By Cecil Willis
Last week in our lesson we pointed out the necessity of man having faith in his heart in order to be saved. Without faith one cannot receive the remission of his sins, he cannot live the life that God intends that he live here in the flesh, nor can he enter heaven in the world to come. Faith is an indispensable item. It must be present or man cannot be saved.
Since we see that faith is so necessary, the question then arises, “How is that faith produced?” Faith is the remedy God has prescribed for man’s sins, but where can that remedy be found? If we should go to a doctor and he should diagnose our case and then prescribe some rare medicine, but should fail to tell us where this medicine could be obtained, we would have been bettered but little, if any. So it is with faith. How is it produced? What means does the Father use to induce men to believe?
As to how faith is produced there are at least two theories that are very prevalently taught. These theories are so diametrically opposed to each other that they are mutually exclusive. That is, if one is right, the other must be wrong. They cannot both be right. When people recognize that the two positions are completely contradictory, then it is foolish of them to talk about love and charity to the extent that they are willing to concede that both are right. They cannot both be right or they would not be contradictory, by the very definition of a contradiction.
What are these theories as to how men are made believers? One theory says that God puts forth an immediate power, or influence of the Holy Spirit from Himself and produces faith in the heart of man. God puts forth a direct influence from His throne in heaven unto the mind of man here on earth and produces faith in his heart. The idea is that the Holy Spirit independently of any medium or instrumentality operates on the sinner’s heart and makes him a believer.
The other theory is that God puts forth his power or influence through Christ, the apostles, through the Holy Spirit that was in and inspired the apostles, and through the gospel preached by the apostles, to make men believers. This theory says that God uses a medium, an instrument to produce faith, and this instrument is the Word of God as delivered by the apostles inspired of the Holy Spirit.
Now as we have said, both of these theories cannot be true. If God does this directly, it could not be with a medium or an instrument, namely the Word of God. If God sends a direct power upon the hearts of the unbeliever, then it could not be done by the Bible, the Word of God. Both of these positions cannot be true, and therefore, there must be some way of determining just which one is right.
Relying on Human Testimony
In our discussion, what can we use as a standard by which we can determine which of these theories is right. Shall we use human testimony? But why ask that, one might inquire? Simply because that is the way that the doctrine of a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the heart of the unbeliever is often times substantiated. One will say, “I was not reading or hearing the word, but I was made a believer by an immediate power.” It is something that they cannot explain, but they just know that it happened. Now I humbly ‘ask you, is human testimony on the subject to be the criterion of truth? If it is, then the nature of truth has been changed. Truth is no longer uniform, but it becomes a variable. If the testimony of one man is going to be accepted as truth, then consistency would say accept the testimony of all men as truth. If I should say “It is raining outside,” and another should say, “No, it is not raining,” then the argument for the acceptance of human testimony would say that both are right and that it is both raining and not raining, which is wholly insensible and irrational.
We have human testimony for the truthfulness of Mormonism, Quakerism, Shakerism, Shintoism, but does this human testimony guarantee that it is true? Certainly not! There must be a standard over and above human testimony or no uniform truth can be learned, and so we turn to the Bible and we hear Jesus say, “Thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). We accept the Bible as our standard.
What the Issue Is Not
Now for the sake of clarity, let us note some things that are not the issue. The issue is not whether God makes men believers, for if God did it directly or should choose the Word as a medium through which faith is to be produced, it is still the same God that is producing the faith. It is not whether God does it by His power, for either way it is done it is still done by the power of God. The issue is not whether God does it by the Holy Spirit, for if God does it through the Holy Spirit directly or through the Word of God as delivered unto the apostles through the Holy Spirit, it is still the Spirit doing it.
What, then, is the issue? It is whether God makes men believers through the word of the apostles, or whether he does it through some immediate, direct power of the Holy Spirit.
What the Bible Has to Say
The first scripture to which we invite attention is Luke 8:5; Christ said, “The sower went forth to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it.”
The disciples then asked Christ to explain this parable to them, and He did so in this manner: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taken away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11, 12). In his explanation of this parable, the Lord said that the seed that was sown was the word of God. The fruit that was sought was faith. We know, for Christ said that the devil snatched away the Word lest they should believe. Without the planting of the seed, fruit could never be produced; neither could faith ever be produced without the planting of the seed of the kingdom, even the word of the Lord. The devil knew very well what he ought to take away if he was to thwart the purpose of the sower. He should take away the seed if he was going to prevent the harvest of the fruit. Consequently, he took away the word from their heart, lest they should believe and be saved. If the word was not that which produced the faith in their heart, then what good would it do for the devil to take away the word if he wanted to prevent their believing? The devil knew that the Word of God would produce faith in one’s heart, therefore he took it away to keep men from being persuaded, believing and being saved.
Let us now notice another scripture that tells us what produces faith in the heart of a man. All are familiar with the conversion of the first Gentile to Christianity, but let us rehearse some of the more significant details as they relate to our present study. As Cornelius gave his own account of the events, and as Peter related Cornelius’ account of the matter, we find that God did not send the Holy Spirit to Cornelius while he was in Caesarea and give him faith, as I have heard denominational preachers say. They say that God sends the sinner faith just like He does rain. We are told the sinner has nothing to do with it at all. God did not send Cornelius faith, but He told him where he could find a preacher, and then He sent the Spirit who appeared unto Peter and told him to go to Caesarea and teach Cornelius. Notice how Peter tells the Jewish brethren what Cornelius had told him: “and he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, Send to Joppa, and fetch Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house” (Acts 11:13, 14). How was Cornelius to be saved? He was to be told “words whereby thou shalt be saved.” This is perfectly consistent with Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 1:21: “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.”
Sometime later there arose some controversy as to the matter of circumcision and so in Jerusalem Peter again related the matters as they occurred in the conversion of Cornelius. “And the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider of this matter. And when there had been much questioning, Peter rose up, and said unto them. Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe” (Acts 15:6, 7), Peter said that the Gentiles should become believers by the hearing. Hearing what; by the hearing of the still small voice that so many today say caused them to believe? No, by the hearing of the word of the gospel by his mouth. Faith was to come by hearing the gospel. Peter says that you are made believers by hearing the gospel, and if Peter is right when he says faith comes by hearing the gospel, then the people today who say that the Holy Spirit operates directly upon the heart to save are wrong. Which shall we believe? The words of Peter the apostle, or the testimony of some man as to how he was made a believer.
Our Lord made a plea unto the Father that his disciples may all be united, “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one, even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us; that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (John 17:20, 21). What is said? Christ said, ‘I am not praying for just these alone.’ “These” who? “These” apostles, the disciples, gathered about Him. What about them Lord? ‘I am not praying for the apostles alone, but for all them that believe on me through their word.’ This prayer embraced the church in all ages, every disciple of the Lord. But how are they made believers? Christ said, ‘I am praying for all them that believe on me, through their word.’ Christ here affirms that beievers are made through the words of the apostles. If there are persons who are believers through some means other than through the words of the apostles, then they are not included in this prayer uttered by our Lord. The Lord did not even pray for them, if such a class as this exists. This one passage should be sufficient to prove that men are made believers through the words of the apostles and not through the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.
As John gave the purpose for the writing of his gospel, he very plainly stated how men are made believers, “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in his name” (John 20:30, 31). The stories that are recorded in the gospels, the biographies of Christ’s life, were put there that you may be moved to believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. The many mighty works, wonders and signs which He so unquestionably did are such definite proof that He was sent of God that John said that He had selected just a few of the many and written them down that they might, when read, produce faith also in the hearts of men and women. These things were written to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when this was accomplished the ones who believed it could have life in His name. What was the book that John had written? It definitely was the Gospel according to John, and those things written there are to produce faith. How are people made to believe? What means does God use to induce men to believe? John says it is the writing of men such as himself.
If there were not another passage in all of the Bible as to how men are made believers, the one that we are about to cite would be sufficient to close the discussion forever if men would only put confidence in what God has said to us and would put aside their notions and opinions. Paul says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him. whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:13-17). Paul, how does faith come? ‘It conies by hearing.’ By hearing what, Paul? “By the hearing of the word of God” (KJV).
If these passages that we have just cited be true, then the doctrine taught today that the Holy Spirit has to send a person faith before he can believe is fallacious. These scriptures abundantly assert that faith is produced by the hearing of the word of God.
Still as we have said, this does not mean that God does not do it for God does it through His word. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit does not produce faith, for the Holy Spirit did it by delivering the word of God. It does not mean that faith is not produced by the power of God, for God exerted his power to produce faith through his word.
It will be our purpose next week to spend our time in a discussion of the part that the Holy Spirit plays in producing faith, and to show that it is not done by the Holy Spirit directly without instrumentality or medium but that the Holy Spirit does it through the Bible, the word of God.
Have you accepted the Bible statement as to how faith is produced in the heart of a man and given up the idea that it is done independently of the word of God? Paul says “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 39, pp. 611-614
August 14, 1975