11. Faith in the Words of Faith

Check Your Panoply

THE TERM faith occurs 244 times in the whole “New Testament,” and 142 times in Paul’s writings alone. Even more striking is the fact that there are forty occurrences in Romans, exactly the same number as in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts together. That which the apostle explains in the first half of his epistle to the Romans pertains to individual believers. As we have seen earlier in this series, he does not intend to comment on each one’s individual faith; for the faith of the Roman believers at that time was well known in the whole world around the Mediterranean. But there were still deficiencies as to the range of their faith which had to be adjusted. Hence, in the first eight chapters of the letter to the Romans, Paul deals exhaustively with individual justification, individual conciliation, and God’s sovereignty as it pertains to the individual believer. Then the same three topics, though in reverse order, are taken up in the second half of the epistle, now the scope is national; here Israel and the nations as such are in view. Out of the forty occurrences of the term faith in Romans, only thirteen are found in chapters 9 through 16. We shall now discuss what kind of faith is meant in Romans 10.

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Chapter 10 of Romans pertains to Israel, which, as a nation, will be saved when they see Him Whom they pierced, and recognize Him as their Righteousness. “For Christ is the consummation of the law for righteousness to everyone who is believing” (10:4). In that day, the declarations of Christ will be presented to them for their belief. “Consequently faith is out of tidings, yet the tidings through a declaration of Christ” (10:17). When divine vengeance sweeps the earth, the only shelter will be the name of the Lord. In addition to heart belief, oral confession will be mandatory in that day. “Near you is the declaration, in your mouth and in your heart, that is the declaration of faith which we are heralding that, if you should ever be avowing with your mouth the declaration that Jesus is Lord, and should be believing in your heart that God rouses Him from among the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart it is believed for righteousness, yet with the mouth it is avowed for salvation” (Rom.10:8-10). Then everyone in Israel and elsewhere, whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord, shall be saved. There will be no distinction between Jew and gentile (or Greek); everyone who is believing on Him, shall not be disgraced; for the same One is Lord of all, being rich for all who are invoking Him (verses 11-13).

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The short quotation from Joel in Romans 10:13 reminds us of the longer one from the same prophet as given by Peter in his Pentecostal proclamation (Acts 2:17-21). God had said through Joel (2:28-32) that in the last days, He will pour out from His spirit on all flesh, there will be miracles in heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and smoke, and the sun will be dark and the moon like blood, ere the coming of the day of the Lord, the great and advent day. At that time “it shall be that everyone, whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”

The elders of the group to which I belonged when I was a teenager, believed that Romans 10 pertains to us today. Their idea of salvation amounted to the following: The requirement of faith is that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord Who died for you at Calvary’s cross and believe this in your heart, you shall be saved; if your faith is real, it will be evidenced by oral confession. The elders also pointed to 2 Timothy 2:12 and Matthew 10:33 and claimed that both passages meant the same, i.e. “If we deny Jesus before men, He also will deny us before His Father Who is in heaven.”

I wanted to comply with the elders’ wishes, so made it a point to talk to at least one unbeliever every day, telling him that I was saved, through the blood of Jesus which He shed for me. Filling my daily quota became difficult after some time when I was through with my teachers and fellow students in school and others of my acquaintance. Then I tried hard to bring the message of Calvary’s cross to strangers, not individually, but by giving testimony at street corners, together with other teenagers. This took less courage, even though more people were reached. I even talked to youngsters at revival meetings when I had an audience of a thousand or more until I became hesitant to offer salvation freely when it could apparently be revoked any time if the believer failed to evidence his faith by regular oral confession.

We did not see then that faith is a ceasing of self-effort, and remains calm even amid human failures. Content in the light of God’s goal, faith is always looking Godward, not manward, since it is based on His Word alone. There are no conflicting passages if we leave to Israel that which is written to Israel. What our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 10:33, fits the situation as described in Romans 10 where oral confession is mandatory.

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Paul does not talk of mouth avowal in 2 Timothy 2:12. When the Authorized Version says, “If we deny Him . . . “, the word “Him” is printed in italics so as to indicate that it is not in the Greek. Here the Concordant Version reads, “If we are disowning, He also will be disowning us.” This is not a matter of denying our Lord Jesus before men, but rather of disowning the disposition of Christ Jesus and of failing to show true humility, i.e. deeming one another superior to one’s self, not each noting that which is his own, but that of others also (Phil.2:1-8). Any failure in imitating Christ’s disposition is bad practice and will be dealt with in front of the dais (2 Cor.5:10) as we shall see later in our study.

The love of God which has been poured out into our hearts is the only powerful stimulus we have to tell others of the grace in which we stand. Failing to do so will never jeopardize our salvation but will rather curtail the present enjoyment of our status of grace, whenever we keep it a secret.

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We have gathered from Ephesians 6:14,15 that our full cooperation is needed in girding our loins with truth, in putting on the cuirass of righteousness, and the sandals of readiness for the evangel of peace. There can be no doubt that each of the three steps requires individual faith in God and His Word. The knowledge of the truth, the pursuit of righteousness, and the appropriation of peace are empty phrases, apart from faith which is not out of us, but rather out of God (Eph.2:8).

Individual faith, as we have seen, is only one aspect and concerns the functioning of faith in the believer’s heart and renewed mind. In order to widen this function, Paul provided the ecclesia with one precious truth after another as the Lord revealed it to him. While thus rounding out the range of faith, the apostle of the nations presented the special faith of ours (in Ephesians), i.e., the special truth for us today, who are members of Christ’s body. D.V., we shall go into more detail at a later date. But first, let us make sure we understand the distinguishing characteristics of Ephesians and Colossians as they were discussed in UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 31, beginning with page 37.

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“Christ and His highest honors come before us in Colossians, even as the saints and their celestial blessings are the theme of Ephesians. In Ephesians, the transcendent truths of the present secret administration are set forth as they affect the believers among the nations, who become peers of an election out of Israel in spiritual, supernal dignities. In Colossians, these tremendous truths are a halo on the brow of Christ. His glories as the Messiah of Israel on the earth are magnified to universal dimensions. All is created in Him in the beginning, and all is reconciled to Him at the consummation (Col.1:16-20). On earth, at the present, He is not confined to Israel in flesh, but, in spirit, is found among the nations. This is the basis of their future bliss (1:27).

“Colossians and Ephesians are very similar, for they teach the same truth, though from different standpoints. To fully appreciate and enjoy these epistles, which are two of the most precious portions of God’s revelation for us in this secret administration, it is necessary that we clearly grasp the distinctive view presented in each. Even as Philippians can only be understood in the light of service, so Colossians can only be clear to those who see that it deals with Christ’s relation to the present, even as Ephesians is especially concerned with the place of the saints, especially the Uncircumcision.

“In reference to the body of Christ, the two epistles are complementary. In Ephesians, the emphasis is on the members of the body, while Colossians presses Christ’s headship over the ecclesia. Ephesians elaborates on the relation of the members to God and to one another, as well as to Christ Himself. Colossians is largely confined to our connection with Him alone.

“In Ephesians, the bulk of the epistle is concerned with an orderly and positive presentation of the truth. Colossians, however, devotes the corresponding space to the correction of departures from it.

“Ephesians is general, with no local allusions. Colossians is concerned with a special situation, and a particular ecclesia.

“In Ephesians, the secret consists of the joint-enjoyment of the allotment among the celestials, the joint-membership in the body, and joint-participation in the promises by the saints among the nations. In Colossians, the same truth is expressed by putting Christ among the nations, instead of in Israel, to whom He has hitherto been confined (Col.1:27).

“The secret of Christ, that He is to head up the entire universe (Eph.1:10) had been partially made known to the prophets of old, though not in its fullness, ‘as it was now revealed’ (Eph.3:5). That part of this secret which they made known, His messiahship to Israel, is used as a background in Colossians. His future kingdom in the new earth is used to figure His present spiritual dominion, ‘the kingdom of the Son of His love’ (Col.1:14). The secret of Christ comprises the creation of all in Him at the commencement, and the reconciliation of all through Him at the consummation (Col.1:14-20).

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“In Colossians 1:4, we read of ‘your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints,’ which is very simple and readily understood. Why then, in Ephesians 1:15, should we find ‘the according-to ye faith . . . also the [faith] for all the saints?’ The latter epistle is devoted to setting forth the special faith which concerns us in this administration as distinct from the truth for other times, and, besides, it seems to have no bearing on any particular group of saints. If all the saints in Christ Jesus are before us, and the apostle refers to that body of faith which is especially theirs, then this particular wording, ‘the according-to ye faith’ is not only fitting but necessary to express this thought. (What is in view here, is not the individual faith of the believer, but rather the whole range of faith for all the saints who have now a joint expectation and hence one faith [Eph.4:5]).

“In Ephesians 1:15, most manuscripts add the words ‘the love.’ Hence the Authorized Version translates: ‘your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints.’ But the most ancient manuscripts, the three used in compiling the Concordant Version, did not have these words. They were added by a later editor in Sinaiticus. On many occasions, the additions of this editor are of great value. But in Ephesians 1:15 he seems to be recording the attempts of early expositors to make this epistle understandable after its message was lost and more than three centuries had passed since Paul’s days.

“The thought that we have a special faith is so foreign to theology that this passage has caused much perplexity to translators. The American Standard Version added the words ye show, thus: ‘the faith . . . which is among you, and which [ye show] toward all the saints.’ But how can we show faith to the saints? If this were the individual faith of the believers rather than that which they believe, how could we have faith in the saints? This passage can hardly be understood or translated as long as the faith exercised by each one is in view. But once we see that this rare and peculiar expression is used to indicate the things to be believed by Paul’s readers alone, just as the law was to be obeyed by Israel alone, and in each case was in accord with their peculiar place in God’s purpose, all is clear.

“With this beginning of the apostle’s prayer the following petitions, for a spirit of wisdom and revelation, possess much more point. He prays, in fact, that they may be enabled to comprehend what he writes to them in this epistle. That this is most appropriate is evidenced by the fact that, even if it was understood by its first recipients, there is very little to show that it has ever been apprehended since by any considerable number of saints. It has seldom been accorded its proper place by teachers of the Word. The apostasy from Paul started in his lifetime and has continued ever since.”

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Taking up the large shield of faith is an activity which can be described as widening the function of our individual faith. This is done by appropriating the Pauline truths that make up the whole range of faith for the ecclesia which is His body. Thus our individual faith is being nourished by means of the words of faith and of the ideal teaching. Without regular and sufficient spiritual nourishment as provided in the Pauline letters, there would never have been an ideal servant (2 Tim.4:6).

As a matter of fact, every believer is a servant, and all of us are offering divine service in the spirit of God, are glorying in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Phil.3:3). Hence we are willing to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, well pleasing to God, which is our logical divine service (Rom.12:1).

The ideal servant is one who does pursue faith in faith obedience; this being a figure of speech in which the obedience to God’s law is displaced by faith in His Word. The more our individual faith is being vivified by means of divine declarations (which are words of faith), the better will we be able to please God and earn His applause Whose mighty strength is operating in us and Who, at the dais, will rectify our failings.

The following paragraphs on our logical divine service and the requital at the dais are taken from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 31, pages 205 and 208.

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“Saints, though blessed of God, continue to live in the world (1 Cor.5:10); they are not exempt from the ordinary relations and duties to other humans; in fact, their faith really makes all their living a divine service. Here we touch the aspect which is little appreciated, for we have a distinct tendency to regard divine service as applying only to those engaging specifically in the labor of pastors, teachers, and evangelists (Eph.4:11). Such are certainly rendering service to God and His saints, yet it is special, being a distinct gift from God (1 Cor.9:17). In the initial consideration, divine service consists in our obedience to the faith; it is our practical living of the evangel in regard to our fellow saints, to our enemies, to humans in general, and to the state.

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“Is it not our delight to understand that our God, in Christ Jesus, has removed every possibility of condemnation from us? He has made our salvation sure and secure, yet He arranged to set right all the acts of His saints. For those acts in our accounts which are proper in His sight, we shall have the compensation of our allotment. But what is detrimental in our conduct, that will be requited also (2 Cor.4:10). And would we, as His saints, have it otherwise? Surely the evangel brings to us the spirit which leads us to desire and intend that every thought, word and deed be in subjection to Him as our Lord (2 Cor.10:5). If we have in the slightest degree failed to achieve that which corresponds to the righteousness of the new life, then we surely wish such failings rectified, even though it may bring us loss. And, for even this, we shall thank Him and rejoice that He is able where we have failed.

“Let us welcome the fact that God has made provisions for any debits of our accounting to be discharged by His righteousness and ability (1 Cor.4:5). Only thus may we properly and confidently look forward to the applause of our great God and Saviour in regard to our divine service. Meanwhile, may we make full use of His enabling grace!”

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