18) This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (19) So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (25) "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Ever since the time of Christ’s first appearance in the flesh man has sought to add requirements to the wholly Christological work of salvation. And the concept of salvation by faith in Christ has as its essential bedrock the understanding that He is every bit as much “God” as the Father. This is why Jesus had to call attention to His divine nature on so many occasions: His body & His blood would suffer all the wrath of God’s righteous hatred of His children’s sin, making the distinct Person of Jesus Christ Himself our one hope of salvation. If He had never presented Himself as the everlasting “I Am”, our faith could not rest securely in Him. Our belief could not be justifiable if were to rest on another mere man, for all (mere men) have sinned & fallen short of God’s glory. It is a fragile faith indeed that rests on the shoulders of someone less than God Almighty. Thank God for His revelation of Jesus’ true nature to our souls, for our consternating conscience over sin would never otherwise find lasting respite or reprieve.

The concept of the Latin phrase “sola fide” in relation to our salvation finds its root in Scripture. “Faith alone” is taught many times by Jesus & the apostles:

Mar 5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Clearly, here & elsewhere Scripture states "belief" as the most fundamental determinant of the saved (with God as the sole determiner of who should "find" that belief). Salvation is promised here to all “whoevers” that can establish “belief” in Him. It seems a simple thing, this “belief”. It is, but we must also understand that belief is a very large concept:

Mark 9:17-24 And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; (18) and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it."
(19) And He *answered them and *said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" (20) They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. (21) And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. (22) "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" (23) And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." (24) Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

We can claim to believe in all manner of things, but often our words or actions will reveal the true parameters of our faith. A CEO can proclaim loudly his belief that his company will not enter bankruptcy, but when he thereafter chooses to cash out all his stock options, his divesting action reveals the failing of his stated belief. Conversely, most of us never gave a thought to the structural integrity of the chairs we are sit in before we sat down today. If the chair had failed to support us, we would have been very taken aback. Experience has taught us to place unreserved faith in our chairs to the point that we don’t bother to inspect or test them before placing our full weight upon them.

We blindly believe in the chair’s ability to support us, & this action demonstrates the measure of our faith.

So don’t be perplexed as Scripture seems to add something more to the foundation of faith alone as salvific. Fideism’s under girding firmness is not being doctrinally challenged; it is only the parameters of your belief that are being challenged:

Romans 10:4-11 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (5) For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. (6) But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) (7) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). (8) But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (9) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (11) For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."

At first glance, verses 9 & 10 seem to add a secondary requirement of confession to the mute nature of the heart’s belief. But that is Paul’s point- true faith cannot remain muted. If the Light inside you is real, then it must burst the basket’s confines to reveal itself at some point. Understand, in Matthew 10:32, Jesus is not giving you a work to accomplish to then become worthy of His salvation, He is giving form & definition to the nature of the individual who claims to believe in Him. He is telling you that, devoid of the good confession, your faith is in darkness.

Dragging your faith out of the dark shadows allows the Light to shine upon it & bring it to maturity. Just believe; then act from that substance of faith, allowing the material evidence to pour out of your otherwise muted belief. (Hebrews 11)

No comments: