Possible Attitudes Toward the Faith
Bryan Vinson, Sr.
The term faith is used in the sense of being personally possessed, as in Matthew 17: 20, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you." This faith, as that which is referred to in I Corinthians 12: 9, and 13:2, is to be understood as alluding to a miraculous or supernatural faith; and. hence, to be distinguished from that which people may at this time possess. True, it was given to certain ones then for purposes that then currently obtained, but such designs no longer exist. Then, there is the faith which is common, or may be possessed by all, and this is the faith which comes by hearing the Word of Christ. (Romans 10:17.) But in order that this faith may be ours now there are certain conditions which must exist and certain attitudes be exercised by us as essential thereto.
The Apostles were commissioned to go into all the world and preach the gospel, with the assurance voiced that "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16: 16.) This body of teaching, because it was designed to produce faith in the heart of the hearer, has been designated as "The Faith.". It is the gospel because it constitutes "good news;" it is the truth because it is the testimony of truth; and it is the faith because it-- as truthful evidence--creates faith or assent to the truth which it bears testimony to in the heart of honest, thoughtful hearers. Therefore, when we read of "The Faith" the reference is to the system of faith, or the system of truth, which is designed to produce faith in the individual. When we read of "the faith of the Son of God," and "the faith of Christ" (Gal. 2:16-20), we are to understand these expressions as equivalent to the gospel of Christ, and identifying him as the "Author and Finisher of our faith." It is his by authorship, and ours by possession. It stands as the indispensable medium of influence exerted by Christ on mankind, and whatever benefits it promises to bestow is conditioned by our attitude toward it.
The consequences which follow one's attitude toward the gospel of Christ defines, describes and identifies the standing of such a one before God. Too, a given attitude toward the faith inevitably results in those consequences corresponding in character with such an attitude. In Galatians 3:22-27 we read "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should
afterward be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." From this passage be it noted that the faith is distinguished from the law, and with the coming of the former the latter completed its purpose; and, too, the promise of life is identified with the former and not possible of realization under the law. Also, it is clearly evident that the term "Faith" is used as denoting the faith as a system. Better translations render the twenty-sixth verse: "For ye are all the sons of God through the faith by Christ Jesus." Then, it becomes readily apparent that the faith is the divinely revealed system of truth designed as the instrumentality whereby men may be saved through their acceptance of its pretensions and submission to its demands.
The initial requirement which this faith imposes on responsible man is to give attention to it, to exercise an attentive interest in what it teaches and requires, and what it promises and what it threatens. Obviously one's attitude toward any subject determines the measure of interest exercised in it, and an attitude of indifference is born of a lack of interest. The degree of interest is but the reflection of the value ascribed to any given subject, and since the salvation from sin and the consequent promise of ever lasting life stands exclusively identified with "the faith" it is astonishing that anyone can maintain an attitude of indifference toward it. However, the vastly larger portion of our race is preponderantly unconcerned about, or prejudiced against, the gospel of Christ. This constitutes the most monumental and abiding tragedy, which befalls mankind, and is largely attributable to the opiate of materialism and secularism which has created a deadening effect on the finer moral sensibilities of man as God made him. Prejudice may be defined as an attitude of mind in which one has already prejudged an issue either favorably or adversely, and, hence, is either for or against a particular person, institution or doctrine previous to and without a sufficient basis upon which to form a wise and secure judgment. The rejection of Jesus by the Jews was preeminently a prejudicial action; they had their own ill-founded conception of the character and mission of the expected Messiah, and when he didn't measure conformably to this concept they rejected and despised him. Notwithstanding the abundance of evidence presented in confirmation of his claims they remained blind and perversely obstinate. Religious prejudice brought about their downfall, and it has been the cause of the everlasting ruin of multitudes in succeeding generations. Paul said, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them who are lost, in whom the God of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (2 Corinthians 4:3-4.) Christ took note of the enactment of this spirit in those to whom he spoke and endeavored to teach, as was prophesied by Isaiah, and which also characterized a part of the last audience who heard Paul as noted in Acts of Apostles. "This people's heart is waxed gross and their ears have they stopped and their eyes they have dosed, lest at anytime they should see with their eyes and hear with the ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I should heal them." (Matthew 13:15; Acts 28: 26-27; Isaiah 6:9-10.) The unfortunate fate of those here described must be ascribed to their own perversity in refusing to hear the Word, and attend to its righteous precepts.
The presence of prejudice in the human heart disqualifies one to competently appraise the evidence existing in any matter. This is attested by the fact that no citizen can quality as a juror in any case where there has been formed any previous judgment of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Too many approach the divine testimony which constitutes the gospel of Christ with their own preconceived notions as to either what they think the scriptures teach, or should teach, on a given subject. Consequently, they either wrest the scriptures to their destruction, or openly repudiate the authority of them as constituting the full and final revelation of the Divine Will. The existence, usage and reliance on human creeds affords a formidable basis for a widespread prejudice against the simple and uncorrupted gospel of Christ. Their existence has created an insurmountable barrier against the unity of the Spirit among those who profess to believe in the Christ. They obstruct the minds of those attached to them clearly perceiving and cordially embracing the truth. Often has it been wisely observed that any creed which contains less than the Bible is too small, and any which contains more than the Bible is too large; and, if neither larger or smaller it would be identical, and, consequently, be the Bible itself. Therefore, from no standpoint can the existence of a human creed in the form of a Discipline, Confession of Faith or Church Manual be justified. Every one of them is inimical to the well being of religion and subversive of the truth as it is in Christ. While many of them avow as the persuasion of their adherents the principle of the Scriptures being the sole rule of faith and practice, their very existence constitutes a denial of faith in the sufficiency of the inspired record. The repudiation of the creeds of men stands as an initial necessity to possessing and exercising a proper attitude toward the Faith of Christ.
In writing to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Paul said: "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth' the word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe." Those who believed constituted the church in Thessalonica, and they were enabled to be such only by virtue of having fully accepted and cordially regarded that which Paul had preached to be the word of God. Otherwise they could never have become believers and obeyed from their hearts the truth. From any other attitude and approach any response they may have made would at best have been a mere superficial conformity and destitute of any blessing. As Christians they were to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, which would involve an ever expanding conception of truth and concurring appreciation of its blessedness. Any weakening of this attitude toward the word of God would imperil their eternal security; and just as certainly as one's faith may grow (2 Thessalonians 1:3), so is it possible for it to deteriorate. Since, then, we are saved "by grace through faith" there can readily be perceived the indispensable relation existing between knowledge, faith and grace with each, respectively, being fundamental to the succeeding one. One must know the truth--be informed respecting it and its claim of truth--in order to believe it to be the truth; and faith, or belief of the truth, is the medium through which the Grace of God is obtained and enjoyed to the saving of the soul. These saints in Thessalonica were experiencing an exceptional growth in their faith, as was exemplified in their work of faith and labor of love. But this commendable growth was possible by the initial and continued conception of the gospel as being the word of God. Any distraction, which would lead one away from a reverence for and studious devotion to the word of God, would weaken his faith and frustrate the grace of God.
Paul told Timothy the Spirit speaks expressly, or clearly, to the effect that in the future there would be those who would depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. (I Timothy 4:1.) Hence, to be led into the erroneous doctrines of men and demons is to be led away from the faith and thus depart from the faith is to lose one's faith in it as being in truth the word of God and His power unto salvation. Any modification or weakening of a firm, full and unqualified conviction that the faith was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), that no subsequent revelation, therefore, has been made or any human supplementation of it is allowable is absolutely germane and fundamental to the salvation and preservation of our souls. Inasmuch as there are those forces and influences which seduce the weak in the faith it becomes constantly imperative that every child of God cultivate the ability and fulfill the obligation to earnestly contend for the faith which has once for all been delivered. There can be no truce or compromise with the forces of error, but a ceaseless, relentless, waging of the warfare--not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against spiritual wickedness in high places, knowing that our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (I John 5:4.)
Truth Magazine VI: 8, pp. 9-11