Genuine faith is rest in Christ's finished work on the cross and through trust in His Life working in us.
Faith is God's precious gift to man, available solely through the death of His only Son. But in many instances, today's concept of faith is leading the naïve away from true faith. A mentality of "exercising faith" and "receiving by faith" to satisfy the flesh, has caused many to turn their eyes from Jesus, and back to self.
Jesus gave His life so that man could rely on Him for salvation [Greek: faith].1 There is a similar Greek word translated "believe," which is defined as "to have faith" and "entrust (especially one's spiritual well being to Christ)."2 Faith is simple, but to grow in faith requires death to self and entering in to the rest found only in Christ.
Paul's words to Timothy in this next passage were very forceful, but they are mild compared to the words that will be heard by those who think nothing of changing the truth of God into lies. Paul was not speaking from his own mind, but tells how the Holy Spirit said, ". . . in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing [misleading]3 spirits, and doctrines of devils; through the hypocrisy [deceit]4 of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron [rendered insensitive]."5 (1 Timothy 4:1b-2) The lies are branded in their consciences, and they honestly believe they walk in the truth. They have been rendered insensitive and are actually blind to the truth.
We must be wary, and keep our ears open to the Holy Spirit, when listening to some of the teachings available today. What "lord" is spoken of when some say, "Thus says the Lord?" How can Jesus be Lord of something so diabolically destructive to the truth for which He died? Many have been led away from true faith, simply because they have embraced the "spiritual" talk, "bible" teaching, "powerful prayers," testimonies of faith, and that manipulative lie, "the Lord told me."
The bible clearly shows what the end will be for those who depart from the truth, and trample on His precious Son with their lies. That they were deceived will not excuse them or render them innocent. It is idolatrous to set up false doctrines, especially about faith. "And there shall in no wise enter into it [Holy City] any thing unclean, or he that maketh abomination [idolatry,]
After Paul had spoken of espousing the Corinthians to "one Husband,"7 he went on to say that there were some who would preach another gospel and bring another spirit, but that he (Paul) would continue in the truth of Christ. Referring to those who did not know nor walk in the truth, he said that such men "are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." He added that it is no wonder, for Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He further said that we should not be surprised to see his servants also "disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."8
Before reading or quoting the words "faith comes by hearing, etc.," in Romans 10:17, it is best to understand that Paul is answering the question, "What is the righteousness of faith?" He explains that the word of faith he was preaching was near them, in their mouth and in their heart. Then he tells them, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession [Greek: acknowledgment]9 is made unto salvation."10 Paul is not giving a formula to follow; he is preaching that righteousness comes with the heart "relying upon Christ for salvation," and with the mouth acknowledging that Jesus has come to be their Lord. Remember how Israel's problem was their failure to acknowledge God as the LORD God?11 Now Paul is telling the saints in Rome that they must rely on Messiah with their whole heart, and willingly acknowledge Him verbally (even at the risk of persecution).
The same Lord is Lord of all, so, whether Jew or Greek, whoever calls on His Name shall be saved. The question arises as to how can they hear and believe and call without a preacher. Paul then repeats Isaiah's words, “'How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!'12 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'LORD, who has believed our report?' So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Christ).” (Romans 10:16-17 NKJV).
Because some revisers have removed the name "Christ" and replaced it with "God," many have come to believe that reading and quoting the "Word of God" will make our faith grow. In reading the above passage in context, we see that it is the word of Christ, or in other words, the good news of what He did to bring salvation. Christ said that we must be born again (from above). If we are not born from above, there is no genuine faith--whatever "faith" is professed is flesh-based and can never please God.
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is known as the "faith" chapter. The last five verses of chapter ten could well have been the first verses in chapter eleven, because the continuity of chapter ten flows into chapter eleven. The subject is salvation and the hope of eternal life. "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 'For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.'" (Hebrews 10:36-37 NKJV). We are told "the just shall live by faith" (vs. 38) and that God would be displeased with anyone who drew back. Then this: "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe [rely upon Christ] to the saving of the soul. Now faith [reliance upon Christ for salvation]13 is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony." (Hebrews 10:39, 11:1-2 NKJV). The elders, whose accounts of faith make up chapter eleven, lived with God-given hope in the One Who is "coming and will not tarry."
Abraham, the mighty man of faith, also had the hope of the future City of God. He "looked for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise," while dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob who were heirs of the same promise. They all died in faith, "not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar."14
Toward the end of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, reference is made to the many who, with firm trust in God, had suffered unthinkable things. Though they had great faith, they did not immediately receive the Promise. But since Jesus came and gave His Life, we ALL have opportunity to partake of His resurrection. "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV). If the "great cloud of witnesses" recorded in the faith chapter could persevere, how much more should we lay aside all that would cause us to shrink back in unbelief? The sin which so easily ensnares us is the sin of unbelief. The only hope for the church is steadfast reliance upon Christ for salvation, for only in the remnant will true faith be found.
Faith to receive
The bible clearly tells us that if we ask in faith, we will receive. When we are His through the new birth, and abide in Him as a branch abides in the vine, God WILL answer our prayers. A branch cannot bear fruit unless it is connected to the life-giving vine. So it is with Jesus the true Vine. Without Him, we can do nothing. Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (See John 15:4-8 NKJV).
If our trust is truly in Christ we have His Spirit within us. God is then our Father, and when we come to Him in prayer it is in Jesus' Name. Because of the Son, the Father answers our prayer, especially when we walk in love as He commanded. There is no formula for praying "in Jesus' Name," for it is the reality of His presence in us that makes the prayer effective. This is what Jesus meant in John 14:12-17, where He tells how those who believe in Him will do greater works than He did. It is because of His Spirit. Jesus said, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."15 What a powerful reality--Jesus in us, glorifying the Father! It is all about Him, not us. But we are the beneficiaries.
In 2001, when fires were raging through an area of Northern California and endangering the homes of many, my friend Marsha asked me to pray for her brother and his wife, whose home was in the path of the fires. I agreed to pray and went on with what I was doing, unsure of just how to pray. Immediately the Lord stopped me in my tracks, causing me to pray in a specific way. When I next spoke with Marsha, I jokingly told her I would not share how I had prayed. She said, "Okay," and we continued our conversation. A few days later she phoned and asked me how I had prayed. When I told her, she broke into tears. My prayer had been answered in a spectacular way! I had asked the Lord to miraculously protect that home so there would be no doubt it was His work and that He would be glorified. "Miraculous" is the only word to describe what God did that day.
The fire was raging up the hill devouring everything in its path. When it reached our friends' home, it burned all around but left theirs untouched. It was as though a protective dome had been placed over their property. The closest the fire came was across the lawn up to a wooden retaining wall. Firefighters, seeing a firestorm headed their way, took shelter close to this house which was seemingly immune to the destructive force. Their lives were spared because God's hand was upon that home. This amazing miracle got the attention of the local news media, and much was said about it.
When the owners were allowed to return up the hill to their properties, Marsha's brother's home was the only one left--all others were destroyed. He entered his house (which had not even a smell of smoke in it), walked out the back door, and ate some fruit from a tree in their backyard. The heat of the fire had caused very little damage to his orchard, even though the well in the yard had been sucked dry by the force of the fire. There was also his wife's beautiful rose garden close to the house, still in full-bloom and completely unaffected.
What a wonderful Lord, to bring glory to Himself in this way. I will forever be grateful that He taught me this lesson! Since that time, I always pray that God will be glorified in all I ask of Him.
1. Greek #4102
2. Greek #4100
3. Greek #4108
4. Greek #5272
5. Greek #2743
6. Greek #946
7. 2 Corinthians 11:2
8. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NAS
9. Greek #3670
10. Romans 10:8-10 NKJV
11. Chapter 5
12. Romans 10:11-15
13. Greek #4102
14. Hebrews 11:8-10,13-16
15. John 14:13 NKJV