There are times when the Lord made reference to the disciples having little faith. One example is found in Matthew 8:23-27. Little faith translates a single compound word in the original language, oligospistos. Oligos means small as in number or size. Pistos means belief or faith and is the noun form of Pisteuo, the verb to believe. Pistos or faith, being a noun, refers to what is believed. It is not describing the intensity or strength by which it is held. So, when Jesus Christ said the disciples had little faith, He was saying their belief structure was limited in content or range.
The context makes that clear. In Matthew 8:18 the Lord had instructed the disciples to set out in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As they were making the crossing the wind picked up and with it the waves. They were apparently taking on water and the men were afraid they would be swamped. The Lord was sleeping but they woke Him up saying “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And Jesus Christ replied, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Now, based on their words I have no doubt they believed Jesus could save them and I’m sure they strongly held that belief. So, what could Christ have meant by saying their faith was small?
Let’s go back to v. 18 where the Lord had instructed them to take the boat to the other side of the lake. When Jesus Christ, being God, says we’re going to cross the lake it means they were going to cross the lake. When they woke Him up, they had not yet reached the other side. Therefore, the boat was not going to sink. At least not until they had reached the other shore. We are to believe, life by, every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. They forgot that and so the Lord referred to their faith as little.
Summary: Believe means to be persuaded something is true. It is a simple either/or process. You either believe a proposition is true or you don’t. There are no degrees of believing. Belief or faith is the what of believing, the object or content. Those distinctions are important because confusion on their meaning will rob you of the fullness of joy the Lord wants for you. The secret to avoiding little faith is to read your Bible. Learn about all that God has promised, 2 Peter 1:2-4.
How do I know I have truly believed in Jesus Christ and have eternal life? A lot of people wrestle with that question likely due to the confusing way Salvation is often presented. They hear things like everlasting life is a free gift from God through faith which is quickly followed by some additional condition that must be fulfilled. Such as if your life hasn’t changed in some particular way then you haven’t actually or truly believed. I heard one pastor say it this way, if you aren’t different then you haven’t got it. It being everlasting life.
Those who say such things are basically presenting two false concepts. The first being you cannot trust what you believe. Why, because there is apparently more than one way to believe something. That is what they are implying when using terms like genuine faith, saving faith and truly believe. I know it sounds absurd but using those terms suggest there is a way to believe something while not actually believing it. The second error is they slander the Creator God. When Jesus Christ told Nicodemus “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” He (Jesus Christ) didn’t actually mean it. If that is the case then abandon all hope for we have nothing for which to live.
Jesus Christ said we can trust the word of God. He asserted the Bible is completely trustworthy. So, accepting that as true, here is something that sheds light on the Biblical concept of believing. I have not found a single place in the Gospels where the word believe is modified by an adverb. I find it significant that Jesus Christ always spoke of believing as if it was a binary function. You either believe or you don’t. Some references you can check out for yourself in the Gospel of John: John 1:2, 3:16, 5:24, 6:29, 6:47, 11:25-26. These verses deal specifically with receiving everlasting life, but you will find the same thing true of the Lord’s other uses of the word believe.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast Ephesians 2:8 & 9. If you have believed in Jesus Christ for everlasting life then He has given you everlasting life. You have only to look to His words for the assurance you have life. We rest in His promise not what we do.
I imagine if you were to ask 10 Christians what they believed about the Bible you would get several different answers. Let me briefly explain how we at Trego Community Church understand the Bible as God’s Word.
Our Doctrinal statement says:
We believe that the Bible is the Word of God fully inspired and without error in the original manuscripts (2 Timothy 3:16). It was written by men under the direction of the Holy Spirit and has supreme authority in all matters on which it speaks. (2 Peter 2:20-21.)
Here is what is behind those 2 sentences. 2 Timothy 3:16 is where we get the word inspired. The Greek word being translated is theopenustos and literally translated would be “Godbreathed.” Pictures God breathing into the human authors the words they wrote down. It was not a forced auto writing but allowed for their own personalities and styles to show through while maintaining the content God wanted recorded. However, some of it actually was dictated by God to the human authors. We also hold that it only applies to the original documents. There isn’t an inspired translation. But, due to the thousands of ancient copies available for study there is high confidence in the accuracy of most translations.
We also have the testimony of Jesus Christ to shore up our understanding of inspiration. Speaking of the O.T. Scriptures He said the following in Matthew 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” That indicates we can trust God was guiding even the spelling of each word. In Matthew 22:29-32 Jesus Christ pointed to the verb tense in Exodus 3:6 as proof of resurrection for believers after death. So, God was also behind the grammatical structure of the O.T. Scriptures.
Does that same understanding apply to the N.T. Scriptures. I believe the answer is yes. Jesus Christ promised the Apostles that the Holy Spirit, the agent behind the O.T. Bible, would also guide them in recording what He had taught them. John 15:26 & 27; 16:13-15 are those promises.
What all that means is this, we must take the Bible at face value. Our study should be focused on staying within the original intent of God and His human authors. They were writing within the context of their culture using illustrations and figures of speech of that day. So, we don’t apply 21st century meanings to the words they used. Bible study is serious business. The Apostle James warned “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things.” There will be an accounting and none of us want be questioned by the Lord on why we did not teach accurately what He had said.
A question remains as to why many Bible believing Christians say repentance of sin is a requirement for receiving everlasting life when Jesus Christ didn’t say it was. One reason I’ve been given by several individuals was because that is what their pastor teaches. I imagine another reason is because that is what their Church’s statement of faith says. That suggests to me they haven’t thought it through, just accepted the word of an authority figure.
F. F. Bruce and J. V. McGee suggest another more likely reason. It may boil down to the most basic human attribute of self-interest; Just plain old pride. People want to believe they have done something worthy of God’s favorable notice. Yes, it is by grace through faith, but I had some part in the process. And that drives the need to redefine faith as being something other than mere belief. It cannot just be mental assent. There must be some sense of commitment or trust.
I suspect that for many the best indication of a committed faith is repentance of sin. It only makes sense to them that God would require that. Except He doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense to God and He is the one who sets the rules. Reading through the N.T. Gospels you will not find Jesus Christ ever tying repentance of sin to the gift of everlasting life.
Nor is there any mention of a special class of faith required. The verb Pisteuo (Believe) is never modified by an adverb. And that is important, because if you accept as true that the Bible is God’s word then you must acknowledge God says what He means. The Lord says precisely what He means so every word used or not used is important.
The gift of everlasting life is given by grace through the simplicity of faith.
I get a fair number of questions about the meaning of repentance. Especially, as many churches’ doctrinal statements say repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ is how one receives everlasting life. Since the Gospel of John, the only N.T. evangelistic Gospel, never records Jesus Christ mentioning repentance of sin as a requirement I don’t believe we should either. The Lord makes it clear that belief in Him for everlasting life is all He wants from us to receive the gift of life. John 3:14-16 and John 11:25-26 being representative of His position.
Repentance means to make a change. It could be a change of mind which could also mean a change in behavior. The object of repentance depends on the Context. On the day of Pentecost in response to Peter’s sermon the people asked what shall we do. Peter’s reply was to repent and be baptized. Since the topic of his sermon was Israel’s rejection and execution of Jesus Christ, they needed to change their minds about the identity of Christ. They could not undo what had been done but they could now admit Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah. It appears Peter took their question “what shall we do” as an indication they now believed.
I’ve heard people use 2 Corinthians 7:10 to support the need for repentance of sin to be saved. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation (Grk. Soteria), not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” 2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV. However, the context is about a member of that church, a believer, turning away from an open and know sin. In this case Paul was using the word soteria in its broader sense of deliverance and not as a specific reference to justification. This is an example of repentance in a believer requiring both a change of mind and behavior.
A couple of years ago while teaching a class on one of Paul’s Epistles I made the following statement. “You cannot believe in something you do not know.” I was surprised that some in the class disagreed. It wasn’t until later that I realized the disagreement was really centered around not understanding the difference between knowing and having an opinion. Opinions are judgements or appraisals we form about subjects on which we lack factual knowledge. Often times those judgements are based on an experience and therefore have an emotional element attached. That makes them hard to let go of even it not true.
What makes this relevant is the premise of my first Blog post: Knowledge of God is not intuitive. Of all the different possibilities, opinions and religions that exist, only one of the following options is true. Either all are false or one of them is true. At a fairly early age I had figured out there can only be one infinite being. Infinite by definition means no boundaries. Therefore poly-theistic religions are suspect because they stop short of identifying the one supreme and necessary existence. I found the atheist denial of an intelligent deity was plagued with no viable explanation for our origins. Plenty of theories but no way to test them leaves us with the option of pick which ever one you like and believe it. But that circled me back to the issue of believing something I can’t know as factually real.
So, in the late 1960’s while serving in the military I found a new urgency to come up with a world view that rang of truth. I wanted answers to some very serious questions. The big one being does our subconscious sense of immortality mean something. Sigmund Freud was surprised by that and admitted there wasn’t an evolutionary explanation for it. He stuck with atheism. My concern was a bit more pedestrian. Being a theist, I wanted to know if our trip through this reality lead to a heaven or hell. I had opinions but nothing I could say were factually true.
And that is when I crossed paths with some Bible believing Christians. They took time to explain what Christmas and Easter were all about. I was provided material that laid out the prophetic support for the Deity of Jesus Christ and the evidence for His resurrection having actually happened. No pressure just a rationale that made sense and was supported by eyewitness testimony. 55 years ago I believed Jesus Christ was able and willing to give me everlasting life for believing in Him. And that has made all the difference.
The Christmas season is here and it is a perfect time to be talking about Jesus Christ. About 27 years after He was born into the Human Race, Jesus began His public ministry. He was presenting Himself as the promised Messiah prior to His death by crucifixion that would resolve the issue of our sin. And initially most of Israel’s leadership were thinking this man might be the One, the promised redeemer. One man in particular, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, approached Jesus Christ seeking the answer to the big question. Will I make into Heaven?
If you have already read John 3 you know Nicodemus did not start with that question. But the Lord knew what was on his mind so that was the question He answered. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus had lived his entire life trying to be good enough to reach Heaven, the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ just told him he had wasted his time. Because his problem was he did not possess life, everlasting life. Nicodemus was dead in the sense of not having the kind of life needed to enter the Kingdom.
He may have been shocked by that but based on his response it’s clear he got it. He just didn’t know how one could experience this second birth. So, he asked “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” The answer Jesus had for him is in verses 14-16 of John 3: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
You can read about the serpent in the wilderness in Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, being lifted up was referring to His as yet future crucifixion. That is when He would die for the sin of the entire world. In Numbers 21 the cure for snake bite was to look at the snake on the pole. The way to be born again is similar. Look to Jesus Christ by faith believing that Christ has the power to give everlasting life and that He will give it to anyone who will believe in Him for it. I realize it seems there should be more to it than that, but I can only go with what Jesus Christ said. He is God after all, so we should be able to trust what He said. Do you still have questions? You could use the comments tab to ask them. I might be able to provide an answer.
With the world in so much turmoil today it’s good to know God is moving us to a defined and wonderful future. Most of us would like to see it get here sooner, but we need to trust that God is doing the right thing by delaying. When the time is right Jesus Christ will return and establish the promise new world. And it will be something to see. We have short description of how it will be in a prophecy found in Isaiah 9:6 & 7.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
The Picture is of an ever-expanding kingdom characterized by peace. Led by Jesus Christ. The Son of God given to be born as a man. That is the future. For now God is dealing with the fact we have all strayed out of bounds, we’ve sinned. That means we are not qualified to live in that wonderful kingdom. We are dead to that future. That is unless we have believed in Jesus Christ for everlasting life. It seems God’s plan is to pre-qualify everyone who will populate the New World to come. Deal with the risks of free will now once and for all. I’ll explain how He is doing that next by looking at the Apostle John’s record of Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus Christ in John chapter 1. I’ll write about that next. In the mean time why not read it for yourself.
The Bible starts with the Book of Beginnings: Genesis. It starts with God creating the Universe. One might suppose it would explain God’s origin, but that’s not possible since God is eternal. God exists outside of time and has no beginning. He just is. That is the one hard unexplainable fact of existence. Everything else that exists was made by God.
Genesis also lays out His purpose for the creation. God’s objective for the human race is explained in Genesis 1:26-28. God gave Adam and His descendants the right to fill the earth and subdue the planet. Subdue in the sense of shaping and making use of its resources. He also gave us dominion over all the life on the planet. Essentially, He delegated to the human race the right to co-reign over this planet. We could develop it and shape its future to our wishes within the limits of His own intentions. He never completely surrendered His rights as Creator to govern the universe He made.
How has it turned out? Well, we did get the “be fruitful and multiply part” down as we have filled the earth. The ruling part has not gone all that well. Having the freedom of rule meant the possibility of going out of bounds. It is what the Bible calls sin, doing things contrary to God’s purpose. Still, God has not revoked His commission for us to rule. He still intends to bring about the kingdom concept He launched in Genesis 1. That is what the rest of the Bible is all about.
Knowledge of God
Is knowledge of God intuitive, something so obvious we can achieve it simply by the power of our intellect? The Atheist obviously believes that and yet concludes there is no God. The Agnostic is not so sure but assumes the answer is no. A survey of the various religions that have sprung up around the world doesn’t offer much hope. Since they each hold contradictory views of God it strongly suggests detailed knowledge of God requires His input.
The universe makes a strong case for the existence of God. But beyond the necessary requirement of intelligence and power there is not much it can tell us about His attributes or person. Again, our only hope rests in God having a desire to speak to us. So, the question becomes has He and if so when and how.
We at Trego Community Church believe God has spoken. Furthermore, we find the Jewish and Christian Scriptures as compiled in the Bible to be the most credible source of information about God. It traces God’s interactions with His creation and creatures from the beginning. It also gives us a look at the future to which He is leading us. And that is why studying the Bible is the focus of our ministry at Trego Community Church.