The Way of Faith
EPHESIANS 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
These Ephesian believers were dead, and as such were not able to reach out to HIM so HE reached out to them. HIS voice pierced the darkness and with grace HE called them into the light. To those who answered that call HE gave life. Those who heard HIS call and then choose to believe HIS words, to these were shown the way of faith. As our Lord promised, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (JOHN 5:24 ASV). Those who hear and then believe that which they have heard are the ones who pass from death into life.
The poor translation of JOHN 3:15-16 in the King James Version leads many to think that they will not perish if they just believe "in" Yeshua (Jesus). Perhaps they forget that the devils also believed in Yeshua (MARK 3:11). Instead of just believing in Yeshua, the requirement was that they progressively believed that which is sown in their hearts. Only that journey would take them unto Yeshua, that they might know Him. It is not simply a mental acknowledgment that He is Lord which would transform them, but a continual obedience to His words. This simple process is called faith.
Grace is the way into this faith. Grace is not the opposite of the law, but rather its counterpart. Grace is not something that allowed them to sin without consequences, but it was instead GOD's favor upon their lives because of their efforts to live according to HIS word (1 CORINTHIANS 15:10). Grace gives direction. Grace is GOD's gift (ROMANS 12:6), often in the form of revelation and inspiration.
This is not at all understood in Christianity today. They speak of grace as some kind of pass GOD gives us to excuse our sins. Howbeit, we are not automatically excused from sins today, anymore then those under the law. The difference between being under the law and being under grace is that the Mosaic law can be accomplished without GOD's involvement, while grace requires HIS involvement. One can offer his tithe or his sacrifice even with hate and envy in his heart, but GOD gives grace only to the humble (JAMES 4:6).
So, by way of grace GOD offers HIS word to be heard and believed. Those who do choose to believe that which they have heard, are then able to pass from death into life. The offering of HIS word to be heard and believed is what grace is. Howbeit, the sent word alone doesn't transform us; it must be believed, it must be obeyed.
Choosing the way of faith is more than just mental assent. It requires obedience to GOD's word. To obey, one must act in some way. This action most likely will be work of some sort. Thus, believing and obeying the sent word is good works and are always an obedient response to GOD's words which are offered by grace.
HEBREWS 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
Faith is not envisioning or thinking or even praying. Faith is obeying by doing. Abraham received the promise by faith, which means he acted upon that which he had heard. He didn't just sit there and claim he was believing. That is not believing. That is not faith. To believe the gospel is to obey the gospel. After first hearing from GOD, Abraham responded by obeying that which he had heard.
Many think that faith has no connection with works. Actually, faith has no connection with man's dead works, but faith can hardly be separated from good works. Each time we come across the word works when reading our Bible, we would do well to ask ourselves, to what kind of works is this referring? It is always either dead works, evil works or good works.
James wrote that "faith without [good] works is dead" (JAMES 2:20). Faith is dead if it is not moving us to act in some godly way. The reason GOD sows HIS word is to produce fruit. Likewise, the purpose of GOD's word being sent is that it might be obeyed. To obey GOD's word is to believe GOD's word. In a sense, believing GOD's word is faith.
To digress a moment, in our English Bibles the word believe is often translated from the Greek word pisteuo and the word faith is generally translated from the Greek word pistis. Both words share a common origin, peitho. Hence, faith and believe are closely related, nearly synonymous.
Our own dead works require no grace from GOD, nor do they accomplish GOD's will. That is why they are dead works. Howbeit, to hear from GOD is totally dependant upon HIS grace. If HE doesn't speak, we have nothing to obey. The offering to us of GOD's words is the only way of faith, and true fruit is only produced as we obey those words which we hear form GOD. That obedience is good works, which are the "works of Abraham" (JOHN 8:39).
But of course first must come grace, for if GOD doesn't speak, then we have nothing to answer and are still alienated from the life of GOD in our dead works. Howbeit, even if GOD freely shows us the way, this doesn't mean we don't have to work to arrive at the destination. HE may show us the door, HE may even open it for us, but it is our feet which must carry us over the threshold.
Abraham was promised a better country, but he was the one who had to saddle his ass and hit the dusty trail. GOD didn't bring the promised land to him, nor to Moses. They had to go and find it. Not without GOD but in obedience to GOD. As such, if ever HE is inclined to withhold HIS words from us, our works alone will never transform us, for without the light of HIS word our works are dead. Thus, while salvation is by grace, it is only "through faith" (EPHESIANS 2:8), through hearing, believing, thus obeying HIS words.
Many are called to the way of faith but not all answer that call. Some choose to reject HIS word and therefore remain on the course of this world. By way of GOD's foreknowledge, HE knows who will answer and who will not. Thereby HE can prearrange events which will initiate the transformation of those whom HE knows will answer HIS call. We are all destined to do that which we are going to do.
Being predestined means simply that GOD is going to know beforehand what our choices will be and thus sets in motion future events to coincide with those choices. Predestination can't mean that GOD forces our destiny upon us. If that were the case the whole Bible would negate itself with contradiction upon contradiction. Terms like predestination and foreordained must be understood in relation to how they are placed upon the Holy Page and not by our preconceived notions about what they might mean.
ROMANS 8:29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [foreordain] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called...
Knowing from before the foundation of the world what each person's response to HIS calling would be, GOD preordained events to bring to pass the believer's transformation. Predestination simply means that GOD knows beforehand who will answer HIS call and so orders events which shape their lives to coincide with their freewill decision. HE knows whether or not we will believe if given mercy. HE knows whether or not we will consider and ponder truth when presented with it. HE knows whether or not we will turn at HIS reproof and be converted. Thus HE predestines events to bring those who choose to answer HIS call into the love of the truth.
As parents we have a pretty good idea what our own children are going to do with the gifts we bestow upon them. That knowledge generally determines what they will receive from us. Thus it similarly works with GOD, except HE has perfect foreknowledge and knows absolutely exactly what use we will make of HIS gifts. GOD foreknew what John the Baptist, Yeshua, Peter and Paul would do with HIS gifts, thus HE predestined them. As Daniel of old wrote, GOD over-rules HIS creation with perfect exactness!
DANIEL 2:21-22 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
No doubt GOD offers HIS words to both believers and un-believers, to both the obedient and the disobedient. This is how HE separates the chaff from the wheat. Those who disbelieve are blown away like the chaff, while those who believe are gathered together into HIS storehouse (MATTHEW 3:12). Those who believe are offered more while those who disbelieve are often given up to pursue their own desires (ROMANS 1:24, 26). Those who disbelieve remain on the course of this world while those who choose to believe are quickened together with Christ (EPHESIANS 2:2-5).
Until GOD calls, those destined to believe HIS word have nothing to answer; and until GOD calls, those destined to not believe HIS word have nothing to reject. Those who choose to answer HIS call become the "children of light". Those who choose to reject HIS call become the "children of disobedience". These are the two ways, the way of obedience and the way of disobedience, the way of life and the way of death.
ROMANS 1:5-6 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
This grace that Paul received really turned him around when the Lord spoke to him on his way to Damascus. He chose to be obedient to that voice. This letter of his to the Church at Rome is addressed to those who are among the called of Yeshua the Christ. The reason one is called, is so that he may learn to be obedient to the spirit of truth. We are called to be obedient because GOD has a purpose for our lives. HE is moving all things towards a final conclusion and we each will either become a vessel fit for HIS use or regrettably if we reject that calling, one fit for destruction. As David instructed his son Solomon,
1 CHRONICLES 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
Even Solomon was held to this high standard. GOD is not found until we first seek HIM and we are not cast off until we forsake HIM. Many today think that they can set GOD aside after they are saved and not be held accountable for their subsequent actions. But our Lord spoke of what is done with salt when it has lost its flavor, "It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (LUKE 14:35). Of course Yeshua was not suggesting that they go home and inspect their spice racks for bad salt. He was referring to the "great multitudes" which followed after Him. HE was referring to those calling Him "Lord, Lord" yet doing not the things which He said (LUKE 6:46). He was referring to those seeking, not to be transformed, but only to be provided for (JOHN 6:26).
The idea that many individuals will be cast out is not the message of the modern Church. Theirs is a kindler, gentler message, which is that everyone is saved because we are all made in GOD's image. Theirs is another gospel, which if followed might actually lead unto destruction. The message of the true gospel seems at times harsh and brutal, but if followed, it leads unto life. Consider what Paul wrote along this line.
COLOSSIANS 1:21-23 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: ff ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.
GOD's calling is by grace while our obedience to that calling is by works. Obedience and disobedience is man's response to GOD's mercy and grace. Mercy and grace is GOD working while our obedience is us working. Our obedience to the spirit of truth is then how GOD fashions us into vessels according to HIS purpose. This is in essence what faith is.
If an individual remains faithful to believe and obey GOD's word, the Creator has the whole Universe at HIS disposal to bring to bear upon the believer's heart whatsoever is required to shape him into an honorable vessel.
ROMANS 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
These things that "work together for good" is GOD orchestrating events to coincide with our obedience. "Them that love GOD" are not those who just talk about how much they love GOD. Those who love GOD are those who obey GOD. Even our Lord demonstrated His love for GOD through His obedience to GOD. Yeshua didn't go around always telling everyone how much He loved GOD. In fact, only once in the Gospels is it written that He ever talked of His love for the Father, and even then it was in the context of His obedience (JOHN 14:31). Indeed, His testimony was that GOD loved Him because He was obedient (JOHN 10:17). It all turns on obedience!
JOHN 14:21-24 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
Those who have been taught and so believe that Paul's epistles somehow apply more to their lives than does the words of Christ or James or Peter, should seriously consider the above passage. Dispensationalist frequently try to solve apparent contradictions in scripture by teaching that some portions of the Bible were written to us while other portions were only written for us. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that they end up not subjecting themselves unto much of the scripture which they are someday going to be held accountable for.
Our obedience to GOD's word is how the door to our heart is opened. Through our obedience does the Lord and His Father come and make their abode within us. Answering GOD's call and continually following HIS commandments is the secret to obtaining fellowship with the Father and with HIS Son. First we cease from our own dead works and with a willing mind listen for HIS words. We turn from the course of this world to the way of faith, which is accomplished only by our obedience to grace. Over time GOD fashions us into vessels fit for HIS use, but that transformation is only accomplished as we continue to obey the spirit of truth.
2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-14 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The "obtaining of the glory" came from their belief of the truth. During our appointed time in the spiritual womb GOD nourishes us with HIS goodness so eventually for those few who answer GOD's call, events are prearranged to deliver them from the bondage of the world into HIS glorious light. Hearing GOD's call is somewhat like a seed within the womb being impregnated at conception. The instant the spermatozoon makes contact, a new creature is created. Likewise, mortal man begins his awakening only after GOD's words have penetrated to his heart. Then begins the growth in the spiritual womb as GOD HIMself nourishes us.
Yeshua became the author and finisher of our faith, not as some think because He was GOD, but rather because He obeyed GOD! When the Trinitarians portray Jesus as Almighty GOD, they rob Him of His greatest accomplishment. The great message of Yeshua's ministry for us was in that He was obedient to GOD.
He didn't save His people from their sins because He taught with great authority, raised the dead or caused the blind to see. And He wasn't triumphant over Satan because the Romans took Him and nailed Him to a tree, as they did thousands of others. Nor is Yeshua our Lord, simply because GOD raised Him from the dead. Yeshua of Nazareth stood head and shoulders above all other men because even when He did not want to, even when He desperately wanted not to, He still did the will of GOD (LUKE 22:42). By His continued obedience to those words of GOD offered to Him by grace, He Himself was transformed (PHILIPPIANS 2:8ff).
HEBREWS 5:7-9 Who in the days of his [Yeshua's] flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him [GOD] that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect [complete], he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.
The Son showed the true way unto the Father by His obedience, which He learned from the experiences that GOD had prearranged in His life. Yeshua Himself was shaped by these events. As He was confronted by certain situations, He learned from them and was fashioned into a chosen vessel. To believe and to obey are practically synonymous (JOHN 3:36 ROMANS 10:16 HEBREWS 3:18-19). To obey the lusts of the flesh is to walk as children of disobedience, after the course of the world. To obey the spirit of truth is to walk as children of light, after the way of GOD. We decide which way we shall go, but the spirit of truth is only promised to those who are obedient to that truth (ACTS 5:32).
It is only in continuing obedient to HIS word that we can find the way of faith. As our Lord promised, "...If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (JOHN 8:31-32). We are not made free by faithful Church attendance, by answering an altar call, or even by reading our Bibles. Only by faithful obedience to the truth can we become transformed. Hence, Yeshua became the author of eternal salvation for those who choose to obey Him.
Continually we must obey the word of truth written on the Holy Page. But more and more we must obey the words from the spirit of truth, which are sown in our hearts. This is the way of faith. Understanding spiritual truth is only acquired by faith, which is to experience situations GOD selects to place in our path. This is a learning which achieves for us an enlightenment.
EPHESIANS 2: 8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are transformed not of or by our own dead works, but we are transformed by hearing, believing and obeying GOD's word. Having initiated our metamorphoo through our obedience, we are newly created unto good works (2 CORINTHIANS 9:8). Accomplishing good works is the purpose for our transformation. It is the goal! That transformation is HIS workmanship, HIS masterpiece, HIS creation. HIS way has an end. As we answer HIS call and begin to hear and obey HIS word, HIS mercy continues to deliver us from the bondage wherein we have been all our lives held. HIS grace continues to guide us unto good works, into the path of life, into the way of faith.
TITUS 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
The whole subject of grace and faith is summarized by Isaiah when he wrote many centuries ago,
ISAIAH 50:4-5 The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.