by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 4 June 15, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(036)Thesis:The issue of "believing" the Gospel is confused by moving too quickly from its statements to our conclusions.
Introduction:In our last study, we considered Paul's reference to "shame" in relation to the proclamation of the Gospel. We saw that one of the reasons for "shame" is the false movement from power to expectation instead of promise to expectation. People are often "ashamed" to proclaim the Gospel because they are afraid that their expectations will not be fulfilled. We also considered the fact that what is often called "shame" is not a lack of confidence in the Gospel at all; rather, it is a lack of confidence in our preparation to proclaim it so that we can "answer the questions" that arise. This is not being ashamed of the Gospel; this is being ashamed of my ignorance. At any rate, Paul says that the Gospel is God's power unto salvation to those who believe...whether they are Jew or Gentile.
Now, that raises a huge question: What does Paul mean by "believing"? He clearly declares that God's power moves into action to deliver everyone who "believes" the Gospel. Thus, since the issue of whether God will act to save is supported by the power of omnipotence and Paul's "unashamed" declaration, there is only one question before men: do you "believe" the Gospel? This raises the issue of what is meant by "believing". We have all heard an attempt to clarify this that uses the terminology: "not a head belief, but a heart belief". This is usually followed by something like "not mere mental assent, but genuine confidence in the heart". I find, though, that this just introduces more words, not clarity. What, after all, is "genuine confidence in the heart"? What is "heart belief"? So, this evening, I am going to introduce even more words with some hope that they will communicate some clarity rather than just filling up our time.
I. What Does Everyone Understand "Believe" to Mean?
A. Everyone who has ever been offended by someone who acted in a way that indicates they did not "believe" something they said, understands what it means to "believe".
1. One of the things that is common to everyone's conception of "believing" is that it fosters a behavior that is consistent with the "truth" stated.
a. It is not the behavior: behavior is a consequence; not a cause.
b. It is a way of thinking that addresses a given situation in life that motivates the behavior that is seen as a way to "handle" that situation.
c. The point: "faith" is actually designed by God to be a mentally engaged method of addressing the question of how to act in a given situation with given situation-participants in light of given objectives for the situation.
2. Another of the things that is common to everyone's conception of "believing" is that it has a mental focus upon something "set forth to guide one's behavior".
a. Only a foolish person "expects" people to "believe" them when they have said nothing.
b. No one accepts the "load" of "believing" someone who has not set forth something that is to be "believed".
c. Unless, or until, a "behavior guide" is set forth, there is nothing to be believed; but, as soon as a behavior guide has been set forth in some discernible way, the question of "faith" arises.
B. Everyone who lives in this world understands, to some degree, the reality of the cause/effect universe so that they understand that "believing" means buying into more than just the barest form of the words spoken.
1. Nothing is disconnected from everything; and nothing true is disconnected from anything else that is true.
2. Therefore, a statement cannot be made that does not have "implied meanings".
3. So, it is always true that one cannot "believe" a statement without also "believing" at least some of those implied meanings that are relationally closest to the exact form of the words given.
4. There are none upon the planet who can function to any degree on their own who do not already grasp that "faith" has certain implied meanings and that rejection of those implications is tantamount to rejection of the original statement.
II. So, Where is the Confusion?
A. Part of it resides in the fact that what is an "implied meaning" to one person hasn't even dawned upon another person.
1. What one person "expects" faith to produce because of certain "implied meanings" may not be at all what another person "expects" because of a difference in a factual grasp of the Truth.
2. Many times people have simply not considered what the implied meanings are so that they become confused because they had an unconscious grasp of implied meanings but they have not subjected them to any kind of truth-test.
3. For instance...
a. What is the "behavior response" of "faith" in the doctrine of justification by grace through faith? [Hebrews 4:10].
b. What is the "behavior response" of "faith" in the importance of love for God? [1 John 4:20].
B. Part of it resides in the fact that "faith" has only a tenuous link to "feelings".
1. The "stronger" faith is, the more settled is the emotional state of the person [Matthew 8].
2. The 'weaker' faith is, the more intense is the emotional state of the person [Mark 5].
3. Because God makes no distinction between the degrees of faith in respect to His willingness to put His saving power into play, all who "believe" are recipients of the benefits of His power.
4. But, it is to our great emotional benefit to grow in faith.