When one speaks of the facts concerning repentance it is impossible to discuss the subject without also considering the concept of faith. In some ways repentance is the negative side in which se see our sin and turn from that while taking a different view of it as from God’s perspective. That would then make faith or belief the positive side of regeneration. We live in a generation where the definition of faith is hardly what it was when the Bible was penned around two thousand years ago. The faith of our day is more of a mental acknowledgment of the facts rather than what is truly meant by faith, “….repentance toward (into) God and faith toward (into) our Lord Jesus Christ.” In this chapter we will be discussing:
- What is not considered to be faith
- Defining true faith
- The implications of faith
- What is not considered to be unbelief
- Defining unbelief
- The implications of unbelief
- Conditions that exist in both faith and unbelief
- Natural and governmental consequences of faith
What is not considered to be faith
Though the Bible at times describes faith as intellectual assent to some truth or cause, it is really not the true intent of what faith is. So many times we think of faith as an undoubting persuasion, a firm conviction, or an unhesitating intellectual assent. This is not the Bible or evangelical sense of what is being said. Nothing could be mere intellect if it is considered virtue, because virtue is not indicated by one’s intellectual state of mind. God could never command faith as a condition of salvation with the threat of eternal death to any who will not believe if it were nothing more than a passive state of the mind. There is a distinct difference in the Bible when discussing the contrast of intellectual with saving faith. Devils have intellectual faith, they believe and tremble as it says in the book of James and yet devils have no virtue. They don not act upon their faith. They believe that there is a God but they work overtime to contend with Him and to bring people to the hell that will be their eventual home one day. No one in their right mind would consider the faith of devils to be a solemn duty, the failure of which would mean certain death in hell. They are going to hell believing in God. They have an intellectual conviction, but they don’t have saving faith.
James 2:17-26 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (22) Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (23) And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
We can see a clear difference between intellectual faith and saving faith. Intellectual faith does not produce spiritual growth that manifests itself in actions of the will and a showing of good works to the world. Intellectual faith does not love God with all the heart and soul and mind. Devils do not love God with all the heart and soul and mind. Yet the Bible says that they believe. They do not have saving faith and neither does anyone else that has the kind of faith that produces no more fruit than a demon from hell.
Not only can we say that faith is not intellectual belief, but we can also say that faith is not some form of sensibility, some form of emotions, passive states of the mind themselves, that are really totally involuntary. It cannot be faith unless it produces virtue or unless the choice itself is considered to be virtue. The virtue that we define as faith is a virtue that consists of “works of love” and produces obedience because of that love for God who sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. We are sanctified by the faith that is in Christ Jesus.. This kind of faith is the whole foundation of the Christian life and it is true faith that causes one to desire to live holy.
Defining true faith
Faith as the Bible defines it is a phenomenon of the will and that is why it is considered to be virtue. We are not trying to say that there is no emotion or intellect involved, but true Bible faith is something more; it is that state of the will which most efficiently embraces the truth with the heart in such a way that the will is forever changed in favor of God. The man that finds the only true love of his life, not only has passion and intellect in understanding and feeling toward his true love, but when he is willing to make a decision that he will spend the rest of his life with that true love, then his passion and intellect have moved with his will to make a life changing decision. Oh, by the way it is not a hard decision, it is not as if someone had a bull whip and were forcing him to do something against his will. He is so much in love that being pressured never enters his mind. Rather he gladly decides that she is the one for him. This is the way with true saving faith. When we see God and his glory and then when we see Jesus, the Holy Son of God who loves us and gave himself for us, our emotions are stirred and our intellect says that we believe, but it is not until we make the decision that this is the God that we will spend the rest of our lives knowing and fellowshipping with as we receive his wonderful salvation, only then do we truly believe. Also, it is not virtue in the sense that we have done some type of “work” that pleases God, but it is virtue in the sense that we have seen that the intrinsic value of knowing God and his love is worth yielding our lives to his protection and control. It is opening up the heart to the Holy Spirit and allowing Jesus Christ Himself to come in to indwell the life, thus becoming the Lord of Lords in our lives. It becomes a love relationship where we love Him because He first loved us. It becomes a situation where we say how can we do less than give Him our best and live for Him completely after all he has done for us? We don’t feel any pressure against our will because our will is now only too happy to find out what God’s will is and obey that will simply because it is the will of God, without question. Now we confide in him and we accept all that is revealed about him because we sense that his love is so great that He would never ask anything of us that is not wholly and totally for our best end in life and for the Glory of God, the God of love.. This kind of faith puts complete confidence in the Word of God and in the moving of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Love of God.
This kind of faith is not afraid of the word, “commit.” In fact the Greek word that is translated “faith” in other parts of the New Testament, is translated “commit” in the book of Luke:
John 2:24 “But Jesus did not commit (have faith) himself unto them, because he knew all men,”
Luke 16:11 “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit (have faith) to your trust the true riches?”
It is easy to see that if there is no confiding in God and in Christ as the Bible reveals truth to a person in his spirit so that a person receives Jesus Christ as He is represented to be with a full and unqualified surrender of not only the will, but the whole being to Jesus Christ, then there is no real saving faith. True saving faith has so much confidence in God that there is nothing that will be withheld as long as it is for the purpose of having a close fellowship and a with our loving God and Savior, Jesus Christ. True love surrenders all.
The implications of saving faith.
When we speak of the implications of saving faith, we must not focus on these implications as if they are what cause saving faith, but we must realize that they are certainly in evidence when a person has truly become born again. The truth is that the Bible says that being born again is many times as mysterious as knowing where the wind comes from or where it goes. One of my favorite writers, Watchman Nee, talks about becoming a believer in his book, What Shall This Man Do. In it he says that the actual thing that changes a person is not repentance, a decision, prayer, crying, reformation of life, or any number of things that one could point to in an effort to explain the mystery of Salvation. He makes a profound statement that is worth considering. He says that the thing that changes a man or woman forever is when they truly meet God and he describes it as the human spirit touching the Holy Spirit in such a way that the person is forever changed. Truly, as we have been saying, it is not a physical change, but we can say without hesitation that there is a definite spiritual change in anyone that is born of the Spirit of God. The problem comes when someone testifies of saving faith and then there is no evidence of regeneration or repentance in their life. For that reason, we need to look at the implications of saving faith in order to search the heart and discover whether what one claims to be faith is really the genuine article or not. Understand, that to make an attempt to make a showing of the things that we will discuss here without having truly met God is only a form of works and has nothing to do with true faith. On the other hand, finding these things missing from the life of a “believer” would indicate that there are some serious problems and the profession may not be real. The Bible cautions us to make our calling and election sure. It says to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We stand before the feet of a Holy God, and thought he has given all for us, we must not trifle with his love or with his salvation. As the book of Hebrews says, we should fear lest we fall after the same example of unbelief in turning away from the “so Great Salvation” of the Bible. I found an interesting definition when studying the Greek grammar regarding the preposition “in” in the phrase “whosoever believeth in Him…” where the Greek word eis is actually translated “into” as we have discussed previously. The summary of the whole thing was that to believe in or to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means to renounce one’s self and to become a life-time servant of Jesus Christ. Again, we must not concentrate on the result, becoming a life-time servant of Jesus Christ as if that were some form of works for Salvation. We must ask ourselves, what was it that caused this reaction so that a person was willing to renounce self and all of its activities and become a life-time servant of Jesus. If you have read anything at all in this book thus far you would have to realize that the intrinsic value of knowing God and desiring the best end for God and all living beings would cause such a reaction. As Watchman Nee puts it, touching Jesus is what gives us life. It is what motivates believers to such drastic changes in their lives. We don’t change in order to become a Christian but we change because we have found One who is more valuable than any treasure in the world and because of our desire to have a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ, we abandon all other ambitions in order to maintain that close relation with the Lover of our Souls. So as we look deep down into the heart and life of a man or woman there are some things that are implied in the concept of belief that cannot be denied.
- First and foremost faith implies that there was some intellectual and spiritual understanding of the facts and truths that were believed. There is no argument that a person cannot believe in something that he does not understand. There is no way to believe in something that the mind has not seen or perceived and this perception must also go deep into the spirit of a man. This is what is called light in our earlier discussions of the conditions of obligation. I believe very strongly that there is a gross misunderstanding of many of the facts concerning God and salvation or more people would be saved. In fact, that is one reason I am re-writing this work by Charles Finney and adding my own thoughts in the work. I feel that what we are saying here needs to be read by the masses, especially the intellectuals of our day. Once there is an intellectual understanding of the facts, then the only excuse a person would have for being a fool in turning from God is that they have willingly made a decision to make self-gratification the ultimate end of their life rather than the Lord who loved them and bought them with His own blood. Basic understanding is not difficult but it is necessary. That is, in fact, the very reason that the miracle of tongues was present on the day of Pentecost. It was so that the masses could hear and understand the message in their own language wherein they were born. We have misunderstood the whole purpose of tongues as if it were some means of showing the spiritual prowess of a Christian rather than to make the message available to someone who speaks another language. That is precisely what missions is all about, isn’t it? To get the Gospel to those who have never heard. So to get back to the subject matter here, a foreign person would need to understand what you say or they could not have faith. Right? But once a person understands fully what is being said, they can either accept it or reject it. Faith does not require understanding all the depths regarding spiritual truth, only believing the facts. We may not understand how God could love sinners and give his Son to die for them, but we can believe the facts and accept them on that basis. We may not understand how Jesus can be both God and man but because the Bible states it as fact, we can accept it by faith because we comprehend the facts as stated and our spirits confirm that those facts are true. Faith does not require that we understand how these things became true, only that we accept them on face value and trust that if God says it then it must be true. This is also why we believe in the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see the facts, Jesus being baptized, the Holy Spirit descending on him in the form of a dove, and the Father speaking from heave. We don’t understand how that could be but we see the testimony and we accept the facts by faith. That is what is implied when one speaks of faith, or saving faith. We have some understanding of the concept enough to cause us to believe even though we don’t understand how. That is faith.
- Not only does saving faith imply that there is an understanding of the facts in mind, soul, and spirit, but also that there is an appropriation of the truths that were understood. When a person sees the intrinsic value of Jesus Christ, they don’t just see him as the Savior without a full vision of what the Bible says, that Jesus is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Now we don’t imply that someone sees and understands these exact words, but that they see Jesus Christ as the greatest thing that has happened to their life since they were born. They see Him as being someone to which they can come when they need wisdom to make a decision, They see Jesus as the fountain of all that is good and righteous. They see Jesus as the only one that can make them more holy. They also see Jesus Christ as the only one that can save their soul and take them to heaven when they die. They have, thus, appropriated all that Jesus is to themselves as an integral part of their new life. Along with this is the acceptance in the deity of Christ, the belief in the death and resurrection and ascension to heaven, and in the eminent return of Jesus back to earth to take us home to heaven. The believer may not know how all these things happened, but he has confidence that there is such a God that can do, has done, and will do what he says. Again the truth is understood and then appropriated to the heart and life of the individual in such a way that it provides further evidence that there is faith existing in the heart of the believer. It is, as it were, evidence of faith. Again the Greek has a word that typifies what is being said here. The word is epikalesotai in the verse in Romans 10:13, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Call upon means to appropriate, it means to put all one’s weight on that truth. It means 100%. There is no more relying upon self but total trust and relying upon God for the best end of all existence.
- This brings to a further development of what we have just said. Faith implies the unreserved yielding up of the mind to Christ in all the relations that we see in the Gospel. Faith is a state of commitment to Christ based upon the view of the intrinsic value of such a relationship to the good of God and of the universe. He has so much value that the soul has no reservation about yielding completely and unreservedly to him in each relation between God and the soul and spirit of a man as revealed to our spirit by the Holy Spirit. The yielding is not so much the thought, “I must yield all to God….”, as it is just a desire to be close to this one that loved us and offers us so much forgiveness and companionship that we willingly yield as friend to friend. True close friends do not hold back from each other. Jesus gave all when he came to offer his own life for us. We respond by offering our all in an act of friendship to him.
- Saving faith further implies a different life style. If faith were only a mental knowledge without the appropriation and yielding of the mind, soul, and spirit to God, then there would be no change in the life. The Bible says that devils believe and tremble. Theirs is an intellectual type of belief with no appropriating their knowledge of God or yielding to him. In fact, they rebelled and that is why they were cast out of heaven with Satan. As we have discussed in earlier chapters, the moral law with regeneration and repentance imply the surrender of the will go God. When that happens the life will follow the direction of the will. This is why those who are seasoned in the faith have strong doubts about anyone who expresses faith but does not display it in the life. When a musician says, “Why should the devil have all the good music,” the life that makes such a statement casts strong doubt concerning the level of commitment to God and turning from self-gratification to that of glorifying God in every way. How could singing the devil’s music glorify God? It can’t! That is why this writer feels that all CCM is not of God and surely many who have subscribed to it are not true believers.
- Saving faith certainly implies repentance toward God. We seem to live in a generation where some Christians have an extreme case of fear when it comes to the use of the word Repentance. It is as they think that God made a mistake in the Bible. They strongly try to imply that repentance is some form of works when it is quite the opposite. As we have seen previously, repentance occurs when a person meets Christ and decides that turning from a life of self-gratification to one of a relationship with God is the new ultimate choice of the will and consequentially the life as well. Repentance “toward” God means repentance “into” God. We lose our life and association with the world and the life of self-gratification when we move from self to God as an act of receiving Christ. No one can accept the gospel and reject repentance. No one can embrace the Son, Jesus, but reject the Father and the Holy Spirit.
- Saving faith implies the abandonment of self-righteousness. No one who comes to know God can possibly do so with a mind set that they have righteousness enough to merit salvation. The very fact that they have come to God implies an awareness of their own sinfulness in the light of God’s perfect holiness. This is, in fact, one of the things that makes God of so much intrinsic value because without his holiness and the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross, there could be no salvation. In this vein saving faith also implies abandonment of self works or works of the law as well since they are only another form of self-righteousness. The beauty of God’s salvation is that in spite of all our efforts and failures, Christ came to save the ungodly and bring them to Himself. The truth is that without abandoning self-righteousness and self works a person could never be seen to have saving faith.
- Still further, saving faith implies that the sinner has renounced the spirit of self-justification. There would be no abiding urgency to be saved had the sinner not seen his lost estate without God and without Jesus Christ. In such a state, the sinner has been convinced of his sin and of the uselessness of making any attempt to excuse self. He sees that as long as he can justify himself he could never justify God or the plan of salvation. It is imperative, therefore, that a sinner condemn self and justify God as an act of saving faith.
- Saving faith also implies disinterested benevolence, a state of good-will to being, a sympathy with God to the great end to which God has His heart set, to which He lives, love. That end has such intrinsic value that all other ends pale in comparison. In fact, it is when the light shines in the heart of a sinner who sees that God only wants the very best for him and all mankind by providing such a great salvation, that the soul becomes eternally committed to that same purpose as it embraces so great a salvation.
- Saving faith implies that our sensibilities are profoundly affected by our new found faith. Our desire to be loved as we are loved affects every part of our being. Our emotions are no less affected than our mind and will. We can never base our lives completely upon the attributes of the soul, the emotions that flow naturally from the various states of our lives, but having saving faith without a corresponding affection for that which motivates God would certainly cast doubt as to the true nature of faith.
- One of the strongest implications of faith is the peace of mind that Jesus gives. I have thought long and hard about what it is about the love of God that has such deep intrinsic value and it is some words by Jesus in answer to questions of his disciples.
(Matthew 18:21-22) “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
(Luke 17:4) “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
The thing that impresses me about this is that Jesus is teaching them to do just what God in his love does for us. He loves unconditionally and he forgives with no limitations. The thing that keeps us from forsaking God even though we may have moments of weakness is that we know that God will never abandon us and that no matter how many times we sin against him, we can, as Jesus taught his disciples, be forgiven if we will only come to him and confess our sins.
(1 John 1:7-10) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
The greatest peace that a person has is the fact that no matter how far we stray, like the prodigal son, he will always receive us with open arms. How many times? I tell you far more than a life time of seven times per day. We only need to do as we have said in previous writing. We need to confess and repent of our sins. He is waiting there to forgive and to give us our peace back once again. That, my friend, is worth giving up all the life times of pleasure and joys in this world. That is worth selling all that a person has to buy the treasure in the field. That is worth selling all to give to the poor. It is the knowledge that God will never leave us no matter how many times we disappoint Him. His love is unconditional. It is truly disinterested benevolence. That one thing, more than any other, gives peace that the world cannot comprehend.
11. Saving faith also implies hope like no other hope in the whole world. The Bible puts it so clearly in describing our hope.
(Titus 1:2) “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;”
(Titus 2:13) “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”
(Titus 3:5-7) “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Hebrews 6:18-20) “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: (19) Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; (20) Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
(1 Peter 1:3-5) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
(1 Peter 1:18-23) “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (21) Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (22) Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: (23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
(1 John 3:2-3) “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (3) And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
What a hope, that we can have eternal life and that God will be there for us even unto the end. Can anything be a greater motivation than that? This is possibly the greatest implication of saving faith.
12. Saving faith implies a joy in knowing God and in having Christ as our friend and confidant. This close relation is what keeps us pure and ultimately prepares us for heaven. Listen to what Peter says:
(1 Peter 1:5-9) “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (8) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (9) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
13. Saving faith implies a zeal for the cause of Christ. Who can doubt that one who has this peace and hope and joy will desire to share it with all the world if possible? Those who have received hope of eternal life have a zeal for the same cause for which Jesus gave his life, the salvation of the souls of men?
14. Saving faith implies general sympathy with Christ, his affairs, and his government. Who would not sympathize with God’s view of sin and holiness, knowing what is the end of those who will not obey the truth. Who would not also have a deep affection for the interests of the salvation of souls and of the affairs of God’s people.
15. Saving faith implies that one will consecrate his heart, time, substance and any possible asset or possession to the great end for which the gospel stands.
16. Saving faith implies that the virtues of a walk with God will be manifested in the life of the believer as he yields himself up more and more to the will of God for his life. As this process takes place, those looking in from the outside will begin to sin more and more of the traits which a Christian has in his walk with the Holy spirit. There is a show of the fruits of the Spirit and of the disinterested benevolence that we have discussed throughout this book. God’s love for us becomes our love toward others.
17. Saving faith also implies a state of living without sin. Well, you may say, how can anyone live without sin? Remember that moral law is a law of love and a Christian now has the love of God abiding in his heart which will never leave him. In the flesh we may have tribulation and we may have moments of weakness which lead to temporary sin and yet we are never without the love of God and thus we are never truly sinners any more. As I John says, he is writing unto us that we sin not, but if we do, we still have an advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous. The will of the former sinner has been slain by the love of God and the fact that God will always forgive “until seventy times seven.” This is probably the greatest motivation to live a holy life. Having such love bestowed upon us completely destroys our desire to live for self, especially in light of Jesus giving up his own self for our sins. The heart and mind of the saint is constantly reminded that it was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross. That makes any sin most undesirable and the fact that God is so willing to forgive makes the committing of any offense repulsive at best. Living without sin is living without a bondage to self-gratification and that is exactly what a saving faith implies. It implies a life of commitment of the whole will and being to God through Jesus Christ. It implies present obedience to Christ. It implies all virtue. It implies entire and presentment sanctification, being set apart unto God. In such a state, the existence of sin is most foreign and must be expunged completely from the life. This faith is an attitude of the will that has ho hint of rebellion against God or against Jesus Christ. The truth is that God does not see us as sinners any more. Just being looked at as righteous by God has strong implications toward righteous living. Saving faith will result in a life of righteous living or there is a doubt that there was true faith after all.
18. Lastly, saving faith implies that the Christian is completely receptive to all know or perceived truth because it is truth and because truth comes from God, the lover of our souls. No one can accept only part of the truth and then reject the rest. This is what separated false cults and religions from the true faith in Christ. Any religion that accepts only part of the truth regarding God and Jesus Christ does not really accept any of the truth. Accepting any part of the truth of the Bible implies accepting all of the truth of the Bible. As an example, to say that one believe in Jesus Christ and yet they do not accept his deity is to accept nothing about Jesus Christ because he is Deity. He is God in the flesh. Islam, Mormons, JW’s, and many other false religions all accept parts of the Bible but they deny the Deity of Jesus Christ. Thus, we say that they don’t have saving faith. They either accept all the truth or they accept none of it. The very fact of the Deity of Jesus Christ is what makes believing in him has so much intrinsic value and it is what promotes the best end of all the universe. Without that, moral law has only become good advise as we have said earlier.
What is not considered unbelief
- Being ignorant of truth is not unbelief. Ignorance is only the absence of knowledge which is a blank. The unbelief of the Bible that is everywhere represented as a horrible sin cannot be defined as ignorance though ignorance may be a result of unbelief. It is not equal to unbelief. A person can be ignorant of certain truths and for that there is no guilt but he may reject other truths for which there is guilt. Simply put, ignorance is not unbelief.
- Unbelief is not really the negation or absence of faith. The absence of faith is a nonentity, a mere nothing and that could not be the abominable thing spoken of in scripture that will cause the curse of a soul in hell.
- Unbelief is not something intellectual, such as skepticism which may come out of unbelief but is not identical with it, they are only the results of unbelief. A man is not condemned by this type of skepticism aside from an underlying unbelief that causes it in the first place. Pure skepticism of intellectual facts is not unbelief. A person may lose this skepticism when more facts are presented.
- Unbelief cannot be feelings of doubt or feelings of opposition to truth. That is something based upon the emotions of the soul not the decisions of the will. Many have emotional states and doubts that plague the mind and soul but there is no moral character or lack thereof in such emotions.. This type of feeling is more an involuntary state of the mind and is not what the Bible sternly denounces as unbelief.
The term, unbelief, as the Bible represents it, is a phenomena of the will and as a result it is considered to be a sin. For unbelief to be a sin condemned by God it must be voluntary as a state of the will that is the opposite of faith. Where faith is the reception of the will of truth, unbelief is a contrasting rejecting of truth. Unbelief occurs when the soul, but more particularly the will, withholds confidence in truth and especially in the God of truth. Unbelief occurs when the heart sees the evidence but it refuses to be influenced by it and consequently rejects it willingly. It is where evidence is presented as a proffer in a legal case and then the will rejects that proffer and refuses to seek further evidence that would support the case. Instead of, as they say, following the path of the evidence, unbelief will intellectually reject the path no matter where it leads purely as a decision of the will. The mind receives light through the conscience and through the Holy Spirit who moves on the heart through various circumstances and instances in the heart and life of a person. When that mind sees what is light and truth but still refuses to follow the path of truth but stubbornly resists and willingly rejects what others see as evidence, then it is unbelief. When it comes to infidelity as it respects unbelief, the infidel sees what others accept as light and they take special pains to shut their eyes to the obvious. Atheists are that way. I once had lengthy correspondence with an atheist to the point that I sent him many powerful scientific facts that pointed to the existence of a creator as opposed to evolution, but he was so set in his opposition to God, that I finally asked him a question that exposes his reasons. I asked if he were married, he said no, that he was living with a woman outside of marriage. Immediately it became apparent that his opposition to the truth was an attempt to keep his guilt for living an immoral life from affecting his peace of mind. He chose not to see the obvious scientific evidence so that he could continue to live in his state of self-gratification with an unholy sexual relationship. It really had nothing to do with skeptical doubts of the intellect at all. It was a choice that he could not accept the truth or his life style would be exposed to his conscience and that could not be tolerated in his own mind.
The implications of unbelief
- The first implication of unbelief is that light has been presented and there is a perception of the truth in the mind. If unbelief were just a negation, an inactive state of the will, it would not suggest that the truth had been perceived and the light had shown. An example of this is the culture of certain places in the world where there is no gospel presentation so the people of that culture cannot be guilty of unbelief in something of which they have never heard. The Bible talks about just that:
Romans 10:14 “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
The heathen have no light of the gospel so they cannot reject it. The guilt of the heathen is not that of rejecting the gospel but that rejecting the only light that they have, namely nature. That is the thing that also condemns an atheist, by the way.
Romans 1:19-22 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. (20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,”
This type of unbelief is not rejection of the Gospel but rejection of the light that is revealed. My father was a missionary in the primitive areas of Africa for many years and he said that the Natives, primitive as they were, know that the false “god” that they worshiped was “Satana.” They were very aware of evil spirits. He also tells of a tribe that found a small portion of the Bible and it became their foundation for belief until a missionary came that revealed more truth to them which they also received. God gave them more light because they received the light that they had.
- The next implication of unbelief is that of obstinate selfishness. It may be only one aspect of selfishness but as we have seen previously, it is still the spirit of self-seeking. The will has committed itself to self gratification and self indulgence. So when we come to defining unbelief, we are saying that selfishness is applied to revelations regarding the truth of God. To be unbelief, there must be a resistance to revealed truth about God as they are revealed to the intellect and to the spirit. We have already discussed how the spirit of a man knows things that cannot be explained in the rational world, but they are true non-the-less. We have also talked about truths that have the requirement of evidence to back them up. When a person rejects both types of truth, with strong evidence that gives light to the truth, it is unbelief. The intellect cannot remain neutral when light is shown into the mind and heart. They must either accept the truth or willingly reject it. Unbelief is a selfish obstinate attitude that refuses to yield to obvious truth and that for purely selfish reasons.
- Unbelief implies the existence in the life of the individual of total depravity. If truth is presented and the heart rejects only for selfish reasons, there is no other explanation but that it was sin present in the life. No one can conform to the law and will of God when there is a resistance to known truth present in the life.
Romans 7:19-23 “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: (23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
- To take unbelief further, it is the rejection of all truth that is perceived to be inconsistent with their own selfish wishes and desires and they know it.. They would only receive truth if it were for selfish reasons. When this is done, it is not faith. The reason is that when more truth comes to the selfish person which they cannot apply to their soul for selfish reasons they will reject it, thus proving that they were receiving only part of the truth as it suited their own selfish tastes and desires.
- We have previously shown that where there is one selfish trait that all are equally present in various degrees and forms. Some are yet undeveloped but they are still there. All sinners are guilty of unbelief and the degree of that unbelief is in direct proportion to their selfishness in rejecting the various amounts of light that they have received. In heathen lands, they reject the light of nature and in Christian lands they reject the truth of the Gospel message. Unbelief in any man is such that the heart is not only void of all good but filled with every form of sin as well. These forms of sin are in the heart of the unbeliever awaiting the right occasion to burst forth on the scene in their life in all the ugliness of horrid manifestation and iniquity. This is why those who follow Islam are all like loaded cannons. It is not that they are “criminals” or “murderers” but that they have all the traits of selfishness that is part of their religion where their fake wanabe “god” Allah asks them to kill in his unholy name. A real God could never request that of his subjects since he binds himself under the same law of love that we have discussed in this book. For that reason, any self centered Islamic believer is a bomb ready to go off. No one knows when they will want to answer the ultimate of all selfish desires, that of dying in order to be in “Paradise” with a host of beautiful maidens will become the over powering desire and motivate them to take the ultimate religious step, suicide in an act of killing as many “heretics” as they can. It is only a matter of time with anyone that has not the God of Love as their ultimate end, Jesus Christ.
- Unbelief also implies a degree of rejection of truth perceived so that the greater the truth, the more evil the rejection of that truth. Thus the degree of the unbelief is directly proportional to the degree of the light revealed and ultimately rejected by the unbeliever.
- Similarly, unbelief implies that the degree of guilt is in direct proportion to the degree of light and rejection of light and truth. We will discuss that in another area.
- Impenitence is implied by the state of unbelief. The mark of a penitent soul is that as truth is revealed, it is also received. There is an eagerness to continually embrace more and more truth as it is revealed which brings joy and peace to the soul. When unbelief is present, there may be a semblance of belief in one or two areas, but eventually the true nature of the heart is revealed by the final rejection of all truth that is not in the best selfish interest of the professing believer. He is really an unbeliever after all.
- Unbelief implies enmity against God, resistance to the truth, and a distinct dislike and resistance to the very government of the God of truth.
- Unbelief not only implies enmity against God, but mortal enmity against God. It wants nothing of the truth and authority of God so much so that it is actually opposed to the very existence of God, the God of truth. Unbelief is like a cancer that would annihilate not only truth, but the very God of truth if it were possible. A perfect example of this is the rejection, betrayal, and eventual execution of the very Man of Truth, Jesus Christ. The unbelief of the religious leaders and of Judas reached its ultimate end, the death of the loving Son of God. Unbelievers of our day would do the same thing. Islam is not against Israel because they have done so many heinous acts against them, they are against Israel because they are the nation that represents the true God and the one through whom Jesus Christ came to earth. It is the ultimate rejection of revealed truth which, in many instances, culminates in the suicide of one and the innocent deaths of others as a result. Even those that don’t go so far, non-religious people included are just as guilty of the blood of Christ and are guilty of the murder of God’s Son on the cross by their very rejection of the truth about Him.
- Unbelief thus implies a supreme enmity against God. The greater the revealed light and subsequent rejection of that light, the greater the enmity against the God of light. This cannot but grow and become more supreme until it means a person would gladly rather be in hell than in any proximity to the God of truth in heaven. Some even brag about their friends and the party they will have in hell. What a pity.
- Again, unbelief implies a degree of wickedness that is as great as it can be for the amount of rejection and truth involved in the present time in a person’s life. It is resistance to the truth and refusal to receive benevolence for any reason. Just as the highest degree of virtue is complete love to God and others, so the highest degree of unbelief is hatred of God and one’s neighbor. It becomes the all consuming passion, that of fulfilling all wickedness in order to refuse to conform to any truth that God has revealed. It rejects duty completely and tramples on all moral obligation.
- Further, this rejection of truth and of god is actually charging God with being a liar. We have a similar thing in our country where one political party has accused the President of the United States with being a liar about going to war. The bible says,
1 John 5:10 “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”
- Unbelief is actually a state of lying. Unbelief is the greatest of all lies. Unbelief declares in the face of all light and all truth, which it knows to be true, that the Gospel is a lie and that the Author, God, is a liar as well. Is that not a lie in and of itself, to call God a liar?
- Consequently, unbelief implies a reckless disregard of all rights and interests of every one else except for self.
- Unbelief implies the contempt and trampling under of the law, the relations to moral law, and even the conscience of the spirit within.
- Finally, unbelief not only is a lie of itself, but it embraces the opposite of truth, the ultimate lie that one can live without God. This is what caused Satan to fall and become the father of all liars. When one rejects God, they are actually rejecting the father of liars Satan himself. Rejecting of truth implies the accepting of error. In conclusion, we state that on every occasion where the truth of God is revealed, if it is rejected there is a complete commitment to the whole root of sin in the life, selfishness.
Conditions that exist in both faith and unbelief
- Both faith and unbelief require reason, the ability to have intuitive knowledge in both the mind and spirit. The spirit makes a priori affirmations concerning God to the mind and without such affirmations neither faith as a virtue or unbelief as a vice would be possible. For example, when we admit that the Bible is a revelation come from God, one could ask the question, why should we believe the Bible? Why should we receive and believe the testimony of God? The answer would be that since veracity is an attribute of God then we must believe His word because He always speaks the truth. Now someone will ask, how do we know that He always speaks the truth? Anyone would think that we cannot know this just based upon the testimony of his words. The question would logically be, why should we believe that His words are worthy enough to be received without doubt? Just because God claims to tell the truth does not necessarily prove it. His statements are not proof in themselves in the realm of providing evidence through demonstration. In order to deduce the truthfulness of God by a syllogistic process, one must assume the very truth which they are trying to prove. This is where a priori truths come into the picture and the facts regarding the spirit of man that we discussed early on in this book. In a similar way to the fact that we know time and space exist with no logical process needed in proof of such truth, we all also know that God speaks the truth in the same intuitive manner. Yes, there are assertions in the Word of God that prove this and also facts in history to support it, but when you get to the basic premise, God is Truth, the atheists of the world can see the same facts that a Christian does and with overwhelming evidence that proves the existence of God they will deny His very existence and even demand that one prove to them that there is such a thing as God. Two people will see the same facts, one will believe and the other will disbelieve with the same intuitive pull upon their spirit. It becomes a choice of the basest sort. This choice is what makes up the difference between faith and unbelief. What we are saying here is that both the believer and the non-believer have equal intuition regarding the facts but the unbeliever has chosen to reject his intuition of the spirit and accept only the logic of his mind or the physical facts without the added intuition of the spirit to support those facts. One of the strongest evidences concerning the veracity of God is that when a statement is made that God said something, the general consensus of the human race is to accept it as truth just because he said it. It is an a priori fact. Time exists, space exists, God exists, and he speaks the truth. All are a priori. I could go on the internet or the national media and make statements that there is no such thing as time or the space does not exist. It would not alter the fact that all human beings live with the assumption that time and space exist and based upon this basic premise, many other facts and truths fall into place. It is the same thing with truths concerning God. An atheist knows the same a priori truths concerning God that a believer does and yet he chooses to deny the intuition that he has been given. It is the acceptance of this intuition that is considered virtue and the denial of this intuition that is considered vice. If there were no intuition, there could be no virtue or vice. An animal has no spirit and as such has no comprehension of the unseen being, God. Man does and so we are without excuse. It is our choice to accept or reject the promptings of our own conscience and the influence of our spirit.
- One of the greatest conditions of both faith and unbelief must be a revelation of the truth and will of God to the spirit. One cannot be totally ignorant and have faith. In the same way, one cannot be totally ignorant and have unbelief since unbelief is rejecting the truth that others have received with the same truth presented to their spirits equally. The light has shined and some have chosen to accept the light which constitutes faith. Others have chosen to reject the light which is unbelief. This can be seen even in the life of Jesus where some saw the miracles and believed and others saw them and said he had a devil and ended up shouting “Crucify him…” as Jesus was put on trial before Pilate.
- When it comes to truths that can be discerned only through divine illumination, we would have to assert that this very illumination is a condition of both faith and unbelief. The Holy Spirit reveals truth to the soul and even though it is rejected, it is still lodged in the mind and the source may be gone but the truth is still what was revealed originally. That truth can be resisted in an ongoing act of unbelief but it was still brought to the mind by illumination or it could not have been rejected.
- Intellectual perception of that which the spirit reveals is also a condition of the belief of the heart. In order for the spirit to make truth clear to the mind, the intellect must comprehend what the spirit is revealing in order to present this type of evidence so that one may either believe or reject the truth. This intellectual perception of the revelation of the spirit is, there fore, a condition of both faith and unbelief. Before a person can believe, they must have an intuition that is fully comprehended by the intellect so that they can make a choice to believe what has been revealed and understood by the mind. In the same way, before a person can disbelieve, they must have the same intuition that is fully comprehended by the intellect so that they can make an intelligent choice to disbelieve the truth as presented by the spirit and understood by the mind. This means that the unbeliever has denied and attempted to refute that which was revealed to his spirit, understood by his intellect so that in his heart he assumes it to be true and then he willfully rejects that which his heart asserts as truth and he would rather reject that truth by conscious choice of the opposite.
The guilt and ill-desert of unbelief
We have already seen that the guilt of sin and unbelief is exposed by the very fact that it is committed with the same light and intellectual understanding of the revelations of the spirit that are present in one who believes. This means that when a person purposefully rejects the knowledge of salvation they are doing it with a full understanding that they are rejecting the truth and they are choosing rather to believe a lie. The same measure of the light that is present when a person rejects the truths concerning God is also the measure of the guilt that condemns them for their unbelief. While all sin has this quality, it is strongly demonstrated in the sin of unbelief which is actually rejection of the very light that others see in the act of faith. This is selfishness to the highest degree, it is rejecting known truth for selfish purposes. The degree of guilt is directly linked to the degree of light rejected. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.
When we speak of light, we speak of truth. When light is received it means that truth is known or perceived. First truths of reason are truths that are known by all moral agents universally so that when the will refuses to act according to any first truth then it is guilty of unbelief. The spirit of every man knows intuitively that there is infinite value in the highest well-being of God and of the universe so that it is obvious that a moral agent must embrace the truth as a condition of promoting this great end. When viewed in this context, unbelief implies infinite guilt and blameworthiness. There may be varying degrees, but it is still unbelief, none-the-less.
Natural and governmental consequences of faith and unbelief
Natural consequences are those that flow from the inward thought of the mind and governmental are those that relate to the administration of moral government with its constitution and laws.
- Faith brings peace to the conscience. When the will receives truth and yields, the conscience is satisfied and a man begins to be at peace with himself. The soul can now respect itself and live life without a blush as it were. There must be this faith in perceived truth as a condition of man being at peace with himself.. The governmental consequence is peace with God:
- Now God is satisfied, the soul has obeyed. The soul has yielded to the influence of the truth, to be influenced by it, comprising all duty.
- Faith also results in peace with God in the sense that it is a condition of pardon and acceptance. The penalty of the law for sins has been satisfied because of the faith in Jesus Christ. Though God forgives all sins, past, present, and future, the soul needs present and future obedience to be at peace with itself. Justification will be discussed later on in this work.
- Unbelief brings self-condemnation. This is a natural law of the mind and spirit. The conscience condemns and the mind cannot justify the fact that it has rejected known truth. This is especially true of truths that relate to obedience of a moral agent. Since the highest well being of God and the universe are neglected, God must condemn and abhor such unbelief because it seeks to undermine the very well being of God and of the universe as a whole. Governmentally there must be a legal condemnation since no government can justify the rejection of known truth, especially when it relates to the obedience of the subject to and the highest well being of the ruler of the government. God must condemn and abhor all unbelief, and the conscience condemns such rejection and pronounces its own judgment against it as well.
- A holy life is an obedient life and by a natural law it is the life of faith. Since faith is an act of the will that controls the life, it follows that when the heart receives truth, the life will be conformed to it.
- An unholy life is a disobedient life and by a natural law it is the life of unbelief. If the heart rejects truth, the act of will that controls the life will also conform to the state of unbelief that rejected the truth.
- Faith in the life will also develop every form of virtue in heart and life as certain situations arise. The reason is that faith is the act of committing the will to truth and to the God of truth. Thus, as various situations arise, faith will seek the truth for every situation and on all subjects. The result will be that every form of virtue will have been formed in the heart and will manifest itself in the life of the individual.
- Unbelief, on the other hand will develop resistance to the truth on every subject of life, especially if there is a conflict with self-interest or self-gratification. The result will be that every form of self interest will manifest itself in the life since the ultimate end of self-gratification knows no limits in its creativity in reaching that ultimate end. Every form of selfish that exists will manifest itself in one way or another in order to achieve that ultimate end. Interestingly enough, there are times when one form of selfishness will cause other forms to cease to exist as a means to the ultimate end of self-gratification. A selfish state of religious attitude will necessarily exclude attitudes inconsistent with that attitude but it is still selfishness after all.
- Faith obtains help from God who loves to help any who will come to Him by faith and He remains ready to hear and answer their prayers. God even helps those who have no faith out of his own character, but his protection and aid are given to those who are obedient to the laws of faith.
- Faith is a condition that results in heart-obedience to God’s commands. No one could honestly give up their whole being in obedience to God without confidence in him. It is a sign of universal faith when there is universal obedience since confidence in God results in this kind of obedience.
- Unbelief, on the other hand naturally and necessarily results in heart disobedience to God.
- Faith also results in lovely and delightful emotions and states of feeling that can be seen in one who has embraced Christ as Savior and Lord. These are emotions associated with the action of the will and with believing the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- On the other hand, unbelief results in emotions of remorse, regret, pain, and agony – the frequent experience of an unbeliever.
- Faith lets God into the soul and spirit to reign there. It receives the atonement and work of mediator that Christ performs as the Redeemer, and it also receives Christ as king on the throne of the heart, securing communion with God.
- Unbelief shuts God out from the soul, it refuses to have Him reign in the heart. It also shuts the soul out from the work of Christ as mediator and from a life of communion with God.
These are just hints of natural and governmental consequences of faith and unbelief and do not exhaust the subject. One may pursue these thoughts to further conclusions. Along this vein of thought, we remark that none of the ways, commandments, or appointments of God are arbitrary. He always conforms himself to the same moral law as is required of moral creatures. Unbelief makes salvation impossible both naturally and governmentally. God could never arbitrarily save one who has unbelief controlling his life. He can only conform to the law of faith and unbelief, nothing more.