BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER
The importance of the current series of sermons on FAITH cannot be emphasized enough. There are many verses in the Bible that verify this, but probably none clearer than Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Do you get that? Without faith, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.
This year there is a celebration of 500 years of the Reformation, which is generally marked by Martin Luther’s act in October of 1517 of nailing his 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His main point was asserting that salvation was by faith alone. It was not dependent on any works of a believer to merit this salvation. Salvation is a gift which is given to us by faith.
This is the essence of what we term, the gospel. It appears all over the Bible. The most common is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The necessity of eternal life is expressed well by Paul in Galatians 1:3-4, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
These two verses echo an amazing promise! The gospel states that our sins, which is our rebellion against God which fully deserves eternal punishment, is completely forgiven as a free gift given to us by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross through the will of the Father.
How do we know this is true? How do we actually come to believe this fact as true? Here is the kicker. We do not get there through trying to figure it out logically. The great early Christian theologian, Augustine of Hippo, made the argument that it is not reason that brings us to faith but the other way around. He states, “faith is to believe what you do not see, the reward of this faith to see what you believe.”
So, this would imply that not only is salvation is a gift from God, but the faith to believe itself is a gift from God. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Note this closely — the grace for salvation comes through faith and even this faith is not your own doing, it too is a gift of God.
John Calvin emphasized this point as a way to insure us of our salvation. The fact that we believe itself is a testament to God’s work in our lives! Logic will never get us there. In fact, the Bible notes that the gospel is “foolishness” - against reason. But, as Augustine notes, once we believe it makes perfect sense!
So, as you hear these messages on faith every week, remember that they are meant to kindle the faith that is in your heart. Feed that faith by acting on it. And you will be pleasing God as well!
Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia. He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director for the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels. He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer.