Monday, February 6, 2017

Faith Continues

Faith Continues
To love people as God loves people, we must first learn to see someone as a person before we add adjectives.  Without adjectives, everyone is equal.  Some adjectives describe a person.  Other adjectives define a person.  We ought to be able to love people even after we add adjectives that define them.  Loving people is how we treat them and interact with them.  To love someone means to treat that person with respect and dignity regardless if the adjectives that define him offends our values.  The adjectives that define a person will usually define the way we will deal with that person. 

The difficulty that creates unjust prejudices is when adjectives that simply describe somehow are transformed into adjectives that define.  For instance, the adjectives white and black only describe the color of a person’s skin.  It is prejudicial to ascribe definitions of character or stereotypical traits to adjectives that merely describe someone.  The color of my skin, my height, weight, and other physical traits do not define who I am as a person except in very insignificant and marginal ways. 

This is not true of reputation.  A person’s reputation is the consummate testimony of his life that defines his character as a person.  Whatever comes to mind when a person’s name is heard by someone is that person’s summation of the named person’s character.  A person’s testimony is usually categorized as good or bad; trustworthy or untrustworthy.  These evaluations of other people are natural and normal.  These evaluations are the determinations by which we give trust or withhold trust in numerous degrees.

Satan is in the testimony and reputation destroying business.  Satan with use every means at his disposal to destroy a person’s integrity and trustworthiness; even lies, gossip, and distortions of the truth.  Satan especially delights in destroying the testimony of Christians because he thereby makes their witness for Christ inviable.  A person who talks about believing the truth of God’s Word is made incredible when he is reputed to be a liar, or who is reputed to live contrary to what he professes to believe.  Satan’s smirk of ridicule will be found upon the face of those mocking faith when there is duplicity in the life of a believer between his profession and his practices.
To condemn the normal evaluations of personal character as judgmental is foolish and immature.  Such evaluations are normal aspects of life to safeguard ourselves and those we love within a fallen and corrupt world.  Few people are trustworthy and fewer yet can be said to be faithful to anyone or anything.  Everyone makes these kinds of judgment evaluations a thousand times a day without even thinking about it. 

Hebrews chapter eleven is a list of people who had many failures in their lives, but God found them faithful.  This is God’s testimony about them.  In other words, when God heard their names, His overall evaluation of their lives was that they were predominantly faithful to His Word and His promises.  The world tends to evaluate individuals by their dominant failures rather than by their predominant faithfulness.  We all can be grateful that God does not work this way.

4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Anchor5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Anchor6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:4-6).

Some historical background is necessary to understand the context of what is being emphasized in this Hebrews chapter eleven.  Jesus said he would come again.  Many believers assumed it would be in the first century of the church.  In II Timothy 2:17-18 we read of two men - Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; overthrowing the faith of some.”  A great deal of false doctrine already existed by 67 A.D. leading people to believe they had missed the second coming destroying their hope.  The words hope and faith are closely related throughout the Bible.  When faith is corrupted, hope is destroyed.
In I Thessalonians 4:13, Paul’s statements regarding the rapture of the Church and the second coming of Christ are intended to correct an abnormality in doctrine regarding the second coming – ignorance.  Ignorance is always an enemy of faith and a corrupter of hope.  “But I would not have thou ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which no hope.”

Christ and the apostles taught the imminent (any moment) return of Christ for his Church.  By the time of the writing of the Epistle to the Hebrews (about 68 A.D.), most of the first generation of Christians were growing old.  Christ had not returned and many of the Jewish believers were giving up hope and returning to Old Covenant Temple practices.  The Temple at Jerusalem was not destroyed until 70 A.D.

False doctrine regarding the resurrection of believers was destroying the faith of the Jewish believers causing them to lose hope and abandon the New Covenant and return to the Mosaic Covenant practices.  These practices denied the finished sacrifice of Jesus the Christ (“once for all,” Hebrews 10:12, 12, 14, 18).  Therefore, understanding Hebrews chapter ten is critical to understanding Hebrews chapter eleven

Hebrews 11:4-13 gives an important message by the example of four patriarchs to the professing Christians of this era; true faith does not give up hope.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13a).  The example is real faith continues in hope.  This theme will continue through all the examples of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven.

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise” (Hebrews 11:39).

In Hebrews 11:4-13, we have the examples of four men and one woman who saw eternity through the eyes of faith and “embraced” the “promise” that God offered for them to possess.  These five people saw certainty (“substance”) sustained in God’s immutability and rested their eternal hope in God’s promises (Hebrews 11:1).  These five examples are examples of people whose faith became the proof (“evidence”) of the reality of the invisible things of God.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah all continued to hope even when the possibilities for what they hope seemed hopeless.  Faith clings to what God promises!

Continuing faith is what defines real faith.  Real faith believes to the degree that it acts upon what it believes.  This involves us in the ageless discussion regarding the eternal security of the believer.  Two hypotheticals are presented in the argument:

1. A person who stops believing will lose his salvation and will need to get saved again. 
2. A person who stops believing reveals his faith was never real and therefore his salvation was never real. 

We must remember that these are both hypotheticals and therefore are presuppositions.  The failure takes place in interpreting what the Bible says when a presupposition drives our interpretation and that person begins to look for proof texts.  This creates eisegesis (reading something into a Bible text to support our presupposition).  Where do these two prepositional hypotheticals agree?  They agree that a person who does not continue in faith is not saved and should not be treated as a saved person. 

The difficulty is in avoiding presuppositions in our interpretations of the Bible.  We must simply establish what the Bible teaches and THEN apply that Truth to the hypotheticals.  In other words, we do not use the hypotheticals to prove what the Bible teaches.  We use what the Bible teaches to prove the truthfulness of the hypotheticals. 

Understanding the Gospel and what is actually given in the gift salvation is critical to understanding the doctrine of salvation (Soteriology).  Secondly, understanding what the Spirit of God does in His operations of regeneration is critical to understanding what is actually given in the gift salvation.  Hebrews chapter six teaches that the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation is once and for all.  In answers the hypothetical that of a person losing his salvation.  If this were possible, he cannot be saved again. 

1 Therefore leaving the principles {of the superiority} of the doctrine of Christ {over the types of the Mosaic Covenant}, let us go on unto perfection {the state of completeness implying that their faith may be lacking due to various degrees of ignorance}; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible {go to verse six} for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:1-6).

The culmination of this warning of Hebrews 6:1-6 is addressing a hypothetical regarding continuing in the New Covenant faith (ordinances and practices) of which failure may constitute apostasy and manifest the fact salvation never actually took place.  These Hebrew believers were under enormous pressure and persecution by apostate Israel to come back to the Old Covenant, the Temple sacrifices, and Sacerdotalism (Old Covenant sacrifices and priesthood).  Those of the Temple Order did not care if these Jews believed in this Jesus as long as they kept tithing to the Temple and kept offering sacrifices (the Priesthood kept those portions of the sacrifices that were not burned up).

These early Jewish believers had made a profession of faith in Jesus and they professed to believe all the elementary, foundational truths of the New Covenant, but there was a problem.  Some of these early believers were being enticed by the Jews back to the Temple Order and Old Covenant practices, which contradicted their professed faith in these New Covenant truths regarding Jesus Christ.  The very fact that they were being tempted reveal a degree of ignorance regarding the Person of Jesus and their understanding of the “finished” nature of their salvation through faith in the Gospel.  The foundational truths of the “doctrine of Christ” (Hebrews 6:1) included certain necessary understandings:

1. “Repentance from dead works”
2. “Faith toward God”
3. “Baptisms”
4. “Laying on of hands”
5. “Resurrection of the dead”
6. “Eternal judgment”

          These six things are referred to as the “principles of the doctrine of Christ.”  The word “principles” is from the Greek word arche (ar-khay’).  It refers to beginning truths, or foundational truths like learning your A, B, C’s before you begin to learn to read words.  These truths are necessary to the beginning of the faith that leads us to accept and confess Christ and keep us from going astray in false beliefs.  However, faith cannot stop with these basic truths or we will stall out and nose dive.  We must go on to accept and confess Christ.

          Hebrews 5:11-6:3 appears to imply an expectation that a certain degree of time may be required for some people to learn truth and abandon error before they can understand the Gospel and believe.  This portion of Scripture also begins to confront the contradiction of continuing to embrace or condone false doctrine regarding Christ while professing faith in New Covenant realities.  The time span after their profession of faith in Christ was sufficient for them to understand.  Therefore, the problem was no longer ignorance, but REBELLION against the absolutes of God.

         This posed another serious problem (Hebrews 6:4-5).  If the Holy Spirit of God had thoroughly completed His pre-salvation ministry regarding these “beginning,” elementary truths, the Holy Spirit would not repeat this work.  If they abandoned what the Spirit had accomplished, their hope of ever coming to a faith decision resulting in genuine salvation would come to an end.  They were about to stall out and were close to crashing and burning.  The issue being addressed here is a very serious one.  Their return to and acceptance of abrogated sacerdotalism and the Old Covenant sacrifices revealed a serious inadequacy in their understanding bringing the reality of their profession of faith and their salvation rightfully in doubt.

          The word “perfection” in Hebrews 6:1, that these professing Christians are to “go on to,” is from the Greek word teleiotes (tel-i-ot’-ace).  It does not refer to sinless perfection, but to spiritual maturity regarding faith in Christ.  The words “go on” are from the Greek word phero (fer’-o).  It means to be conveyed or moved along with the idea of force implied like a sail ship being carried forth by the wind.  Saving faith is the destination. 

Therefore if {hypothetical} any man be in Christ, he is a new {kainos; new of a different kind, not neos; new of the same kind} creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become {perfect tense =once for all, and indicative mood=statement of fact} new {kainos}” (II Corinthians 5:17). 

          II Corinthians 5:17 is a critical text regarding eternal security.  The “if” refers specifically to being “in Christ.”  This is the baptism with the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13).  When a person is genuinely “born again” of the Spirit, that person is removed from the cursed creation of Adam and once for all immersed into the New Creation of Christ.  The New Creation is “the regeneration” (Matthew 19:28).  II Corinthians 5:17 essentially says, if you are “born again,” your salvation is once and forever a new position “in Christ.”  This is the importance of the perfect tense and indicative mood of the verb phrase “are become new.”  This means “if” a person is genuinely “born again,” he can never be removed from that new position.  This operation is once and forever and will never be undone.
       I would venture to say that few people, professing to believe in God, really live as if He is real.  They may believe in a notion called “God,” whatever that notion means to them.  They may even believe in a persona they call God, but that persona is not defined theologically or biblically and so their faith becomes a hodge-podge of misinformation and distortions of Who God really is.  This kind of so called faith creates an idol.  This is a false kind of faith.  True and real faith must be in alignment and agreement with biblical revelation.  When faith is real, the depth of one’s character and faith manifests itself in the quietness of the soul when faced with life’s greatest tests and difficulties.

          We can certainly affirm the Bible doctrine of the eternal security of the believer from several Scripture texts, two of which are Colossians 2:4-12 and II Corinthians 5:17.  In other words, if a believer believes and is “born again” of the Spirit of God, that believer is eternally secure in his new regeneration position.  If a believer’s faith is real faith, he will continue in that faith throughout his life.  If he has understood the Gospel of Christ and that the gift of salvation is completely apart from human works or human merit, he will not later begin to trust in some form of religious ritual, sacrifice, or sacrament, his own efforts at holiness, or some religious experience to aid him in being saved or to complete his salvation.  This is the substance of the Epistle to the Colossians.  The Epistle to the Hebrews confirms that real saving faith will continue to believe what it began to believe.  Real saving faith may grow in strength, but it never changes in substance.  If Satan can change the substance of someone’s faith in Christ, they never had real faith in the first place. 

4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness {that which has been made firm or fortified against attack} of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord {John 1:12; ‘by grace through faith’}, so walk ye in him {‘by grace through faith’ as His obedient and faithful subjects}: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished {confirmed or strengthened; made more firm} in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding {exceeding, increasing, excelling} therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you {lead you away or astray} through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete {perfect, passive} in him {referring to the baptism with the Spirit ‘in Christ’ positionally in ‘the regeneration’}, which {Jesus as the ‘last Adam’ and the ‘firstborn’ of the regeneration} is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised {aorist, passive; positionally} with the {spiritual} circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried {aorist, passive; positionally} with him in {spiritual} baptism, wherein also ye are risen {aorist, passive; positionally} with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:4-12).

As already established, the “faith” described in Hebrews 11:1 sees certainty in the promises of God for which we hope.  We know of these promises only through knowing and believing the Word of God.  The “faith” described in Hebrews 11:1 is the faith that accepts God’s promises.  This is the faith that accepts those promises because of certainty in knowing that God cannot lie or deceive.  If we believe in the God of the Bible, and that what He says about Himself is true, true faith accepts these inspired Truths as absolute facts (“substance” – reality) producing a surety of hope (assurance).  This is certainly true of salvation.  If salvation is an event and not a process, if the event has happened, it cannot be undone. 

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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