Focus    on Purpose
Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
© Focus On Purpose July 2017 - 2018

What is Faith?

Part 2

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered

world shall emerge into the light.”

Helen

Keller

Is Faith a Gift?

This week’s blog has been a difficult one to write as I find myself in the turmoil of my own paradigm shift. Last week we had a look at faith as a belief that pleases God, and compared this with a belief that does not please God. We also looked at the difference between the effects of a true, deep, heart-belief versus a merely intellectual or mind-based belief, and saw that the heart-belief had a deeper outworking that affected and shaped our lives. But what makes a belief drop from the head to the heart? And how does this fit in with the teaching that faith is a gift? Paradigm Shift. I came to a place in my Christian walk where I began to seriously question what is this thing called faith. I had been a Christian for close to ten years when a high-profile person in our church passed away. As we worked through our grief, we would speak confidently about this person now being with the Lord he dearly loved, and that one day, we would all see him again.   Though I had no doubt that this man loved the Lord, something triggered within me and I began to seriously question this thing called Christianity. Week after week, as I sat listening to the Sunday sermon, I wondered whether the minister truly believed what he was saying, or whether this whole thing called ‘church’, was just a sham with those of us in the pews being completely fooled and foolish. Though a large part of me wanted to believe that the Bible is true, I began to seriously question religion and search for the reality of relationship with God. What was very clear, was that, if the Bible is truth, faith was the key to experiencing the reality of God. But what is faith? At this time I was experiencing two extremes – complete unbelief, as well as a drive to overcome the unbelief and move into the reality of what Jesus taught. I had been taught that we are saved through faith, and that this faith is a gift from God, but in the Gospels I see something different regarding faith. I see Jesus chiding His disciples for not having faith, or for having too little faith. I see Jesus telling a woman that her faith had made her well; He was not telling her how lucky she is because God chose to give her a gift of faith so that she can be healed. I also see Jesus telling two blind men that they can be healed ‘according to their faith’ - effectively saying that their healing depends on their faith. (Matthew 9:29) I see Jesus talking to His disciples about perseverance in prayer, and then stating that He wonders if He will find faith when He returns; He was not doubting His Father here ... (Luke 18:8) Then I also see Jesus praying that Peter's faith would not fail - does God give gifts that potentially fail? (Luke 22:32) If I ever suggested that faith was not a gift, but a response, then I was then rebuked for saying that I thought there was something I could do to earn salvation. I was told that by saying faith is my response, my salvation rested in my faith and it then becomes works. But is this reasoning truth? If my faith response is a work, then what about Paul's teaching in Romans 4? “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness .’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-5) This passage is clearly teaching that faith is a response, not a work, and that faith as a response, is really important in this process of justification (the process of being made right with God). There are two Greek words translated as faith: Pistis - the main Greek word for faith. This word means persuasion or conviction, and it also refers to faithfulness, speaking of the character of one upon whom you can rely. Elpis - from what I could see, this word only occurs in Hebrews 10:23, and it means “expectation (abstractly or concretely), or confidence”  (Strong's Concordance) Ephesians 2:8 uses the Greek word ‘pistis’. Looking at the translation above, could this verse then not be translated as: ‘By grace we are saved by persuasion (or conviction); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.' Firstly, let's put this into context, so that we are all on the same page. Ephesians 8:4-7 makes it very clear that when Paul says, ‘By grace you have been saved’, he is speaking of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul tells us that God did this even while we were living according to the lusts of the flesh. So, if faith is part of the gift that is being referred to in verse 8, as I have been taught, then why are all of us not saved? Why would God only give half a gift to some people, while giving the whole gift to others? And why would He only give half of the gift to some when He says that His desire is that all are saved? Could it not be that the gift - the whole gift - is salvation by grace, not by works, that no one should boast? Faith is not the gift here; faith is the linchpin. The work of salvation is done through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now the Holy Spirit comes to each and every one of us individually, He reveals the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and gives us everything necessary to persuade us to believe the truth and trust God. Now we need to respond.  We can either choose to follow through on that persuasion, or reject it. Following through and receiving that gift of salvation, comes by way of surrendering to God in complete trust. Surrendering is inherent in a heart- persuasion; it is inherent and implied in the concept of faith. If you truly believe something, you naturally surrender to that belief and allow it full power to shape your life; you don’t have to work at that belief shaping your life, you have to work at trying to stop it. But you will never stop the effect, until you reject the belief. This is just the power of a heart- belief. Surrendering to God in trust is not work. Surrendering in trust is rest. I was once told that if you find yourself in trouble while swimming in the sea, you must just relax when the coast-guard arrives to save you. If you continue to try to save yourself, you will make his job more difficult, if not prevent him from saving you. Faith is being fully persuaded that God is all He said He is, and that He has done, and will still do, all that He says He has done, and will still do. Then being fully persuaded, you stop doing the things you were doing to earn God’s favour, or find wholeness, and surrender to Him (relaxing into His influence) in complete trust. This is is not work, but a reponse flowing from the place of a heart that has been fully persuaded. What about the gift of faith in 1 Corinthians 12? 1 Corinthians 12:9 uses the same Greek word ‘pistis’. Why then is faith a gift here, but a response in Ephesians 2:8? Firstly, we need to keep in mind that Paul is not only talking about 'gifts' in 1 Corinthians 12. Though many translations translate 1 Corinthians 12:1 as speaking of spiritual gifts, the word 'gifts' is not in the original Greek. Paul is talking about spiritual things, per se. Verses 4-7 specify those spiritual ‘things’ as gifts, ministries, and effects. The use of the Greek word ‘pistis’, in verse 9, refers to gifts of healing, not faith. “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit...” (1 Corinthians 12:8-9 - Emphasis Added) Think about it. Every spiritual gift, ministry, or effect the Holy Spirit gives us, requires a response, or the gift, ministry, or effect, is non-functional. If you have the gift of healing, but you do not minister to people, no one will be healed. If you have the gift of prophecy, but do not prophesy, no one will hear what the Spirit wants to say through you. If you have a deep, inner 'knowing' (or persuasion) that God wants to do something, but you do not follow through and do what He is telling you to do, you will miss the effect He is wanting to achieve. In each of these, it is the Holy Spirit who works; it is the Holy Spirit who heals, the Holy Spirit who gives the prophetic utterance, and the Holy Spirit who performs the miracle, but you have to respond to His leading or prompting. Your response is not work. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work; you are merely surrendering to His flow. The Hebrew Meaning of Belief Let’s come back to Abraham :  Paul says, in Romans 4:1-5, that Abraham was justified by faith and not by works; if Abraham's belief is a ‘work’, then Romans 4:1-5 is nonsense, and Abraham was justified by works. This passage in Romans is referring to Genesis 15:6, and thereby links the Hebrew word for ‘believe’ to the new testament concept of faith. Chaim Bentorah gives a beautiful picture of this concept: “The word in Genesis 15:6 for believe is aman. When you trace this word to its Semitic roots you find that it has its origins in the nursing of a baby. Consider the dynamics involved in a nursing baby. The mother must cradle the baby in her arms. The baby is in the total protection of its mother. The mother is providing sustenance to the baby directly from herself, not from a spoon or cup, and it is her own milk, not the milk of a goat or cow. The impressionist artist Mary Cassatt in her famous painting Louise Nursing Her Child depicts a mother nursing her child with the mother looking at her baby with total love in her eyes and the baby looking up to it’s mother with total trust and dependence in its eyes. That painting could easily have been named Aman.” (Chaim Bentorah - "Hebrew Word Study - The Nursing Baby." ) Has this been an area of struggle for you too? Or am I just crazily over- analytical? Has the sharing of my journey been helpful to you, or have I just confused you even more? Please drop me a line and share what is on your heart, even if you disagree. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Prev Next
Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
© Focus On Purpose July 2017 - 2018  

What is Faith?

Part 2

“Faith is the strength by which a

shattered world shall emerge into the

light.”

Helen Keller

Is Faith a Gift?

This week’s blog has been a difficult one to write as I find myself in the turmoil of my own paradigm shift. Last week we had a look at faith as a belief that pleases God, and compared this with a belief that does not please God. We also looked at the difference between the effects of a true, deep, heart-belief versus a merely intellectual or mind- based belief, and saw that the heart-belief had a deeper outworking that affected and shaped our lives. But what makes a belief drop from the head to the heart? And how does this fit in with the teaching that faith is a gift? Paradigm Shift. I came to a place in my Christian walk where I began to seriously question what is this thing called faith. I had been a Christian for close to ten years when a high-profile person in our church passed away. As we worked through our grief, we would speak confidently about this person now being with the Lord he dearly loved, and that one day, we would all see him again.   Though I had no doubt that this man loved the Lord, something triggered within me and I began to seriously question this thing called Christianity. Week after week, as I sat listening to the Sunday sermon, I wondered whether the minister truly believed what he was saying, or whether this whole thing called ‘church’, was just a sham with those of us in the pews being completely fooled and foolish. Though a large part of me wanted to believe that the Bible is true, I began to seriously question religion and search for the reality of relationship with God. What was very clear, was that, if the Bible is truth, faith was the key to experiencing the reality of God. But what is faith? At this time I was experiencing two extremes – complete unbelief, as well as a drive to overcome the unbelief and move into the reality of what Jesus taught. I had been taught that we are saved through faith, and that this faith is a gift from God, but in the Gospels I see something different regarding faith. I see Jesus chiding His disciples for not having faith, or for having too little faith. I see Jesus telling a woman that her faith had made her well; He was not telling her how lucky she is because God chose to give her a gift of faith so that she can be healed. I also see Jesus telling two blind men that they can be healed ‘according to their faith’ - effectively saying that their healing depends on their faith. (Matthew 9:29) I see Jesus talking to His disciples about perseverance in prayer, and then stating that He wonders if He will find faith when He returns; He was not doubting His Father here ... (Luke 18:8) Then I also see Jesus praying that Peter's faith would not fail - does God give gifts that potentially fail? (Luke 22:32) If I ever suggested that faith was not a gift, but a response, then I was then rebuked for saying that I thought there was something I could do to earn salvation. I was told that by saying faith is my response, my salvation rested in my faith and it then becomes works. But is this reasoning truth? If my faith response is a work, then what about Paul's teaching in Romans 4? “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness .’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-5) This passage is clearly teaching that faith is a response, not a work, and that faith as a response, is really important in this process of justification (the process of being made right with God). There are two Greek words translated as faith: Pistis - the main Greek word for faith. This word means persuasion or conviction, and it also refers to faithfulness, speaking of the character of one upon whom you can rely. Elpis - from what I could see, this word only occurs in Hebrews 10:23, and it means “expectation (abstractly or concretely), or confidence”  (Strong's Concordance) Ephesians 2:8 uses the Greek word ‘pistis’. Looking at the translation above, could this verse then not be translated as: ‘By grace we are saved by persuasion (or conviction); and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.' Firstly, let's put this into context, so that we are all on the same page. Ephesians 8:4-7 makes it very clear that when Paul says, ‘By grace you have been saved’, he is speaking of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul tells us that God did this even while we were living according to the lusts of the flesh. So, if faith is part of the gift that is being referred to in verse 8, as I have been taught, then why are all of us not saved? Why would God only give half a gift to some people, while giving the whole gift to others? And why would He only give half of the gift to some when He says that His desire is that all are saved? Could it not be that the gift - the whole gift - is salvation by grace, not by works, that no one should boast? Faith is not the gift here; faith is the linchpin. The work of salvation is done through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Now the Holy Spirit comes to each and every one of us individually, He reveals the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and gives us everything necessary to persuade us to believe the truth and trust God. Now we need to respond.  We can either choose to follow through on that persuasion, or reject it. Following through and receiving that gift of salvation, comes by way of surrendering to God in complete trust. Surrendering is inherent in a heart-persuasion; it is inherent and implied in the concept of faith. If you truly believe something, you naturally surrender to that belief and allow it full power to shape your life; you don’t have to work at that belief shaping your life, you have to work at trying to stop it. But you will never stop the effect, until you reject the belief. This is just the power of a heart-belief. Surrendering to God in trust is not work. Surrendering in trust is rest. I was once told that if you find yourself in trouble while swimming in the sea, you must just relax when the coast-guard arrives to save you. If you continue to try to save yourself, you will make his job more difficult, if not prevent him from saving you. Faith is being fully persuaded that God is all He said He is, and that He has done, and will still do, all that He says He has done, and will still do. Then being fully persuaded, you stop doing the things you were doing to earn God’s favour, or find wholeness, and surrender to Him (relaxing into His influence) in complete trust. This is is not work, but a reponse flowing from the place of a heart that has been fully persuaded. What about the gift of faith in 1 Corinthians 12? 1 Corinthians 12:9 uses the same Greek word pistis’. Why then is faith a gift here, but a response in Ephesians 2:8? Firstly, we need to keep in mind that Paul is not only talking about 'gifts' in 1 Corinthians 12. Though many translations translate 1 Corinthians 12:1 as speaking of spiritual gifts, the word 'gifts' is not in the original Greek. Paul is talking about spiritual things, per se. Verses 4-7 specify those spiritual ‘things’ as gifts, ministries, and effects. The use of the Greek word ‘pistis’, in verse 9, refers to gifts of healing, not faith. “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit...” (1 Corinthians 12:8-9 - Emphasis Added) Think about it. Every spiritual gift, ministry, or effect the Holy Spirit gives us, requires a response, or the gift, ministry, or effect, is non-functional. If you have the gift of healing, but you do not minister to people, no one will be healed. If you have the gift of prophecy, but do not prophesy, no one will hear what the Spirit wants to say through you. If you have a deep, inner 'knowing' (or persuasion) that God wants to do something, but you do not follow through and do what He is telling you to do, you will miss the effect He is wanting to achieve. In each of these, it is the Holy Spirit who works; it is the Holy Spirit who heals, the Holy Spirit who gives the prophetic utterance, and the Holy Spirit who performs the miracle, but you have to respond to His leading or prompting. Your response is not work. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work; you are merely surrendering to His flow. The Hebrew Meaning of Belief Let’s come back to Abraham :  Paul says, in Romans 4:1-5, that Abraham was justified by faith  and not by works; if Abraham's belief is a ‘work’, then Romans 4:1-5 is nonsense, and Abraham was justified by works. This passage in Romans is referring to Genesis 15:6, and thereby links the Hebrew word for ‘believe’ to the new testament concept of faith. Chaim Bentorah gives a beautiful picture of this concept: “The word in Genesis 15:6 for believe is aman. When you trace this word to its Semitic roots you find that it has its origins in the nursing of a baby. Consider the dynamics involved in a nursing baby. The mother must cradle the baby in her arms. The baby is in the total protection of its mother. The mother is providing sustenance to the baby directly from herself, not from a spoon or cup, and it is her own milk, not the milk of a goat or cow. The impressionist artist Mary Cassatt in her famous painting Louise Nursing Her Child depicts a mother nursing her child with the mother looking at her baby with total love in her eyes and the baby looking up to it’s mother with total trust and dependence in its eyes. That painting could easily have been named Aman.” (Chaim Bentorah - "Hebrew Word Study - The Nursing Baby." ) Has this been an area of struggle for you too? Or am I just crazily over-analytical? Has the sharing of my journey been helpful to you, or have I just confused you even more? Please drop me a line and share what is on your heart, even if you disagree. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Focus    on Purpose
Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
Prev Next