Weekly Devotionals by Pastor Steve Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D.
Jan. 6, 2013 – Without Faith it is Impossible to Please God
The recurring theme of both the Older and Newer Testaments clearly indicates that the prevailing dynamic of a believer’s life should be his or her faith, Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:16-17, 4:3; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38. We understand that ‘saving faith’ is a gift of God’s unmerited favor (His grace). We are actually saved when the Holy Spirit pours out upon an individual the Spirit of grace. As God opens our blind eyes and unstops our deaf ears, we realize our hopeless sinful condition apart from divine intervention. Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. As a result of God’s grace, we receive the gift of faith to believe the gospel, Eph. 2:8-9. The gospel is defined by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the believers at Corinth as follows: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, I Cor. 15:3-4.
We have the examples of godly faith from the beginning of God’s creation. The writer of the letter to the first century Jewish Christians includes a list of Older Testament saints who were saved by grace through faith, Heb. 11. Although they had not yet entered into the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-37, receiving a heart transplant, Ez. 36:26-27, by being born again, John 3:3, they were aware of the promise of God to send the King Messiah, Gen. 3:15, who would redeem them from their sinful condition. They looked forward to the day when the curse that came upon mankind by Adam’s disobedience and Eve’s being deceived, I Tim. 2:13, would be reversed by the promised Messiah, Deut. 18:18; Dan. 9:20-26; dying for the sins of mankind, Is. 53, both Jews and Gentiles Is. 49: 5-6, who become one in Messiah, Eph. 2:11-22. Whether they were looking forward to Calvary and the promised Redeemer, or looking back at His sacrifice on their behalf, all were declared righteous by virtue of their faith in God, Gen. 15:6, as evidenced by their believing God, e.g. taking Him at His Word, John 14:15.
So the writer to the first century believers from a Jewish background insisted that it was their faith, the saving faith that is a gift of God’s grace, that would be the source of their justification. This saving faith precedes and produces the good works that God has before ordained for His children, Eph. 2:10. Not only are all of God’s children His good works in progress, we become the temple of the Holy Spirit and are privileged to have Messiah living in us and manifesting the fruit (agape love) of the Holy Spirit to us and through us, Gal, 2:20. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony, Heb. 11:1.
Jan. 13, 2013 – The Word(s) for Faith in the Greek are Pisteuo & Pistis
While we need to understand the distinctions of saving faith, Eph. 2:8-9, we also need to understand the definition of the words used in the New Testament from the original Greek in which they were communicated. The biblical word for faith used in the faith chapter of Hebrews 11:1-40 is the Greek word pisteuo meaning to be persuaded, to put one’s reliance and confidence into. It comes from the root word pistis meaning to trust, to trust in God’s testimony, e.g. His Word. To trust in Messiah Jesus, specifically the gospel and the logos, e.g. the written Word of God. This is the word is found in Acts 9:42 speaking of the Jews who believed when Peter raised Tabitha from the dead in Joppa. It is used again when speaking about Timothy and his mother when Timothy joined Paul and Silas on Paul’s second missionary journey, Acts 16:1.
It is in the letter to the Hebrew Christians of the first century AD that we have the best working definition or description of biblical faith:
Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses], Heb. 11:1 Amplified Bible.
This particular translation emphasizes some of what makes biblical or saving faith so distinct from the way the world, the flesh and the Devil view faith. That is always rooted in people, places or things and there is little or no real confidence in that type of worldly faith. This faith is a gift of God’s grace, Eph. 2:8-9, that enables a person to enter into the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-37, Ez. 36:26-27, and be born again, John 3:3. The object of saving faith is always Jesus of Nazareth, the living Word of God, John 1:1-2, as revealed in the written Word of God. It is faith in His life, death, burial and resurrection from the dead three days later, and all of this must be “according to the Scriptures, I Cor. 15:3-4, according to the prophetical word of the Tanakh (Old Testament).
This is not blind faith; it is faith that truly sees. It is based upon the many infallible proofs of God’s Word, including the proof of prophecy fulfilled. This faith is built on the solid foundation of Messiah. “The Stone the builders refused has become the chief cornerstone,” Psalm 118:22; Luke 20:17; Acts 4.
Jan. 20, 2013 – The Word for Faith in the Hebrew is Oman
This word in the Hebrew literally means to build up or support, to be firm, to be steadfast and true. The root word for “amen” (aw-main) meaning truly, faithfully, so be it, or the truth. Figuratively, it uses the right hand of God image for strength, firmness and faithfulness and is often understood as figuratively speaking of the King Messiah, Psalm 16:11, 18:35, 44:2-4, 45:3-5, 48:10, 60:5, 63:8, 80:17-18, 89:13, 91:7, who is the Memra of the Lord (Hebrew for the word. The Greek counterpart is the Logos as in John 1:1).
Now that we understand the biblical definition of this word, faith, we can better understand the full meaning of this word when seen in the context of the Bible. Here are some translations of what biblical faith really is:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. NIV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen NASB & ASV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. KJV & NKJV
NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. Amplified Bible
So biblical faith is the steadfast confidence we have in the risen Savior, demonstrated by our trust in Him personally. That will be reflected in our obedience to His Word. That is the saving faith that is a gift of God that makes trusting in Him possible. Those who trust Him will obey Him. That is the nature of saving faith. It precedes and produces the good works that God has planned for His children, Eph. 2:10. That is why the Apostle James, the half brother of the Messiah who received a post resurrection visit from Jesus to bring him into the kingdom wrote, “Faith without works is dead (useless), “ James 2:20. You cannot separate the gift of faith that makes you a good tree, from the good fruit that you and I will produce:
“Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit,” Matt. 7:17-18.
Jan. 27, 2013 – Bearing One Another’s Burdens is Faith That Pleases God
We demonstrate what we believe when we allow the Holy Spirit to minister through us to others. Our problem is that sometimes our carnal nature gets involved and many do not know that the only difference between ministry and manipulation is motive. Codependency often looks like love outwardly; however, the inward motivation is not the agape-love of God, but rather a selfish need to control someone else, keeping them dependant with us (co-dependent) to get needs for security (love) and significance (meaning and purpose) met in our lives.
We are given instruction in Galatians 6:1-5 concerning the bearing of one another’s burdens. Interestingly, it is couched within a teaching of reconciliation and restoration. The Apostle Paul is instructing the believers at Galatia how to restore someone who has been acting out with “deeds of the flesh.” Paul uses the term, caught in a sin (overtaken by a fault) with regard to someone who has been trapped in a sinful lifestyle and has separated him or herself from the body of believers. No matter how loving or accepting a body of believers might be, when our carnal tapes are running we willfully separate ourselves from fellowship and other activities of faith, i.e. worship, prayer, Bible study, etc.
Gal. 6:1 – “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (no one has achieved spiritual perfection this side of glory. Yes wearejustified or just as if we never sinned from God’s perspective, however, our carnal nature is still capable of acting out in deeds of the flesh, Gal. 5:19-21.) Gal. 6:2– Carry each other's burdens (specific tasks that we must accomplish), and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (to love others with His love, Rom. 13:8). Gal. 6:3 – If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Self-deception takes place when we forget who we are in Christ and compare ourselves to anyone other than Yeshua. Flesh comparing itself with flesh is an exercise in futility.) Gal. 6:4 – Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, (Examine your motives, the only difference between ministry and manipulation is motive.) Gal. 6:5 –for each one should carry his own load. (Here the word for load or burden is ministry or service. All God’s children have a ministry calling, we are his priests and priestesses, I Peter 2:9; ministers of the gospel of reconciliation, II Cor. 5:18).
Faith that pleases God will demonstrate His unconditional, sacrificial, and intelligent love, I Cor. 13:1-8, to others, even our enemies, Matt. 5:44.