Faith Beyond Duty - Part II of “Keys to Developing a Hearing Ear”

The keys to developing a hearing ear can and really should be considered with a focus of attention on the aspect of faith, so we're going to investigate what the Bible says about the subject in a way that takes the precision of language into account, the matter of how God says what He says.

At the tail end of a personal crisis several years ago something became painfully obvious. The Lord had radically intervened in my life to bring about some much needed correction and a new direction. Fundamentally, I had been thinking wrong about faith, and the time had come to begin thinking and practicing rightly. Many teachers promote faith as if it's some kind of power or force. I had been schooled in thinking along those lines but that only got me just so far and no further. Positive confession, "name-it-and-claim-it," the prosperity gospel and the "Word of Faith" - these "wish-craft" theologies are thinly veiled sorcery, witchcraft. As I share what I learned with you, should it be the Lord's good pleasure to open the eyes of your understanding, the fraudulant claims made about such theology having a scriptural basis should fade away in the bright light of the truth.

As the Lord took me through the Bible to search this subject out it was with as though I was seeing it with fresh eyes. It was quite a personal reboot! It was only after many years had passed that I came to learn what had happened to me in that difficult transitional season, in 1988. There had been a release of apostolic anointing (Henry Gruver - Rome), and this had a major influence. What I began to understand about faith and the keys to developing a hearing ear resulted in a dramatic increase of insight. It wasn't long before the Lord led me into a remarkable series of discoveries about the end times, affirming to me that I had learned something of significance about the keys to developing a hearing ear.

In this hour, there's a great need to have the highest level of discernment, even about what the Bible calls faith, because the world has been prepared to receive the antichrist beast through the promotion of false doctrines. His twisted doctrine won't just suddenly appear. It already saturates our culture, even in the professing church. There is no skill in discerning without a hearing ear!

Ears that hear and eyes that see-- the LORD has made them both.

Proverbs 20:12 (NIV)

I wouldn't presume to think that I have all the answers on this broad topic of faith, but what I've learned has given me far greater access to the deeper truths. Such keys are valuable indeed that afford us greater access to the buried treasure of God's secret riches.

Faith is a fundamental reality in our lives. It's the crux of our relationship with God and his son Jesus Christ.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

It's relative to faith that we first become Christians, and then, that we have success in our walk with Him. Our response to God's promises determines how effective we are in our service to him. Faith stands alongside hope and love.

5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 5:5-6

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Are You Trustworthy?

In the relationship we have with God, trust is an essential foundation. We must prove and test God's word to learn that He is true and faithful. Yet, God is all the while proving us to forge our character and discover our trustworthiness. We must learn to distinguish between God's role and ours in this relationship so that we're not confused. Confusion about what God has promised leads to frustration and disappointment, and faith is destroyed in the face of disappointment. This is why we must get very clear about what our own responsibilities are, which is to say, what God expects of us. Only then will we really know what we can expect of God. Faith lies in this realm of our expectations of what God will do and our meeting of His expectations. Only when we have proven our trustworthiness will The One who conceals and reveals mysteries open His valuable secrets to us. Even the keys to developing a hearing ear are given to the trustworthy!

Figures of Speech

Lies about the nature of faith have gained wide acceptance by those who study the Bible due in no small part to a failure to acknowledge the significant role of figures of speech.

Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

John 10:6

Jesus also says:

Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.

John 16:25

Then, in verse 29, we read:

Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.

John 16:29

Let's get to the place where we understand what's meant, even and perhaps especially where figures of speech are used.

The use of various kinds of figures permeates the scriptures. They generally cloak the meaning from the majority who come to gaze only lightly upon the Word. Ultimately, the truth is reserved as a reward for those led by the holy spirit who search in the fear of God with an unquenchable passion.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:1-6

If that passage means anything at all, the implication is this; that the understanding of the fear of the Lord and the finding of the knowledge of God is strictly reserved for those who meet the expressed criteria. It's not for those who approach it in a more casual way. Take this very, very seriously because it's likely to be your point of failure. Does that concern you? Take this to the Lord and seek His help with even that, to gain the fire and grit that meets His standard and finds His good pleasure.

Let's get technical for a moment. Language is a tool for communication whereby we use words to represent thoughts. The words themselves are symbols which have an intellectual and an emotional content. A figure of speech is a construction used to express more efficiently and accurately or more colorfully what would be less appropriately stated in a more literal manner.

We use figures of speech regularly without even being aware of them. If I held up a photograph and told you, "This is my mother," would you wonder how that piece of paper brought me into this world? Probably not. You'd immediately grasp what I really meant, that it represents my mother. By saying, "This is my mother," a common figure called a metaphor was employed. A metaphor is employed only when one thing is not literally the other but compares to it in some useful way. The use of a metaphor and every other figure of speech is governed by the rules of language.

We use figures of speech to more effectively or efficiently communicate but none of us is really very good at it compared with the way God communicates in His word. He uses figures of speech with exactness and specific intent. God “invented” man and He also invented communication. Do you think He doesn't have the mastery of figures of speech? If we want to understand what God means when we read the Bible we must learn to recognize and correctly interpret those peculiar constructions.

Dr. E. W. Bullinger, a recognized authority on the subject of figures of speech, has catalogued them in a rather scholarly volume. From page 15 of his book, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, I quote: "Whenever and wherever it is possible, the words of scripture are to be understood literally, but when a statement appears to be contrary to our experience, or to known fact, or revealed truth; or seems to be at variance with the general teaching of the scriptures, then we may reasonably expect that some figure is employed. And as it is employed only to call our attention to some specially designed emphasis, we are at once bound to diligently examine the figure for the purpose of discovering and learning the truth that is thus emphasized." While most of those who praise the book for its utility use it as a reference book, the Lord had me read it through, cover to cover. In the process, the holy spirit was impressing upon me what was beyond the mechanism, granting me insight into the ways and means of it, how these constructions serve to draw and direct attention and t0 give emphasis where the Author wills, for the purposes of concealing and revealing.

Our observation of the distinction between literal and figurative usage of language in the Bible is essential to our accurate understanding of the truths taught. As we work through this study of the subject of faith, a sound approach is to begin with those occasions where we find plain and literal usage. As a place to start, I'd like to offer the following as one definition of faith: Faith is an attitude of trust in response to truth. Relative to a specific promise of God, faith is a response of trust in the verity and faithfulness of that promise.

Here is a key observation. There are two distinct and essential components involved. There is first what may be called faith's object. It's what to trust in - what substantial thing may be trusted. The provision of such is God's responsibility. Only upon being presented with this component can we subsequently respond to it with trust, accepting it and embracing it. This is our responsibility, the response. On one hand, we have His promise. On the other hand, our response to it. These are the simple components of faith.

Now, from another perspective, the promise of God can be said to set a condition or criterion, based upon which our response might meet that condition.

Some describe what's called a leap of faith into the unknown or blind faith. But that just won't do. Faith is rather like perceiving the Lord's actual invitation to take the step and assurance that He's got us, despite whatever indications there may be to the contrary. We take that step while not seeing the concrete evidence or full manifestation in the natural world that would comfort our senses. Instead, we take that step with confidence in the verity of and faithfulness of the promise. Because we know the promiser and His voice! True faith is not blind but is fixed upon the unseen. It's a legitimate response to legitimate truth. There is no real faith in what is not real. That just amounts to fake-believe, make-believe - delusion.

How often have we heard the questions posed, "Do you believe?" or, "Do you have faith, brother?" Hey - everybody believes something, right? The thing is, what you believe. Remember, two components are required. The object of faith has been quietly assumed. Those questions would be better formulated with a fuller expression of the object. In the Bible, when we encounter what seems to be vague or nebulous and incomplete or confusing statements or ideas, if the object of faith isn't distinct and immediately apparent, a figure of speech is being employed. The context, when it is correctly identified, will supply it. Make sense? Let's proceed!

Here's some examples where faith is set forth in a literal manner, straightforward and easy to understand.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

What must anyone who comes to God believe? That he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. The objects of faith are right there in the verse, plain and simple.

Consider the following:

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

Here, the object of faith is very plain. What's to be believed? That God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. No one needs to miss out on what is so plainly declared.

Here's another plain and literal statement.

When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes , Lord," they replied.

Matthew 9:28

What were they to believe? That Jesus was able to do what they just asked of Him.

Another example of a plain literal usage of "faith" is found in Acts.

23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Acts 27:23-25

What did Paul have faith in? That it would happen just as the angel had told him. Are you catching on? This usage is literally true. Yet there's more to this that needs to be explored. The expression reads, "for I have faith in God - that it will happen just as he told me." Other Bible versions render it, "for I believe God that it will ..." or "I trust God that it will..." He's conveying to us in a concise manner how It's not the word of the angel that his faith is in, who is merely the messenger, but rather the God to whom he belongs and serves, Who sent His sure word by way of the angel. There is a subtle use of figurative language because what is literally meant is somewhat condensed in this expression. This construction serves to draw and direct our attention to what's being emphasized! Paul discerned and trusted the word of the Lord, sent through His angel.

Here's an instance where we have to do a little searching.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did.'

John 4:39

The word "him" doesn't represent an appropriate object of faith because such a reference is too vague. What is it about him that the Samaritans could believe? That he exists? - That he was not just a figment of their imagination? - That he had a gift for telling someone everything they ever did? If we search the context for a suitable object of faith, we find one a few verses later, in verse 42.

They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.

John 4:42

There it is! This is what we did. First, realizing that faith isn't some nebulous thing, we recognized that a figure of speech was employed. Then we looked for and found a valid object of faith - right there in the context. In this instance it's evident that for them to believe in him meant that they believed that he really is the Savior of the world. By employing this figurative language, the Author has drawn and directed our attention to bring emphasis to that declaration of truth! A figure of speech functions like a pointing hand inserted into the text.

Is Faith a Power?

The approach I'm taking may seem to you like its excessively clinical and devoid of "spirituality." Well, okay. It does remove the subject from the realm of mysticism and enchantment. It blows away the nebulous, fuzzy, hazy, psuedo-spiritual clutter. It confronts much of what's falsely taught about the subject of faith whereby the saints are led into the practices of Occultism in the realm of the pharmakeia of Mystery Babylon the Great. Faith is not a thing to be operated, managed or manipulated like a lever or a machine. Nor is it exerted like an influence or driven by intention. Faith does not control or manipulate reality, is not employed and neither is it exercised in any literal sense.

Have you heard anyone state that you may "move a mountain" by doing something akin to concentrating upon the task? By your aggressive mental tenacity, an action of the human mind, you may channel the powers of the universe at your command. They call this power "faith." If this is your belief, I invite you to go ahead and try it right now. Cast a mountain into the sea. Maybe you know someone else who can do it. No? Maybe you just need to get more people involved in order to gather up sufficient force. Well, OK, practice first on a tree. A pebble? Not having much success, are you? Now, don't tell me that the mountain is figurative and means something that just looks as big as a mountain; Jesus' examples were literally true as well as having other symbolic meanings. It's quite possible to move a literal mountain at your command. Sure, it's impossible by our own means, but that's what a miracle is all about! Consider Jesus' declaration.

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:20

The so-called "New" Age doctrine states that it doesn't require God's power and that what you have to do is, "just focus your own amazing powers and the powers of the universe and do it." Success seminar teachers say that you just confess what you want long enough and sincerely enough and it will eventually come into your life. Visualize what you want and you'll have it. If this is true, I'm dead wrong about my conclusions. But I go on record here declaring that this doctrine is false and in opposition to the true teaching of Jesus Christ. This doctine is a lie that eliminates one significant requirement for the performance of a miracle. Revelation. A spiritual directive. The object of faith upon which miraculous power has been predicated.

Learning to recognize this essential requirement is a significant key to resolving this "faith" issue in our lives. Some Christians teach a brand of health-and-wealth "faith theology" that goes something like this: You must focus your mind on whatever you want to happen and God will make it happen. This is perhaps closer to the truth, but, it still looks like the same lie dressed up in "Christian" garb. Most who teach on this subject suggest that faith is itself a powerful force, but is that really what the Bible teaches? That's what we need to know. Almost all Christians believe that "more faith" is the key to a more powerful life. But what is "more faith"? Is this really a valid biblical concept? This may shock you, but jesus taught that we do not need more faith! In fact, I would assert that it's an impossibility to have more faith in a literal sense. Here is the alternative to such an interpretation: Regarding any particular truth, some specific object of faith, we either have faith or we don't. Period. Bear with me and hear me out, if you would.

Let's take a look at another example of metonymy. Here, we find a statement that appears to set forth faith as a power.

Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'

Luke 17:19

The leper that was made well received a miraculous healing. But was it some miraculous healing power called "faith" that made him well? Why did jesus say "your faith has made you well" if it's the power of God that makes one well? Is your faith the actual power of God, or is there some other explanation? Let's examine this more closely. (By the way, you'll probably need to read through this material more than once to let it sink in.)

This is the figure of metonymy in that "faith" is is named instead of the appropriate phrase, "the power of God." Remember, in the figure metonymy, the noun named always stands by a certain relation to the one not named. The relationship between faith and the power of God gives a clue as to why this figure is employed. To put "faith" when "the power of God" is meant is to put the response which meets the necessary condition in the natural realm for the active agent, which may then accomplish in the spiritual realm. The power of God is the active agent in bringing the miracle to pass, but faith is named, which is a response to a promise of God that meets the condition.

For the leper to have had faith and been healed, he must have been presented with a promise of God related to his healing. In that record, the promise is implied in Jesus' command to the leper.

When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

Luke 17:14

The 10 lepers who received the command responded with obedience; they went immediately to show themselves to the priests. The lepers must have understood the promise of healing in Jesus' command because they knew what showing themselves to the priests meant. In their culture, lepers weren't allowed to associate with others within the community, nor were they free to go in among them. This was probably because of their offensive appearance and quite possibly to curb the spread of disease. Presenting themselves to the priests was required before they could be accepted back into their community. The lepers knew that Jesus wouldn't tell them to go show themselves to the priests if they were not cleansed of leprosy by the time they got there, so they understood this command to be a promise of their healing. Their obedience to the command showed their belief that they would be cleansed by the time they reached the priests. This was their "faith," evidenced in their obedience to the Lord's command.

From another perspective, Jesus' command set a condition for their cleansing. The condition could be stated thusly: If you go show yourselves to the priests, you will be cleansed. They believed that it would be as he promised and met the condition by obeying the command.

By employment of this figure, God brings our attention to bear upon the leper's response, rather than upon his power. Do you see it? This is the reason for the "pointing hand," for using the figure of Metonymy. This figure that superficially appears to attribute the effects of the power of God to "faith" occurs numerous times in Scripture. Resulting from an ignorance and misunderstanding of Metonymy, many people have assumed that faith is itself a power. This power is then somehow controlled or directed by our wills. But is this view of faith valid? Let's continue.

I'd like to document the fallacy of that kind of faith theology. People just don't bring to pass miracles by their intensity of desire or mental tenacity. Are you familiar with the contest between God's prophet Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal, a false god? records:

18 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire--he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good." 25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. [These people were sincere, were they not?] 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood." 34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are god, and that you are turning their hearts back again." 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

1 Kings 18:21-38

What a record! 450 sincere people whose lives depended upon the results could not do what one man could, who understood the truth we're learning about faith. Verse 36 contains the key - its no secret! Elijah prayed so that the people would know that he was God's servant and that he did all those things at God's command. Not of his own desire, but - at god's command!

Remember the record of the Exodus, of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt? They were pursued by the entire Egyptian Army. This massive army must have been intensely focused upon their goal to have followed the Israelites into the Red Sea. Think about it - great walls of water on each side! I'd think twice before I passed that way. Many hundreds of thousands of very intensely focused men could not affect their situation in the least when the sea filled back in. They all died! Now, surely, if anyone could "believe for" a result (as the expression goes), the pursuing Egyptians would have obtained their object of desire in the Red Sea! Why did the Israelites pass safely while the Egyptian army was drowned? Because God promised Moses safety, but, the Egyptian army had no such promise.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. {16} Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

Exodus 14:15-16

How did Moses miraculously cross the Red Sea? He had revelation from the Lord and obeyed it. Why did Elijah see the miraculous burning of the sacrifice? he had revelation from the Lord and obeyed it. He did those things at God's command! The 450 prophets of Baal and Pharaoh's army couldn't accomplish a thing with all their number, sincerity and intensity of focus.

A record in Luke succinctly declares the inability of man to affect his condition by his mental abilities. The KJV renders Luke 12:25 thusly: "And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?." This verse reads as follows in the NIV; "Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?" Verse 26 then continues; "Since you cannot do this very little thing...." See, to the Lord, this is just a very little thing. But, even this very little thing is not within the ability of man by worrying, which is intensely focused thought. This is the key in our own lives which, when recognized, will bring us peace and will clear away confusion in many of life's challenging situations.

Desire alone is just not authoritative in the spiritual realm! If it were, the Egyptian army and the prophets of Baal would not have been disappointed in their respective expectations. Those of you who ascribe to the teaching that faith is a power that is controlled by our minds, take note of the failure of the people in these illustrations to receive the object of their expectations. They weren't disappointed because they lacked sincerity or intensity of desire. What was it that they lacked? Simply God's direction to do what they did. They needed revelation from the Lord.

Revelation is an absolute requirement for the accomplishment of a miracle! our involvement in any accomplishment in the realm of spirit is that of meeting a required condition. Our invitation to become involved in a miracle is by grace (via written, spoken, or otherwise conveyed revelation) and is prerequisite, as is the grace with which the Lord then brings to pass the miracle by the authority of his word in the spiritual realm.

Now, let's not put God in a neat little box with the notion that revelation has to be recognized as being such before a miracle can occur. Think about your own life's experiences for a moment. Were you always aware of revelation as it came to you, or, did you only consider that it was revelation after you saw the fruit in the situation. See, there's no promise that we'll always recognize revelation when we get it, sometimes it's very subtle. But, subtle or not, when we get it, things happen. When you get consistent about obeying the Lord's direction, you get better at it. You start a good habit. Its simple!

Before I move on, let me tell you that you aren't too likely to get any information from God beyond his written word if you haven't yet obeyed what he wrote. The Bible is revelation. You don't need a special invitation to lay hands on the sick for healing. You've already got it! You don't need a special invitation to cast out demons; if they're revealed to you, cast them out.. God already said to do it, so you just do it. The Lord is there with you and in you! Consider the power we've been given as set forth in this promise.

22 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

John 20:21-23

What's the practical result of the forgiveness of sins? Jesus declares:

5 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." 7 And the man got up and went home.

Matthew 9:5-7

You can think of our access to the power of God as having power of attorney from Jesus Christ! He sits on the right hand of the throne of God Almighty! the power we've been given is is not the same as a blank check, but if he makes out a check to you, go cash it.

Now then, it can be said that when you obey revelation, you obey a trustworthy promise. Without revelation, going by your own logic and experience, you have no choice but to obey an untrustworthy premise. You see, and I can't emphasize this point enough; when we're unable to discern between truth and its counterfeit, we're unable to determine that which is trustworthy. We must learn to distinguish between truth and error by closely studying truth. The fine line between the truth and its counterfeit can be likened to the edge of a cliff. There's very little difference between the two sides from one perspective, but from another perspective, there's a vast difference. Sometimes even the difference between life and death! Its dangerous to blindly wander around the edge of a cliff. Should we blindly wander around in life and in God's word, or, should we rather have our eyes open and focused upon our Lord? A study of figures of speech used in the Bible is so important! Truth matters!

No Degrees or Magnitude of Faith

Let's consider another view of the nature of faith. Faith can be compared to a pregnancy. Neither is an entity or a thing. They're conditions, existing realities which each bears appropriate fruit. We can talk about these two concepts in a similar figurative manner because each is a condition. Now, a woman either is pregnant or she isn't. Faith is like this, you either believe or you don't. A woman can never literally be a little pregnant, can she? But, we sometimes speak of a woman in that manner when the pregnant condition isn't very evident. We also refer to a woman who's nearing the end of her term as being very pregnant because the condition is very evident. I believe we talk about faith just that way.

A pregnancy itself doesn't grow, but certain characteristics relative to a pregnancy do grow and change. For example, the size and development of a embryo and fetus changes, as does the size and shape of a pregnant woman. Certain characteristics relative to faith do grow and change. Since faith is a response of acceptance to truth, the amount of truth that you believe can grow. The more truth you learn, the more you have available to believe. Your willingness and ability to hear God's word can grow. Your readiness to believe God's word when you recognize it can grow, but, faith can't itself grow - just like a pregnancy can't grow. How can I say that? because Jesus said it! Bear with me.

Remember Matthew 17:20, quoted earlier?

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:20

In Luke 17 we find a similar record that I would like to cover in detail.

5 The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' 6 he replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea," and it will obey you'.

Luke 17:5-6

Moving a mountain from one place to another, or, plucking a mulberry tree up by its roots and planting it in the sea would be rather spectacular miracles. For the Lord to say that even the smallest faith leads to the accomplishment of a large miracle indicates that the concept of size is not involved in faith. If faith as small as a mustard seed (which according to Matthew 13:32 "is the smallest of all your seeds") fulfills the requirement for a great miracle, why then would we ever need to have more faith? "More faith" is declared irrelevant, right? Think about it. That's what Jesus said!

This conclusion is like Mark's conclusion offered by revelation and appended to our Lord's statement below.

18 "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

Mark 7:18-19

In saying that even if you have faith as small as a mustard seed.... he declared size irrelevant in the context of faith. Not that size ever was relevant, but in order to clear up any misunderstandings, it was made as plain as could be.

Once I recognized this truth, I had to revise my thinking about faith.

Does "little faith" really mean faith that is itself small in degree? If faith as small as a mustard seed meets the condition for the performance of a miracle, it follows logically that a little faith would allow at least the same, a little faith being "at least as much of," or, "as big as" faith as small as the very smallest of seeds. Interestingly, when the phrase "little faith" is attributed to someone in the Bible, no miracle occurs! if the Lord was telling the truth in Luke 17 and Matthew 17, the only explanation for no miracle resulting from a little faith must be found in the category of figures of speech.

Remember the quote from Bullinger read earlier? He wrote, "when a statement appears to be contrary to our experience, or to known fact, or revealed truth; or seems to be at variance with the general teaching of the scriptures, then we may reasonably expect that some figure is employed." The usage of the phrase "little faith" is clearly figurative. Based upon a close examination of the biblical record, it seems to me that faith has no degrees of magnitude, strength, quantity or quality and, therefore, can not be measured. We will find that, "is there faith?" is the question that should be asked, and not, "how much faith."

In spite of the plain and simple teaching in Luke 17, the concept of faith as a power that varies in degree and itself influences our environment has been and continues to be promoted extensively. How has this doctrine become so popular while what I have proposed is so obscure and neglected? perhaps one reason is by confusion of the meanings of the very different teachings which refer to seeds and to mustard seeds. Take a look at those records sometime and try to find a parable where faith is the seed that grows. There aren't any! How can that be? Sloppy reading. Sloppy teaching. Too many lazy students listening to too many lazy teachers. I'll take another look at this matter in the appendix.

That very important teaching about the size of faith continues at some length. Immediately folllowing Jesus' rather cryptic explanation of his response to their request, an apparently unrelated event takes place that actually repeats the lesson with emphasis. This is a really important passage for those of us who desire the keys to developing a hearing ear!

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. 7 “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” 11 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:5-19

There's some awesome truths to be found in Luke 17 that aren't commonly seen here because they're found below the surface. Let's dig for buried treasure!

God reveals truth in many diverse ways. One of the ways truth is revealed in God's word can be seen through an analysis of passages which contain a repetition of words and phrases. By closely noting the sequence of repeated elements, an orderly structure can be found. These elements can be seen as interrelated and interdependent parts which are organized into what can be seen as a definite pattern. Certain truths become evident upon comparison of these repeated elements. This inherent structure often supplies the general meaning of the whole and usually reveals truths which wouldn't be apparent if the relationships between the related elements of the passage weren't recognized. The analysis of structure is then a tool for examining the scriptures in order to discover concealed meanings. What follows is what I believe to be the relevant structure of Luke 17, verses 5-19.

These structural elements can be set forth in the following way:

I believe the Lord's response to the apostles' request can't really be understood without recognizing that the whole record is a single unit. The record of the cleansing of the lepers is an illustration of the Lord's teaching. This truth is reflected in the architectural structure of the passage, brought to light by means of structural analysis. The link between the two is suggested on the surface level by use of the conjunction "now" (kai- verse 11).

Let's take a closer look at the request in verse 5. "The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'" I think that the Greek word prostithemi (translated here as "increase") is key to understanding their request. Bullinger defines prostithemi thusly: "To set, put, or lay unto or with any person or thing; to join to, add unto." i looked at the 18 occurrences of prostithemi and it appears that the apostles were asking the Lord to give them something, to add something unto themselves. The Newberry Interlinear translates the request as "Give more faith to us." I don't think that the Lord could grant that request. His response first indicates that the apostles didn't understand the nature of faith. His response further indicates that what will be given is given according to merit.

Let's consider Jesus' response. He first employs a figure of speech. The phrase is more literally translated in the KJV than the NIV, rendering the phrase; "faith as a grain of mustard seed." The NIV translators translated this phrase less literally, interpreting the figure to render it; "faith as small as a mustard seed. Mark 4:31 reveals the relevant characteristic of the mustard seed which is being used in luke 17 to teach about faith. "It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground." By saying "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed," Jesus was saying "if you have even the smallest size, amount or degree of faith." By teaching his disciples that even the smallest amount of faith leads to a great miracle, he taught them that they don't need more faith because faith is not a matter of degrees. The key is not in how much faith, but in that there is faith.

Now, he might have stopped there, having addressed the basic request, but he continues, addressing what I believe was the true desire of their hearts. By way of showing the relationship between a servant and his master, he explains duty to them, saying that doing only what is expected of them is not worthy of thanks, which is an expression of gratitude, acknowledgment, recognition, a kind of reward or honor. When a servant fulfills his dutiful obligation, the master doesn't thank him; it's just not appropriate. That would be an unmerited blessing. The Lord is just like this master in relationship with his servants. He doesn't say it directly, but, does he need to? Isn't it obvious? There's no added blessing merited by those who just do their duty. However, let me ask you this: Could an added blessing ever be earned by a servant? Yes, indeed! But any blessing added due to meritorious service wouldn't be in the category of wages earned. That would be as a bonus given according to the principle of grace. An "added" blessing would be completely outside the range of any previously agreed upon benefit. The Lord isn't required to give anything beyond such a benefit but may do so if he wants, and he does so on the basis of merit.

Think about the employee/boss relationship for a moment, which, in our culture, is similar to the master/servant relationship. What's the basis for a bonus? If you had two employees who did everything you told them to do, you'd be happy to give them their pay, wouldn't you? Sure you would! now, let's say that one's service to you could be characterized by his carrying out your requests "to the letter." The other not only did what you told him, but freely went beyond his duty, performing his service in a manner that reflected his understanding of the purpose of your request. Which employee is worthy of a bonus? Wouldn't you gladly reward the one who did more when it came time for a raise or a promotion? The Lord is using this same principle in Luke's account to teach some important truth.

Immediately following our Lord's verbal response to their request for more faith, a vivid illustration of his teaching followed - a real life situation that must have had quite an impact on the apostles. Ten lepers do only their "duty," strictly doing just what was expected of them. They all received cleansing, which was the expected benefit, their "wage," if you will, for their obedience to the Master's command. One of them, however, goes beyond duty, beyond the minimum action commanded and was made well. This leper received honor, being marked out with distinction from the other 9 who were cleansed. Make note that the Samaritan leper came back, praising god in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. This leper was made well, or whole. He literally obeyed the command and then went beyond duty. It was in going beyond duty that he received reward.

I want to comment specifically about how the leper went beyond duty? he praised God with a loud voice. There's a key to remember!

Now, let's note the kind of reward or additional benefit the Samaritan leper received. I've studied the Greek words used to see if this leper somehow received a better healing than the other 9. I'm not convinced that he did. His further reward may have been entirely outside the realm of healing. We can see that the Lord honored him publicly in view of the Twelve and the other followers who might have been with Jesus. Jesus specifically called attention to his "faith." Remember, when we considered the figurative usage of faith in verse 19, we saw that the word "faith" was stated instead of the more literally appropriate phrase "power of God." In this account, the figure of Metonymy seems to have been employed to bring our attention to bear on the leper's response instead of on the power of God. The leper's reward was this; to be acknowledged for his faith, his response of service beyond duty to his Master's command. Jesus not only honored this man before those who were present, but he is honored before all who read and understand Luke 17! If you think acknowledgment and recognition isn't much of a reward, take a look around you and see what people are doing for no other reason! the nature of the reward seems to be in the same category as that which jesus said was not merited by duty alone in verse 9, which is, thanks. The further reward is recognition, acknowledgment - synonyms of thanks. He might also have received another benefit, a reward laid up to his account for future enjoyment.

At the time of the cleansing of the lepers, its very likely that the apostles were still puzzling over the Lord's response in verses 6-10. When jesus remarked about the Samaritan leper's faith, I can imagine they just about fell over! The apostles might have looked at each other and said, "Oh!!! Now we get it!" Follow this closely, now. They had just heard Jesus' words in verses 9 and 10;

9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'

Luke 17:9-10

Jesus had fully and very properly addressed their request in verse 5, "increase our faith." The nine lepers could have looked upon the one who had returned to give praise to God and identified fully with the statement jesus had made to the apostles. They had done everything they were told to do and could have appropriately said, "we have only done our duty, and are therefore unworthy of thanks or further reward, unlike this Samaritan who received recognition and was made well."

See, it's stated in verse 10 that the servants are unworthy. This cannot mean that, because they only did their duty, they're unworthy of the standard benefit they were entitled to. The implication is that they're unworthy of further reward. This is an example of a figure of speech. When a thought is implied but not directly stated, the figure called "Ellipsis" is employed. Ellipsis means "omission" and is a figure used frequently in the Bible. The idea of further reward is emphasized by means of the use of this figure, quite fitting for its role in helping us interpret the passage.

In summary of the teaching of Luke 17:5-19, we have seen that the apostles asked the Lord to give them, or, lay unto them, faith - implying "more faith." The Lord responded to the apostles' request by first showing them that even a great miracle may occur when there simply is faith in a promise. There are no degrees of faith. It's not possible for the Lord to give them faith. How could he? Faith isn't a commodity or a kind of entity or power, but an accepting response to a promise of God. That which may be given must be earned. The strict performance of duty merits no thanks, honor or reward. Blessings beyond "wages" are merited only by service exceeding duty (Sincere expressions of praise count!). Jesus taught them that, if they want to receive some additional benefit, they must do more than is asked of them Then he showed them this truth by example, bestowing added blessing upon the one who went beyond duty.

Another scripture that expresses a similar truth is the following.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38

This "giving" can be defined thusly: It's only when you go beyond duty that you truly give. This giving is giving beyond what is minimally asked. When you give in this way, how does it affect your life? The Lord rewards you generously with benefit in proportion to your service that exceeds duty.

One benefit I've recognized from giving beyond duty is that you become more able to both receive the promises of God and respond to them with faith. When you exceed duty in your relationship with the Lord, he rewards you generously in some appropriate manner. When you faithfully serve with your whole heart, you become more able to receive the promises of God, to hear and understand the scriptures and the Lord's personal curriculum for your life. You also have your heart prepared to more readily believe the Lord's promises when you hear them. This key to developing a hearing ear is not rocket science, but it is profound!

The Heart

In order to understand the way in which we respond to God's promises, it's helpful to think about something of the way our minds work. This little excursion is intended to help explain about the idiomatic expression of faith and how faith itself doesn't actually grow. This function of man which places trust (or believes) is a process. We see such a process described in Romans 10.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17

In that context, the message heard is found in verse 9.

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

As noted earlier, the usage of the word "believe" is plainly stated here. We are to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. Now, observe where it is that you're to believe. Not in your head, but in your heart. Because (so far as I know) our hearts are not organs that think or believe, this qualifies as a figure of speech. The heart has to do with the body, being the primary organ which must function for life to continue. Actions are done with the body, so the heart is tied to action, the doing of deeds.

Consider these two verses, mindful of the fact that the body without the heart is dead.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:17

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 2:26

James thus address the issues of the heart. The "heart" is the part of man which can be called the "seat" of faith, the very central focus of our attention when we study the way we respond to truth.

From Romans 10 we learn that it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Romans 10:10

It can be seen that the heart is also the seat of doubt from Mark 11:23. (..and does not doubt in his heart..) In Luke 2:51, Mary is said to have treasured these things in her heart.

Luke 2:19 reads, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." According to Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." From Luke 24:25; "how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" According to Hebrews 4:12, the word of God judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. From these few verses, we begin to see that the heart is that deeper part of man which may be thought of as that which determines "who he is" at that time, being the seat of what he thinks, considers, understands, desires, feels, determines, intends or purposes, and perhaps on its deepest level, believes. The value of that which is "in the heart" can be seen from Mark 7.

18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Mark 7:18-23

God's word in the heart supplants evil. When you're in a room filled with darkness, the only way to dispel the darkness is to introduce light. Spiritual darkness in the heart is similarly dispelled; by the introduction of spiritual light - truth. This addresses the problem of controlling our behavior, one reason people are interested in the study of faith. We don't want to sin, but it just comes naturally, doesn't it? These evils put men into bondage. In order to be free, to keep ourselves from sin, God's word must be hidden in - guess where... our hearts!

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11

A large part of the book of Romans is concerned with how to become free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. This is also found in John 8.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:31-32.

Then, verses 34-36 read:

34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:34-36

Here is a truth that will set you free, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin." Freedom from the slavery and bondage of sin comes as you hold to his teaching. Learn to understand the deep and hidden things, the figures of speech, etc. Hide his word in your heart and be freed from sin. Truly, the kind of freedom that stems from holding to Jesus' teaching and thereby really being his disciples develops in you a hearing ear.

It's our hearts that we are to guard above all else, according to Proverbs 4:23: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Of course, to guard your heart doesn't mean that you should wear some steel body armor. Its a figure used to indicate that we should guard what our hearts are about, the root of our relationship with God. We'll see that, to do this, we must obey his word, keeping his commandments and honestly doing the best we can do.

What follows are some thoughts I've had about the ways of faith and the heart. I hope you'll find something there that's helpful to you.

The source of learning about things external to ourselves is our environment, all learning coming via either our senses of taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing, or by way of our spirit, if we have it. Who can deny that our genetic makeup (often called our nature) affects our thought and behavior, or that our environment (called nurture) also plays a significant role? in affecting the readiness of a person to trust God's promises, it's not the force, or, the intensity of the thought that impacts the heart so much as the preparedness of the heart to receive it. We seem to have limited control over the initial sensory input, which is primarily determined by the focus of our attention and then perhaps less so by our location within our environment. As with the initial perception, when these impressions are processed internally, it's in a manner unique to each individual. The perception of all that comes to our senses is subjective because it is interpreted according to our own unique experience. What we call a word is a "vehicle" for an idea. Words have both an intellectual and an emotional content. I think that "hearing," as in Romans 10:17 relates to the way in which information is gathered because there is no exclusion from the new birth for those with physically impaired hearing. Once this information has been received, we may affect its processing according to what we call our "freedom of will." I believe that the human mind, as God designed it and without demonic influence, gives us authority and control over this processing. This "freedom of will" is a privilege that can be lost either by damage to our minds or by evil spirit intervention. At a certain level, the manner of processing can be thought of as a "train of thought," a phrase which describes a flow along a "track" with one thought passing by at one time. The thoughts may proceed with order or erratically along the track. Involved in the manner of processing is the "conscience," which affects the direction of thought and is a collection of moral judgments based upon one's own learned standards. At a superficial level these thoughts may not have much impact on the actions of a person, however, as the thoughts begin to become "planted" they proceed from the conscious or subconscious levels of the mind towards the heart. A thought that is "planted" is at a basic level and constitutes the essence of "who the person is" at any given time. I believe the Bible teaches that what is not then "of faith" is sin. (Romans 14:23)

James 1 states:

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 1:21

At this stage where an idea or word is "planted" in you, that is, in the heart, we can say that it is "believed." The idea has "taken root." There are no degrees of planting, no degrees of faith. It's either planted, or, not. When the idea planted in our hearts is a promise of God, the condition of faith in that promise has been established. As the rule and not the exception (God is soverign, and his actions aren't bound to the limits of "our faith."), the "seed" (the promise, the word of God - not faith!) may mature and bring forth fruit. The Lord may now bring to pass (or bring into fruition) the promised result according to the appropriate time schedule for that particular "seed's" maturation. The condition set by that promise had been met. Perseverance is sometimes required on our part.

Only God and his son Jesus Christ know what is planted. According to hebrews 4:12: "the word of God ...judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." We don't even know what's in our own hearts, let alone someone else's, except by revelation.

Perseverance

Sometimes, developing a hearing requires patience and perseverence.

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' 4 "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" 6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Luke 18:1-8

Will he? What will be your legacy? Ask and keep asking for a hearing ear. Remember what we read earlier?

1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:1-6

Conclusion

Faith can be seen more fundamentally as a condition, not an entity (something considered as existing apart from its properties). Our readiness to respond to God's word with faith can vary in degree, however, and this where our responsibility lies. This is our model of faith:

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Luke 8:15

Hear the word, retain it and persevere. A crop will be produced from the seed that is God's word, planted in our hearts. We are to practice obedience to the truths which have been given to us, to perform our duty. We learn the ways of our loving Master and practice true and faithful service. Then, in seeking to bear more fruit in response to his love, we must go beyond duty (which is real and true giving, according to Luke 6:38). Praise and thanksgiving to God is a natural expression that accompanies real giving.

In this presentation of my thoughts about the nature of faith, I have proposed a way of thinking about faith you may never have considered before. I have shown you a few simple figures of speech that are used to convey lessons about faith. If these figures are valid, the idea that faith literally grows or varies in size or degree is not the only way to think about faith. Though I have addressed the foundation at some length, I have yet to address the many passages that suggest otherwise, that faith actually does varies in degree. These have been reserved for the appendix.

It has been said that "Able" and "Willing" are partners in every work. The Lord has given you, friend, some very special and unique abilities. The willingness to use them is up to you. For inspiration, look at the example of giving beyond duty in the biblical accounts of the apostle Paul's life and Peter's life. I pray that this study will help you become more able and more willing to please the Lord and that you will become a more fruitful laborer in the Lord's harvest field in these last days - bringing glory and praise and honor to Him!

next in series > Part III (Appendix of Idiomatic Usages)