Faith Factor 2 – Man

“All things are possible to him who believes” – Jesus Christ, Mark 9:23

And that’s what makes faith such a vital and powerful component of Christianity. Faith is the most powerful force available to ordinary people in every generation.

By faith lives are transformed. By faith miracles are performed. By faith impossible obstacles are removed. By faith whole nations are impacted. By faith “all things are possible”!

So what is faith? How does it work? How do we get more of it? How can we build our faith, use it more freely and see more of its fruit in our lives?

I began answering these questions in part one of this series, explaining that faith is anchored in the person of God. Now it’s time to look at man’s part in this thing called faith.

Fusion of God and Man

I discussed the ‘faith fusion’ in part one, explaining that faith brings together multiple elements of Christianity into one powerful, explosive package. This fusion brings together two polarities of Christian thought; God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Anyone who has delved into theological studies has been confronted by the passionate debate and polarising nature of Calvinism versus Arminian thought. In simplistic terms, Calvinism places great emphasis on the sovereignty of God, while Arminianism recognises man’s responsibility.

Without getting caught in the vortex of the debate, allow me to point out that the very defining verse on faith creates a fusion of those two, supposedly competitive concepts. While Hebrews 11:6 clearly gives weight to the person and character of God, as seen in part one, it also gives clear place to the part that man plays as well.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Man Believes

While God is all that He is and all that the Bible reveals Him to be, God’s almighty glory does not take effect in a person’s life until and unless that person believes. God is the ultimate and complete source of everything. But man must access God’s reality and grace, by man’s response to God. If man does not respond, then all the benefits of God’s reality, salvation, power and grace are lost to that person.

Unbelievers cannot engage faith. Faith is not a one-sided dynamic. Faith is anchored in who God is, but it is also activated by man’s response to the truth about God.

In fact, man is in a unique place to activate faith. We are told that the demons believe, but it does them no good. They believe “and tremble”.

“You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James 2:19

Man, however, gets a powerful result from believing.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” John 1:12

Man Seeks

The key verse I am using to define faith (Hebrews 11:6) not only reveals that man believes, but it points to man also seeking God. Faith has confidence in God’s character to reward those who “diligently seek him“.

A person of faith becomes confident in who God is and that God’s character is to bless. That person becomes confident that seeking God brings positive outcomes and so they press in to Him, seeking Him and expecting Him to respond to their actions.

A person of faith has a high level of engagement in their relationship with God. They are not passively dependent on God, but actively pressing in to access the benefits which can only come from God. They are ‘actively’ dependent on God. God and man work in synergistic fusion to bring faith into play and to release the grace which God is keen to give.

So man has a double part to play. Man is not a pawn, nor a sidelined passenger in Christianity. Man must “live by faith”.

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38

God and Man

Christianity is a ‘relationship’. God is our Father. We are His children. God and man work together and are bonded together in salvation and in the new relationship which springs from it.

Faith is the sweetest energising of the bond between God and man. It is the lynchpin of the relationship. It initiates the union and energises the on-going relationship. Faith is a team effort, engaging God and man in mutually satisfying cooperation for the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom.

So man cannot engage in faith outside of intimate relationship with God. Faith is an expression of that relationship, not something that man can activate independently of God.

Yet faith is offered to man to operate. It is like a father providing a car for his son. The car belongs to the father, but the keys are passed to the son. In the fullness of intimacy between God and man, man is able to operate with all of God’s resources.

Boldness in Faith

Faith, then, is something which people should enter into confidently. We are to come to God with boldness, because faith is something God is keen for us to engage in.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Fear of faith is out of place in Christianity. Christianity is a ‘faith’ which creates relationship, and it is relationship based on faith. Fear causes people to draw back, and drawing back is the opposite of faith.

Be encouraged that God wants you to step out in faith and to connect with Him in faith. He wants you to become completely confident in who He is and in His will to bless you, so that you will actively seek Him.

Be bold. Step into the presence of your holy God. Press in to know Him and to be knitted together with Him. As you do so you will be stepping into the arena of faith.

In ‘Faith Factor 3′ I will point out the imperative of faith.

John Hales Turns Arminian

John Hales was born in Bath, UK, on April 19, 1584. He was educated at Cambridge, and became a Greek lecturer before becoming a leading Church of England theologian, “one of the best Greek scholars of his day” … and a thorough going Calvinist. So much so, he was invited to share in the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), a gathering of Reformed (Calvinistic) theologians who opposed the Remonstrants (or Arminians … those who opposed some of Calvin’s distinctive teachings).

The differences were vigorously debated, and the Arminians were condemned as teachers of heretical doctrine.

But John Hales weighed the debate carefully in his mind. Had Christ accomplished salvation by His death only for the elect – or did He provide salvation for all mankind … if they chose to believe in Him?

And he who had come to the Synod a convinced Calvinist changed his mind – “as he says in one of his own vivid phrases, ‘I bade John Calvin goodnight‘.” (Arminianism. by A. Harrison, page 90).

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History Faces Bar

John Hales returned to England and was made Prebendary of Windsor by Archbishop Laud.  But when he refused to acknowledge the Commonwealth “he was deprived of his living, fell into poverty and had to sell his library!” (Dictionary of Literary Biographies, page 298).

Hales had spent his time among his books and in the company of literary men, among whom he was highly reputed for his common sense, his erudition and his genial charity. He was called “one of the clearest heads and best-prepared breasts in Christendom.” For all that he also loved solitude and was content to be one of those who possessed their souls in peace.

Hales was disturbed by the spirit of controversy which prevailed in his day. He saw that theological dispute was not the calling of the church. He dreamed of a common liturgy which omitted all the things about which men differed and argued.

While Hales’ writings are clear he was always reluctant to put pen to paper until it was necessary to do so. He did not believe that men should write indiscriminately, but purposefully and in great moderation.

John Hales died in Eton on May 19, 1656.

History Faces Bar

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

John Knox Trumpets Protestantism

John Knox died on November 25 in 1572.

The exact date of his birth, even the year, is unknown. Biographers range from 1505 to 1514, but nobody knows for sure. His birth is generally accepted to be at Giffordgate, 16 miles east of Edinburgh, in 1513 to 1514.

John entered the University of Glasgow in 1522, where he studied under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time. In 1540 he was already ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and that he was a priest before he was 25 years of age.

John’s conversion to the Protestant faith likely came through the influence of George Wishart, the leader among the Scottish reformers, who met him in late 1545 and was burned at the stake shortly afterward. Wishart met Knox in December 1545.

John then spent some months as bodyguard (“drawn sword in hand”) to George Wishart. But on 29 February, 1546, Wishart was martyred.

John Knox was first called to the Protestant ministry at St. Andrews, which was throughout his life intimately associated with the Reformer’s career. The castle of St Andrews was attacked in July 1547 and Knox was arrested by the Roman Catholic authorities. Thus it was for 18 months that Knox found himself as a galley-slave on a French ship, the “Notre Dame”. The experience permanently injured his health.

In 1549 we find him preaching up a storm both in the British Isles and on the Continent. He then spent some years in Geneva, where Calvin was exercising a remarkable influence.

Knox returned to his native land “a Calvinist of the Calvinists”, and found himself in head-on collision with the Roman Catholic queen. When Mary, Queen of Scots, had mass celebrated in her palace chapel, the “thundering Scot” made known his feelings on this ‘sin of idolatry’ from the pulpit of St Giles.

His denunciations of the mass and Roman Catholicism in general did much to bring about a law, passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 August, 1560, establishing Protestantism as the religion of that country. It is probably true to say that Knox was a stern man, but he lived in an age that needed someone of his character to stem the inroads of Romanism.

Among his writings are: “History of the Reformation in Scotland”, “Against the Monstrous Rule of Women” and a long and elaborate treatise on predestination published in 1560.

Shortly before his death he asked his wife to read him John 17 – “for that is where I first cast my anchor”.

At his graveside the Earl of Mortoun, regent of Scotland, in the presence of an immense funeral procession, declared: “Here lyeth a man who in his life never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with dagger, but yet hath ended his dayes in peace and honour.”

Speaking of John Knox, Thomas Carlyle said: “And to be sure there is a power in unswerving conviction that inevitably arrests the attention of both men and nations. There is an almost indescribable appeal that attaches itself to uncompromising vision and principled passion. This fact was undoubtedly illustrated quite vividly all throughout the life and work of John Knox.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield as a Prince at Princeton

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (BBW) was born near Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A., on November 5th, 1851.

His early life on the farm left him with a life-long passion for farming and especially horses, and became a leading world authority on short-horn cattle.

He graduated from Princeton University “with highest honours” in 1871. The following year, at age 21, he acknowledged the claim of Christ on his life and entered Princeton Seminary to prepare for the ministry.

Warfield graduated in 1876 and married Annie Kinkead. He was studying in Leipzig and so the couple honeymooned in Germany. While walking in the Harz Mountains the pair were caught in a terrible thunderstorm. Some say that Annie “was struck by lightning and permanently paralysed” (Great Leaders of the Christian Church, Moody Press, page 344).

Whether that is the case or not, she was traumatised from the experience and never recovered, being an invalid for the rest of her life, needing Warfield’s constant care. For the next 39 years Warfield “seldom left home for more than two hours at a time”.

He became Professor of New Testament at a Presbyterian college, and in 1887 he succeeded A.A.Hodge as a Professor of Theology at Princeton and kept that post until his death 33 years later. He also edited the Presbyterian Review.

In the 1920’s ten volumes of his larger collected writings were published, and in the 1960’s two volumes of his shorter writings were also published. Those books and volumes of his sermons are in print today and are read more widely than in his life-time.

His book, Counter Miracles (1918), was a strong defence of the cessationist viewpoint.

His Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (1948) “asserted that verbal inspiration had been perfect in the original manuscripts” (Dictionary of Religious Biography, page 492).

His writings in defence of Calvinism are also worthy of mention.

He was an excellent lecturer, using a Socratic dialogue quiz style to prompt his students to examine the subject at hand. His writings were described by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “His mind was so clear and his literary style so chaste and lucid that it is a real joy to read his works and one derives pleasure and profit at the same time.”

Warfield preached vividly. Once he illustrated the difference between fate and providence with a story of a Dutch boy who disobeyed his father and played near a windmill. Going too close he suddenly found himself picked up from the ground hanging upside down as a series of blows were rained upon him. What horror, caught in the machine! He thought his end had come. But when he opened his eyes he discovered the windmill’s sail that had taken him up but his own father had. He was receiving the threatened punishment for his own disobedience. He wept, not with pain but with relief and joy. He now new the difference between falling into a machine and into the loving hands of a father. That is the difference between fate and predestination.

On Christmas Eve, 1920, Professor BBW suffered a stroke – he recovered enough to resume his classes on 16 February, 1921, but died that night as a result of a further stroke.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon The Star Preacher

This is the day that Charles Haddon Spurgeon resigned from the Baptist Union of Great Britain!! It was 1887.

History refers to it as the ‘Downgrade Controversy’, a sorry spectacle of modern theology creeping into the denomination he loved.

He wrote in The Sword and the Trowel his reason for his withdrawal:
“Believers in Christ’s atonement are now in declared union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall (of Adam) a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death … yes, we have before us the wretched spectacle of professedly orthodox Christians publicly avowing their union with those who deny the faith…”

Spurgeon came from a lineage of independent ministers (his father and grandfather) and was converted in a primitive Methodist chapel. In 1850 he was baptised as a Baptist, due to the influence of his employer, and formerly joined a Baptist congregation.

That same year he gained a place at Cambridge, joined a Baptist congregation there and preached his first sermon at age 16. His gift for oratory was immediately recognised, and by 1852 he was a Baptist pastor.

In April 1854 he was ‘called’ to the pulpit of the Baptist congregation at New Park Street, Southwark. Within a few months of his call his powers as a preacher made him famous. The chapel had been empty yet within a year the crowds that gathered to hear this country lad of twenty forced the enlargement of the building. At twenty-two Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington Causeway was opened for service in 1861, accommodating six thousand people. There Spurgeon ministered until his death, and, fully maintained his popularity and power as a preacher until illness disabled him.

Spurgeon found increasing distance with fellow Baptists, due to his strenuous and unbending faith in Calvinism. He saw their indifference to orthodoxy. He thought they laid too little stress on Christ’s divine nature, and that the Arminian views which were spreading among them tended to Arianism. He keenly resented the ‘down grade’ of modern biblical criticism. Conviction grew in him that faith was decaying in all Christian churches. Consequently he announced his withdrawal from the Baptist Union, which declined to adopt his serious view of the situation.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.