How Much Faith Is Enough?
June 6, 2012, 11:12 am
Filed under: Assent, Lordship Salvation, Sanctification

by David Bishop

Faith, says Hebrews 11, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen . . . by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”.  

In other words, Godly assurance and conviction are not the subjects of empirical evidence.  They are not derived from sense experience.  They are not borne by feel of the wind on the skin, by the sight of trees, or by the methodical study of animal cells and stars.   Rather, Godly assurance and conviction are borne by the word of God.  The truth about trees, about the wind, about animal cells and stars are derived exclusively from the word of God.  Faith is the conviction, the assurance that this knowledge derived from the word of God is true. (John 3:32-33)

Knowledge is not faith.   Faith is not knowledge.  Faith requires knowledge, for one cannot believe what one does not know, but faith is not knowledge.  A person can know, and yet not believe.  But a person cannot believe, and yet not know.

What Is Faith?

Assent.  Look the word up in any standard desktop dictionary.  Guys like J. I. Packer think the word assent means to know.  Such people desperately need someone to give them a dictionary.

The word assent means “to agree with”.  It does not mean, nor is it in any way associated with the idea of climbing a proverbial ladder of knowledge up toward God.   Climbing concerns the word ascent.  Different spelling, different word.  Ass-ent means to agree with.  Asc-end means to climb.  A king can asc-end to a throne.   A king can also ass-ent to his laws. 

To agree with.  That is the meaning of the word assent.   To assent to God’s revelation of righteousness.  That is the Biblical definition of gospel faith.

Romans 1:16  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’.”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony:  if I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” – John 3:11-12

Christ separated the two ideas of faith and knowledge in John 3:11-12.  I have told you earthly things, He said, and you do not believe . . .  That is, you have knowledge of earthly things, for I have just told them to you, but you do not believe.

Faith and knowledge.  Two different words that are closely associated, but do not mean the same thing.  Faith is not knowledge.  Faith requires knowledge, for one cannot believe what one does not know, but faith is not knowledge.  A person can know, and yet not believe.  Judas was one such example of someone who knew, but did not believe.  He had heard all that Christ had said about Himself, but he did not agree with God that these things are true about Christ.  He had knowledge, but not faith.

This assurance and conviction that Hebrews 11 talks about is not something people arrive at on their own (John 3:11-12).  Quite the contrary, for Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.”  That is, He does not finish what I start.  Rather, He is the originator, the progenitor, the genesis of the assurance, as well as the finisher of it too.

And yet it is also true that I do the trusting.  He does the assuring, and I do the agreeing.  God speaks His word, He authors my will and desire to trust Him, and I take His word to be true.

John 20:30-31  “Now Jesus did many other things in he presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  

Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  

How does God author my desire?  I mean, though it is true that God is sovereign, yet it is also true that I choose, so how does God author my faith?

1 Corinthians 2:10-13, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?  So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have the received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 

John 3:3, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Keeping in mind passages like Romans 8:10 “the Spirit is life because of righteousness”, I answer the question with the truth of God’s word.  God gifts His Spirit to those He justifies.  And upon justifying His elect, and upon gifting them with His Spirit, God by His Spirit changes their nature so that they will to do the will of God.  They want to obey by believing Him, in other words.   God opens the eyes of their heart (mind) to understand the gospel He has revealed to them by the preaching of His word.  And having perceived the revelation of His righteousness, and now finding themselves wanting to obey God, His justified, born again people agree with Him that His revelation is true.

So then, let’s put all this together.  What is faith?  Faith is a first cause of the Spirit’s activity in the mind of His justified elect resulting in intellectual assent to the righteousness of God which He revealed in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom His testimony (the Bible) is entirely concerned.

To put it more simply, faith is knowingly agreeing with God that the knowledge which God has revealed to me about His righteousness is true.  It is impossible to agree with the knowledge of God’s righteousness without being justified and born again.

How Much Belief Is Enough?

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you is increasing.

Colossians 1:5-6  Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.

Ephesians 3:14-19  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may filled with all the fullness of God

There is a big difference between growing in faith, and growing into faith.  Some people are confused about this.  They think there can be no growth of knowledge once faith is present.  Certainly nobody grows into faith in God’s righteousness.  The blind do not happen themselves into sight.  The deaf do not grow into hearing.  But those who do see and hear do see and hear more than they saw and heard the day before.

In the light of this then, a question looms large on the horizon.   If faith requires knowledge of God’s righteousness – and it most certainly does – then how can one’s faith grow without their knowledge of God’s righteousness growing too?   The answer is, it can’t.  As a believer’s knowledge of God’s righteousness grows, so grows his faith.

How is such a thing possible though?  Does this mean the believer didn’t really believe to begin with?  Not at all.

1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  

What are the “these things” of which John speaks?   Perhaps better to the point is to ask ourselves what are not some of “these things” of which John speaks?

Nowhere in 1 John do we find any mention of the state of the non-elect after Christ returns.  Nowhere do we find any instructions concerning meat sacrificed to idols, or the keeping of certain days as holy.  Nowhere do we find instructions concerning baptism and communion, or the role or non role that a believer should pay to human government.

More importantly, nowhere in John’s first epistle do we find an exhaustive list of fully systematized propositional statements concerning Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  Nowhere do we such a list concerning His incarnation, His deity, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His sovereignty, His righteousness, the nature of imputation, the depravity of fallen man, justification, new birth, and so on and so forth.

Certainly we find some propositional statements concerning these things, but nowhere do we find an exhaustive, all comprehensive, fully systematized list.

And yet I am asked, why then do I not speak of Arminians as brothers?  The answer is really rather simple.  Because Arminians reject and distort most of the propositions of which John does write.  They twist “God is love”, for example, into “God loves everyone without distinction.”   They reject the fact that Cain was of the evil one by God’s sovereign choice.  They assert instead that Cain made himself of the evil one by failing to offer an adequate sacrifice.

True biblical faith in the gospel will not find itself rejecting the propositions revealed in John’s first epistle.   This does not mean that a person must have knowledge of John’s epistle in order to believe the gospel, for the propositions of which John speaks are reiterated plenty of times elsewhere in Scripture.  Romans 10 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  It does not say faith comes by hearing 1 John.  This is not to say that 1 John is not part of God’s word, for it most certainly is, but it is not the entirety of God’s word.

However, though 1 John is not the entirety of the word of God, it yet remains a fact that John stated very clearly in his first epistle that we can know we have eternal life by the fact that we understand and agree with the things he spoke of in his first epistle.  Of his epistle, there appears nowhere in it a fully systematized list of exhaustive gospel propositions.

True biblical faith in the gospel will not find itself rejecting the propositions revealed in John’s first epistle, but true biblical faith does not have to be an assent to a fully systematized and exhaustive list of propositional statements in order to be biblical faith.  The seeing and hearing, while not rejecting what they saw and heard yesterday, do indeed see and hear more than they saw and heard the day before.  They will see and hear more tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and so on until the day they die.

Grow in does not mean grow into.  Like the words assent and ascent, they are two different thoughts that mean two different things.   Do not confuse them.  And do not confuse faith and knowledge.

Growing In Grace

Putting all these things together, what do they mean?  They mean this:

Faith is a first cause of the Spirit’s activity in the mind of His justified elect resulting in intellectual assent to the righteousness of God which He revealed in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom His testimony (the Bible) is entirely concerned.  Having been justified and born again, and now agreeing with God that the revelation of His righteousness is true, the believer grows in the knowledge and understanding of God’s grace that is expressed in the revelation of His righteousness.  The believer does this with the Spirit’s working of power through the word of God in the believer’s mind.  The believer studies his Bible, hears the gospel being preached, reads what older believers have learned from studying their Bibles and hearing the gospel being preached, and methodically, systematically works out in his mind the gift of salvation God has granted him.   In other words, he grows in faith and knowledge of God’s grace.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you is increasing.

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Matthew 13: 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Comment by markmcculley

https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/if-god-gives-us-faith-does-that-mean-that-the-faith-is-perfect-and-that-we-are-not-those-believing/

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II Thessalonians 2: 10 They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false, 12 so that all will be condemned—those who did not believe the truth but enjoyed unrighteousness. 13 But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through SANCTIFICATION BY THE SPIRIT AND THROUGH BELIEF IN THE THE TRUTH . 14 He CALLED you to this THROUGH OUR GOSPEL,

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever” — 1 Peter 1:23.

“The word of God, which effectually works in you that believe” — 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
“The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes” — Romans 1:16.

“The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Colossians 1:9 “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of Him

Comment by markmcculley




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