What the Bible says about
Faith, Walking By
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Despite this vivid chapter's impressively detailed description of God's personal involvement, does it not appear that, because the world is so evil, Satan has far more to do with affairs on earth than God? Countering that, though, is that God's Word shows Satan has a tight-enough leash on him that he can do only what God permits. The reality is that, despite appearances, God is in complete control.
How can we know this for certain? It depends on whether we are walking by faith or by sight. What does walking by faith signify? It means that our thoughts about life's events and the circumstances they create and our conduct are regulated and carried out based on the Word of God. It is literally and truly our guide.
News reports indicate that the pillars of our culture are crumbling and are clearly out of joint (Psalm 11:3). We know from Bible prophecy that living conditions are going to get worse. With that witness so apparent before our eyes, whom do we believe is regulating affairs on this earth—God or the Devil?
Consider an example that is especially close to many of us. As our former church fellowship blew apart, many said Satan did it. Did he? No, he did not. Saying that Satan did it is nothing more than an easy escape from the reality that we may have had a part in causing its breakup. It is more likely that our Father in heaven took us to the woodshed.
Our perspective on this might simply be ignorance of biblical reality. To anyone who understands what the Bible says, only one Person could do such a thing, and that is our sovereign God. Who scattered Israel? Did Satan? The Bible barely mentions him in this context. God boldly takes credit for scattering Israel directly and the church in symbol in Lamentations 2 and many other places.
The first humans failed their test of faith. They trusted what they "saw" rather than believing what God said—His words—and became the first example of man choosing to walk by sight rather than by faith. Humanity has followed this example ever since, proving that Adam and Eve's faithlessness was not an aberration but a trait of every human heart, including ours.
What were the consequences of this sin, this act of faithlessness? The answer is in Genesis 3:24: "So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life."
Adam and Eve's sin of faithlessness destroyed the close relationship they had with God. Because they did not trust Him, their lack of faith put a barrier between themselves and God. The broken trust, faithlessness, ruined that relationship just as it does in our human relationships.
Adam and Eve chose to follow the faithless Satan rather than the faithful God. Satan persuaded them to focus on what they could see rather than what God said. The strategy was so successful that Satan has consistently used it on humanity.
Satan is the prime example of faithlessness. Satan believes God exists, but his is a dead faith because it does not lead to right action. James 2:19-20, from the New Living Translation, forcefully points out the futility and foolishness of Satan's faith: "Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?"
Faith—What Is It?
The solution to the Ecclesiastes 7:15-22 conundrum involves the converted person's faith in God. At the same time, it also heavily involves his fear of God and applying thoughtful wisdom to ensure he analyzes the situation accurately. Two of these spiritual qualities are directly named in Ecclesiastes 7, while faith, which is not directly named, is critical to the right solution. Influencing all three qualities is knowing God well enough from within the relationship to activate them all correctly. Consider II Corinthians 5:4-7:
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.
God is preparing us for entrance into His Kingdom in a similar way a human instructor prepares a school student for graduation and service. There are two major differences though: We must matriculate our lessons by faith, and in our case, the purpose—to be clothed with glory and eternal life—is huge by comparison.
These verses assure us that God has made a contract with us—the New Covenant—in which we are responsible for carrying out assigned duties. He is preparing us to fulfill those responsibilities to a far greater extent in His Kingdom. As He is preparing us, we must live by faith.
Luke 14:26-27 reminds us of the seriousness of the pledge we made to Jesus Christ at baptism, to live by faith while carrying out our responsibilities. This serious commitment works in our favor. Knowing God's character from the midst of this close relationship, we can always confidently be reassured that God is in control despite how difficult events look to us. This truth became the foundation for the psalmist's victory in his situation (Psalm 73). Our responsibility is to trust Him as the psalmist did, to walk by faith, not by appearance or physical observation. God is faithful!
Paul, then, clearly establishes what our aim should be no matter the circumstances in our lives. We should desire to please God by being faithful to Him in return as demonstrated by trusting Him. He reinforces this by stating that we must be ready to answer for our choices.
Romans and Ephesians make it clear that God accepts us in His presence at conversion and at all times during conversion only upon the meritorious sinless works of Jesus Christ. This is because, as Paul shows in Romans 7, sin stains all our works no matter how meritorious they may seem to us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Twelve): Paradox, Conclusion
These verses show that the gospel is the means or the vehicle that God uses to save us as long as we live by faith.
We cannot let the idea of "power" slide by without comment. From this Greek word, dunamis, English derives the words "dynamite," "dynamo," and "dynamic"—all of which convey an idea of stored energy that is waiting for the cue to burst into action, sometimes explosively! The gospel Jesus Christ preached contains a dynamic message that is primed to propel a believer to eternal life!
Notice, however, that the gospel is not universal in its application. John 6:44 says that the Father calls specific people to the choice of accepting Christ's gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul makes this same distinction in the phrase "everyone who believes." The gospel will not save even those who profess Christ if they do not believe. As Christ's disciples, we must believe what He teaches us (compare John 6:28-29, 63).
What is belief? Jesus answers in Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." Paul says in Romans 16:25-26: "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest . . . for obedience to the faith. . . ." He also writes in Hebrews 5:9: "And having been perfected, [Christ] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." Simply put, belief is not just agreement with Christ, but also doing what He says. If a person truly believes Christ, he will live like Him. (Faith, belief, obedience, and doing God's will are all intricately related concepts.)
This is why Paul continues as he does in Romans 1:17: "For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" The gospel teaches us what righteousness—right doing—is. God reveals it to us by faith so that we can be faithful ourselves. Succinctly, the gospel instructs us in doing or living what is right, godly, and faithful. As he puts it in II Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith, not by sight."
From this, we can see that the gospel is far more than "believe in name of Jesus, and you shall be saved" (an oversimplification of Acts 4:12).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel (Part 3)
1 Corinthians 10:3-4
Yes we walk in the flesh—meaning we have fleshly bodies. God has made us physical. But, we are not really supposed to walk according to the flesh. "We walk by faith, not by sight."
We live in physical bodies. We have physical lives. We have our physical problems. But the battle we wage is not physical at all! The battle is fought in the realm of belief, ideas, philosophies, teachings, words, principles, and laws. To sum it up, we could say, "We fight the battle in our minds."
That is where it is—in our minds. Or as the Bible often says—within our hearts, our emotions, our personalities, our developing character. Why is that where the battle lies? "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). A person is what goes through his mind, what he allows himself to do, all the decisions that he makes.
We say, "We are what we eat." We know that what we put into our mouths goes into our bodies, and supplies our bodies' needs as energy or raw materials for building and maintenance. We know that our bodies over time replace all the cells that we have! That is the way that God has made us. Our food is the raw material—fuel—that makes us what we are physically.
Well, spiritually it is the same thing. We are what we think! We are what we allow into our minds. René Descartes said, "I think therefore I am [Cogito ergo sum]." It is essentially a true statement because it is our thoughts, and the character that our thoughts have helped to form, that will pass through the grave. Our essential being beyond our physical flesh and blood is what is going to be preserved by God.
Job 32:8 informs us that "there is a spirit in man," and Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12:7, "Then [at death] the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." And God does whatever He does with it. What is recorded on that spirit? The person's thoughts, his memory, his beliefs, his desires, his habits, and his character traits!
God does not work with us through however many years of our lives just to throw away what He accomplished in us through His Spirit.
When we die, He takes what He has made, and He stores it for the resurrection, so at that time, He can return it to us in a spirit body that will live for eternity with Him. What He stores is what goes on in our minds with the human spirit coming into alignment with God's Spirit: what we think, what we believe, all the experiences we have gone through, the habits we have formed, and the character traits that God, by His Spirit, has created in us. Those are the things that pass through the grave.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?
1 Corinthians 10:13
"Common to man" means that the trials that come upon Christians are the same as occur to all men. As we live life, we find that in most cases these trials are unavoidable. They just happen. If it happens in the world, we are part of what is going on in the world, and these things affect us unavoidably. God says that He will provide "the way of escape," implying that there is one right way out of each trial. There may be other optional ways, but Paul is stressing that there is "a way" and "the way." We want "the way," the one that God provides for us. The imagery is of an army trapped during a battle, but suddenly a mountain pass opens up before them to provide them a way out of their dilemma. This illustrates how Christians escape trials.
There is a reason for the Christian going through his trial. The trial God provides is good for him to experience. God wants to see what his reaction will be. Will he avail himself of "a way of escape" that he or the world might provide - or will he submit to "the way of escape" God makes available to him? Certainly, "the way of escape" will always involve the use of faith. God is testing the Christian's response to His declarations and His promises of faithfulness, and He wants to see if he will respond because God is faithful. Which way will he choose?
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)
2 Corinthians 4:17
To help us endure hardship, Paul gives us a valuable mindset when he says our suffering “is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” To see our afflictions as light (Matthew 11:30), we must recognize the value of our calling. We would do well to consider its benefits often. As Paul indicates, the understanding that there is “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” is a necessary component to seeing our trials in this life in comparison as a light affliction, a recognition that enables one to endure to the end.
Therefore, it is vital to know that the price we pay now is minuscule compared to the reward that awaits us. Note the power of that vision:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Having this vision in their lives as a daily reality enabled the heroes of faith to endure to the end. In modern jargon, they did a cost/benefit analysis and concluded that the benefits made the costs insignificant. Christ and Paul made the same analysis, concluding that their burdens and afflictions were light costs compared to what the benefits of eternity held for them.
In Romans 8:18, even with the weight of his trials, Paul again emphasizes that they are infinitesimal costs, so trivial that they are insignificant compared to the mindboggling benefits that await us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
In the King James Version, the first part of Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” For “perish” a better translation is that they “cast off restraint.” Without a vision they lack restraint, leading to disobedience. This results in a people who will not endure to the end, whose fate, then, is to perish. Without a vision of the future that is as tangible to us as the present, we will walk by sight, only seeing the now, rather than by faith seeing as real a true vision of the future. Without that vision, we risk trading the future for the now (Galatians 6:9; II Thessalonians 2:15), a poor bargain indeed.
These verses give great difficulty to those who believe in an unconditional salvation. It is very clear that anyone who fits this description will not be in God's Kingdom.
If it were not possible for us to fall away, why would Paul even write as he did in I Corinthians 9:27? "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified [castaway, KJV]." He also warns in Colossians 1:22-23:
In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight - if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?
"The just shall live by faith" is both a statement of fact about the basis of a Christian's life and a command. It is so important that it appears once in the Old Testament and three times in the New (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). In each case, the context is somewhat different, but its importance to a Christian's salvation is not lost.
The concept is not difficult to understand. Paul further clarifies it in II Corinthians 5:7: "For we walk by faith, and not by sight." A simple definition of faith in Webster's New World Dictionary is "complete trust, confidence, or reliance." At the end of the definitions, "belief" is listed as a synonym. Belief means "faith, esp. religious faith; trust or confidence." The dictionary definitions show that the two words are virtually synonymous. However, in the Bible and in practical application a very wide difference separates merely believing and living by faith.
The practical application of faith is more than simply acknowledging the reality of God. Living by faith involves qualities that are better expressed by the word "trust." This kind of faith produces loyalty or faithfulness expressed in the Christian's life by works of obedience.
Do you think for a moment that the Israelites in the wilderness disbelieved that God existed? Some few may have argued that the miracles they had experienced from the arrival of Moses in Egypt until they died in the wilderness were nothing more than natural phenomena. There are always some doubters and scoffers of that sort (II Peter 3:3-7).
But the vast majority of Israelites could not deny to themselves God's mighty acts on their behalf. They had heard the voice of God at Mount Sinai, had seen a wind from God part the Red Sea, and had escaped death on Passover while the Egyptian firstborn had died. But when God required a higher level of obedience to follow His cloud across the wilderness and depend on Him to supply their every need, the record shows they did not trust Him. Their loyalty dissolved, and they rebelled! They did not have it within them to live, or walk, by faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith
We can tell whether we have the right kind of faith. Hebrews 11:1 provides a definition: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hupostasis, the word translated "substance," means "that which underlies the apparent; that which is the basis of something, hence, assurance, guarantee and confidence" (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, p. 1426). The English "substance" is built from a prefix and a root which together mean "that which stands under." Webster's defines it as "the real or essential part or element of anything; essence, reality, or basic matter." It is very similar in meaning to hupostasis.
Paul is saying that, for Christians, faith underlies what is seen externally in the conduct of their lives. Underlying a building is its foundation, and in most buildings, the foundation is rarely seen. If it is seen at all, usually only a small portion is visible, but it is there. If no foundation exists, the building soon becomes crooked and warped. In most cases, it will collapse and be completely unusable.
Since Paul says, "We walk by faith, not by sight," we understand that underlying the conduct of a Christian's life is not merely believing that God is, but a constant and abiding trust in Him. Since it is impossible for God to lie, we trust that what God has recorded for us to live by is absolute and must be obeyed, and that it will work in our lives regardless of what may be apparent to the senses.
How much of what we do is really motivated by an implicit trust in God's Word? This is how we can tell whether we are living by faith. We must be honest in our evaluation though. We find it very easy to shade the truth through self-deception. We justify disobedience by rationalizing around God's clear commands or examples, saying that our circumstance is special because . . . (fill in the blank).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith
We have generally understood this verse to mean that the material creation, which we can clearly see, was produced from invisible spirit. It is certainly a possible meaning, but it is probably not its primary one. In his book, Great Cloud of Witnesses (pp. 12-14), E. W. Bullinger provides an alternative that appears more accurate and fitting within the context of Hebrews 11.
The word "worlds" is translated from the Greek aion, meaning "age," in the sense of a period of time or a dispensation. It derives from a root that means "continued," and it is used as "world" only when "world" gives a better sense of a period of time, not the physical creation. It could be used if one said "the world that then was" or "the world to come."
"Framed" also appears in Hebrews 10:5, where it is more clearly and accurately translated "prepared." It means "to complete thoroughly," "to rule" (even "overrule"), or "to order" (by God in this case). "Word" is not logos but rhema, meaning "revealed words." Finally, "made" is ginomai, which means "to generate," "to cause to be," "to happen," or "to come to pass." It is not the word normally used to indicate God is creating.
Using these definitions, we could translate the verse as, "By faith we perceive by the revealed words of God that the ages were prepared, so that the things we see come to pass not from things that appear." Those of us who walk by faith know that a great Unseen Hand guides, indeed overrules, events on this earth. This verse means that the historical events we read of in God's Word were not chance occurrences, but God was working behind the scenes to bring His purpose to the conclusion He has foreordained. In short, it says, "God controls the march of history." The great men and women listed in Hebrews 11 lived their lives firmly knowing this truth. That is why they could live in faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!
The author writes, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him." Despite this plain statement, many through the ages have attempted to do so through mere religiosity. Cain is the Bible's first example of this. Nothing in Scripture indicates that he was not religious. Genesis 4:3 shows that he and Abel met with God at a set time, giving the sense of an occasion previously appointed and agreed upon. Cain is a type of the typical worldly religious person. He has God somewhat in mind, but he does not believe God really means all that He says. He chooses what he will believe, revealing the major, unbridgeable gaps in his faith.
Below are fourteen biblical statements on faith's importance. All of them apply during the sanctification period of a Christian's life:
» Romans 5:1-2 says that faith gains a person acceptance before God.
» Romans 4:20 declares that faith glorifies God.
» Hebrews 11:6 reveals that faith pleases God, and He will reward it.
» Isaiah 38:3 states that faith is expressed in humble and loyal sincerity.
» Ephesians 2:8 announces that by grace through faith a convicted and repentant sinner is saved.
» Ephesians 3:17 affirms that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.
» Galatians 2:20 proclaims that we live by faith.
» Romans 11:20 asserts that we stand before God by faith.
» II Corinthians 5:7 confirms that we walk by faith.
» I Peter 5:8-9 shows that we can successfully resist Satan by faith.
» Acts 26:18 establishes that we are experientially sanctified by faith.
» Ephesians 3:11-12 insists that by faith we have boldness to access God.
» I Timothy 6:12 explains that faith sustains us to fight the good fight.
» I John 5:4 demonstrates that we can overcome the world by faith.
The overall lesson of Enoch's life is that, as important as it is, justification is merely a beginning—it is another thing altogether to continue living by faith. The sanctification period and the costs of being a living sacrifice to God drive human nature to devise theological lies like the "Eternal Security" doctrine, also known as "once saved, always saved."
Enoch literally lived a life in which the central issue, its driving force, was his faith in God. Looking at this entirely spiritually, a truth that is important to humility emerges. Just as Enoch's physical translation from one geographical area to another was supernatural, so was his spiritual translation from a carnal, earthy, self-centered person to a God/Christ/Kingdom of God-centered person.
The Bible shows that the heart is the source of our motivations (Matthew 15:17-20). For our hearts to function by faith, we need what God makes possible only through His calling: Our hearts must change. The Bible refers to this as "circumcision made without hands." Living by faith is what pleases God. However, we can have that faith only when God supernaturally translates us into the beginning stages of His realm of living, called in the Bible "eternal life."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)
Nearly fifty times in the New Testament, walking is used as a metaphor to describe how we live our daily lives. These numerous references signify just how important this concept is to God. For instance, Paul exhorts us to make our walk a worthy one (Colossians 1:10), one accomplished by faith and not sight (II Corinthians 5:7).
Enoch walked with God for 300 years (Genesis 5:22, 24). For three centuries, Enoch included God in every aspect of his life. In other words, wherever Enoch was, God was. In life, they were inseparable partners. We can please God as Enoch did by following his example.
How do we include God in every aspect of our lives as Enoch did in such an exemplary way? How do we ensure that God is wherever we are? Striving to pray always accomplishes both. It is a major element in walking with God.
How do we compare to Enoch's example? Can God say of us what He says about Enoch, that He is a partner in every aspect of our lives? Rather than running from God as a Laodicean would, Enoch wanted God to be present and involved in his life. He willingly and without fear subjected himself to God's minute evaluation and examination because of their intimate relationship developed through time and contact.
Enoch's walk with God is an example of a life lived with true dedication, and it can be the same for us. Praying always clearly demonstrates the true intent of the heart and our true dedication to God. The first Great Commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:36-38). Because it is first, we will probably be evaluated on it most thoroughly. Praying always demonstrates our desire to comply with it.
Praying Always (Part Five)
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