A very well-known and often heard hymn begins with, "Mv faith looks up to thee, thou lamb of Calvary, Savior divine." The term, "My Faith" suggests that faith is a possession, a personal possession. We raise the question of how one comes to possess it, and what it is as thus possessed? It is inherited? Is it imposed from without or created within? Having it, is one blessed? Or having it not is one any poorer than those who have it? Having it may one lose it, and, if so, may he still be blessed? Furthermore, as preliminary to this study, does it matter what constitutes this faith as thus possessed? Everyone certainly believes in something or somebody, or both, if they be rational; and, hence, the question recurs, is the virtue in the act of believing, in the bare possession of faith apart from the thing believed, or in that which is believed? We hear sometimes the idea expressed that anyone is alright just so long as he is sincere in his belief; that is, he is alright in the sight of God. But how do we know this is true? Has God in his word so said? If so, then we may justly so say, but if he hasn't so spoken we are speaking presumptuously when we thus speak. If I hear someone express his faith on any matter and I place confidence in its truth because he so says, independent of whether God says it or not, then my faith in this matter will be in this man rather than in God, will it not? If so, the same would be a correct analysis of my faith on any point as determining whether it is in man or God, when I honestly recognize the source of my faith as touching the point in question. The apostle Paul, in writing the church of God at Corinth referred to his past association with them when he initially preached the gospel in their midst. He reviewed the spirit and manner in which he preached to them, as well as what he preached, because of the effect he desired to produce in them. This effect had to do with their faith - "that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (I Cor. 2:5) Then both what he preached and how he preached had a vital and inescapable bearing on their faith. Too, this faith was suspended, and thus dependent, on either the wisdom of men or the power of God in this particular instance, and which one it was thus determined by what and how he spoke!! Paul, then, was concerned about the faith of his hearers, as to what it was and upon what it stood. We should not be less concerned about our own faith - what produces, forms and sustains it.
In this quoted line from the familiar hymn we find Christ as the object of our faith. He it is in whom we are to believe. He said that those who did not believe in him would die in their sins, and thus dying they could not come where he was going. If my faith is placed in another as touching the grand design of salvation from sin and the hope of eternal glory, then I will die in my sins and where he, the Christ, is I cannot go. This gives, therefore, to the question bearing on the point of the virtue of that believed great significance - it matters not what else one may believe that is true, disbelieving this (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) he will die in his sins, and to heaven where Christ sits at the right hand of God he cannot go. Faith, then, is not only essential, but the substance of faith, that which composes and constitutes the faith of one, is that of worth. There is no virtue in believing - the virtue, or the lack of it, is in what is believed.
This being recognized is being true-just as there is no virtue in eating but in that which is eaten - then we are confronted with the matter of determining what to believe. There has to be a satisfactory and competent source of faith, for otherwise we can never be assured that that which is our faith is capable of securing our blessedness hereafter.
A passage which clearly, conclusively and, therefore, satisfactorily establishes the one and only source of faith is Romans 10:17. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. No Word, no hearing; no hearing, no faith. Then, whether one should have incorporated in his faith, as an element of it, any particular thought and doctrine, idea or conviction, turns on the single and determining question, is it in the Word of Christ? If so, just as by continued study he learns ever more of its contents does he embrace that which he learns as comprising his faith. On the other hand, that which remains outside of that clearly revealed on its pages, and thus undiscovered by one's study of the scriptures, must never be admitted into the heart as an item of faith.
Otherwise expressed we might say that we believe because God's Word so teaches; the scriptures being the source, they are the cause and our faith the result. But oftentimes people have been known to have heard and yet not believed. This suggests the presence or absence of other factors as contributing to either one believing or disbelieving that which is taught. A disposition which is one of love for truth, an anxiety to know the truth is essential to a profitable hearing of the word, which is the source of faith. As a matter of fact, we are told of some of whom the apostle prophetically spoke that "because they received not a love of the truth God would send them a working of error, a strong delusion, that they might believe a lie and be damned." (2 Thess. 2:11-12) In this statement it is quite clearly taught that not only will belief damn one, when that believed is not the truth but a lie, but also that the very attitude toward and esteem one has or doesn't have toward the truth will be a determining factor as touching what he believes or disbelieves. Therefore, we find an explanation of why some believed the truth preached by the apostles and why others, who also heard it, did not.
The answer is found in the disposition, attitude and interests of people as bearing on the matter of pleasing God and thus securing eternal life. Hence, we read: "And when the Gentiles heard this they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." The term, "ordain" in this passage is translated "addicted", in I Cor. 16:15, and is in the passage before us translated "disposed" in the Living Oracles version. Thus we see that the disposition, the addiction, the attitude and interest thus present in the person as bearing on the subject matter of that taught had an influence, even to a determining degree, on whether when the word of the Lord was heard it was believed or not. We cannot escape the fact that the condition of heart in its attitude toward, and the degree of interest in, the truth has a great bearing on whether the truth shall enter therein and create a proper and salutary conviction and profitable acceptance of the truth.
The greatest barriers to faith today in the hearts and lives of people are indifference and prejudice, with perhaps the former being the more prevalent of the two. Indifference in regard to the truth of the gospel is occasioned either by mental lethargy or an absorption of one's interest in other matters to its exclusion. Absorbed with the affairs of this life, the pursuit of wealth and pleasure, not only chokes the word as it has come to be in the hearts of some (Matt. 13:22), but is a condition obstructive of the word ever entering the hearts of many, many people. Prejudice is, essentially, a pre-judging, a forming of a judgment or conclusion before the evidence, all of it, is in and properly considered. This is the cursed effects of religious error - it so poisons minds against the truth that it finds no acceptable and welcome entrance into such hearts. Christians can, and often do, become the victims of prejudice.
Now since faith comes by the word of Christ, and he is the "author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2), we must recognize and respect the restrictive and narrow base of our faith. There is not one item of our belief but that it must be such because it is found in the word of God. There is but one postulate in religion, and that is, GOD IS. This accepted, then we are severely shut up to believing that, and only that which is found in God's Word. Sufficient evidence that "God is, " exists external to the scriptures, and thus the Gentiles are said to be "without excuse" because the "Invisible things of him (God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." (Rom. 1:20) Too, the apostle avowed to heathens that God had not left himself without witness, or testimony, even in the absence of a revelation. (Acts 14:17).
I believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6) I believe that he who in times past spake to the fathers by the prophets does in these last days speak to us by his son. ( Heb. 11:6) I believe whosoever hears the son hears the father, and he who hears the apostles hears Christ, and that we are shut up today as to what the will of the Father is to that which is the will of Christ, and that the will of the Christ is revealed by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. I do not believe any man can know what the will of the Lord is apart from or beyond that which is revealed in the New Testament, and that no eye can see, nor ear can hear, and thus no heart can understand the mind of God apart from revelation, and, so He has revealed his mind to us, and it has been revealed by means of the teaching, the speaking and writing of the apostles. (I Cor. 2).
And so believing, I believe in that which Christ taught either personally or by his apostles. I could not believe in him and not have implicit and unquestioning faith and trust in the truth of that he teaches. He has taught that which is necessary we know and believe to please him here and be with him forever more. God has given us, in His word, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue, everything which pertains to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) Hence, I am not required to either believe or do anything not revealed in the New Testament as necessary to either life or godliness. True, there are things outside the scriptures which I must believe in order to secure and enjoy the favor of men, but never, never the approval of God.
I believe in Christ, and thus I believe what he and his apostles taught on the subject of baptism. I, therefore, believe that baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:12), that it is for the remission of sins, (Acts 2:38) and, hence, that it saves us. (I Peter 3:21) I believe that being scripturally baptized one is thus baptized into Christ, (Gal. 3:27) into his one body, (I Cor. 12:13) and that this body is the church, (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18) and that there is but one baptism, which puts one into the one church or body. (Eph. 4:4) I believe Christ is THE HEAD of the Church, and that He is the Saviour of the body. (Eph. 5:20-25) I do not believe the church, therefore has any earthly head or heads, but that Christ filleth all in all. I believe salvation is in Christ, that all spiritual blessings are in Him, his body the church, and therefore, I need not believe in, be identified with, aid or support any other institution on earth other than the church to please God and go to heaven. I believe the church shall stand forever, (Dan. 2:44) that it cannot be moved, (Heb. 12:28) and that such is guaranteed by the Word of God apart from any dependence on the will and wisdom of man, nor the manipulations and creations of men.
Yes, this is my faith. If space allowed we could be much more diffuse in our expression of it, but this is said because some are having to say about what I believe and do not believe. Some boast their faith never changes. Mine does. It has and I trust that it yet shall. I know it has changed by reason of growth. Paul commended some saints in his day on account of the fact their "faith groweth exceedingly." (2 Thess. 1:3) There can be no growth without change, but there may be change without growth. One's faith might change by diminution. Faith must be nourished and sustained, and the word of the Lord affords the only proper source of nourishment along with the attendant blessings of the workings of Divine Providence, in the lives of those who exercise a dutiful fidelity to the will of God. But as touching those basic concepts of faith, the existence of God, the Messiahship of Jesus and his authority, the New Testament scriptures being a full and complete revelation of his will, and the institutions and ordinances of the New Covenant being competent to accomplish heaven's will on earth - these have not undergone any change in my convictions except it deepening and strengthening of my faith in respect thereto.
We read of those whom God has chosen, who though poor in this world are, nevertheless, rich in faith and as heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him. (James 2:5) I would not exchange my faith in the Lord and his word for the wealth of a Croesus or the fame of a Caesar, and I esteem it too dearly to diminish ought from it by rejecting one statement of Holy Writ, or of corrupting it by the addition of one human opinion and preference to it. It may be an occasion of reproach to not believe some things even many brethren have espoused, but with me I cherish the richness, the vitality, the virtue and the blessedness of my faith too dearly to contaminate it with the "doctrines and commandments of men."
Every logical demand which reason imposes, and the principle of causation sanctions, requires that if I believe that which the scriptures teach because they teach it, that I reject as a matter of faith everything which the scriptures do not teach. Therefore, while I heartily subscribe my faith to all they contain, I enter my demurrer against all they do not contain. I cannot consistently, rationally and conscientiously do otherwise.
Truth Magazine IV:11, pp. 17-20