It has been said that "Seeing is believing." Another common attitude is: "Don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see." Long before modern computer enhanced imaging, sorcerers, wizards and magicians were proving that your eyes are easily deceived.
In The Meaning of Faith, we saw that faith - true faith - is in the faithful God alone, and in His Son Jesus Christ. All other religions, with their false gods and false doctrines, are inherently faithless: empty belief systems with no hope.
What, then, is the source of the faith that is in God through Christ Jesus? Is it sight? Certainly, there are many people who saw the Lord during the course of His brief ministry. In addition to the disciples who followed Him faithfully, multitudes beheld Him, and were healed, fed, and liberated from demonic bondage. Even after His death, we are given eye-witness accounts of many who saw the resurrected Lord; the twelve apostles, Saul of Tarsus, hundreds of other men and women all testified that they saw Him with their own two eyes.
How many times have you heard (or possibly even said), "If only I had lived in the days of Jesus! I know I would have believed on Him. How wonderful would that have been!"? Would you have believed? There were many who did not. Why did some believe, while others rejected Him? The miracles of Jesus were seen by all. Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5). He told His disciples, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt 5:14-16). Jesus, our great example, did not merely give instructions to proclaim the Lord and His goodness openly, He lived it. As with Paul, "These things were not done in a corner."
Yet, many did not believe. How is it possible that they would see the great things done by God, through our Lord, and deny Him? Apparently, seeing does NOT equal believing.
Have some believed because they saw? Certainly, but sight is not the source of faith. Thomas gets all of the bad press for his failure to believe prior to seeing the risen Lord. The term "Doubting Thomas" has become a byword. But what of the other apostles? The Scripture says, that when the women returned from the empty tomb and told the apostles what had happened, "their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed wondering in himself at that which was come to pass" (Luke 24:10-12). Even when Jesus appeared unto the eleven, "they were affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit" (vss. 36-37). He showed them His nail-scarred hands and feet, and "they yet believed not for joy, and wondered" (vss. 40-41). Finally He ate before them, "and he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:44-45).
It was not only Thomas, but all of the followers of Jesus that had trouble believing that day. Even when they saw with their own eyes, they could not believe. What caused them to believe? When did their faith appear? It was at the word of the Lord! When they heard the words of Jesus, and the Scriptures, then, and only then, was their faith established.
Jesus asked the disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter declared his faith, saying, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16:13-17). Where did Peter and the other believers acquire this faith? Surely they saw many signs and wonders performed before their eyes. Was that enough to sustain them? Was that enough to prove that Jesus was truly Christ?
Peter refers to that which his eyes beheld in 1 Peter 1:16-18. Speaking particularly about the transfiguration of the Lord, Peter said, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount" (2 Pet. 1:16-18). Peter, James and John saw this wonderful event with their own natural eyes, but Peter did not end there. He went on to say, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:19-21).
The written word of God is more sure than any experience, any feeling, any dream, any thought. The word of God is more sure, because those men who penned it did so under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, writing what the Lord said, not what they thought He meant. Because of its infallibility, the Scriptures engender faith in the hearer. As Paul said in Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Therefore, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
Many modern translations have gone beyond simply rendering the text into the more contemporary vernacular. They have altered the text, omitting some phrases and completely changing the intended meaning of others. One in particular has the alternate context of various verses at the bottom of nearly every printed page. This effort in fact causes doubt rather than faith, because if it could say this, or possibly that, then it is unreliable. The Lord our God is one Lord! He does not change, for He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
Paul found no evidence of any discrepancy in the Scriptures. Like its Author, it has not even the shadow of turning! He said, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:11-12). There should be no place for unbelief, for the word of God is sure!
All throughout the Scriptures are examples of the faithfulness of Jehovah. When Solomon blessed the congregation of Israel at the dedication of the Temple, he said, "Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant" (1 Kings 8:56).
Thus it is with all Scripture. Jesus said confidently, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). And again, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law [the Old Testament], till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18).
In Hebrews 11, we read of the great faith of the people of God throughout history. God inspired the writers to record their faith, that we, too, might have faith in God. As Paul said to the Romans, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
Paul commended the saints at Colosse, and referred to the moment they received their faith. "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth" (Col 1:3-6).
The word of God is the only source of faith. God entrusted His word to the children of Israel, because He knew that they would preserve it faithfully throughout their generations. Even today, the scribes meticulously copy the scrolls, checking and re-checking that every word, every letter, even every jot and tittle are accounted for. This trait was one reason God chose Abraham. "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Gen. 18:19).
The word of the Lord is THE source of faith, and the source of salvation. As James said, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). For this reason, the Lord does not tolerate its alteration. Severe punishment is proclaimed in Rev. 22:18-19, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
Why such dire consequences? It is because God's word is the unique instrument by which God has chosen to instill faith in the heart of all them that will believe the report of the Lord.
Let us, therefore, hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) being born again by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever, and having the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. Amen.