FAITH: A LIVING REALITY OR A RELIGIOUS RITUAL?
It is significant that in the Old Testament the word "faith" appears only two times, Deuteronomy 32:20, "children in whom is no faith," and Habakkuk 2:4, "the just shall live by his faith". (NKJ) These represent the two extremes regarding faith. Beyond that, the Old Testament is strangely silent about spiritual-faith. At the same time, God spoke to the prophets in personal conversation. The New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter 11, speaks of faith 26 times in acknowledging the faithfulness of Old Testament saints. For the most part, the Old Testament believers connected to God by means of rituals and religious rites. They did physical things to achieve spiritual ends. Observance of the Law gained their acceptance with God. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus radically changed the Old Covenant pattern, ushering in a totally new day and new approach to God. Hear me carefully on this point:
Old Testament ritualistic-obedience brought God down to people on earth. New Testament transcendent-faith takes people up to God in Heaven. God came down to meet Moses on Mt. Sinai; the Apostle John was summoned to "come up here".
Physical actions on the earth cannot transport anyone to Heaven. In contrast, immaterial, non-physical, spiritual faith escapes earth’s gravity and takes the believer out of its grasp. I use the word "gravity" in a spiritual sense. The ministry of Jesus was radical in that it drew an absolute line of separation between the Old Testament’s demand for doing religious things and the New Testament’s demand for transcendent-faith. Once we understand this principle we can understand the Apostle Paul’s relentless warfare against religious behavior substituting for spiritual truth. He shouted angrily at the Galatian church, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" 3:1-4.
Please know that the "hearing of faith" is vastly different from learning a Catechism, Confession, or Articles of Faith. Academic knowledge of faith is important but it is easy to possess an intellectual understanding of faith and totally miss the spiritual "hearing of faith". What is the test that separates the two? True, authentic, spiritual faith always manifests itself in miraculous, supernatural ways. Why are Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, other denominations, turning diametrically against God’s Word on the issue of homosexuality and abandoning their own moral history? Their "faith" has become wholly intellectual, earth-connected, and has no union with Heaven’s spiritual dimension. Instead of seeing the spiritual identity of sin and its damning effects, they are blinded to a ground-level view of Bible teaching.
In one of the New Testament’s strongest defenses for the gospel’s inalterable faith, the Apostle Jude wrote, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of
our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude 3-5: The "once for all", translation in our English Bibles comes from a one-word expression in Greek. It is "hapax" and in spite of its brief size carries significant authority. It, and its’ probable source, "hapas", mean, "one, or a single time, conclusively, absolutely all, every one..."
If you read the Apostle Jude’s statement again, it is impossible to defend the idea that the original gospel and the power it contained were later altered or modified. The Greek language does not allow such an idea. The "faith which was delivered once for all" means that in a conclusive, inalterable, unchangeable, way the faith of the Apostolic era was delivered for "all time" and there will never be another. The gospel of the Kingdom is immutable. This agrees perfectly with Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 28:18 that believers to "the end of the age" be taught to "observe all things that I have commended you." Then, as if to emphasize the inexorability of the gospel’s time-span, He said, "Lo, I with you always, even to the end of the age." Observe the expression "all things". What did He mean by that expression? Scripture does not leave us to wonder. Matthew 10:7-9 makes it very plain: "As you go, preach, saying,'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons . Freely you have received, freely give."
How can humans accomplish these deeds of healing the sick, casting out demons, etc? Many sincere, Christians immediately cry out, "I don’t believe I can do that!" And of course, they can’t because Jesus said, "These signs will follow those who believe." He never expected miracles to be done by anyone who was not divinely connected to Him. But He did say of believers, "In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." Mark 16:17-18. Jesus never implied that unbelievers could do His same works. But He emphatically declared that true believers not only could do them but would. The Book of Acts gives us a working model of a conscientious, godly pastor– Apollos–who preached a powerless gospel. Like many of us today, he was faithful, loved God, served the congregation, but was totally bereft of power. While away from his church at Ephesus, Paul came and found this little congregation of 12 male disciples with wives and children. In spite of Apollos’ having excellent credentials for ministry, Paul immediately recognized powerlessness in his flock. Both Paul and Apollos were men of God, both equally loved the Lord, and each possessed vast knowledge of Scripture. Even so, a major discrepancy existed between their ministries. Paul had power; Apollos did not. Paul preached the gospel of the Kingdom; Apollos obviously knew nothing about it.
In light of the Apostle Jude’s exhortation to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints", we see how Apollos had accepted a partial gospel and experienced partial results. Apollos’ and Paul’s ministries are a parallel of pastors and churches today. I emphasize the fact that Apollos was ignorant because he had never been taught–not because he had knowingly rejected the truth. That innocence is absent in many pastors today who have knowingly rejected any truth that is not endorsed by their denominations.
Modern Christians Have Accepted An Alien Concept Of Faith
The dictionary’s definition of faith is tragically insufficient and where this concept has been accepted it has stripped Christianity of one of its most fundamental powers. Today’s wrong usage–rampant even among believers-- identifies faith solely as religious persuasion, moral conviction, doctrinal belief, ethical concept, organized creed, systematic theology, etc., etc, but offers no comment about faith being a spiritual force. Where spiritual-force is not present, there is no faith. Faith–as a living entity–must be manifested in power–not words only. Documents of faith are beneficial to the mind but
powerless to heal the body. Faith is one of the divine provisions implied in Hebrews 6:4-6 that speaks of those who have been "... enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come ..." The expression,
"powers of the age to come" refers to forces, magnetisms, energies, life- qualities, etc., which are not characteristic of our present existence but will be
characteristic in the future-realm of Heaven and eternity. In other words, they are "powers" already with God in His dimension but reserved for our future. Wonderfully, the Scripture reveals that some individuals experience those powers now. You and I can be among them. Cessation Theology claims that God removed the miraculous gifts and power of the Holy Spirit from the early church but has allowed Satan to keep his until now. How unfair.
Years ago I met a saintly old man whom I immediately recognized was trustworthy in his love for God and his Christian testimony. As we talked privately, he told about an illness that not only put him in the hospital but caused his death. Of that event, he half-whispered to me, "I realized I was dead when I discovered that I could swing my legs down through the mattress." Though the statement was shocking there was nothing unbelievable about him or his description of his death-encounter. Over the years I have met
numerous others–just as believable as he--who had such death-bed or out-of- body experiences. What happened in his case was that death momentarily
separated him from his body; while his physical-part lay motionless on the bed, his spiritual-part was totally free and independent of it. There is a "natural body" and there is a "spiritual body." I Corinthians 15:44. It was the spiritual aspect of his being that was unhindered by the material substance of the bed and enabled him to swing his legs through it. We have a parallel of this the day of the Resurrection when Jesus appeared in the closed room where the disciples were meeting. Without effect on Himself or the wall, He simply passed through the material substance of the building in the same way the old man’s spiritual legs swung through the hospital mattress. John 20:22.
I mention this old brother’s experience because without an understanding of his (and our) dual spiritual/physical nature we will never grasp the reality of true faith. Hear me: "Faith is not native to our planet but is projected into our cosmos from the Great-Other-Realm. Therefore, the faith at work in you is not an attitude or mental effort on your part. Nor is it merely your religious concept or ideology. Faith is a living, trans-earthly power. It is native to the other realm and is only a visitor in ours. Faith came to you because of your spiritually having heard ‘the word of God’, Romans 10:17, and God Himself having then dealt to you ‘a measure of faith,’ Romans 12:3. More happened than your physical-ears hearing the gospel. Nor was the resulting-faith mere psychological cause- and-effect. Scripture makes it very plain that faith is a spiritual life-force extended to you."
Perhaps you have seen someone receive laying-on- of-hands and immediately crash to the floor under the power of God. That manifestation happened because the Holy Spirit moved visibly from the person ministering to the person receiving. In that wonderful moment the Holy Spirit was applying some benefit of the Cross. In Galatians 3:5, Paul deals with this all-important subject when he asked the question: "He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" KJV. The answer to Paul’s question is obvious: It is the hearing of faith, not works of the law, that endowed some in the Galatian Church for the ministry of miracles and spiritual- impartation. Modern theologians are fearful of this text but the old King James translators gave the Greek-intent accurately. Read it again.
How can one hear faith? Faith is alive and has a voice. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice." John 10:27. In my opinion, it is impossible to separate the voice of faith from the voice of Jesus. Of that voice, Jesus explained, "I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak." John 12:49. Whether
in the Church of Galatia or the Church today, "signs and wonders" occur during the laying-on-of-hands because our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit. The hand is an extension of that Temple and faith becomes the vehicle accompanying the release of power.
The Holy Spirit frequently overwhelms the person and they drop to the floor. His impact sometimes comes like an electric-shock and is usually irresistible. In the same way the Holy Spirit’s power passes through a living-body bringing healing, the power of faith passes through a living-mind. In many ways, the comparisons are identical. Faith, therefore, is not an exercise of your physical-brain any more than it was the old man’s physical legs that swung down through the mattress. We are spiritual beings, in contact with a Spiritual God, who communicates to us through the spiritual dimension. Jesus illustrated this dual spirit-physic dimension when He invited Peter to join Him on the water. Matthew 14:29. We Christians have missed the awesomeness of that invitation by assuming it was merely to display miraculous-power. Not at all.
In reality, Jesus was saying to Peter, "I have come into your physical--earthly- -material–realm, bringing power from the ‘age to come’ with me. It has raised the dead, opened blind eyes, performed miracles. Now, Peter, I want you to come into My realm. Join Me on the water and you can step into My dimension ..." I repeat: This was not merely an invitation for Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the sea. Not at all. It was an invitation for him to exit his own physical realm of earth, sky, rocks, and air, and join Jesus in the immaterial, ethereal, non-earthly, "other" dimension. Had Peter so done, in that moment he would have "swung his legs down through the mattress." That is what Jesus wanted him to discover. Please hear me: When Peter sank into the sea, he missed much more than a momentary miracle. Instead of experiencing the Glory of Heaven "opening on his eyes, and his ears with sounds angelic ringing," he fell back into the dullness and dreariness of earth.
Peter’s failure typifies the modern Church: Most Christians don’t expect out- of-body transports into the Other Dimension, we don’t expect "faith" to be
anything more than sweet religious-presumption, we don’t expect Scripture to have revelatory power. That is true because we preachers have denominationalized the Bible’s message and, in consequence, have reduced Kingdom- truth to a lovely–but faithless--philosophy. My late friend Derek Prince used to say, "Any pastor who is not providing ‘signs and wonders’ for his flock should apologize to them for his failure".
As an aide to helping myself get a more comprehensive understanding of faith I have joined it with another Greek word–peiro. Peiro means "to pierce through" and originates from the word peran meaning "other side", "beyond," "farther," "over," "across." In Greek, the word for faith is pistis. The combination of the two words allowed me to visualize faith’s purpose in penetrating our physical realm. This penetration is absolutely necessary if there is to be miraculous healing, spiritual gifting, deliverance from demonic bondage, out-of-body transports, etc. "Peiros-Faith" is a force that comes to our dimension from the other realm, like sunlight passing through a window, goes through cooperative believers here. Then, like an X-ray it penetrates and effects change in the circumstance it touches. True faith has the potential to interact both with our physical dimension of time and space while it maintains a complete, uninterrupted union with the Eternal Dimension where it originates. In other words, faith is a symphonizing of these separate dimensions. Faith cannot merely lie on the surface of its intended target but must pierce the subject needing change. Both a sending and receiving are involved.
As I understand it, this interaction of "peiros" faith—that is "faith" from the "other side–the beyond–the farther–the over–the across"--like the conception of ovum and sperm--is a coming-together of the Holy Spirit’s power and the material substance of our realm. These two realms became visible minutes before Stephen was stoned to death when something happened that totally
astonished his attackers. Scripture tells us that suddenly, "All who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. What caused this sudden change of the man’s physical appearance? His natural body momentarily began fading away and another–a more beautiful one–became apparent. Stephen was already in the transition of death and the "inner person" of his spirit momentarily became visible. In effect, he was already in the state of "swinging his legs down through the mattress".
Jesus demonstrated this potential to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, when "He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light." Matthew 17:2. In my 60+ years of preaching, only twice have I seen a person in this dual-state of "holy radiance". But I have seen it. One was an elderly, farm-woman in a congregation of 700 whose face–during worship–shone so brightly that every one within five feet around her blurred-out. The other was a godly minister, Virgil Agan, who, while preaching, had a "halo" of light appear around him. Both of those events occurred in the 1950's. It was this kind of Glory that appeared on Stephen when he was dying–nor was it stones that killed him. As Jesus gave up His Spirit from the cross, so Stephen gave up his.
There is a distinct, identifiable moment for many believers in which the "door of faith" is opened. Scripture explains: "Now when they had come to Antioch and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." Acts 14:27. This opening can be both corporate as with the Gentiles or singular as with an individual today. Another example: "Jesus said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you ... And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." Luke 24:44-45. Does this kind of opening happen today? The answer is "yes" Ask the Holy Spirit to open the "door of faith." You will be glad you did!