FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE
The word "Faith" is largely a New Testament word, being only mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:20 and Habakkuk 2:4). This does not mean however, as some have inferred, that godly men and women in the Old Testament did not exercise faith. Look at the great roll call of faith in Hebrews 11: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David and others are all said to have received from God "By faith."
The English word "faith" in the New Testament is a translation of the Greek word Pistis meaning "moral conviction of religious truth-assurance, belief, fidelity."
Yet faith is not a quality that is an end in itself. In the Bible, faith is always connected to God, particularly with regard to what God has said, promised, or offered by grace.
Here are some examples from the Scriptures:
"Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and FAITH toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through FAITH in His blood..." Romans 3:24-25
"And Jesus answering saith unto them, have FAITH in God." Mark 11:22
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through FAITH unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:4-5
"Now FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by FAITH without the deeds of the law." Romans 3:28
Faith is commonly said to consist of three main elements:
- An intellectual element
- An emotional element
- An element of the will
The intellectual element involves a recognising of the truth of God's Word (illuminated by the Holy Spirit) and a basic understanding and accepting of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The emotional element or assent is a strong conviction that grips the soul. One would expect this from any person who has been humbled by the reality of Christ's sacrifice and their own unmerited salvation.
The element of the will is a decision to accept the testimony of God above the testimony of men and consequently, to surrender the soul in complete trust to Jesus Christ.
When it comes to the salvation, we talk of "saving faith," which the Apostle Paul says is "the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8
It must be understood that this gift of faith is given by God, in response to faith. A lost sinner must reach out to God in such a way as the three elements describe. As the Bible instructs us, "Draw nigh (near) to God, and He will draw nigh to you." James 4:8
Through faith we are able to be made "partakers of the Holy Ghost," and taste "the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come."
As John Wesley said, "God heals all our Atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God in particular, of this important truth, 'Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me.'
Verses for Memorizing and Meditating Upon:
There is just one place in the word of God that the word "Atonement" is used, and it is as follows:
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received THE ATONEMENT." Romans 5:10-11
Although the word appears only once; the doctrine of the Atonement, is explored throughout the scriptures. Like a number of words in our English Bible, the word "Atonement" was coined by translator and subsequent Protestant martyr, William Tyndale. To atone means to make reparations, to make amends. It has come to mean the work of Christ. Particularly, with regard to the benefits Christ gained for believers by His Crucifixion and resurrection.
The doctrine is often broken down into two points that deal with Christ's active and passive obedience to the Father.
Active Obedience - All that He did to observe the Law on behalf of sinners, which was a condition for obtaining eternal life.
Passive Obedience - All that He suffered in paying the penalty for sin and therefore removing that debt from those who have faith in Him.
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
The Atonement is founded on the love and justice of God. The love of God, because He is benevolent and His mercy is an expression of that love. (Eph1: 6-9)
It is founded on justice, because God is holy and righteous. It would therefore be unrighteous and inconsistent for Him to simply overlook, or excuse sin, for this would make a mockery of His own commandments. Psalm 5:5 says, "The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity." Romans 1:18 states: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Nevertheless, it is also founded on love because God has wrought a satisfactory reconciliation, an atoning sacrifice, which allows God to uphold His righteousness, whilst simultaneously permitting Him to offer mercy to the sinner. This is the work of the Atonement.
"For it pleased the Father in Him all fullness should dwell; and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, by Him, I say whether things in earth, or things in heaven." Colossians 1:19-20
Verses for Memorizing and Meditating Upon:
2 Corinthians 5:21
Repentance - "to change one's mind."
Repentance is a rather old-fashioned sounding word that some Christians are uncomfortable with, and yet both the Lord Jesus and the Apostles used it frequently, over forty times in the New Testament! Its meaning is rather simple and uncomplicated.
We can define "Repentance", or "to Repent" as "to change one's mind", "to think differently", "to reconsider."
Here are some examples of its use in scripture:
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15
"The times of ignorance, indeed, God overlooked; but He now commandeth all men everywhere to REPENT." Acts 17:301
"...for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to REPENTANCE." Matthew 9:13
Repentance is the precondition for "all men" who come to God expecting salvation. The context in which the word is largely used makes it clear that the things people are being commanded to repent of are sins.
There is a heresy that states that God does not command people to repent of sins, but simply to repent of not believing in Jesus. This is easily refuted by observing Christ's own words in John 16:8-9 "And when He (the Holy Spirit) is come, He will reprove the world of sin... of sin, because they believe not on me." In other words, not believing in Jesus IS a sin!
In the light of the gospel, sins and ultimately sin as a principle are both revealed and reproved by God. This is as necessary as a doctor exposing a wound in order to remove the infected tissue and bring healing to the patient. Why do so few submit themselves to this inspection? Because they come to the knowledge that they cannot continue in their sins and serve God; they must repent of their sins or be condemned, "and this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." John 3:19-20
One of the main differences between truly spiritual Christianity and its manmade counterfeit "Religion," is that genuine Christianity requires both an inward, as well as outward repentance. This is perhaps most clearly seen in these words from Isaiah 55: 7, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
The Christian is expected to "forsake" not only his outward actions, which have been, by turns perverse, selfish, dishonest, and indeed "wicked;" but he is also expected to "forsake" his unrighteous thoughts, since the thoughts of an "unrighteous man" are by definition "unrighteous."
Once we have repented from our wicked "way" and our unrighteous thoughts, indeed we must continue in an attitude of repentance "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5
Repentance is sometimes confused with salvation. An individual may repent of their sins, but this is not salvation. Repentance must be followed by faith in Jesus. This, ultimately, is the condition that God requires for salvation. Saving faith is God's gift, but it is His gift to a repentant heart.
Verses for Memorizing and Meditating Upon:
1. Wesley's updated A.V., Explanatory Notes on the New Testament - John Wesley, M.A.
Grace - "Undeserved favour."
The original Hebrew word for "grace," properly signifies "kindness, or favour." Whilst in the Greek, grace denotes "the divine influence upon the heart." To correctly understand a word that the Bible uses, it is always best to place it in the context of the scriptures:
"But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by GRACE are ye saved;)" Ephesians 2:4-5
"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the GRACE of God, and the gift by GRACE, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." Romans 5:15
"For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
"...God resisteth the proud, but giveth GRACE unto the humble." James 4:6
By using words and phrases like "free", "gift" and "Not of works", it should be clear that grace can be defined as the undeserved or unmerited favour of God. It is also clear from these words and phrases, that this favour cannot be won by religious rituals like confirmation, or baptism; nor by good or charitable works (not even the works of the Law.)
No real Christian, regardless of church or denomination, would attempt to claim that their salvation was through any other means than the grace of God. But there are some pitfalls to avoid.
Some people have reasoned that because grace is "not by works" and is "free" then their conduct as a Christian is immaterial, since they can neither frustrate, nor enrich the kindness of God through their deeds. The Bible teaches against such evil reasoning:
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Romans 6:1-2
Jude also talks about the condemnation of those who turn "the grace of our God into lasciviousness." Jude 4
This abuse of grace, leads to a heresy known as "Antinomianism," from the Greek Nomos meaning "Law," "Anti" of course meaning "against."
It is by grace that we are offered the gift of eternal life, yet this "divine influence on the heart" does not make our will impotent. It does not force the gift upon us; neither does it frogmarch us, automaton-like, into Christ.
Grace is an astounding expression of the love of God through Christ. It is a love that seeks the surrender of our will, not through coercion, but through a heart-rending display of unselfish benevolence.
It is faith that receives what grace has given. Without faith, the gift of grace (salvation) remains a wonderful, yet unopened present. Let us also remember that God "resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." The proud, in turn, refuse God's grace. As Stephen pointed out to the religious hypocrites of his day, "ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." Acts 7:51
This doctrine of divine grace puts the emphasis on Almighty God. It shows that God is the author of "every good and every perfect gift..." James 1:17 He is not the author of sin.
The contrast that the Bible shows is between the grace of God and the wickedness of man, in that "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
As William Tyndale once said, "Grace: all grace, and all that is pleasant in the sight of God, is given us for Christ's sake only, even out of the fullness and abundance of the favour that he receiveth with His Father." 1
Verses for Memorizing and Meditating Upon:
Ephesians 2:4-5, Romans 5:15, Ephesians 2:8-9, James 4:6, Romans 6:1-2, Romans 5:8.
1. William Tyndale's New Testament, Notes: John 1:16.