Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, May 01, 2006

What is Faith? (part 4)

... more on "Is Faith a Gift?"

To my readers: I may be going slowly in getting to these verses that seem to say to some that saving faith is a gift, that belief in Christ’s work is deposited in the heart, rather than a response from the heart, but if I rush through it, will I be convinced either way? Will I be accused of just cramming a verse into my own theology? Please bear with me as I look at each verse. Please offer any help.

8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:8-10)
As I read the whole passage that these verses come from, I see that Peter is speaking about the difference between purification by means of Jewish law and purification by faith in Christ’s completed work. After having read the rest of the NT, I believe that we have to understand that the object of faith is what purifies us, not faith itself. When Peter says “purified” I think he is referring to the same idea as “sprinkling of the blood” which he uses in 1 Peter 1:2 and may very well have been a reference to the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant, where the people were sprinkled with the blood of a sacrifice. Now he is saying that God has purified the hearts of the Gentiles (sprinkling with the Blood of Christ), not through ceremonial law, but through faith, by faith in a one-time act of Christ that needn’t be repeated like ceremonial sacrifices did. (A new and living way). In fact, Gentiles didn’t need to keep the law at all. This is the point.

Is he saying that God put faith in our hearts and uses that faith to purify? God purifies us through Christ’s sacrifice, the blood of Christ which cleanses. John also refers to this in 1 John 1:7 … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Paul talks about being purified in many places. Here are just a few:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7)

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse … (Hebrews 9:14)

11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

What goes unsaid in the passage from Acts is something that was a given at this point in the conversation. God accepted Gentiles … He gave them the Holy Spirit … He made no distinction between us and them … because of the gospel (the work of Christ) in which they believed. Would someone have me to accept that this was regardless of their belief in these facts about Christ’s work – the very work which purifies? Nay.

I did notice that later in the account (Acts 15) that James says to the council at Jerusalem: "God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself." He also refers to these as "... Gentiles who are turning to God." God takes those who turn to Him. I still see it that way. People have a choice to believe the gospel when they hear it ... or not to believe.

I still have four more passages to go, but this one took me into a study that was so exciting and wonderful, I had to spend some time on it.


  • Ros(i)e ~

    As you've heard, "a man convinced against his will is a man of the same opinion still".

    Soteriologically, until/unless one's will is conformed by God to His will, one's TOTAL INABILITY (i.e., total depravity) to believe God precludes any possibility that s/he may choose to do so. Concomitantly, upon being enabled by God to believe Him, all so enabled, without fail, will (choose to) do so (a.k.a. IRRESISTABLE GRACE).

    By Anonymous jim mcdermott, at 5/01/2006 2:02 PM  

  • Is there ANYthing which ANYone can "give" to God which wasn't first provided by Him?!

    ~ Jim McDermott
    (not, of course, my original thought!)

    By Anonymous addendum, at 5/01/2006 2:32 PM  

  • Jim,
    You are preaching the same sermon to me over and over again. Why not look at my interpretation of the verse and tell me why and how you differ, offer your own interpretation and, if you want, after you do that, you can tie it into a sermon. That is how these blogs are supposed to operate. ;~) :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/01/2006 5:09 PM  

  • But, there's a method to my apparent madness! I'm well trained to "keep my eye on the ball"; in writing, I'm able to do so.

    Were you an unbeliever, I'd "meet you where you are"; however, ... .

    By-the-way, have I mentioned that God is sovereign?

    By Anonymous jim mcdermott, at 5/01/2006 5:25 PM  

  • Bless you sister. I think you will like this Faith

    You give us hope instead of take it away. Thanks

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 5/01/2006 5:55 PM  

  • Rose,
    Your pastor almost said something biblical. Or is he saying he is not sure if he remembers saying something biblical? Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at 5/01/2006 6:14 PM  

  • Oh, I think I get it, Todd! Do you think Jim McDermott is my pastor? No no no - he is a lawyer. He is a fellow member at my church. Is that what you thought?

    Such words from you are truly and unexpected blessing. It seems you really have changed your mind about me? I will read that link. Thanks for the kindness. It feels so much better. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/01/2006 6:23 PM  

  • Jim, who says so?

    Rose, I think you dealt with that verse very well.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 5/01/2006 7:25 PM  

  • That's what I thought Rose. Sorry Jim. Sorry Rose. Get him straightend out Rose, so he doesn't think the Calvinist Handbook is the same thing as scripture. Not widely accepted jurisprudence out here Jim. Not germane, sorry. But we'll get you on the right track. Take care. In Christ with you, Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at 5/01/2006 7:35 PM  

  • While I don't agree with all the conclusions that you are coming to, or the reasoning that you are using, I do admire what you are doing. I think it a great thing that you would want to tackle each verse/passage individually. It shows greatness.

    By Blogger nathaniel adam king, at 5/01/2006 8:35 PM  

  • Sofyst,
    Thanks for the heaps of admiration, but tell me ... what is wrong with my reasoning on this post, will you?

    Todd ...
    the snark police are out. Be nice to Jim (although I think he can take your jabs). There is no way I could ever straighten him out; it will take an act of God at this point.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/01/2006 11:46 PM  

  • Rose,
    Wow, do you have the energy. Don't you ever take a cat nap?

    When you said: "God takes those who turn to Him. I still see it that way."

    I agree with that statement. My favorite verse in the Bible is Matthew 7:7 (The ask, seek, and knock verse). It is my photo meditation #2. It has a photo of a church that has a gold hand at the top of the steeple pointing up.

    The call goes out and all that come to Christ with true faith will be saved. No, I haven't changed my beliefs, as this thinking does not conflict with Calvinism at all.

    I also want to mention how beautiful your site design is.


    By Blogger jazzycat, at 5/01/2006 11:57 PM  

  • Hi Rose!

    I admire your efforts to get to the bottom of these issues. I think you are a great example of one who seeks to rightly divide the word.

    Now to something you said...

    "After having read the rest of the NT, I believe that we have to understand that the object of faith is what purifies us, not faith itself."

    To this I say a hearty AMEN!!!

    In my humble opinion,when Peter is talking about purifying their hearts by faith, faith seems to be the connection between the person coming to Christ and The Savior Himself. "By grace... THROUGH faith". Those of us who view faith as a gift see it as such because depraved man's response to God is always hostility. If faith is the God chosen means to connect to Christ then it must be given by God to the would be believer, otherwise that person would merely be repulsed by Him. Christ is the object of our faith. He is the reason for our faith.

    Please take as long as you wish in this series. I say again that I admire your efforts here.

    I will try to devote part of my day to conversing with you here on this thread. However, I must step out a bit to get heart worm medicine for my new dog. I love your honesty and desire to work through things. Hope to converse more here. I mean you or anyone else any harm. I bear no malice. I'm just here to converse-not fight...Peace


    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/02/2006 7:50 AM  

  • I should say that I mean you NO harm.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/02/2006 7:53 AM  

  • Hi Matthew!
    You almost had an unprecedented day with no comment for me! What would I have done? Coming from a doctor-in-theology-to-be, I am glad you approve of my verse handling.

    Hi Jazzy,
    I understand kitty-cats who put it simply like you just did. Why not just leave it there?

    Now why would you need to say that you mean me no harm? I know this! Have we ever fought? Never! Has anyone ever fought on this blog? Well, we had one or two misunderstandings. Let me just say that I take any visitor here at face value and give the benefit of the doubt that such a one is sincere and without malice. Why would we have mailce when speaking of God? That would be very unseemly and absurd, wouldn't it? I know you mean well! I appreciate you!

    Now, tell me, how can you necessarily draw this conclusion from Scripture:
    man's response to God is always hostility.
    ... even with the Son of man lifted up and drawing all men unto himself? ... is this really true?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/02/2006 9:09 AM  

  • Mark, if man is hostile to God, why should that stop him believing?

    If man recognises His own hostility, then that may in fact direct him, through the Spirit's drawing to faith in Christ.

    A man might feel in himself a deep hostility to God and a resentment of God's demand of holiness, but at the same time, he might be uanble to deny the truth and reality of Christ's saving work.

    Through regeneration, this man's attitude should change, but I do not think that hostility to God is an obstacle to savign faith.

    The sinful man, knowing his own weakness might well cry 'Lord help thou mine unbelief!'

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 5/02/2006 9:34 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I look at Romans 1:18-32 as a commentary of man's responses to God.."suppreesing the truth..unthankful..dark hearts..exchanging the truth of God for a lie..not retaining God in our knowledge..haters of God (remember your own testimony).. verses 30-32 indicating that this is an ongoing matter. Remember, this chapter and what is recorded in Romans 3:10-23 is written post cross/ressurection/ascenssion/giving of the Spirit. Why would Paul have quoted from the Old Testament the things that make up the train of thought conveyed in Romans 3:10-12 if in his mind what Christ said in John 12:32 " I will draw all peoples to myself" nullified those statements? Why would he have wasted his time writing them? The context wherein verses 10-12 appear seems to suggest one unbroken train of thought, ending in verse 23 as an indictment against mankind which can only find its answer in Christ.

    Rose, in your testimony you describe what I would call a hostile attitude towards God before you were exposed to the truth. Why did you change "from the inside out" while others do not after being exposed to the same truths? Yea, why do some in other parts of the world "change from the inside out" when they know that as they come to Christ it would mean the immediate loss of family ties and even death? What makes one's response to differ from another? These are questions that must be answered.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/02/2006 9:45 AM  

  • Rose, remember, the context of Jesus' statement in John 12 was when Greeks came to see Him. Jesus then goes onto say that he would draw all "peoples"(NKJ) to myself. We find fulfillment of this in Rev.5:9.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/02/2006 9:55 AM  

  • Rose, Also, when I look at Eph.2:1-3 I see that God must quicken those who are dead in tresspasses and sins. Are some more dead than others? That portion of scripture describesall people walking according to the course of this world and according to the prince and the power of the air. Is it less so with some rather than others?

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/02/2006 10:06 AM  

  • Rose, I wasn't referring specifically to this post. I think I had something in mind in either the first one or the second one that I disagreed with. I'd have to go back and look to be sure...

    By Blogger nathaniel adam king, at 5/02/2006 11:27 AM  

  • Mark, could you explain what it means to be dead in trespases and sins and why interpret that text that way?

    Have you considered any other possible interpretations of that text? If so, why do you consider them to be in error?

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 5/02/2006 12:15 PM  

  • I don't understand Jim M.'s approach--all he does is makes the same old assertions--I think most of us are aware of what the TULIP stands for by now!

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at 5/02/2006 12:16 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    As always you have a great discussion going here. A tribute to your blogging expertize.

    Matthew, "dead in tresspasses and sins" means there is no spiritual life in that person, no desire to walk in God's ways. It means slavery to sin like in Romans 6, before one experiences being set free from sin.

    I believe that Galatians 5:16-25 describes the Christian experience. This description even comes complete with some tension, found in verse 17. To be sure, the christian life is no walk in the park. The Spirit lusting against the flesh and visa versa. The christian life should at least exhibit that there is a war going on in that person who professes Christ; some fruit should be evident.

    Dead in tresspasses and sins means that man follows his brute impulses, rather than submitting to the demands of his Creator. God has said that man should live by every word that comes from His Mouth,Jesus being His final mouth-piece. John 3:19 says that men won't come to Christ because they love darkness rather than light, they don't want their evil exposed. That is what I call dead in tresspasses and sins.

    I must go to work now. I will not be back until tomorrow. I wish you all peace.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/02/2006 12:54 PM  

  • Mark,
    I agree the indictment of Romans can only find its answer in Christ - the be all end all! You pose questions as to why one responds and another doesn't. To answer that, I would most likely have to have all the knowledge of every situation and every thought, emotion, experience, attitude of every single person in every place at all times. Thankfully, I am not God.

    Here's another good verse from Romans.
    This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ... (Romans 3)

    Mark, I see the word "dead" as seperated from God. Think about that definition in reference to the verses that you give. If dead means one cannot believe, then "dead" would also have to imply that one could not commit a spiritual offense ... or any sin.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/02/2006 1:05 PM  

  • Bobby,
    Jim McDermott is a friend of mine and an even better frined of my brother's. I also wonder why he won't try to have some real dialogue here over these things, but as he says, he is keeping "his eye on the ball" - which ball must be "the doctrines of Grace" and not "discovering truth!" Jim - that is a jab!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/02/2006 1:08 PM  

  • Ros(i)e ~

    So close, but yet so far. Perhaps someday you'll write (and believe) that "it'll take an act of God" to "straighten [anyone] out"!].

    As is the case with the play presented in Ford's theater on Good Friday evening about 120 years ago, the exploration of verses which pertain not at all to saving faith is pointless if one's objective truly is to "discover
    [T]ruth" pertaining to soteriology. I'm not saying that it's a waste of time, just that it's not informative in such pursuit.

    Hebrews 12 pertains ONLY to Christians. Jesus pioneered our "walk" in faith by living as He did. His focus was "the joy set before Him". Our focus should be similar; as Martin Luther said regarding the BEMA seat [2 Cor. 5:10 ("[f]or we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, both good and bad")(HCSB)]:

    "Live this day for that day".

    God will wipe away every tear, yes, AFTER THE MILLENIUM (I know, context, schmontext, but Rev. 21:4 permits no other conclusion). All who die once (i.e. all who are not cast into the lake of fire following the Great White Throne Judgment) will receive some rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but our realization of the opportunities we squandered, usually knowingly, to live for Him and His Kingdom rather than for ourselves will cause each of us shame, embarrassment, and regret at levels beyond which we have ever even imagined while on earth.

    Bring on the body blows!

    By Anonymous jim mcdermott, at 5/02/2006 2:43 PM  

  • Rose,
    All it says is "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins". It does not say all of the other elaborate things other people would input into it. It says we were dead in them "according to" the course of this world and the power of the devil, without the Life of Christ. And where there is no Life from Christ, the devil will find things all nicely swept and orderly and is free to move in. And that is how we lived, apart from Israel, until Christ "raised us up with Him" and made us alive together with Him by the "surpassing riches of His grace" through our faith. It says simply that "you were dead in your trespasses and sins". It does not speak of our attitude, desire, brute impulses or anything else but only what it says. Dead is simply our condition without a Savior for our sins and trespasses, and let's not flater ourselves, we are still prone to trespasses and sins as long as we are here on earth. Surely as natural men we are depraved and without hope until we look to Christ, whom God has made evident to us in Jesus and His gospel.
    We behold the gospel, seeing the Father and the Son saying to us that if we believe, we will be granted their Spirit of Life.
    Just my thoughts.
    Praise to the gospel, Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at 5/02/2006 2:50 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    The human race sins BECAUSE they are dead. That is why it is written that God has made us alive with Christ in Ephesians 2:5. Romans 6 gives us a great look into this...Once slaves of sin,now alive to God.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 5/03/2006 7:29 AM  

  • rosie;
    i have just had a chance to read part 4. It seems you have changed the dialogue of the passage. I would never disagree with the fact that our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ. This passage says that God "purified" our "hearts" by "faith."
    You wrote: "As I read the whole passage that these verses come from, I see that Peter is speaking about the difference between purification by means of Jewish law and purification by faith in Christ’s completed work."
    You have changed the dynamic as todd did in a previous exposition from the gentiles (in this instance) being acted upon by God into them acting upon God with faith. You have changed them from direct object to subject. You are correct in what you say about all the other passages you list, but in lumping this passage in with them as if they are of like kind, you are in error. It is not saying what those passages say as much as you want it to. Don't change it to say what it doesn't say. Let it say what it says. Im late-gotta go.

    By Anonymous pat, at 5/05/2006 4:42 PM  

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