Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

Faith: What It Is and How to Get It

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There’s a book on my shelf called “How to Read a Book“. Sounds simple, right? That’s what I thought. I was wrong.

A better title might have been “How to Understand (and Remember) That Book You’re Reading Way, Way, Way Better”.  Here’s something I learned:

The first step to reading any book is to come to terms with the author, to speak the same language.

Obviously, I have to be able to understand the words used. That’s basic. But the first step isn’t about words. It’s about terms, and there’s a difference between words and terms.

The difference between words and terms

Words can have several meanings. Let’s take the word second as an example. It can be used in these ways:

  • The world record for the 100m dash is 9.58 seconds.
  • Take the second left after the stop sign.
  • The runner finished in second place.

This shows that there’s some ambiguity with words.

Terms, however, have only one meaning. No ambiguity. For example—communism. It’s a specific ideology based on different classes of people. Nothing else. Communism is a term.

When we read the Bible, we have to come to terms with its Author. We have to know the real meaning of the terms as the Author understands them.

The Two Bibles

The reason I say this is because we all have two Bibles. The one in our hand, and the one in our head. And they don’t always match.

We think the Bible says one thing. It actually says something else. Why the discrepancy? We haven’t come to terms with the Author.

Let’s look at an example.

“Faith” as an example

In the Bible, “faith” is a term. It has a specific meaning (not to be confused with “the faith“, which is a different term).

We all know what faith is, kind of. It’s like, you know, the ability to believe something you can’t see. Or something like that.

That’s ok, but we can do better.

Let’s first turn to Hebrews 11:1. (Remember, you can get a free New Testament Recovery Version Study Bible from Bibles for America if you don’t have one already.) Here’s what verse 11:1 says:

Faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

This is better, but it’s still a little hard to understand. Let’s go another level deeper and consider a little story.

The Officer and the King

In the Gospels there was a man, a Roman army officer, who found Jesus. This man had a very sick servant who was paralyzed and “terribly tormented.”

When the officer conveyed this situation to Jesus, He offered to come and heal the servant. The officer refused.

“I am not fit for You to enter under my roof; but only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”

He continued, “For I also am a man under authority.”

This man realized something. Jesus was no common man. He was a man “under authority.” He was the King, and He had authority.

This realization prompted him to ask Jesus to “speak a word.” The authority of the King’s word was adequate to heal his tormented servant.

What faith is

What was Jesus’ response? “With no one in Israel have I found such great faith.”

This officer realized something about who Jesus is. He realized that Jesus is the King. Jesus called this realization “faith.”

So we have a definition for our term: Faith is the realization of who Christ is.

Now we’ve come to terms with the Author. We are speaking the same language as Him. And it changes everything.

It changes the way we pray. “Lord, give me more faith.” now means “Lord, make me realize who You really are.” That’s an awesome prayer.

It changes the way we live. To be a person of faith now means to live under the realization of who Christ is. The officer had a need. Jesus met that need just by being who He is. We can live the same way. That’s an awesome way to live.

It even changes the way we think. Sometimes we may think that it’s hard to have faith. It’s hard to believe. Actually, not so.

If I realize that I’m late for dinner, there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. I look at my watch, I see the time, and and I realize I’m late. Is it hard to figure out? No. It’s easy.

When I realize that Christ is the Redeemer, how can anyone talk me out of it? You can throw arguments at me all day. I’ve seen who He is. It’s not hard for me to believe. It’s so easy. That’s an awesome thought.

How to Get It

So what if we feel low on faith? The solution is to look at Christ, to read His word, and to listen to messages and sermons on Christ. You can also order “The All-inclusive Christ” and read it. By doing so, faith will come.

The limits of terms

Terms in the Bible are important to our spiritual life. We can’t just skate on the ice of common knowledge. We have to get below the surface and dig out the deep meaning of the terms in the Bible. This is tough because the ice is thick.

But as these definitions accumulate in us, they become a source of encouragement and inspiration for our whole life.

Homework assignment: Now that we’ve had this discussion, click to read Hebrews chapter 11 and prepare to have your mind blown.

Note: The story of the Officer and the King is from Matthew 8:1-10.

Photo credit: blmiers2

About Clark Russell

Clark Russell is a guest contributor for Holding to Truth. You can read more of his posts at http://www.clarkruss.wordpress.com.

13 Replies

  1. Clark,

    Nice article. It’s always enlightening to study a certain topic in the Bible and then try to write a little something to crystallize our understanding. Actually, this type of practice should be the normal prelude to our prophesying each week.

    Perhaps I can point out something here Clark. Now certainly Matthew writes with emphasis about what Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom, how He was in fact the kingdom Himself, and that He was in the process of enlarging this kingdom, i.e., Himself, through His earthly life and ministry, culminating in His life releasing death, Church producing resurrection, and heavenly ministry initiating open ascension. Due to Matthew’s emphasis, it is altogether right for us to speak of Jesus as the King during His earthly ministry.

    However, Jesus being a man “under authority” is not particularly related to His being the King. He is not spoken of in Matthew, chapter 8, as the one “with authority”, which could perhaps be deduced to be the authority pertaining to His kingship or of being the God-man, but rather as one “under authority.” There is something quite particular here Clark, and I think it’s important not to simplify the revelation in these verses regardless of what type of audience you are addressing.

    Jesus was a man under God the Father’s authority, which means He did everything according to the Father’s directing. He spoke what the Father wanted Him to speak (Jn. 12:29), did the Father’s will (Jn. 4:34), carried out His work (Jn. 5:17, 17:4), and did nothing but what He saw the Father doing (Jn. 5:19). He considered the Father as His source (Mt. 11:27). By virtue of being under the Headship of God the Father (1 Cor. 11:3), properly positioned in God’s economy, He therefore was qualified and ordained to exercise the Father’s authority, which He was under, therefore giving the Man under authority, authority. Apart from being under the Father’s authority, He has no authority. His authority was directly related to His living, moving, and being under the Father’s authority. This is quite significant.

    This is revealed by the centurion saying that although he is also a man under authority, he can command certain ones to go, come, and do certain tasks (Mt. 8:9). The centurion was a man under the authority of the Roman Empire, and as such was authorized to exercise the authority of this empire to the degree of his position. The centurion did not merely have the realization that Jesus was king. Rather, he had the realization that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore a man under authority. He saw that Jesus had the authority of God at His command. The centurion had faith that because of this, Jesus could heal with a word, could exercise the authoritative word of God the Creator (Rom. 4:17). Indeed He realized who Jesus was, however this realization did not have to do with Jesus simply being a king. Jesus was kingly, but his authority did not stem from His kingship merely, but rather from His relational position to God. If you notice in your little footnote you used there in Mat. 8:9, it never mentions that Jesus’ authority was a result of His kingship. It does not say the centurion recognized the kingship of Jesus, but rather the authority of the kingly Jesus. In another gospel (Luke) this would be the authority of the “God-man Jesus”. If the authority is based upon the kingship, then what of the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is the Slave Savior? Jesus indeed was kingly, yet this was not the basis of His authority.

    The particular emphasis of each Gospel are that of the writer, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not necessarily the view of the people whom Jesus had daily interaction with. In Matthew, everyone is not realizing that Jesus is the King. In Mark, everyone is not realizing that Jesus is a slave. In Luke, everyone is not realizing that Jesus is a very divine and human man. In John everyone is not realizing that Jesus is God. He was all four of these at every moment of His life. The writers are just focusing on a certain aspect of Jesus, and bringing out different events that present Him as such in their letter. Therefore to say, that the centurion saw Him as a king is not the best exegesis. Why could not have the centurion seen Jesus as a slave serving man? Was not Jesus a slave at that moment as well? We definitely can say Jesus is King, and He is presented as such in Matthew, however we can not propose that the centurion realized this, when nothing in the text speaks of such, nor even implies it. The text’s refers to Jesus being a man “under authority.” Therefore we are left to consider, “Who’s authority was Jesus under?” In such a consideration we find our answer and a proper interpretation of the verse we have read. When we read the Bible we must ask questions, like “Why?”, “How?”, et cetera.

    When we come to Matthew chapter 8, or any portion of the Bible, we like the centurion must come to Jesus (Matt. 8:5- came), and in a real human way, without any political agenda, or religious form, tell Him what is weighing on us (Matt. 8:5- beseeching). What weights heavily upon us when we handle the Word, should be that we would see more of the Christ, and that in seeing Him, He would be dispensed into our being. It should be our yearning and burden that light from God would shine upon the objective faith-facts of the Bible, and thus become our subjective faith, our experiential constitution.

    May we all continue to endeavor to learn “How to Understand (and Remember) That Book You’re Reading Way, Way, Way Better”.

    1. UWK,

      I appreciate the thoughtful response. I’ve heard a similar explanation before. I can’t say that I disagree, but I don’t see it very clearly represented in the Word. I’ll consider it more.

      And your correction is merited, I think. Perhaps it’s a stretch to say that the centurion had the specific realization that Jesus was the King.

      Still, he did identify Him as “a man under authority.” However, the author of the gospel had a specific intention in relating this story at the exclusion of other stories. Matthew was intending to use his gospel paint a picture of the God-man from a specific viewpoint. He was a royal Savior bringing His kingdom to men by means of authority.

      So maybe it’s not so much of a stretch to associate the title “King” with the descriptor “a man under authority”. Hard to say. It’s really not the focus of the post. Whatever facet of Christ’s identity that we realize becomes our faith.

      Also, I do agree that the adjective “under” would not be a typical choice for describing one’s relationship to authority. To me, his comments seem to suggest more that there is a burden to authority, a responsibility inherent in its use. That being said, I hope the Lord would keep me open and grant me more light about this unique choice of adjective.

      Again, I do appreciate the thoughtful response and will continue to consider it.

      1. Hi Clark,

        I’m not sure what exactly you are referring to when you say in the second sentence of your response, ” I can’t say that I disagree, but I don’t see it very clearly represented in the Word.” I’d hate to assume. Actually it doesn’t really matter.

        The point I was making was that the centurion realized that in His humanity Jesus was under the authority of God. “Under” related to position, not to be under a burden or weight of responsibility. The centurion realized this aspect of authority that is a result of being under a higher authority. In this case he realized that Jesus was the Son of God, this is why he called Him “Lord.” He realized Jesus had the authority to heal with a word as a result of being one under God’s authority. You just write the word God in-between the words “under” and “authority” of verse 9 of Matthew 8 in your Bible and you’ll be just fine Clark.

        A similar account is also recorded in Luke 7. Here the centurion also communicated the same message related to “being under authority;” this situation, occurring after he “heard about Jesus.” In addition, Jesus in all four gospel’s is recognized as one with authority. Do a word search, I don’t need to do it for you. This again shows that the authority is not related to being king. In all four gospels Jesus is a man (whether He be presented as a king, slave, sweet man, or God-man) under God’s authority, and therefore represents and exercises God’s authority.

        This matter of Jesus having authority, by being properly positioned under God’s authority, and thus being God’s representative authority on the earth, is a deep and weighty truth and priniciple that is far reaching in it’s implications. We have to interpret the Bible with the Bible and by the principles of the Bible, not just according what we think. This point I bring up is a matter of God’s governmental administration on the earth. This you replaced with some concepts, and thus I wanted to help you out a little.

        If you still don’t see it, then all I can say is keep reading that Bible. Reading “Authority & Submission” again perhaps, would be helpful for you as well. This time when you read it, don’t just pick up good one liners, or quotes, of which there are indeed many, but rather pick up the communicated principle in whole.

        Context and principles these are the two most crucial elements in understanding the Bible.

        Thanks Clark!

        1. Alright, alright. I’ll give it to you. You’ve argued your point well enough. I concede.

          Your point is that Jesus was acting under the authority of God, and the centurion realized that fact as opposed to realizing His status as King.

          I think our working definition of faith is still valid, though. Don’t you agree? So we’re really discussing a tangential point. You’ve got to cut me a little slack here. An author’s got to cut details on some points to clarify others.

          It would be a good topic for another post. I’m eager to get into it and see what comes out. Thanks for calling me out UWK. I’m amped up to go digging.

  2. Beatriz

    Since faith is a Person, Christ, I need to contact Him and also read His Word to know Him and His commandments, that, by the way, I am unable to fulfill but are very able to expose my poor condition. 
    For this very reason I have no other way than to turn my heart to Him so He can fill me with Himself, with faith. 
    No effort, no condemnation, but the Faith, the Son, the Beloved in whom the Father finds His delight!

    1. Amen! I like that. We should spend our effort on turning our hearts to Him instead of trying to believe in something. That puts the focus on the proper Person!

  3. Clark, this is impressive. Nice post

    1. Thanks Ricky. I think there’s a floating fb button somewhere on the left side of the page for likes and shares.

  4. btw you don’t have a FB link button here?

  5. Gabe

    Thank you Clark, for making Faith so clear and easy to understand. When I was young, I has no faith at all. Then, faith came in one day through my believing into Jesus, the Son of God. And today, my faith is increasing day by day through my enjoying and experiencing the Lord through the Bible, the Word of God, through the meetings, and even through being with those who love the Lord. Glory be to God!

    1. Amen Gabe. Sounds like you’re living a life of faith!

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