"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
Faith: Its Nature and Power
Representations Made by Dean E. Boelt
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of [the reality of] things not seen" (Heb. 11:1, RSV).
With this great passage as his text, Dean E. Boelt spoke to our assembly on the fundamental subject of faith. "Without faith it is impossible" to please God (Heb. 11:6), it was pointed out. By faith, as it is duly submitted to, we can, however, do all that God requires of us, and so glorify Him among men and angels.
The Vision and the Need. "Through faith God has given us to perceive much of the theological rubbish accumulated by the church through the centuries, and to set ourselves to clear it away," the speaker began. "We pray, as did the Apostles, that our faith may be increased (Lk. 17:5), that we may succeed in the undertaking, and so, after the manner of Isaac with reference to the wells which his father Abraham dug, restore the pure 'wells of salvation' to the people" (Gen. 26:15-19; Isa. 12:3).
"What you believe makes all the difference in the world," it was continued. "Believe and obey the truth and you will be saved (I Pet. 1:21-22). Believe and act upon a lie, or a perversion of the truth, and you will be damned (II Th. 2:11-12). There can be no salvation except by 'belief of the truth' (v. 13), and hearty obedience to the truth's demands upon us.
"What is, therefore, desperately needed today is the faith of Scripture. Without that, one is spiritually dead, since the justified live by faith (Rom. 1:17). With it, one is blessedly alive unto God, and 'prepared unto every good work' (II Tim. 2:21). Hence, 'above all,' we need to take the 'shield' and enabling agent of faith, that we may live and do God's work in the world (Eph. 6:16)."
The Nature of Faith. Those who have it are always interested in the comments of competent persons upon the nature of faith, or their definitions of it. Brother Dean's remarks thereon were, thus, well received.
"Faith gives 'substance' to, or 'assurance' of the reality of, its objects," he observed. "Hence, scriptural faith gives us the Father, the Son, and the things of the divine kingdom. By faith we 'are come' to Mount Zion, where the Objects of our faith reside (Heb. 12:22-24). So may faith be said to be spiritual sight or vision, or the faculty by which we perceive and experience 'Him who is invisible' to the natural eye (ch. 11:27), and look at 'the things which are not seen' thereby (II Cor. 4:18)." "Faith, in a word, is that implicit taking of God at His Word, by means of which taking we spiritually meet and live with Him, being translated out of the flesh into the Spirit, to dwell in the 'heavenly places' with Him and the exalted Son (Eph. 2:1. 4-6: Col. 1:13)."
It needs to be stressed, we were reminded, that saving faith is directed to an Object without the believer. It is distinguished from that subjective element passing for faith, which is self-or experience-centered. Hence, the religious "leading," of which we so often hear today, must be objectively tried by the Scriptures, by which alone God is authentically represented (Acts 17:11; I Jn. 4:1; Rev. 2:2). That is in order that the source of the leading may be determined. If the leading is not in strict accord with what is written, it is not of God (Isa. 8:20), and is to be rejected as the falsehood that it is.
The Function Performed. What is so badly needed by today's church, the preacher went on by way of application, is a lively recognition and experience of the essential function of biblical faith. It is more than mere profession thereof, as James pointedly observes (Jas. 2:14-26). If the current spiritual deadness and impotence is to be replaced with life and potency, that must be realized.
As faith unites one with God, so it connects him with God's power. The enabling and keeping power of God is ministered through faith (I Pet.-1:5). Thus, it is written that it is to us "who believe" that "the exceeding greatness of His power," demonstrated in God's raising of Jesus from the dead and exalting Him to His right hand in heaven, is to be experienced (Eph. 1:16-20). So also does Christ "dwell" in our hearts (ch. 3:17), and all the resources of heaven are made available to us for the doing of God's will (Mk. 9:23).
"It's the live and game fish that forge their way upstream," Brother Dean noted. "The dead and ordinary ones are carried downward with the current." The newness of life into which we have been inducted by our obedience to the gospel is definitely an upstream course, it was continued. As we buck the evil way of this world (Eph. 2:2-3; cf. Rom. 12:1-2), we require the mighty power of God, and that is transmitted to us through our faith. So is faith "the victory that overcometh the world" (I Jn. 5:4), and renders us eligible for the blessed promises to the overcomer (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, etc.).
Through our faith in and fellowship with Him, we are to know God so well (from the revelation of Himself given in His Word) that we are fully armed against the errors of the day, the speaker remarked. Thus, should we be able to instantly recognize and reject falseness, in either religious doctrine or moral philosophy.
This necessary condition is involved in Jesus' declaration that "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8:32). It is likewise implicit in Paul's assertion that the Scriptures (whose efficacy is appropriated through faith [I Th. 2:13]) can furnish us "completely unto every good work" (II Tim. 3:16-17, ASV). The Pauline declaration that development into spiritual maturity is God's way of protecting us against the seductions of "every wind of doctrine" also recognizes the situation (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 6:1-8; cf. II Pet. 3:14-18).
The Means of Verification. The Apostle calls upon us to examine ourselves, to see whether we be "in the faith," the speaker observed (II Cor. 13:5). Or whether the faith actually dwells in us, it can be said, since Christ abides in us by faith. That exhortation is in great need of full heed today, it was remarked.
Some criteria for such self-examination were given. 1. Have you obeyed the positive commands of the gospel-to believe in Christ, repent of your sins, confess Him before men, and be baptized into Him? 2. Do you heartily consent in your spirit to all the commandments of God that are applicable to you, and are you earnestly striving by grace to keep them? 3. Has your faith made "sense" of God's requirements of you, though they appear foolish and impossible of observance to the natural mind? Genuine faith will enable you to answer these questions affirmatively, and otherwise constitute you spiritually in full accord with the God of your salvation. Unless what you call faith has done that for you, you direly need to examine yourself, to ascertain your spiritual state, as the Apostle exhorts.
On the "exceeding greatness" of faith's power, Brother Dean made an exceptionally-telling point. It was based on the Lord's declaration about the power of "faith as a grain of mustard seed," which measure of faith would make all things possible for the Apostles (Mt. 17:20).
The emphasis here centers on the fact that the mustard seed "is the least of all seeds" (ch. 13:32). The intent of Christ, clearly, was not so much to proclaim what little faith could do (His desire is for us to have great faith). It was to, by a form of exaggerated speech, set forth the infinite greatness of God's power, to which we have access by faith. So mighty is that force that, when operating through so small a channel as mustard seed faith, it can achieve unlimited results.
That is, indeed, an overwhelming representation. It ought to challenge us all to believe God, and to earnestly seek to have our faith increased, that more of His power might be received by us, and flow from us to our needy generation.
"We are just beginning to roll, as they say nowadays," the speaker concluded, with reference to our congregation. "If we will go on with God, growing in our faith and in His grace and knowledge, it remains to be seen what great things He can and will do through us. This grand prospect should move us to make the required advance, and to keep ourselves 'unspotted from the world' (Jas. 1:27). So will God be pleased to dwell in and work through us, to the praise of His glory and the benefit of mankind (II Tim. 2:21)."
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).