Monday, July 07, 2014

The Definition of Faith or Belief and Prayer

James 1:6-7 reads,

6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

The Lord requires faith to receiving anything in answer to prayer.  Unless you believe you are going to get what you are asking for, you won't get it.

Jesus is very specific in Mark 11:24:

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

To "have them," you must "believe that ye receive them."  It isn't "believe that God could give them," or "believe that God has the ability to provide them."  No, it is believe that ye receive them. What is it that you can believe that you will receive?

Bauer and Danker's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature reads the following first listed meaning of pisteuo, the verb "to believe," related directly to pistis, "faith":  "to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust."  What are we believing to be true when we pray?  We are believing that it is true that we will receive that for which we are asking when we pray for it.  If we don't believe we will receive it, then we will not receive it.  We are not asking in faith, and we should not believe that we will receive that from the Lord.

Francis Turretin wrote in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Vol. 2, p. 566):

[Faith] is defined by knowledge: "This is life eternal, that they may know thee" (John 17:3). Nor is this referred only to the intuitive knowledge in heaven, but it ought to be extended to the saving knowledge required on the way which Christ proposes as the certain and infallible means of obtaining that life and by which it is begun in us (1 John 5:13). "but his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many" (i.e. by faith which alone justifies us, Is. 53:11). Hence, elsewhere its act is described by understanding: "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3). "And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:69). Here knowledge is added to faith to explain it, to intimate that it is placed in knowledge. Elsewhere faith is expressed by "full assurance of understanding (Col. 2:2) and by knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).

Faith and the word are related (Rom. 10:17; John 6:45). Therefore, where faith is, there knowledge ought to be because the word cannot be believed or received unless it be known; for as there is no desire of, so neither is there assent to what is unknown... Knowledge is everywhere required in faith. Hence the "word of faith" is called the wisdom and understanding of believers (Deut. 4:6).

This aspect of biblical faith has been termed notitia.  The first part of believing is knowing.  A little over a month ago, I began a series through John.  John states the purpose of his gospel in John 20:30-31:

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

From the first chapter, John presents evidence, testimony, the words and works of Jesus Christ, the witnesses authenticating Jesus as God, Son of God, Messiah, and Christ.  He wants us to know these truths, and this truth is the basis of believing.  Faith isn't just knowing, but it does require knowing.  And to know requires the truth.  Faith is confidence in the truth, certainty of the truth.

To receive what we are praying for, we must believe we are going to receive what we are praying for.  To be convinced that we will receive it, we must know it is God's will.

More to come

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