Wednesday, July 01, 2009

FAITH: THE GRACE-GIFT OF GOD
...whereby sinful men like me may please Him

Heb. 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

In a discussion about evolution, Intelligent Design (ID), and Creationism I was involved with recently, a gentleman from a well-respected seminary posted the following statement: "In order to have faith imparted to you so that you can believe, you must first come to a position of theism in your life. Believing that God exists is a pre-requisite to receiving the gospel and becoming a Christian."

He was trying to draw that axiom from Hebrews 11:6 above. Do you agree with those words? Were you as shocked by them as I was?

Let's look at this verse more closely.

The starting point in Heb. 11:6 beloved is not believing, but faith: “And without faith"; the second is to satisfy: “it is impossible to please Him,”; the third is worship: “or he who comes to God”; the fourth is now believe: “must believe that He is”; and the fifth is remuneration: “and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Contextually, this verse is not an evangelistic prescription to unbelievers; but hope given to young Jewish believers in Christ to build them up as to the promise of the gospel (cp, Heb. 11:16, 26, 33-38).

The hindrance here to believing is not evolution, as this man asserted; but that unregenerate man “has suppressed the truth in unrighteousness...” It is already a fact that all people know that God exists; that God's law is written on the hearts of all people; that all people have rejected Him; and are deserving of God’s wrath—Romans 1:18-23. "No man is without excuse." Evolution being the alternative to Creationism (not ID which is unbiblical) IS the natural by-product of “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness”; but in and of itself is not THE cause, nor THE hindrance to believing.

ID is not a refutation of evolution as some believe; it is just a worldly view that still seeks to substitute the One Triune God of the Bible with its nondescript, impersonal universal force (Star Wars anyone?). The issue is not the existence of just the idea of god here in Heb. 11:6, but the One Triune God of the Bible.

Revival, evangelism, awakening, renewal was not dependant upon cultural preconditions, but a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit alone upon the hearts of people. The apostles had no such preconditioned environment where everyone had to affirm theism, before they could respond to the gospel. The reason for the Great Awakenings or the historic revivals, was the fact that the gospel was being proclaimed, lives were transformed--regenerated, as the gospel truth was unfolding through very pagan and adverse nations.

Biblical presuppositional apologetics denies the need for an “intermediate step” of theism for two reasons: (1.) The “He is” of Hebrews 11:6 is not speaking of a preconditioned knowledge of the existence of a god by nonbelievers; but speaks of the one true God of the Bible - who He is; His character, etc. from the truth of Scripture; and (2.) faith is the initial component; it is not a work; it is not conjured; it is the gift of God which enables us to know “He is”, to please Him, diligently seek Him, and to know He is a gracious God that by His grace rewards.

It’s only the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7; 1 Cor. 12:3; Roms. 8:8-9) that allows for sinful men to have ears to hear and eyes to see the truth about God. In salvation, regeneration precedes faith and faith is God’s gracious gift to us whereby it causes even the atheist to believe the gospel, repent of his sins, submit to Christ as Lord, and fully believe that “He is.”

ID is just as much the byproduct of fallen man
as evolution is—and it miserably fails
to represent the biblical truths pointing
to the One Triune God of the Bible.


Have you ever traveled to Third World countries and proclaimed the gospel in those very pagan cultures? Most believe in a god—usually demonic in nature, but a god of their own vain-imagination none the less. But when the truth claims of the God of the Bible are presented clearly to them as Paul did in various ways in Acts, they more times than not reject Him. Reject His existence? No —they know He exists; but HIM—the “HE IS.” They were content, apart from the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit, with worshipping their gods of stone, wood and straw (Roms. 1:18-23).

Calvin gives great insight on this passage when he says:
“It does not indeed seem a great matter, when the Apostle requires us to believe that God is; but when you more closely consider it, you will find that there is here a rich, profound, and sublime truth; for though almost all admit without disputing that God is, yet it is evident, that except the Lord retains us in the true and certain knowledge of himself, various doubts will ever creep in, and obliterate every thought of a Divine Being. To this vanity the disposition of man is no doubt prone, so that to forget God becomes an easy thing. At the same time the Apostle does not mean, that men ought to feel assured that there is some God, for he speaks only of the true God; nay, it will not be sufficient for you to form a notion of any God you please; but you must understand what sort of Being the true God is; for what will it profit us to devise and form an idol, and to ascribe to it the glory due to God?”

“...why it is impossible for man to please God without faith; God justly regards us all as objects of his displeasure, as we are all by nature under his curse; and we have no remedy in our own power. It is hence necessary that God should anticipate us by his grace; and hence it comes, that we are brought to know that God is, and in such a way that no corrupt superstition can seduce us, and also that we become assured of a certain salvation from him.”

“for the only true end of life is to promote His glory; but this can never be done, unless there be first the true knowledge of Him. Yet this is still but the half of faith, and will profit us but little, except confidence be added. Hence faith will only then be complete and secure us God’s favor, when we shall feel a confidence that we shall not seek him in vain, and thus entertain the certainty of obtaining salvation from him. But no one, except he be blinded by presumption, and fascinated by self love, can feel assured that God will be a rewarder of his merits. Hence this confidence of which we speak recumbs not on works, nor on man’s own worthiness, but on the grace of God alone; and as grace is nowhere found but in Christ, it is on him alone that faith ought to be fixed." (emphasis mine).

Listen to the teaching of the incomparable A.W. Pink on this verse:
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him." Most solemnly do these words attest the total depravity of man. So corrupt is the fallen creature, both in soul and body, in every power and part thereof, and so polluted is everything that issues from him, that he cannot of and by himself do anything that is acceptable to the Holy One. "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8): "they that are in the flesh" means, they that are still in their natural or unregenerate state. A bitter fountain cannot send forth sweet waters. But faith looks out of self to Christ, applies unto His righteousness, pleads His worth and worthiness, and does all things God-ward in the name and through the mediation of the Lord Jesus. Thus, by faith we may please God.

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him." Yet in all ages there have been many who attempted to please God without faith. Cain began it, but failed woefully. All in their Divine worship profess a desire to please God, and hope that they do so; why otherwise should they make the attempt? But, as the apostle declares in another place, many seek unto God "but not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law" (Rom. 9:32).

But where faith be lacking, let men desire, design, and do what they will, they can never attain unto Divine acceptance. "But to Him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for ("unto") righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). Whatever be the necessity of other graces, faith is that which alone obtains acceptance with God.

In order to please God four things must concur,
all of which are accomplished by faith:

First,
the person of him that pleaseth God must be accepted of Him (Gen. 4:4).

Second,
the thing done that pleaseth God must be in accord with His will (Heb. 13:21).

Third,
the manner of doing it must be pleasing to God: it must be performed in humility (1 Cor. 15:10), in sincerity (Isa. 38:3), in cheerfulness (2 Cor. 8:12; 9:7).

Fourth,
the end in view must be God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

Now faith is the only means whereby these four requirements are met. By faith in Christ the person is accepted of God. Faith makes us submit ourselves to God’s will. Faith causes us to examine the manner of what we do Godwards. Faith aims at God’s glory: of Abraham it is recorded that he "was strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Rom. 4:20).

How essential it is then that each of us examine himself diligently and make sure that he has faith. It is by faith the convicted and repentant sinner is saved (Acts 16:31). It is by faith that Christ dwells in the heart (Eph. 3:17). It is by faith that we live (Gal. 2:20). It is by faith that we stand (Rom. 11:20; 2 Corinthians 1:24). It is by faith we walk (2 Cor. 5:7). It is by faith the Devil is successfully resisted (1 Pet. 5:8, 9). It is by faith we are experimentally sanctified (Acts 26:18). It is by faith we have access to God (Eph. 3:12, Hebrews 10:22). It is by faith that we fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). It is by faith that the world is overcome (1 John 5:4). Reader, are you certain that you have the "faith of God’s elect" (Titus 1:1)? If not, it is high time you make sure, for "without faith it is impossible to please God."

Lastly, consider the masterful words of the faithful Baptist theologian John Gill:

"But without faith it is impossible to please him,..." Or do things well pleasing in His sight; or any of the duties of religion, in an acceptable way; as prayer, praise, attendance on the word and ordinances, or any good works whatever; because such are without Christ, and without His Spirit; and have neither right principles, nor right ends: for this is not to be understood of the persons of God's elect, as considered in Christ; in whom they are well pleasing to Him before faith; being loved by Him with an everlasting love; and chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world; See Gill on "Ro 8:8."

"for he that cometh to God;" to the throne of, His grace, to pray unto Him, to implore His grace and mercy, help and assistance; to the house of God, to worship, and serve him, and in order to enjoy his presence, and have communion with Him; which coming ought to be spiritual and with the heart; and supposes spiritual life; and must be through Christ, and by faith: wherefore such a comer to God,

"must believe that he is;" or exists, as the Arabic version; and he must not barely believe his existence, but that, as it is revealed in the word: he must believe in the three Persons in the Godhead; that the first Person is the Father of Christ; that the second Person is both the Son of God, and Mediator; and that the third Person is the Spirit of them both, and the applier of all grace; for God the Father is to be approached unto, through Christ the Mediator, by the guidance and assistance of the Spirit: and he must believe in the perfections of God; that He is omniscient, and knows His person and wants; is omnipotent, and can do for Him, beyond His thoughts and petitions; is all sufficient, and that His grace is sufficient for Him; that He is immutable, in His purposes and covenant; that He is true and faithful to His promises; and is the God of grace, love, and mercy: and he must believe in Him, not only as the God of nature and providence, but as His covenant God and Father in Christ:

"and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him;" who are such, as are first sought out by Him; and who seek Him in Christ, where He is only to be found; and that with their whole hearts, and above all things else: and, of such, God is a rewarder, in a way of grace; with Himself, who is their exceeding great reward; and with His Son, and all things with Him; with more grace; and, at last, with eternal glory, the reward of the inheritance.
What a great joy and humble reality to live by faith to the One to Whom all glory is due!

3 comments:

Sam said...

Thanks for the many edifying posts. I'm sure there are many like me who read but don't often leave comments. How was the time in Lancaster, PA?

SJ Camp said...

Sam
Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. This was a good post to research. To mine the great truth of faith a bit more and in doing so to read such doctrinal treasures from Gill, Calvin and Pink makes it that much more valued.

The time in Lancaster was wonderful. I so appreciate Pastor "Big Dog" (Jamie) and the entire pastoral staff and worship team. I was honored to be numbered with them and we had tremendous worship services together.

Thanks again dear brother...
Grace and peace to you,
Steve
2 Cor. 3:5

Marcia said...

Thanks--I needed this.