Romans 4:16-21. “For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace [These words confirm the important relationship between the key words “faith” and “grace.” Everything we receive by faith (and that includes full salvation from its beginning to its consummation in eternal glory) is unearned/unmerited and is, therefore, IN ACCORDANCE WITH GRACE.], in order that the promise [The apostle is speaking of God’s promise of full salvation in Christ Jesus. Romans 4:13 shows that the promise includes inheriting the world, and that includes inheriting the new heaven and new earth of Revelation chapters 21, 22. OUR FAITH IS IN GOD AND HIS WORD, WHICH INCLUDES HIS PROMISE(S).] may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law [referring to Jewish Christians], but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham [referring to Gentile Christians (cf. Rom. 4:11)], [[The NASB has a parenthesis starting at the beginning of verse 17. I believe a parenthesis is the right idea, but I believe it should start right here in verse 16, instead of this comma. This is the viewpoint expressed, for example, in the United Bible Societies’ “Greek New Testament,” third edition (corrected).]] who is the father of us all [That is, Abraham is the father of all true Christians (cf. 4:11-13; Gal. 3:7-29).], (17) ([As I mentioned, I would move the beginning of this parenthesis back into verse 16.] as it is written, ‘A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU’) [Paul quotes from Gen. 17:5 to back up the idea that Abraham is the father of all Christians (believers) from all nations, including Israel.] in the sight of [I would translate this Greek preposition “BEFORE” with the KJV and the BAGD Greek Lexicon. We’ll discuss the meaning as we continue.] Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. [[The last part of this verse could be translated, “and calls the things not being as being.” It is to be understood, of course, that when God calls the things not being as being, then they must, in God’s time, become what He says. This applies to any of the things that God promised would come to pass, including the miraculous birth of Isaac, and ultimately the full salvation of all the descendants of Abraham.
Now let’s skip the parenthesis for a minute and discuss what Paul meant by the words, “FAITH OF ABRAHAM [in God and His promise(s)] BEFORE HIM WHOM HE BELIEVED, EVEN GOD, WHO GIVES LIFE TO THE DEAD AND CALLS THE THINGS NOT BEING AS BEING.” Abraham was BEFORE the God “who gives life to the dead,” and he knew that he was. Being before such a God, it was not difficult for Abraham to believe Him when He said Abraham and Sarah were going to have a son, even though, as Paul says in verse 19, Abraham’s body was as good as dead and Sarah’s womb was dead. No problem for such a God, who gives life to the dead. Such a God can also impart spiritual life to those dead in sin and spiritual death, and He can, at the right time, give His people and His creation the transformation to eternal glory by the impartation of the fullness of His eternal life.
Whatever God says/promises will come to pass because He is a God who means what He says, and who is well able to back up His Word. Abraham knew these things, and we, his descendants, must know them too. This is a big part of what faith is all about. I have heard Christians say that we, like God, have a right to call the things not being as being. Unless we limit ourselves to say things in line with what God has said, we are looking for big trouble. We’re not God! It is very important, however, for us to believe and confess what God says about us, and that it must be manifested/come to pass. For example, God has said that Christians are called, and enabled, to be holy and blameless, by His grace/Spirit.]] (18) In hope against hope [Looking at things from a strictly human point of view, there was no hope, but Abraham was not limited to what man could do (and neither are we).] he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken [in Gen. 15:5], “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.” (19) And WITHOUT BECOMING WEAK IN FAITH he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb [If this is the correct reading (in other words, if this is the way Paul originally wrote these words in Greek), then the idea is that Abraham, while contemplating his body and the deadness of Sarah’s womb, did not consider these things to be very significant in that the word/promise and ability of God were so much more significant. It is also possible that the reading reflected in the KJV is the original and correct reading: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead....”]; (20) yet [or, and], WITH RESPECT TO THE PROMISE OF GOD, HE DID NOT WAVER IN UNBELIEF [And we, Abraham’s descendants, are not to doubt and waver in unbelief.], but grew strong in faith [I believe the KJV communicates the intended meaning here: “WAS STRONG IN FAITH.”], GIVING GLORY TO GOD [This is important. We don’t ever have a valid reason to doubt God and His word/promises; as we press on in faith, no matter what things look like, we are glorifying God. This fact should strongly motivate us! We were created to glorify God and to enjoy communion with Him forever!], (21) AND BEING FULLY ASSURED THAT WHAT HE HAD PROMISED, HE WAS ABLE TO PERFORM.” Every Christian can and should have this same assurance. These verses (Rom. 4:16-21) teach us a lot about faith. We can, and we must, follow Abraham in this walk of faith. Of course there is opposition (from the world, the flesh, and the devil), and it’s not always fun; but no person/thing can keep us from receiving, and walking in, everything God has promised - by grace through faith.
Ephesians 3:14-21. [Ephesians 3:14-19 are one sentence in the Greek and in this translation.] “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, (15) from whom every family [I would translate “the whole family,” with the KJV and the reading in the margin of the NASB. The NIV has, “his whole family.” At a minimum, the family includes all the members of God’s true Israel.] in heaven and on earth derives its name, (16) THAT HE WOULD GRANT YOU, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY, TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH POWER [“DUNAMIS”] THROUGH HIS SPIRIT IN THE INNER MAN [Starting with the new birth, the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians to enable them to be righteous and holy and to accomplish the will of God for their lives. Here it seems that Paul is speaking (at least for the most part) of the Spirit’s enabling us to be strong in faith. I say this mostly because of the next verse. (See the discussion there.) If this viewpoint is correct, it is to be understood that we, being strong in faith, will put God first, living for Him in truth, humility, righteousness, and holiness. It is Biblical to think in terms of the Spirit’s making us strong in faith (Gal. 5:22 KJV; cf. 1 Cor. 12:9); however (as this paper shows), we must continually do our part in order to be strong in faith (cooperating with and appropriating His sufficient grace). We must keep seeking God first, and the things of His kingdom (like the balanced truth of His Word, and His righteousness, and holiness).]; (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts [[I understand these words in the sense “MAY FULLY DWELL.” Christ dwells in every born-again Christian (if Christ does not dwell in us by the Spirit, we are not born-again Christians, cf. Rom. 8:9), but He cannot FULLY DWELL in us to the extent we allow fleshiness, worldliness, unbelief/doubt, darkness, unforgiveness, or other sin to remain in our hearts and lives. We are called, enabled, and required to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God by grace through faith.]] THROUGH FAITH [The definite article is included before the word faith in the Greek. I understand these words to speak of the faith we have as those being strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.]; and [The NASB has “and” in italics; I would skip this word.] that you being rooted [or, perhaps better, “having been rooted.” This participle and the following participle are both perfect tense in the Greek.] and grounded in love [[In the Greek, “in love” comes first, before these two participles. Apparently the idea is that we become rooted and grounded in love when Christ begins to fully dwell in our hearts. First, and foremost, we become rooted and grounded in a love relationship with Christ Himself (and God the Father and the Holy Spirit), with the emphasis on His love for us. But also, the Christian’s love for God, for one another, and for those outside the family of God (being enabled by the Spirit of God) is probably included here in what Paul means by having been rooted and grounded in love. It is important to know that the condition of our heart and life very much affects our relationship with God; it affects our present relationship, and it could affect our eternal relationship. See, e.g., John 14:15-24; 15:9-14; Matt. 7:21-23; Psalm 5:4-7; 11:4-7; James 4:8; Rev. 2:5; 3:1-6; 15-22. On the important relationship between our being holy and blameless and our abiding in a love relationship with God, see on Eph. 1:4 in my paper titled, “Verse-by-Verse Studies of Ephesians Chapters 1 and 4; and Romans 8:16-39.” At the end of this age, we will experience God’s love, or His wrath.
I’ll quote part of what Chrysostom (AD 347-407) said under Eph. 3:16-19 (Vol. 13 of the “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” edited by P. Schaff): “But how does Christ dwell in the hearts? Hear what Christ Himself saith, ‘I and my Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him,’ (John 15:23). He dwelleth in those hearts that are faithful, in those that are rooted in His love, those that remain firm and unshaken.”]] (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth [Paul includes in this prayer for believers the request that we would be able to understand all relevant information regarding the things of God and His kingdom.], (19) and to know [with the emphasis on an experiential knowledge] the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge [Apparently the idea is that this experiential knowledge of the love of Christ surpasses the knowledge of the things of God and His kingdom just spoken of in verse 18, as important as that knowledge is. Anyway, both forms of knowledge are available, and we need both of them. As in 3:17, first, and foremost, we should think of Christ’s love for us, but our walk in love (being enabled by the Spirit) could be included here. It is clear that we are required to walk in love.], that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. [In other words, that we would receive, and walk in, everything God the Father has made available to us in Christ by faith.] (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power [Greek “dunamis”, cf. 3:16] that works within us [Ephesians 1:19 speaks of “the surpassing greatness of His power [dunamis] toward us who believe....”], (21) to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
James 1:2-8. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials [[Trials typically aren’t enjoyable, but as we press on in faith, we can rejoice (rather than doubting, getting discouraged, complaining, and such), knowing that they will work together for good (cf. Rom. 8:28). During times of trial (assuming we rightly respond to them), we glorify God (e.g., Rom. 4:20 KJV); our faith is proved genuine (e.g., 1 Peter 1:6, 7); we grow and become stronger through spiritual exercise (e.g., James 1:3, 4; Rom. 5:3, 4); and there will be heavenly rewards (e.g., James 1:12; Matt. 5:10-12). It is possible, of course, for Christians to be defeated and go backwards, to one degree or another, by not rightly responding to trials. For us to rightly respond to trials, for one thing, we must know that we are in the will of God. If, for example, we have brought a trial upon ourselves through sin, then what is needed is repentance, not perseverance in faith. God’s people are often slow to see their need to repent, but surely God will enable us to see where we need to repent if we seek Him first, and His righteousness and holiness. Also, we are not to seek for trials (cf. Matt. 6:13).]], (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance [or, steadfastness]. (4) And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (5) But if any of you lacks wisdom [[In this context James is speaking (for the most part at least) of the wisdom that will enable us to know God’s will and to live in His will, wisdom that will enable us to blast through every trial and to live for Him in His truth, righteousness, and holiness. He will show us what to do, and how to do it. It is true, of course, that God’s Word is the primary source for wisdom. If we’re neglecting the Scriptures, we can hardly ask God for wisdom. God’s wisdom includes enabling us to understand what the Bible is saying.]], let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach [God doesn’t reproach us for asking Him for wisdom and everything else we need to be victorious in the center of His will. He knows that we are dependent on Him for these things, and He has told us to ask.], and it will be given to him. [If we don’t know such things about God, we can’t ask in faith. It’s no wonder the devil spends a lot of time trying to convince men that God isn’t like this.] (6) BUT LET HIM ASK IN FAITH WITHOUT ANY DOUBTING [[Compare Mark 11:22-24. What a blessing to know that we don’t have to doubt God in our hearts. Doubting is a major problem for Christians, and we all have warfare in this area. But (thanks be to God!) as these verses (and much other Scripture) show, we are able (by God’s grace) to be strong in faith and victorious over doubt. We must be convinced that God wants us to ask Him for what we need; and we must know, of course, that we are asking for things that are His will, solidly based on the Bible (e.g., 1 John 5:14, 15). Especially when it comes to asking for Christian basics like our need for God’s wisdom and grace, so we can be victorious, righteous, and holy, we should have the utmost confidence that He will grant our requests. However, it seems that in these basic areas many Christians do doubt, and are not solid in faith. As I mentioned, the devil is very active here, but that is no excuse for us to allow doubt to remain in our hearts. A major problem is that many Christians have been taught that the Bible teaches that we Christians cannot live in the will of God on a consistent basis, that we cannot have faith to live in a state of holiness with the victory over all sin. Lastly, asking God (in faith) for wisdom includes having a true desire (heart commitment) to use that wisdom to live in the will of God. He knows our hearts.]], FOR THE ONE WHO DOUBTS IS LIKE THE SURF OF THE SEA DRIVEN AND TOSSED BY THE WIND. (7) FOR LET NOT THAT MAN EXPECT THAT HE WILL RECEIVE ANYTHING FROM THE LORD, (8) BEING A DOUBLE-MINDED [[The Greek more literally means “double/two-souled.” (Our primary thinking is done in the heart, not the head.) The soul/heart of such a person is not fixed on God and His Word (we’re speaking of priorities, attitudes, motives, and such), is not established in love for God (cf. Matt. 22:37). Knowing the problem, we can begin to get our heart fixed by God’s sufficient grace. The only other place this Greek adjective “double-minded/two-souled” is used in the New Testament is James 4:8, where it has, “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We purify our hearts from a lack of total (whole-hearted) commitment (from a divided loyalty to God) by His grace. These words (James 1:6-8; 4:8) certainly make it clear that we don’t have to doubt/be divided in our hearts. This is good news; is it not?]] MAN, UNSTABLE IN ALL HIS WAYS.”
Some Verses that Exhort Us to Pray/Ask/Look to God in Faith and Not Doubt in Our Hearts. [James 1:2-8, discussed above, is an important passage in this category.]
Mark 11:20-25. “And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. (21) And being reminded, Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.’ (22) And Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God. [[I’ve often heard it said that the Greek would more literally be translated another way, for example, “Have the faith of God.” The Greek could be translated that way (though I should mention that the definite article is not included with the word for faith in the Greek), or other ways, but I believe the NASB, KJV, NIV, and every other translation I have looked at are correct with “in God.” There is no more literal way to translate the Greek. These words of the Lord Jesus Christ contained in Mark 11:22-24 constitute a very significant call for us to pray in faith, not doubting in our hearts. Thank God for it! We have to guard against allowing doubt in our hearts as we live our daily lives before God, and as we minister in His name. We also have to guard against presumption by staying in the will of God, which includes not going beyond what is written in the Scriptures.]] (23) TRULY [Amen] I SAY TO YOU, WHOEVER SAYS TO THIS MOUNTAIN [Jesus was probably looking at (and perhaps pointing at) a literal mountain when He spoke these words, but the mountain represents those things that need to be removed from our lives, and such, by the power of God (cf. Zech. 4:6, 7).], “BE TAKEN UP AND CAST INTO THE SEA,” AND DOES NOT DOUBT IN HIS HEART [[For one thing, we must know in our hearts that this is a mountain that God wants moved. It is important to note that Jesus said “and does not doubt in his heart.” We can’t have faith in God in our hearts regarding any issue (like the moving of a particular mountain) and doubt in our hearts at the same time regarding that particular issue. (We discussed doubting above under James 1:6-8, and we’ll discuss it further below.) We can’t always keep thoughts of doubt out of our heads (but we must reject them and resist them); however, we can, and must, keep doubt out of our hearts, and especially when it comes to doubting the basics of the Christian gospel.]], BUT BELIEVES [IN HIS HEART, NOT DOUBTING IN HIS HEART] THAT WHAT HE SAYS IS GOING TO HAPPEN [These words build on the fact that Jesus spoke to the fig tree (Mark 11:14).], IT SHALL BE GRANTED HIM. [It will be granted by God. We’re not dealing with impersonal forces here. We must be careful that we don’t approach faith as an occult, impersonal power. Some Christians have made this serious mistake. One sure sign that we’re missing the truth is if we understand faith in a way that essentially leaves God out of the loop. He must be right in the center of what we’re doing. Faith isn’t a force, and it certainly isn’t an impersonal force. Our faith must be in God, and the desire of our hearts must be to please Him and to do His will. God moves the mountains, and He must receive all the glory!] (24) THEREFORE I SAY TO YOU, ALL THINGS FOR WHICH YOU PRAY AND ASK, BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED THEM, AND THEY WILL BE GRANTED YOU [by God]. [[These words by the Lord Jesus Christ certainly encourage us to ask for everything we need; they also emphasize the need to ask IN FAITH. Thank God for such words! When are we to believe we have received the things we have asked for? When we pray/ask. Here “believe you have received them” means that we know God has heard our prayer and the answer is on the way - the timing, and the details, are left with God. Clearly, we cannot pray this way (and stand in faith until the answer comes, if need be) unless we know God has invited us to (as He does in these verses, and other verses), unless we know we are praying in His will (e.g., 1 John 5:14, 15), and unless we know that we are not violating our covenant with God through disobedience (cf., e.g., Mark 11:25; 1 John 3:21, 22). (I’m not saying that God never will answer our prayers if we have sin that has not been dealt with by repentance and asking for forgiveness, but our basis for heart assurance, for praying and standing in faith, is violated by disobedience). One last point, a very important one: We need to pray with Scriptural priorities. For example, we must make it a higher priority to learn the will of God and to walk in righteousness and holiness than to receive things like physical or financial healings (cf. Matt. 6:33). This is not to say that these latter needs aren’t important to God or that our lives have to be perfect before we can ask for such things, but we need the right priorities.]] (25) And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.” Before we ask for things in prayer (as in Mark 11:24), we must take care of any necessary matters, like forgiving others, as spelled out in this verse. What a blessing to be able to forgive and cast our care(s) upon the Lord. He is the Judge, and He is well able to deal with the other person(s) as required (cf., e.g., Rom. 12:17-21, especially 12:19). As mentioned above, there could be areas where we need to repent and ask God to forgive us. It should be obvious that we must be forgiven (as required) before we are going to pray effectively.
Matthew 21:21, 22. “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘TRULY I SAY TO YOU, IF YOU HAVE FAITH, AND DO NOT DOUBT, YOU SHALL NOT ONLY DO WHAT WAS DONE TO THE FIG TREE, BUT EVEN IF YOU SAY TO THIS MOUNTAIN, “BE TAKEN UP AND CAST INTO THE SEA,” IT SHALL HAPPEN. (23) AND ALL THINGS YOU ASK IN PRAYER, BELIEVING, YOU SHALL RECEIVE.’ ”
Matthew 14:25-31. “And in the fourth watch of the night [between 3 and 6 in the morning] He came to them, walking on the sea. (26) And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. (27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ (28) And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You [The Greek fits the idea that Peter assumed it was the Lord; the “if” here doesn’t demonstrate doubt.], command me to come to You on the water.’ (29) And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. [It is clear that Peter actually walked on the water, being enabled by the power of God. He wasn’t into presumption (doing his own thing) since the Lord Jesus had called him. We could say that Peter was walking on the Word of the Lord Jesus. We’re not into presumption as long as we stay in the will of God for our lives. All of us must continue to walk in the will of God for our lives, by grace through faith, in spite of the trials and opposition from the world, the flesh (the old man), and the devil.] (30) But seeing the wind [With the wind there were waves, cf. 14:24.], he became afraid [[We can learn a lot about faith, fear, and doubt from these verses. For one thing, fear and doubt often walk hand in hand. Peter became afraid, and began to doubt in his heart (that is he began to doubt regarding his present circumstances, not that he began to doubt the basics regarding God the Father and Jesus Christ) when his attention got fixed (at least to some extent) on the wind and waves instead of remaining fixed on the Lord Jesus and His Word. In our daily lives, and especially in difficult places, we must keep our attention and heart fixed on God and His Word, or we will begin to doubt too.]], and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ [Peter knew where to look for help when he began to sink. Thank God that He doesn’t just abandon us when we miss it, and especially as we cry out to Him for help.] (31) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH, WHY DID YOU DOUBT?’ ”
The fact that the Lord Jesus somewhat rebuked Peter for doubting should encourage us that we don’t have to doubt in our hearts. The words “O you of little faith” are translated from one word in the Greek, an adjective (“oligopistos”) meaning “of little faith.” The only other places this adjective is used in the New Testament are Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 16:8; and Luke 12:28. The closely related Greek noun (“oligopistia”), meaning “littleness of faith,” is only used in one New Testament verse, Matt. 17:20. I have heard some confusing things said regarding the meaning of “little faith.” In my opinion we can simplify and say that in all these verses “LITTLE FAITH” means “HE/THEY DOUBTED,” as it clearly does here in Matt. 14:31, “O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH, WHY DID YOU DOUBT?” And, by definition, if we are doubting God in some area, we are not having faith in that area at that time. IT IS A MATTER OF NO FAITH (IN THAT AREA AT THAT TIME) RATHER THAN A MATTER OF LITTLE FAITH. Matthew 8:26 (with Mark 4:40) serves as a strong confirmation of this viewpoint: “And He said to them, ‘Why are you timid, YOU MEN OF LITTLE FAITH?’ “ But Mark 4:40, which refers to the same incident, says: “And He said to them, ‘Why are you so timid? HOW IS IT THAT YOU HAVE NO FAITH?’” So Matt. 14:31, and Matt. 8:26 with Mark 4:40, show that little faith sometimes means doubting/no faith. This same concept works well in all the other verses listed above that speak of little faith (Matt. 6:30; 16:8; Luke 12:28; and Matt. 17:20). Matt. 6:30 and 17:20 are quoted after Matt. 14:25-31. Luke 12:28 is the equivalent of Matt. 6:30. (I didn’t quote those verses in these excerpts.) R. T. France (“Matthew” [Eerdmans, 1985] under Matt. 14:28-31) says: “...Peter’s loss of faith (of little faith is “oligopistos,” a favorite word of Matthew used elsewhere in 6:30; 8:26; 16:8; 17:20 [Actually, as I mentioned above, 17:20 uses a closely related word.], in all of which it denotes rather unbelief than inadequate belief) consists in allowing the material facts (the wind) to weigh more heavily than the power of Jesus. Doubt is literally ‘be divided in two’; true faith is single-mindedly focused on Jesus.”