Friday, February 29, 2008

Saving Faith - The Intimacy of Subjective and Objective Faith

There is far too often a total misconception of the word “faith” in the Bible. Many liberal theologians will argue that a subjective faith only matters in so much that you believe in something. They see faith only as the subjective believing rather than both that and that which is the belief. It is very easy to see the subjective side of faith however if that faith is not in “the faith” then it is futile. This is clearly evident in texts such as Jude 3 and 2 Timothy 3:8. If we are to “contend for the faith” are we simply to contend that people simply believe something, or do we contend that they believe something specific, namely the Word of God? If it were not an objective faith that we are to contend for then why were Jannes and Jambres disqualified for “the Faith” for opposing Moses?

This is why “
faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” that is the promises of God, the objective faith “the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) That is the subjective faith. What is “hoped for” is the object of faith and the conviction is the subjective portion of faith. These two things are intimately related in the nature of Christian Saving Faith. The Heidelberg Catechism states it this way:

It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a firm confidence which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel that, not only to others but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace solely for the sake of Christ’s saving work.

Throughout Hebrews chapter Eleven, often referred to as the Faith chapter we see the intermingling of the subjective and objective faith “
By faith we understand [the subjective] that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible [the objective].” (v.3) This is explained in more detail through of the Saints of the Old Testament, “For by it the people of old received their commendation.” (v.2)

First we see that “
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” (v.4) It was the subjective faith of Abel in the objective faith of what God had taught about sacrifices and “that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22) Abel’s sacrifice pointed forward toward the coming of Christ and His perfect sacrifice.

Next we see “
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” (v.5) Here we must remember the words of the text in Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Amos 3:3 states “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” If he simply had faith and not the faith then how could he have walked with God? Note that the following verse of Hebrews (v.6) states: “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists” there is the subjective faith in the first half of the verse and the objective portion in the latter half.

Verses Seven through Eleven speak of the faith of three heroes of the Faith. First we see that Noah believes [subjectively] God’s proclamation of the rains [the objective]. Next we see that Abraham responds to God’s call to go by faith, believing [subjective] in the reward promised by God [the object]. Finally we see the faith of Sarah who believed [subjectively] the promise [the object] of God that she would, in her old age bare a son.

We could continue this for the next thirty-two verses pointing that the subjective faith of these saints of the Old Testament had their subjective faith rooted in the objective truth of God’s promises, “the Faith.” Their faith [subjective] was not simply a feeling, trance, institution, or anything other than trust in that which God revealed.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (v.39-40) Note these Old Testament saints did not receive the fullness of the promise in their lifetimes but instead looked forward to the coming of Christ and what He would do for them, just as we look back at what He did for us. We must remember how this section on faith concludes in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Christ is the perfecter of our faith, both the subjective and objective. It is in His objective Word that the object of “the faith” which we as Christians profess, giving substance to our objective faith. Subjective faith is not saving faith unless it is intimately involved with the objective faith that is the doctrine of Christianity. (Hebrews 4:2) Saving faith is only saving faith when it is the subjective faith, that is believing, being rooted in the objective faith, that is the Word of God. Therefore I encourage you as the saints of old to look to Jesus as described in the Word of God, “
the author and perfecter of our faith” for it is in Him alone that we are made perfect.

Grace and Peace

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Trinity - Rectifying God's Love, Omnipotence, and the virtue of Humility.

Christianity is a religion all about relationship, that relationship is one with the Creator God of the entire Universe. The basis of this relationship is Love as Christ Himself put it "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”' (Mark 12:28-30)

No one will argue that this passage means that we are to love God, however the issue I wish to discuss is not that we are to love God, but where Love itself originates. For this I of course turn to the first letter of John chapter four.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:7-10

That is the question then is if God is one, as stated by Jesus and Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4) then how is God love? Would He not rely upon something outside of Himself in order for this Love to be expressed? Would He either be completely and totally self-centered or partially reliant upon His creation to express His love, that is His nature? This seems folly for God to be so utterly arrogant, if that were the case how could humility be a virtue expressed perfectly in God as well? It also seems foolish that God would be so reliant upon others to express something so natural to you and I. You and I require others to express love or we love ourselves and become extremely conceited. How do we justify the Love of God without sacrificing humility or omnipotence? The answer is the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity.

There is one God eternally existent in three separate and distinct persons. Thus the Love of God is eternally expressed in the relationship of these three persons of God, Father, Son, and Spirit. This is seen in the Father’s love for the Son, giving the Son all authority in Heaven and on Earth, (Matthew 28:18) However the Son does nothing on His on accord but only that which He sees the Father doing (John 5:19ff) and only does the will of the Father who sent Him (John 6:38) though He had the authority to do whatever He wished. Thus only those who love the Son as they love the Father truly know and honor the Father. The Holy Spirit does not speak on His own authority nor bring glory to Himself but only speaks what He hears and brings glory to the Son (John 16:13-14). Likewise the Father does not draw glory to Himself but draws men to the Son (John 6:44). Yet as these men are drawn to confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father whom the Son gives all glory too (Philippians 2:11). The love seems evident and humility is just as evident. The Son made Himself nothing, though in the form of God (Philippians 2:6-7) not seeing equality with the Father as something to be grasped, yet because of this the Father highly exalt Him and gave Him the name above all names (Philippians 2:9). The Spirit likewise only testifies to the Son and not Himself (1 John 5:6-10). The Son in turn does everything not for His own glory but to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11).

Three self-giving, self-effacing persons compose the very God that we as Christians worship. This aspect of God’s eternal character we as the Church of Jesus Christ must seek to reflect in our lives and our walk with Him to whom all glory and honor is due. Seek the humility and love exhibited by our wonderful God.

Grace and Peace.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Who Did Christ Die For?

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:
  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, "Because of unbelief."

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!"

by John Owen.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I make success and create disaster; said the LORD.

"I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things."
Isaiah 45:7

These words have never rang more true to the students at the campus of Union University than last night. At around 7:07 PM on February 5, 2008 a massive tornado ran through the campus tearing the roof off of Jennings Hall and destroying many of the dorms, in a word disaster. And this evil was not like the evil of terrorists bombing buildings but was from nature itself, leaving many to wonder where God was in this. How could God allow something so evil to happen? How could He allow some of His blessed children to be hurt and trapped for hours, where were you God?

The answer lies in the center of the storm, because we know that nothing comes to pass without our Father in Heaven knowing about it, for the LORD Himself creates disasters to call people to Him according to His good purpose. Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Where are you God is the wrong question to be asking, the question we should be asking is God how are you going to work this for the good of those who love you? You promised you would in Your word, oh God, that you would never leave us nor forsake us, how will this work for your Glory and our benefit.

If we truly believe that the LORD is sovereign then how are we to deny that He was the author of this storm and using it for His glory and praise. We should be asking ourselves if we truly trust Him as supreme in all things. For even through the disaster we must humbly, for we are humbled by His awesome power, fall before Him and give Him all glory in this trial that He might increase our faith remembering “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Please Father reign in the aftermath of this storm and rain down blessings and grace on those who You will because You are in control.

Grace and Peace.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - The Apostle Paul