“I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory of one another and the glory that comes from the only God, you do not seek?” -Jesus (John 5:43-44 MLV)
As I first learned from Jason Henderson of http://www.marketstreetfellowship.com, there really aren’t separate words for “believe” and “faith” in the Greek language, which the Bible was originally written in. In the Greek, the word usually translated “believe” is pisteueo, which is just the verb form of the Greek noun pistis, which is translated “faith.” These words are so similar because they both come from the same Greek root verb, peitho. So, in scripture, to “believe” is nothing more or less than to use faith.
Perhaps in part because the Bible uses both “faith” and “belief” to translate the same basic word, we have come to think of “faith” and “belief” as the same thing, defining them roughly as: “a mental confidence that something is true or reliable.“ Of course, everyone has such a belief and puts it to use on a daily basis. This is fine, but we need to realize that mere belief is both unreliable and spiritually inadequate. While genuine faith INCLUDES a “mental confidence that something is true or reliable,” scripture makes it clear faith often includes something more, a spiritual component. While everyone has belief, scripture says faith is given by God in various portions, and some have none at all. In a nutshell, faith could be defined as “a divine gift of perception and insight, allowing one to agree with and walk in line with spiritual truth and reality.” (See footnote 1 at the bottom for more scriptures). In this way, faith enables righteousness, because without faith, we cannot perceive the ways of the Spirit and cannot walk according to the Father’s heart and will.
Understanding that faith involves using the gift of spiritual perception changes the meaning of many scriptures. For example, in the passage at the top of this post, Jesus isn’t saying that those who “receive glory of one another” instead of God cannot “believe” in the sense that they cannot mentally agree with certain facts about God. Instead, those who receive the glory of men cannot receive and have FAITH, and therefore cannot receive the grace of God or walk in righteousness.2 What Jesus actually said is this: “you cannot perceive and walk in the path of divine truth, when you selfishly receive and give glory and esteem to one-another, but do not seek the glory and honor of the only God, the source and object of faith.”
So, if you want to ensure that you are not able to walk in faith and righteousness, then make sure you are more concerned with receiving or giving esteem to other men than you are with seeking the esteem of God alone. The lesson here, to me, is that if I want to continue to be granted faith and walk righteously with God, I must be sure that I am not in any way occupied with giving OR receiving glory/praise from men. If men esteem you, fine. If they don’t, fine. But what is NOT fine is to in any way seek to be praised or esteemed by anyone but God, or put someone else in the place of esteem which God alone should occupy. If we do, then according to Jesus we will be prevented from walking in faith and maintaining righteousness.
I know that “righteous by faith alone” is a central tenet of Christianity, and it’s true, but righteousness is not the same thing as justification! We are justified and sanctified once and for all, by the death and resurrection of Christ, but one can be justified and sanctified without being righteous, because righteousness is a state that is maintained by faith, in which one is seeing and walking according to God’s heart and will in the present moment! We will not face God’s wrath or end up in an eternal hell, period. But we’ve got to move past the purely selfish focus on where we end up, and focus on the far bigger matter of God’s Kingdom! If we want to walk with God and establish His Kingdom on earth, we must maintain righteousness by continually walking in faith.
As I’ve said before, I believe humility is the prerequisite for just about everything of spiritual value we can receive or be a part of.
“But don’t you be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers. Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Matthew 23:8-12 WEB (R))
So, my aim is to humble myself before God, to acknowledge my weaknesses and propensity for error, and seek to be taught by Him alone. As I rest in the fact that my Father is good and loves me, regardless of what happens in my natural life, as I rest in the fact that He will never leave or forsake me and dwells within, I can begin to let go of the beliefs and religious obligations I have accumulated out of fear and regard for men, and start the walk of faith and righteousness.
- Footnote 1:
- Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.“
- 1 Corinthians 12:7-9: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit…”
- Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.”
- Hebrews 11:3: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”