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"And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three,
but the greatest of these is love."—I Cor. 13:13 .
FAITH may be viewed from two standpoints—belief and trust. In the Scriptural use of the word faith, we understand it to be a belief in God and the things that we have reason to recognize as being of God—God's prophecies, the promises of his Word, etc., and a heart reliance on him—and not a belief in anything. The latter would be what we would term credulity. And the person who could believe anything would be foolish; whereas, he that believes what God has said has the Wisdom that cometh from above, and is, therefore, wise from the Scriptural standpoint.
We understand that the purpose and determination of the Christian should be to have this faith largely developed, and he should obtain it from the Scriptures. Many people have faith which they believe to be of God, but which, on investigation, they find to be unscriptural and not a faith in what has come from God, in what he has expressed, but from the traditions of the "Dark Ages" and from college professors, etc., and is quite contrary to the "faith once delivered to the saints."
In this particular sense we would understand faith to represent a heart-quality of trust in the Lord—something that has been acquired through the knowledge of God—through acquaintance with him by the various means by which he has been pleased to reveal himself. This is a faith which cannot continue to subsist or increase unless knowledge shall increase, based upon the Divine Revelation, and full acceptance of it and the coming into harmony with the Almighty, so as to be able to apply the promises and to recognize that they belong to the individual.
We would consider faith, then, as belief in God and in his promises, as personal trust in God, giving one the rest and peace of God. As to how these views of faith agree with the words of our Lord, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth," and as to how they agree with the statement of the Apostle Paul in Corinthians respecting faith as a gift of the holy Spirit, we would say that in the first of these passages the rendering should be, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find The Faith on the earth?" The implication is not that he will find no faith, but, Shall he find "The Faith (the Doctrine) once delivered unto the saints"; hence we understand our Lord's words to mean that when the Son of man cometh he will not find, save in a few, "The Faith once delivered unto the saints," but will find instead misconceptions.
And so we find that many Christian people, when talking on this subject, do not know what they are talking about. They have not "The Faith once delivered to the saints." Thus we are reminded of the statement of the Scriptures that "the inhabitants of the world have been made drunk" with the false doctrines which have perverted the Word of God. Instead of the "good tidings of great joy" they have been told bad tidings of most horrible torture. It is intimated in the Word that some will have The Faith. But the Lord implies that it will be a very small number who will possess it.
Respecting the gifts of faith: At the very beginning of this Age gifts of speaking with tongues, gifts of interpreting tongues, gifts of healing, etc., were bestowed so that they might be exercised for the benefit of the people. [R4732 : page 397] It would require a great deal of faith to be able to say, as did Peter to the impotent man at the temple, "Arise and walk." One would need the "gift" in order to do this. And so with those who spoke with tongues. It would need to be a miraculous gift which would enable them to master any unknown language.
Those gifts which God chose to give were granted because the Church was in its infancy and needed them for encouragement. The gifts were given also for a witness, because the Church did not then have the Bible. The Old Testament was heard only occasionally in the synagogues of the Jews. The New Testament had not as yet been written. The early Church needed some means for instructing one another. Had it not been for these gifts there might have been frivolity, etc., among them. And so one would arise and speak in an unknown tongue; a gift of interpretation would be given to another, and he would rise and give the interpretation. These gifts were given amongst them as a sort of drawing power to cause the Lord's people to assemble themselves together. Thus was the Word of God sent out for a time through this imperfect channel.
We should not think that a higher development was indicated by the possession of these gifts, but, rather, these gifts were granted during the infancy of the Church, and we should not pray for them. The Scriptures show that either they were the gifts possessed by the Apostles or else, subsequently, they were the result of the impartation of the holy Spirit and laying on of the hands of the Apostles; as, for instance, when Philip, the deacon, sent the Apostle that he might lay hands upon the people that they might receive the gifts; evidently Philip had not the power to do this of himself.
As to the desire for speaking with unknown tongues, the Apostle gave them a warning reproof. He said, "I would rather speak five words in the Church with my understanding—that by my voice I might teach others also—than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." (I Cor. 14:19.) He tells them that if any man possessed the gift of speaking with tongues, let him pray that he might interpret—that he might be able to express himself intelligibly to those to whom he was speaking, rather than in dark sayings. And then he proceeds to say that this strong desire for emulation in the possession of the gifts did not of itself indicate deep consecration to God. He tells them that if they spoke with the tongues of men and of angels, it would profit them nothing, if they did not have love. The possession of an unknown tongue did not imply that a man had reached a higher attainment and relationship to God.
He says that the fruits of the Spirit are more to be desired, which are these—meekness, gentleness, patience, fortitude, self-control, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness, love. St. Peter tells us, "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:10,11.) But we might have all the gifts of the early Church and have no evidence whatever that we would be sure of a place in the Kingdom. Love excels all the other virtues, because it is the most enduring.
When we shall see and know thoroughly faith will, practically, have come to an end. And hope will be practically at an end when our hopes in our Heavenly Father's promises have reached fruition. But love had no beginning and it will have no end. God is love. Since God was without beginning, so Love was without beginning; because it is his character, his disposition; and as he endureth forever, so Love will endure forever.