Faith Toward God
Forerunner, "Bible Study," March 1999
We have studied all but one of the subjects the apostle Paul mentions in Hebrews 6:1-2 as the fundamental doctrines of Christ: "faith toward God." Paul makes the point here that Christians should not stall on the basic principles learned at the beginning of conversion. We are to move forward to perfection or spiritual maturity and completeness.
How does "faith toward God" apply? Do we not constantly and continually need faith? Does Paul intend that we somehow move beyond faith in our quest for maturity? Is there a difference between "faith toward God" in our initial conversion and a more mature faith that eventually supercedes it?
1. Is faith toward God something people are born with or learn? Mark 7:7; John 4:22; II Timothy 3:5.
Comment: Many profess faith in God but do not even know Him! Their worship is vain, not knowing who they worship and learning the doctrines of man, not God. A belief imparted by parents or other authority figures that God exists is not sufficient to establish contact with Him. For example, the Pharisees, familiar with the God of the Old Testament and believing they were in good standing with Him, received Christ's rebuke that their faith was in vain. This is true of most people today who think they "know the Lord" and profess faith toward Him.
2. How do we find the real God and begin to have true faith? John 6:44; Deuteronomy 29:3-4; Romans 11:25-32; 10:12-15; I John 5:19-20.
Comment: Man cannot "find" God; only God can initiate a calling. The world, including most of physical Israel, is consigned to unbelief until later in God's plan, yet most modern Israelites would say they know God or believe in Him. Romans 10:12-15 describes how God generally introduces people to Himself, though they may suppose they initiated contact with Him by "calling on the name of the Lord." Men must hear of Him through a preacher—and one whom God has sent, not one that is self-proclaimed.
3. How can we know if a preacher and his message are of God? How can we have genuine faith in a God proclaimed by a preacher? Romans 10:17; John 4:24; II John 9-10.
Comment: Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, the Bible. Unless the words spoken conform to it, they are merely doctrines of men and do not reflect the true God, for those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. This requires searching the Scripture as the Bereans did to verify if the preacher's words are true (Acts 17:11). One cannot know the true God unless one knows the truth of God.
4. How do we express faith toward God? How do we know our trust in Him is soundly based? I John 3:22; Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:17-26.
Comment: Obedience and keeping the law are prerequisites to true, living faith. Without obedience, faith is dead, worthless. By these few scriptures alone, we know that anyone who says the law is done away has not yet made contact with the true God and has no basis for faith toward Him!
5. What are some examples of this process in action? Acts 2:41-42; 8:27-38.
Comment: God sent true ministers to the people, who believed His words from their mouths and obeyed the true doctrines. Seeing God's promises, they adopted the way of life that leads to their fulfillment. By their daily actions, walking in the footsteps of the apostles and Jesus Christ, they expressed living faith toward God, were baptized and received the earnest of His Spirit toward salvation.
6. Is faith toward God all that He requires? Are we "once saved, always saved"? Is our faith sufficient? Luke 18:7-8; 16:10-11; 19:17; James 1:6-8; 2:18-20, 26.
Comment: Since Christ questions whether even the elect will have the kind of faith He requires, it should be obvious we must grow in faith. Our initial faith toward God has to expand from a tender trust to full-blown conviction. Though we begin by being faithful in little things, we begin to develop the absolute trust required to submit our lives to our Sovereign and Provider without question, equivocation or wavering.
7. What if we do not have this kind of faith? Hebrews 10:31-39.
Comment: Paul admonishes us to look back to our calling and initial faith toward God, including the early trials we faced. They should remind us that God indeed fulfills His promises to us. Meanwhile, we must not draw back from the course we have set (Luke 9:62), but live by faith.
8. Do we have examples of this kind of mature faith to follow? Hebrews 11:2, 39; Luke 21:15-18; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 5:14.
Comment: At our calling we were excited about having found God and His truth. We may have even thought we were ready to face the lion's den, crucifixion, the fiery furnace or boiling oil. In retrospect, however, our failure to follow all God's instructions, our weakness in trials, our impotence in tests of faith are mute testimony that our zealous, early faith, though encouraging, was not the kind Christ is looking for in His elect. He seeks mature faith as we see in these Christians of Hebrews 11. They were faithful in little and followed through when everything was on the line. This is the mature, living, unwavering faith required for salvation that allows us to please Him.
Have we reached the point where we do not fear those who can destroy the body, but He who can destroy both body and soul? Do we practice this living faith in our daily walk? The just—those who are righteous—shall live by faith, and in doing so, will inherit the Kingdom of God!