But without faith it is impossible to please him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Have you ever wondered why faith is required from an all powerful God? I mean, He is God… right? So why, then, would He need our belief in Him? Does it somehow determine His existence? Is God, as some seem to believe, merely a part of our own internal morality who needs justification of existence through our belief?
Put simply: Why does the God of the bible require our faith? If He is God, surely His existence, person, and virtues are unaltered by our faith, or lack thereof! (Actually, yes, this is scriptural: 2 Tim 2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.)
So what need does He have of our faith, that we cannot obtain salvation (nor, indeed, many other blessings) without it?
Actually, faith in God is not something that HE needs at all. Rather, it is something that WE need. This seems rather quaint, and the way which I mean, I assure you, is not readily prevalent to you. Let me, then, do as the ancient Hebrews, and tell a story which illustrates my meaning.
In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and, furthermore, the Word WAS God, Himself [John 1:1, my paraphrase]. This Word was, among other things, the honesty of God personified. The Word was absolute Truth, so True, in fact that when He was spoken, that which was said (of God) happened. God spoke: “Light, be!” for example – and immediately upon the Word being pronounced, light WAS. This is the perfect, and sovereign honesty of God, for it is written: ‘…God, who …calleth those things which be not as though they were.‘ (Rom 4:17)
God was True, and He spoke all things into being by the Word of God. Faith was intrinsic of the nature of creation – for God had Faith in His Word, therefore it WAS. The universe was framed on the trust of God’s Word – His absolute honesty (Heb 11:3). God’s Word was LORD of the created universe, indeed, all things were created by Him, and for Him (Col 1:16) (for those not following, the Word of God is Jesus Christ).
The Word of God was the absolute sovereign ruler, and builder of creation. There was no such thing as doubt, indeed, there was no NEED for doubt because the Word was absolute Truth, and the originator of all things. Imagine living an existence without doubt – faith would be unnecessary – no, not unnecessary, it would simply be the nature of all things.
Is it good to believe the Truth? Of course! God declared that what He made was good – it was perfectly True, and so reliable that it… well, that it WAS.
Now after all things were made, God put man in charge of ALL His created universe (Ps. 8). The man, and his wife existed without doubt. They believed God completely, they trusted in His Word, Jesus Christ, who came and walked with them in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8).
In this condition, of absolute Trust in God’s Word, God gave man SOME commandments. Let it be noted, that there was not merely ONE command – here many miss an important fact. God’s first scripturally recorded command to man was not a ‘don’t’ it was a ‘do’ here it is:
And God blessed them [the man, and his wife], and God said unto them [here’s the COMMAND:], Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
(Bracketed commentary and emphases added by me)
The first commandments to man recorded in scripture is to BE FRUITFUL, and to HAVE DOMINION over the earth, and all its creatures. God placed man in the garden to ‘dress it, and to keep it’ (Gen 2:15), thus God had a purpose for man, and had given man some directives prior to the command of limitation – the command telling him something he could NOT do. In fact, God had given man the ability, and the charge to do whatever he wanted, ONLY EXCEPTING ONE THING.
There was one tree in the garden called the knowledge of good, and evil. The single command of God given to man that was a ‘don’t’ was that he should not eat of this tree.
Now, as the creator God truly can command whatever He wants and give no explanation for it. He is God – who are we to question Him, and ply the eternally Righteous One with ‘why?’? Nevertheless, because God loved man, and was His friend, He not only gave the commandment not to eat the fruit, but He ALSO explained WHY:
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Now, we assumptive and sinfully corrupted humans often interpret this commandment as though this warning given in verse seventeen is a declaration of PUNISHMENT for man’s eating of the tree. IN FACT, THIS IS NOT AN ACCURATE ASSUMPTION. If we read the full story, we will find that God did not punish man with the death penalty – though if that is what He meant with the warning, He would have! (Remember, God’s Word is absolute Truth to be fully, and intrinsically trusted.)
No, God’s statement was not an angry, disciplinarian thought – it was a WARNING OF NATURAL CONSEQUENCE. No one would fault a father for saying: ‘Do not jump from a moving vehicle, or you will get seriously injured!’ (Jeez, what a strict dad, eh? – NO!)
God WARNED man against the natural consequences of eating that one particular fruit. None of the other fruits would be a danger to man, he could eat freely of EVERY OTHER TREE.
Many approach this story with retrospectively with a sinful nature, and assume two things 1) that God’s command not to eat the tree was unjust, and was given merely as a temptation to test obedience; and 2) that man would be naturally prone to take an interest in the one tree he was forbidden to eat BECAUSE that tree was forbidden.
These are both faulty perspectives. Addressing the first: ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man‘ (James 1:13) God does not, nor has He ever tempted ANYONE to evil.
To address the second, I will quote the very NEXT verse in the book of James (v.14) ‘But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.‘
This may require a bit more explanation. Adam did not have a lust to do anything contrary to the Word of God for sin had not yet entered into the world. He was perfectly innocent, and that innocence was this: FAITH IN GOD’S WORD. Adam had absolute faith in the Word of God; there was no reason for Adam to doubt God at all whatsoever. Since Adam had no reason to doubt God’s Word, he simply understood the commandment of God about the tree for what it was: a warning. He didn’t want to eat of the tree, why would he? There was no doubt that he would surely die! God had said so, therefore it was as sure as the ground he stood on! (For the ground existed BECAUSE GOD SAID SO!)
[Does this give greater clarity to the nature of faith?]
Neither Adam, nor Eve were inclined to disobey God because they had complete confidence in the Word of God.
BUT: …the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. (Genesis 3:1a)
Now, the serpent… there are many theological misconceptions about him too, but to spare the length of this post we will confine our discussion to what he did. The DEVIL (for this is whom the ‘serpent’ means) speaks for the first time in the bible. The very first words out of the devil’s mouth are the very SEED of evil. Satan has learned from God. God created all life with SEED – that is, the ability to reproduce. Each plant bore fruit with seed in it according to its kind. Every creature was to bring forth ACCORDING TO ITS KIND. Any seed produces like kind, and the devil here produces the seed of evil.
What is the seed that the devil plants in his first words recorded in scripture?
…And he [the serpent] said to the woman, Yea, HATH GOD SAID, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1b)
He asks a question which casts doubt upon the Word of God! Should it [ironically] be doubted that the devil’s first words are the planting of doubt, hear his next words – an outright LIE AGAINST THE WORD OF GOD:
(v.4) And the serpent said to the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
Later, when Jesus came into the world, He declared that the devil was the father of lies (John 8:44). In verse four of the verse of Genesis, you are privy to the BIRTH of lies: a direct contradiction to the Word of God. This great evil was committed directly against Jesus, the Word of God.
Remember that before this man had no inclination to disobey the command of God. This is clear from context. The devil, being full aware of this, knew that in order for man to sin HE HAD TO CAST DOUBT UPON GOD’S ETERNAL WORD. If the devil had simply arrived and said: ‘Here, try this fruit.’ Man would have been immediately equipped to thwart him: ‘No, dude, that’s retarded – I would die GOD SAID SO!’
When man was in a state of perfect confidence in the Word of God, of course he wanted to obey it. Who wants to die?! But now that the seed of doubt was planted, once the ABSOLUTE TRUTH of the holy Word of God was brought into question – EVERYTHING was brought into question!
When the new testament declares that our righteousness IS BY FAITH (Rom 1:17; 3:22; 4:5, etc., etc.), it means that NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME. God’s Word is True, it is absolutely True, and more sure than the air you breathe, or the ground that you walk on – for these were made, and are SUSTAINED BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER (Hebrews 1:3).
If we could live a life of absolute faith in God’s Word, THERE WOULD BE NO SIN. Where there is doubt, and contempt for God’s Word, where we believe the lie instead of God’s Word, THERE IS ONLY SIN.
Would you be free from sin? Then ‘repent ye and BELIEVE the gospel!’ (Mark 1:15)