Assumptions, Traditions and a Biblical Filter
I recently succumbed to the internet phenomenon of Facebook and became a member of the online community. It has been fun to find people I knew from 20 years ago and more, even on the other side of the world. There's a feature of facebook that allows you to become a "fan" of a person or organization and what it means is that when they post something, it appears on your "wall" and you can see it and read it automatically, without having to go to their site to see it. Well, I have signed up with a number of ministries I enjoy and its been great to read their insights as they post them. However, I signed up to become a "fan" of a certain evangelist who shall be nameless (his name is not important for the sake of this article). The reason for signing up was that he is regularly stirring up the Body of Christ to get the Gospel out to people and I appreciate this so much and look forward to his comments in this regard. Today though, he shifted focus and talked about faith. Now I love the subject of faith and was interested in what he had to say. I read his words but realized quickly that we would not be seeing eye to eye when it came to this theme. That is because he assumes man's ability to believe the Gospel outside of regeneration. I think the best way to explain this is to quote his words below in italics and then add my own comments.
The elementary fact is that faith is in-built. We are born believers.
hmmm.. Isn't this an assumption rather than something Scripture teaches? Does not Scripture teach that we are born spiritually dead and need resurrection (Romans 5; Eph 2; 1 Cor 15)?
If you think you have no faith â€“ try it! Try not believing in anything or anybody â€“ your wife, husband, doctor, bank, boss, baker, or chef.
Certainly unregenerate man believes many things.. it is impossible NOT to believe something... but faith in Christ is impossible for natural man outside of God's activity. Jesus said, "NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS the Father who sent Me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44).
There are no guarantees, but we put our lives into the hands of surgeons and trust drivers of trains, cars, and planes without thinking of faith. But that is what it is. Faith is a kind of immune system filtering out fears that otherwise would paralyze all activity. When it fails we develop all kinds of phobias and compulsions. It is a nervous breakdown. Jesus said not to have phobia but faith (Luke 8:50).
This is true concerning natural faith, but again, not true of the supernatural faith that is God's gift to His elect people.
Stop using this faculty of faith and you would never get out of bed in the morning or step outside. You might think that the sky could fall down. In this world a million cobra troubles are coiled to strike, but we carry on, usually quite regardless and confident.
True concerning natural faith... the faith everyone operates in to function in this world.
The Bible says that God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Christ said, â€œOnly believeâ€ (Mark 5:36), because we can.
This is where tradition is the foundation of all that follows. This is simply an assumption. Historically, this is Pelagianism personified - something dismissed as heresy by the Church. The assumption is that the command implies ability (outside of grace) - that because God commands us to do something, we must in fact have the ability to do it.. and in fact God would be unjust to command us to do something we could not do. But this is not the case. God commands us to do things that are impossible outside of grace. He commands men to be perfect even as His Father is perfect.. Man is responsible to believe.. but cannot do so, not because he has no faculty to believe, but because his heart is at enmity with God until the stony heart is removed. The Romans 12:3 scripture verse is a verse written to the church (not everyone in the world). This is made clear by reading the entire verse. Romans 12: 3 states, "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Specifically in the context of the faith needed to fulfill our ministries in the Body of Christ, Paul writes not to everyone in the world but to "everyone among you." The faith he speaks of is a faith given to those in the Church - God's elect people. 2 Thess. 3:2 tells us very clearly "not all have faith."
There is no mystique about faith. Perhaps little children are the biggest believers. Many a time I have lifted a child in my arms, but not one ever screamed for fear of falling. Jesus Himself carried a child as an illustrated sermon. He said that the child carried a passport to the Kingdom of God.
This is the kind of faith we need, certainly.. no doubt about it. But it is not something inherent within natural man. "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God and NEITHER CAN HE DO SO because they are spiritually discerned.." 1 Cor 2:14
It is so important to test our traditions. Each of us have them and those most blind to them are those who do not believe they have any. Lets always use a biblical filter when we read or listen to anyone out there, including me, checking the context for verses quoted and not just assuming that because God is using an individual, all he says is true. Lets be like the Bereans, who, as Acts 17 records, "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."