The following is excerpted from the book "New Testament Christianity," written by Lancelot Oliver and first published in Birmingham, England in 1911. This, from the tenth chapter of that book, is an excellent treatise on the subject of faith.
Some wording and spelling has been modified to reflect the modern American usage of the English language. Also, some slight modifications of archaic phrasing have been made that do not effect the meaning of the sentence, but make the reading easier, and Mr. Oliver's reference to the particular assembly of his attendance has been deleted with appropriate editing to maintain the thought that he was presenting. Mr. Oliver had not made the discovery of our Eloah's true name, Yahuwah, or that of His Son, Yahushua, or the names of other people and places mentioned in scripture. No effort was made to correct this lack of knowledge. As more light shines into the darkness, information such as this will become apparent to all.
Chapter 10 - In the preceding chapter we have seen that the Gospel has conditions of salvation, and that these are quite harmonious with the great feature of Christianity - salvation by grace; that these conditions are not arbitrary, but each is necessary in the nature of salvation. To speak of being saved without complying with these conditions is the same as, in natural life, to speak of living without breathing; or being healed by a medicine without taking or using that medicine. The great thing, of course, is not our understanding of the need for the conditions, but our complying with them; yet what we say of the first of these -- faith -- we have so arranged as at once to show (1) faith is required, and (2) the reason for its being so.
I. WHEN SALVATION FROM SIN IS IN VIEW, FAITH IS ALWAYS THE CHIEF CONDITION OF SALVATION.
John's Gospel is full of it, from the first chapter, where we read that, "To as many as received Him gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name," to the twentieth chapter, where Jesus says, "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." The Apostle tells us, also, that His whole narrative was written that its readers might "believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing they might have life in His Name" (John 20:31).
When Jesus was asked, before His death, "What must we do?" He replied, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent"; and after His death and His resurrection, in the great commission given to the Apostles, He said, "Preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Here faith is the first requirement.
In the Acts of the Apostles, inspired preachers often name faith as if it were the only condition of salvation. Thus Peter said to Cornelius and his friends, "Through His [Christ's] name every one that believeth on Him shall receive the remission of sins." So, too, Paul at Antioch in Pisidia said, "By Him [Yahushua] every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which He could not be justified by the law of Mosheh."
In the Epistles the same primacy is given to faith. Paul discusses justification in the first five chapters of Romans, and the condition he names is ever believing. The Gospel he declares to be "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth . . . for therein a righteousness of God is revealed by faith unto faith." So in the great charter of salvation (Romans 3:19-31), the condition on man's side is faith. Thus we are told that the righteousness of God, that is, justification, is through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe. Christ Jesus is "a propitiation, through faith." God is the justifier of him that "hath faith in Jesus."
To the same effect is the constant habit of the Apostle of calling the Christians, "the faithful in Christ Jesus" -- "the believing" -- "them that believe," and the like. Nothing could better show that to him what gave the disciples of Christ character and standing and salvation, and distinguished them from the unsaved, was obedient faith.
Let me name finally the Epistle to the Hebrews as throughout insisting on this great condition of believing. The climax is reached in chapter 11. "We are not," says the writer, "of those that shrink back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." And then he proceeds to exemplify from the Hebrew Scripture the power of faith. We shall refer to this chapter again, but here conclude this glance at the emphasis placed on faith as a condition of salvation, by quoting a well-known statement which occurs in this chapter, "Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto God."
Now, why is this prominence given to faith? We have seen that the "pre-eminence" is given to Christ; but we see good reason for that. We have seen, too, that the Resurrection has the chief place among proofs of Christ's divinity and authority and the Father's acceptance of His sacrificial death; but here, again, there is nothing arbitrary -- the fact in itself deserved to be selected for special prominence. One quite expects, therefore, to find that there is something in the nature of faith itself which fits it also for the important place it occupies; that here, too, we shall find that God is not arbitrary in insisting that we "believe on Him whom He hath sent." Because there was a necessity in the nature of things, faith is required in order to obtain salvation. To show this, consider
II. THE NATURE OF FAITH.
Well, now, what is faith? We need not waste words. Faith in Christ is just the same as faith in anything or any one else. I suppose we all know what it is to have faith in any one. We trust him. A father one day was asked by his little girl what faith was. He placed her on the sill of a window, and standing below with his arms open, bade her leap into his arms. She did so at once. She trusted him to catch her in safety. He told her that faith in Christ was just to trust in Christ as she trusted in her father.
We exercise this trust in our fellow men every day. We rush to the railway station, get our ticket, and are presently being whirled through the country at express speed. It seems wonderful that we should have such confidence -- another word that gives the essence of faith -- in railway companies. Yet this great faith is exercised every day.
Faith is trust. But, of course, this faith or trust in a person will be in proportion to what we are assured of about him. Hence there are certain statements about Christ which are to be believed; we are asked to have faith in them. There is one which is prominent as a summary of the truth about Him. John the Apostle said he wrote his book of signs that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. When a statement is in view, faith is belief. In English we say that we trust a person, but that we believe in a statement. So we might say that faith is trust in a person, or belief in a statement. But we see that in reality there is no difference. It is trust or confidence in both cases; and when statements are about Christ, telling who He is and what His work is, to say that we believe these statements, is to say that we believe in Him, trust Him. Why do so many people think that faith as a Gospel condition is something different from this everyday faith such as we have in our fellowmen? Partly, at least, because it is seen that faith in Christ saves, and faith in no one else, or nothing else, can save. Yet that very statement shows that we should seek the difference, not in the nature of the faith, but in the object of faith. It is because faith in Christ is faith IN THE SAVIOR that this faith saves.
There is a likeness between faith and sight which helps to illustrate this important truth -- that faith in Christ is the same as faith in any one else, but that the difference lies in the person believed in. Today I meet a lion, escaped from some menagerie; the sight fills me with dread. Tomorrow I meet a dear friend not seen for many years; the sight fills me with delight. Why this difference? My eyes are the same; the atmosphere is the same! The different effect in me is due to the different objects seen, not to any difference in the seeing.
Faith, then, is familiar to us in everyday life, is trust in a person, or belief of a statement. We can now proceed to consider:
III. REASONS FOR GOD REQUIRING FAITH AS THE PRIMARY CONDITION OF SALVATION.
Note first how our refusal to believe in Christ would place us with the relation of God. The Epistle to the Hebrews says that "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God"; the Apostle John shows this specially in relation to Christ. He says of Jesus, "What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness; and no man receiveth his witness. He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this that God is true." Now, the opposite is, of course, implied -- he that does not receive the witness of Christ rejects God's gracious provision for our salvation. He makes God a liar. Suppose you were seriously ill, and some wealthy and good-hearted man sent to you the only specialist who could cure you, and you were to refuse to trust that great physician. The cure is shut from you by your lack of trust, and the good-hearted friend is not well-pleased, but grieved. One sees here the need of faith. It is, remember, the object of faith, Christ and this Revelation of God and His atoning work, which saves, but only by faith can these reach and change the heart.
Again, other conditions can only be acceptable as conditions of salvation, when they are obeyed by believers. Their obedience must be, to use Paul's pregnant phrase, "the obedience of faith."
There are other conditions, as we shall see in the succeeding chapters on Repentance, Confession and Baptism. Meantime we refer to Mark 16:15-16, where baptism is linked with faith as a condition of salvation; to Acts 2:37-38, where repentance is prefixed to baptism as a condition of remission of sins; and to Romans. 10:8-10, where confession of Christ as Lord is declared to be "unto salvation." We see, then, that no one can scripturally say that faith is the only condition of salvation.
But faith is the chief condition, because neither repentance nor baptism could be conditions of salvation unless they were the repentance and baptism of believers, and are themselves caused by, and are the obedience of, faith. What would repentance and baptism, as conditions of salvation, mean to one who does not accept Christ as Savior? Why, they would mean that by rendering obedience in these the sinner was meriting salvation. The repentance and baptism would be in the position in which the works of the Law were to the Jews. By such works Paul declared no flesh can be justified. Or again, on this supposition, repentance and baptism would be in the same position as are works of penance in the Roman Catholic system, in contrast to which Luther, rightly, for he followed Paul, declared that faith alone "saved." But for the believer all such views of repentance, confession, or baptism, are shut out by his faith in Christ. Christ is the ground of his salvation, and his repentance and baptism are simply results and expressions of his faith in Christ.
This primary character of faith underlies the fact that, though the early converts evidently obeyed the commands requiring repentance and baptism, they are not called "repentants," nor "baptized believers," but simply "believers," "the faithful" or "those that believed." When Paul discusses justification in Romans 1:5, he never mentions baptism. This was, of course, because baptism from this point of view was understood as having no value except as an act of faith, and is therefore regarded as covered by the one condition -- faith.
On the other hand, it was also taken for granted that a believer had been baptized. Thus when Paul at Ephesus found certain disciples, he said unto them, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" and receiving the reply, "Nay, we did not so much as hear that the Holy Spirit was given," he did not say, Well, then, you must not have been baptized! What he asked was, "Into what then were ye baptized?" He took it for granted, and in fact was right in doing so, that when they believed they were immediately baptized. The one was involved and implied in the other.
Some readers may object to baptism, in faith, as being considered a condition of salvation for believers only. Something that refutes this thought is that infants, who cannot believe, or cannot knowingly be unbelievers, cannot scripturally be baptized (yet we must be as innocent as them in order to enter the kingdom of God). However, baptism is not a condition of salvation except as the act of a man's faith submitting, in complete acknowledgment of his need of a Savior, to Jesus Christ as the God-provided and only Savior of sinners. His position in accepting baptism in this case, is the New Testament position. Our faith in Christ involves our unqualified reliance on Christ and His blood for remission of sins, and our repentance, confession and baptism are but the divinely required expressions of that trust or faith in Christ which makes both them and us acceptable to God.
Another reason for the prominence of faith is that without it we cannot realize the blessedness Christ gives. Peter says, "To you that believe is the preciousness." Accordingly the poet rightly says:
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds,
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear."
As a simple fact the name of Jesus is this to the believer only. But the more we know of Jesus, believing it all true, the more do we realize that it can be said of us now, as Peter said of those believers long ago; when, referring to Jesus Christ, he said, "Whom, having not seen, ye love, on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Paul also speaks of joy in believing. These descriptions are true to experience; and if there were no other reason why faith should be required, this one were enough; the inestimable treasures of comfort and inspiration which are in Christ are like a landscape to a blind man's eye to the man who does not believe. Thus Tennyson, addressing the "strong Son of God, Immortal Love," says:
" Whom we, that have not seen Thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace."
Following this a step farther, we find faith thus realizing the treasures in Christ, leads on to hope. "Faith leads to hope and is indispensable to it," is a summary of Hebrews 11. This chapter has for its theme the relation of faith to hope. "Faith," it declares, "is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen"; that is, the man who trusts God looks hopefully for the fulfillment of His promises.
But the climax still remains, Love to God arises through faith. It is when we believe God to be, and to have done, as set forth in Christ, that we "love him who first loved us." An Apostle has put this in a concise form when he speaks of "Faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6).
Indeed for the Apostles the whole life of the Christian was the outcome of faith; faith begat hope, and love. Sometimes these are placed together, as when we read of "the work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope"; or in the grand summary of the "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13, "Now abideth faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love." Love is greatest, but faith is first; and when it is desired to refer the whole new life to one of these, faith is named, because it is from it that our hope and love arise. Exact, therefore, not less than striking, is Paul's account of his Christian life: "That life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
This is as much as to say, "My faith inspires my love because I believe in Christ's love." There is no contradiction between saying that, of faith, hope, love, LOVE is greatest and that faith is all-important. Love is of God, for God is love. The great importance of faith, indeed, is partly due to the fact that it is a cause of love. For if we did not believe, the pure flame of God's love would not enter our hearts and kindle there a responsive flame. As we have seen, faith is so emphatically insisted upon because it is out of faith that obedience and hope and love arise.
It is much the same thing if, finally, we note that John and James both regard faith as all-important because of the operations it incites. Says John, "This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith," and James will not allow the reality of an alleged faith that does nothing. "Show me," exclaims he, "thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith." Faith, apart from works operated by it, is no more faith than a corpse, apart from the spirit that animates it, is a living man. So writes James (James 2:26). How beautifully harmonious is the plan of salvation! How sweetly reasonable are all God's requirements! Considering that salvation implies that man must freely come into loving harmony with God, and that such harmony could not be unless man's mind and heart could be persuaded and changed, there was no other way but that God first speak and act so as to reveal His great love, and then also provide the evidence which would carry conviction of this revelation home to the human mind and heart. To these requirements God graciously adapts His means. First the revelation is made in Christ, God's beloved Son, who by His divine nature, character, and self-sacrifice even unto death, makes known the Father; then, that faith in this revelation of God in Christ might be ensured, God raised Him from the dead, and an overwhelming body of evidence was made available that this demonstrating and confirming miracle had actually taken place. Paul, literally rendered, states that in raising Christ from the dead, God gives faith itself. "He hath given faith unto all men, in that he hath raised Him from the dead," Acts 17:31. That can only mean that God, by giving the evidence, has made it possible for any one, for all men, to have faith. May we all be wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
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