It is very clear in the OT and the NT that God wants to be the source of everything His people need. If we didn’t look to God for these things, where would we look? To the world? To the god of this world? To other religions? To man, including ourselves? Creation was set up that man be submitted to, and dependent on, God. We are to know Him, to look to Him for all things, to trust Him, to be humble and thankful before Him, to obey Him, to worship Him, Him and Him alone, the God of creation, the God of the Bible.
Everything we need has been provided by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, but we need some wisdom regarding which things are more important. I’ve often been amazed to hear Christians speaking of faith for things like healing and financial blessings while hardly mentioning (if mentioning at all) our need to receive the much-more-important things like holiness and victory over sin by faith. I suppose some assume that the sin problem has already been solved, but this cannot be assumed in our day. A lack of holiness in our lives can greatly limit God’s ability to bless us in areas like healing and finances, and the consequences of willingly living in sin (and not making it a top priority to change/be changed) could be much worse than a loss of blessings for this age.
Essentially every aspect of Christianity is dependent on our faith, and our faith is dependent on knowing (accurately knowing) the Word of God. (I’m not talking about the need for a high I.Q. and a doctor’s degree in Biblical studies. The basics of Christianity aren’t that complicated. I’ve often said, and I still believe it’s true, that if you just heard the apostle Paul for a few hours, as he presented the basics of the gospel, you could know enough to live a successful Christian life. However, we must continue to learn of, and grow in, the things of God throughout our Christian life.) Our faith cannot rise above our understanding of God’s will, which we learn from His Word. For example, we can’t have faith for holiness, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this area, until we clearly see that this is part of God’s salvation plan and is provided, and required, in Christ Jesus.
This certainly underscores the importance we must place on coming to, and then rightly dividing, the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will, of course, help us understand God’s Word, but He can’t help us much if we don’t cooperate with Him by making this a top priority, and by committing ourselves to really want to know and to live in line with the truth. If we don’t make the truth top priority, we probably won’t have much of it. I’m often amazed at the lack of zeal to study, and rightly divide, God’s Word that I see among some Christians. They must not understand the awesome importance of knowing the truth of the gospel, God’s glorious plan of salvation, the pearl of great price. Many think they adequately understand the basics of the gospel when they don’t.
One major problem in the Body of Christ is that many Christians don’t know the basics of the gospel (speaking of things like knowing we can, and must, be holy by God’s sufficient grace through faith). But even if we know the truth, it doesn’t just automatically follow that we will believe/have faith in the truth; we still can doubt the truth, or parts of the truth. It is important to know that we can, and we must, resist doubting the basics of the gospel in our hearts. If we have faith in the Word of God, it will be manifested in our acting on/living in line with the truth. (Many have substituted mental assent to the truths of God’s Word for faith in the heart. They haven’t really taken the Word into their hearts or committed themselves to God and His Word. Mental assent doesn’t enable us to rise above the flesh; it doesn’t enable us to receive and cooperate with God’s grace/Spirit.) Then again, just because we have faith in the truth now doesn’t mean that we couldn’t begin to doubt the truth later if we aren’t careful to walk close to God, keeping the right priorities.
We can’t manifest faith, or live the Christian life, by striving in the flesh. In fact, striving in the flesh is a sure recipe for defeat. We are called to rest (Thanks be to God!); God is carrying the load. By faith we rise above the limitations of the flesh, putting ourselves and all our cares in the hands of God (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). At the same time, there is a fight to faith (see on 1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:10-20); but we’re not striving in the flesh. The Word of God and the Spirit of God enable us to rise above the flesh. We must find and cling to the truth (especially the truth of the gospel) and resist doubt (and discouragement), and we must live in line with the gospel (by the grace/Spirit of God). The victory certainly isn’t automatic. We must walk in faith on a continuous, persistent basis. Faith isn’t just a momentary (one-shot) decision to follow Christ; it must be a lifelong (eternal) commitment.
We certainly don’t get faith by being under condemnation; condemnation hinders faith in God. (See on 1 John 3:16-23.) If we have missed it in any area, we must repent, receive God’s forgiveness, and begin to act in accordance with God’s Word by His sufficient grace. Even if there is an area in our lives where we haven’t achieved the full victory yet, God knows our heart; He knows if we are making His will top priority.
May God’s will be accomplished and His people be edified through this paper!
I’ll close this Introduction by quoting Prov. 3:5-7:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
(6) In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
(7) Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
SOME PASSAGES THAT HELP SHOW THAT
SAVING FAITH IS OUR PART
We can learn a lot about faith from these passages, and we can learn a lot about God’s plan of salvation. These passages are all quite important, but I’ll have to skip quite a few of these passages for these excerpts.
Genesis 15:6. “Then HE [ABRAHAM] BELIEVED IN THE LORD [Yahweh]; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Compare Deut. 24:13; Psalm 106:31; Rom. 4:3, 20-22; and Gal. 3:6. Genesis 15:1-5 show that Abraham was believing God regarding His promise of future blessings. This promise ultimately culminated in salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the seed of Abraham (cf. Gal. 3:16). In believing this promise (and other closely related promises), Abraham was believing the gospel in an early form. Of course it is true that Abraham, who is “the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:12-17; cf. Gal. 3:7), could not have believed God if He hadn’t taken the initiative and revealed Himself to Abraham and made promises to Abraham, but still it seems clear that believing (having faith) is something that Abraham did. His believing God did not merit salvation, but it made him receptive to salvation. And God commended/rewarded Abraham for his faith, but He often rebuked/chastened/judged others for their unbelief, as the following passages will demonstrate.
Numbers 14:11. “And the LORD [Yahweh] said to Moses, ‘How long will this people spurn Me? AND HOW LONG WILL THEY NOT BELIEVE IN ME, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?’ ”
Deuteronomy 9:23, 24. “And when the LORD [Yahweh] sent you from Kadesh-Barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given to you,’ then YOU REBELLED AGAINST THE COMMAND OF THE LORD [Yahweh] YOUR GOD; YOU NEITHER BELIEVED HIM NOR LISTENED TO HIS VOICE. (24) You have been rebellious against the LORD [Yahweh] from the day I knew you.”
2 Kings 17:7-18, especially verses 12-17. “And they served idols, concerning which the LORD [Yahweh] had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” (13) Yet the LORD [Yahweh] warned Israel and Judah, through all His prophets and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.’ (14) However, THEY DID NOT LISTEN, BUT STIFFENED THEIR NECK LIKE THEIR FATHERS, WHO DID NOT BELIEVE IN THE LORD [Yahweh] THEIR GOD. (15) And they rejected His statutes and His covenant which He had made with their fathers, and His warning with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD [Yahweh] had commanded them not to do like them. (16) And they forsook all the commandments of the LORD [Yahweh] their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. (17) Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire [as sacrifices to a pagan god], and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD [Yahweh], provoking Him.”
Psalm 78:21, 22. “Therefore the LORD [Yahweh] heard and was full of wrath, And a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also mounted against Israel; (22) BECAUSE THEY DID NOT BELIEVE IN GOD, AND THEY DID NOT TRUST IN HIS SALVATION.”
Psalm 106:24, 25. “Then they despised the pleasant land; THEY DID NOT BELIEVE IN HIS WORD [This is speaking of the “land” of Canaan, which God had promised to give to His people. But Israel rebelled at Kadesh-Barnea and did not believe (and trust) God to fulfill His promise. They had their eyes, so to speak, on the giants and other opponents who dwelled in the land instead of on their God, who was much greater than all opposition. See Numbers chapters 13, 14.], (25) But grumbled in their tents; THEY DID NOT LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF THE LORD [Yahweh].”
Luke 7:50. “And He [Jesus] said to the woman, ‘YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU; go in peace.’ ”
John 1:10-13. “He was in the world [Jesus Christ was in the world from the time that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14).], and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. [The world (mankind worldwide) should have known Him; however, because of rebellion, spiritual death, and unbelief, they did not know Him. John continues with this theme in the next verse.] (11) He came to His own [The Lord Jesus came to His own at His first coming. All things ever created (including every person/being ever created) were created through Him, the eternal Son of God (John 1:1-3, 14; Col. 1:16). I believe “His own” refers to mankind worldwide here. (Many limit “His own” to Israel.) The Greek helps confirm this viewpoint in that the Greek is neuter plural, viewing mankind as part of that which had been created through Him (and “for Him,” Col. 1:16), spoken of earlier in the chapter.], and those who were His own [though they were created through Him and owed Him everything] did not receive Him. [THEY DID NOT SUBMIT TO HIM IN FAITH, but they rejected Him. However, as the next verse shows, not all rejected Him.] (12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [authority] to become children of God, EVEN TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIS NAME [To believe in His name includes believing in (and submitting to) Him and all that is revealed concerning Him], (13) who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” We become children of God by being born...of God. This speaks of the all-important new birth that comes to all who have faith in (to all who believe in) the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g., John 3:3-8).
John 3:14-21. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [[As Num. 21:4-9 show, if anyone bitten by the fiery serpents would look at the bronze serpent set on a standard by Moses, according to God’s instructions, they would live. In other words, they wouldn’t die from the bite that would otherwise have killed them. (I believe we can assume that they looked in faith.) Even so must the Son of Man (Christ Jesus) be lifted up on a cross to bear the sin of mankind as the Lamb of God.]]; (15) THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES MAY IN HIM HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. [Those who believe in Christ Jesus (believing in Christ is something we do, as we respond to God’s grace) receive life in the eternal dimension by the Holy Spirit, starting with the new birth. We have all been bitten by the serpent of sin.] (16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [I would translate “His unique (only one of His kind) Son” with the margin of the NASB, or the equivalent.], THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. [Perishing means eternal death, the second death of Rev. 20:10, 14, 15, not annihilation.] (17) For God did not send the Son into the world to judge [condemn] the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. (18) HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM IS NOT JUDGED [CONDEMNED]; HE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE HAS BEEN JUDGED [CONDEMNED] ALREADY, BECAUSE HE HAS NOT BELIEVED IN THE NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN [UNIQUE] SON OF GOD. [Those who reject God’s offer of salvation are rejecting God’s only solution to the sin/spiritual death problem. In a very real sense they are determining their eternal destiny. Those who receive God’s offer of salvation through faith in Christ are also determining their eternal destiny. We can even say that at the time they receive Christ they have their final judgment, and they pass from death to life. See, for example, John 5:24. It is assumed, of course, that they have true faith and that they will not later abandon their faith in Christ.] (19) And this is the judgment [condemnation. These following words (through verse 21) are quite important to help confirm that faith/believing is our part. These words give (at least in part) the reason why many don’t submit to Christ in faith.], that the light is come into the world [Jesus Christ is the light, and He brings light into the world. See 1:4-10.], and men loved the darkness rather than the light [The darkness includes sin, the lie, and everything else associated with the kingdom of Satan.]; for their deeds [works] were evil. (20) For EVERYONE WHO DOES EVIL HATES THE LIGHT, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. [It certainly isn’t surprising to hear that those who are living in sin and love the darkness and hate the light AND HAVE NO DESIRE TO CHANGE are not going to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith.] (21) But he who practices [does] the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” This verse is especially applicable for those who have had the benefit of much interaction with God and His Word before they are confronted with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the Israelites of that day fit the pattern described here in verse 21. Such persons typically submitted to the ministry of John the Baptist, who called for repentance. The most righteous knew that repentance was required, and they knew that they needed the Savior from sin who would immerse His followers in the Holy Spirit and sanctify them. And even though their lives manifested some righteousness they understood that the good they had done was attributable to God and His grace, as the second half of this verse shows. The more hungry that people become for true righteousness the more they will readily, and totally, submit to the gospel of Christ Jesus - there is no other way to receive the imputed and imparted righteousness of God. It should be noted that Nicodemus, to whom these words were initially spoken by Jesus Christ (see John 3:1-10), was an example of one who came to the light. We know that he became a follower of Christ (John 19:38-42, cf. 7:50-52).
John 5:36-47. I’ll just quote verses 38-40, 44 in these excerpts. “(38) And you do not have His [God’s] word abiding in you [They thought they did, but their rejection of Christ proved they didn’t, as the rest of the verse, and 5:45-47, show.], FOR YOU DO NOT BELIEVE HIM [CHRIST] WHOM HE [GOD THE FATHER] SENT. (39) You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; (40) and YOU ARE UNWILLING TO COME TO ME [These words confirm that our will is involved in coming (or not coming) to Christ in faith (cf. John 7:17, which is discussed below). The following verses give some of the basic reasons why they were not willing to come to Him. Verses like 5:40-47 strongly confirm that having faith in Christ, or not having faith, is man’s part and involves the foundational attitudes, priorities, and motives of the heart.], THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE. … (44) HOW CAN YOU BELIEVE, WHEN YOU DO NOT SEEK THE GLORY THAT IS FROM THE ONE AND ONLY GOD?” Christians too can be guilty of being motivated to seek the glory that comes from men (especially our religious associates) while God Himself is lost behind the religion.
John 7:17. “IF ANY MAN IS WILLING TO DO HIS WILL, HE SHALL KNOW OF THE TEACHING [the teaching of Christ], WHETHER IT IS OF GOD, OR WHETHER I SPEAK FROM MYSELF.” This important verse demonstrates that the will of man is involved in the having, or not having, faith in Christ (cf. 5:40). And, significantly, it demonstrates that faith in Christ involves a desire/willingness/commitment of the heart to do God’s will and be righteous and holy (cf. 3:19-21). The new covenant in the blood of Christ Jesus is the only means provided for man to receive the righteousness of God. For one thing, as John the Baptist said, Jesus is the One who can immerse men in the Holy Spirit, thereby sanctifying them and enabling them to do God’s will. Those who do not have a desire to do God’s will do not love Him (cf. John 14:15, 21, 23, 24).
Romans 11:19-23. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” (20) Quite right, THEY WERE BROKEN OFF FOR THEIR UNBELIEF [That is, those Israelites who did not receive Christ Jesus in faith were (like branches) cut off from (the tree of) God’s true Israel.], BUT YOU [speaking to Gentile Christians] STAND BY YOUR FAITH. Do not be conceited, but fear; (21) for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. (22) Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, IF YOU CONTINUE IN HIS KINDNESS [BY CONTINUING ON IN FAITH AND STAYING AWAY FROM UNBELIEF]; otherwise you also will be cut off [as the unbelieving Israelites were]. (23) And they also, IF THEY DO NOT CONTINUE IN THEIR UNBELIEF, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.” These verses strongly emphasize that faith in Christ, or unbelief, is man’s responsibility. God does not just give us saving faith, nor do we just automatically continue on in faith. We must continue to press on by grace through faith.
1 Thessalonians 2:13. “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message [the gospel], YOU ACCEPTED IT [IN FAITH] NOT AS THE WORD OF MEN [It was the Word of God given to the Thessalonians through the apostle Paul and his companions. Paul had received the gospel directly from God, “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12).], BUT FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS, THE WORD OF GOD, WHICH ALSO PERFORMS ITS WORK IN YOU WHO BELIEVE.” The gospel works in the hearts and lives of those who hear it, understand it, and submit to it, in humble faith. The gospel works by the power of God, especially the work/power of the Holy Spirit. Cf. Rom. 1:16, 17. It does the very work the gospel spells out. For one thing, it makes us righteous and holy new creations, starting with the new birth, and enables us to live in the will of God as we “wait for His Son from heaven.” God’s power works in us to strengthen us and heal us, spirit, soul, and body. The Greek behind “in you who believe” confirms that a continuous believing/faith is being spoken of. We must continue to believe the full gospel. God’s Word will not be working in us to the extent that we start doubting it in our hearts. Also, if there are parts of the gospel we haven’t adequately heard, understood, and accepted in faith, we won’t achieve satisfactory results in those areas. It is necessary for us to have faith in the full gospel.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-12. I’ll just read verses 6-9 in these excerpts. “(6) For after all it is only just [righteous] for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [manifested] from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire [This glorious turn of events will come to pass when the Lord Jesus returns and is manifested - right in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week - and we are raptured and caught up into eternal glory.], (8) DEALING OUT RETRIBUTION TO THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW GOD AND to those [I would omit these last two words (“to those”) with the NIV and others (they are not required by the Greek). It seems that “those who do not know God” are the same persons as “those who do not obey the gospel.” They are responsible for not knowing God; they could have come to know Him through submitting to the gospel in faith.] WHO DO NOT OBEY THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS. [[To say that they did not obey the gospel is another way of saying that they did not submit to the gospel in faith. But perhaps by saying they did not obey the gospel, Paul makes the point even stronger that they are rebelling against God. We have already come across this idea of not obeying the gospel in Rom. 10:16 (under Rom. 9:30-10:18). And there are other verses that speak of disobeying, or obeying, the gospel. I believe all such verses offer further strong evidence that man has his role to play in God’s plan of salvation. That role is typically covered by the words faith/believing, but other words can be used, including repentance and obedience. In Gal. 5:7 Paul rebuked some of the Galatians, who had begun to waver on the basics of the gospel: “YOU WERE RUNNING WELL, WHO HINDERED YOU FROM OBEYING THE TRUTH?” In Rom. 2:8 he speaks of “those WHO ARE SELFISHLY AMBITIOUS AND DO NOT OBEY THE TRUTH [of the gospel], BUT OBEY UNRIGHTEOUSNESS....” In Rom. 6:16 he writes to the Christians at Rome saying, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, YOU BECAME OBEDIENT FROM THE HEART TO THAT FORM OF TEACHING [The “form of teaching” at least includes that part of the gospel which shows that Christians are to be dead to sin and alive to God and righteousness by grace through faith.] TO WHICH YOU WERE committed [DELIVERED OVER].” If in our hearts we have faith in the gospel, we will necessarily obey the gospel, by God’s enabling grace. See pages 101, 102 of my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin" on Rom. 6:16. Acts 6:7 says, “And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests WERE BECOMING OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH.” And 1 Peter 4:17 says, For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those WHO DO NOT OBEY THE GOSPEL OF GOD?” Compare also Rom. 15:18.]] (9) And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power….”
2 Thessalonians 2:8-15. I’ll just read verses 11, 12 for these excerpts. “(11) And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, (12) IN ORDER THAT THEY ALL MAY BE judged [CONDEMNED] WHO DID NOT BELIEVE THE TRUTH, BUT TOOK PLEASURE IN WICKEDNESS.” For those who willfully reject the gospel (and thereby reject Jesus Christ, the One who sent Him, righteousness, and salvation), God sends Antichrist to lead them to destruction. As 2:9, 10 show, Antichrist will come in such spectacular and deceptive fashion that it will be easy for those who hate God to follow him. And it is significant that the apostle Paul demonstrates in verse 12 that the reason (at least if was a big part of the reason) why these people did not submit to the gospel in faith. They “took pleasure in wickedness” and didn’t want to change.
1 Timothy 2:3-6. I’ll just read verses 3, 4 for these excerpts. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4) WHO DESIRES ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.” “To come to the knowledge of the truth,” as these words are used here, includes our submitting to the truth of the gospel in faith.
Hebrews 6:11, 12. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, (12) that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those WHO THROUGH FAITH AND PATIENCE INHERIT THE PROMISES.” We must press on in faith to the end of the race in order to inherit the things promised (the things that go with the glory of the age to come in God’s eternal kingdom). We press on by grace through faith.
1 John 5:10-12. “THE ONE WHO BELIEVES IN THE SON OF GOD HAS THE WITNESS IN HIMSELF [cf. 5:6-9; Rom. 8:16]; THE ONE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE GOD [regarding the gospel of salvation in His unique Son] HAS MADE HIM A LIAR, BECAUSE HE HAS NOT BELIEVED IN THE WITNESS THAT GOD HAS BORNE CONCERNING HIS SON. (11) And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (12) He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
That concludes the passages that I’ll include in these excerpts under the heading, “Some Passages that Help Show that Saving Faith Is our Part.” We’ll continue with the next section of this paper with Part 3 of these excerpts.