Monday, May 5, 2014

Ephesians 6:16 comments: the shield of faith

16  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

In the hierarchy of things, faith is “above all,” for this argument. However, we were told that faith is less than the active love a Christian is supposed to express for his or her brothers and sisters in 1 Corinthians 13.

1Corinthians 13:13  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Saving faith is a gift from God, not something we generate in ourselves, if it is the proper faith.

Ephesians 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Without faith we cannot please God.

Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Faith and belief are similar in that if we believe we are given faith.

Romans 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference…

Galatians 3:22  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Believing, you can generate within yourself for many reasons. You can believe because of the evidence you see in nature. You can believe because of the evidence you see in other’s lives. You can believe because of evidence from your own life. You can believe from reading the Bible and for other reasons but faith comes from God.

With enough faith, great things can happen. When the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out a devil He replied;

Matthew 17:20  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

And when they marveled at the results of His curse of the fig tree as He taught them…

Matthew 21:21  Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

Faith in God, although a gift from God, must be exercised to grow, much like the new man must be fed to take precedence over the old.

These verses about faith should in no way be misread by us so that we believe that simply having faith in our faith is what we are seeking as so many Christians and Non-Christians do. It is not the power of our faith but the power of the one in whom we have faith that matters. We believe that God can do something. Your faith is usually not exercised by ease of living and good times, however.

James 1:3  Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Faith is the first step in the walk of Christian living.

2 Peter 1:5 ¶  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7  And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith is hoping and expecting something from God He has promised you have neither received nor seen.

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

You don’t need faith to expect the sun to rise in the morning. You don’t even think about it. Faith is required for a promise that God has made but that you have not experienced. For instance, you have faith that you have eternal life, something you won’t see, if you are not in the translation (non-Bible term, rapture) of the church, until your physical body dies.

The greatest faith, as Hebrews 11 points out, is an expression of trust and belief in God that you might never see realized in this life. I have faith that the Bible’s historical and scientific records are true. I have seen much of them confirmed by my own studies but there is much that goes against the grain of man’s understanding. I’ll give you an example of this.

The Bible, using parallel phrasing, likens the number of stars in the heavens to the number of sands on the seashore.

Genesis 22:17  That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

You can’t physically count either.

Hebrews 11:12  Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

There are so many stars that God defies Abram to count them.

Genesis 15:5  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell [count, as in a bank teller] the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

And yet, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus cataloged only 850 stars. The astronomer, Ptolemy, early in the Christian era expanded that to 1,022. Six hundred years ago the number of stars visible to the naked eye would have been about 6500 stars. Then, with Galileo’s telescope that number jumped to over 30,000. So, the science fanatic of days gone by would have called the Bible’s parallel phrasing and God’s challenge to Abram to count the stars if he was able merely a poetic fiction. But, in spite of any disagreement from the scientific community a person who believed the Bible and had faith in God’s word which he or she exercises through much tribulation would have understood that God had something more to say than man.

Astronomers today estimate the number of stars to be 10 to the 24th power, a septillion, and there might be more than that. Scientists estimate the number of grains of sand on the shores of the world’s oceans and seas to be 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power. Now, there is no way and there never will be any way for a human being to calculate accurately how many of either there are but the idea of the stars in the sky having any equivalence to the sand on the seashore boggles the mind. Would your faith have been strong enough in 200AD to stand against the intellectual community of the day and stand on God’s word? Now, how does your faith stand in relation to modern science’s belief in Abiogenesis and Macroevolution?

More importantly, when you are faced with the temptations that try to steer you away from God’s wisdom given to Paul in Ephesians for how to live a Godly life how will you stand? Do you trust Him to deliver you?

1Corinthians 10:13  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Without that faith you will not quench Satan’s fiery darts (a dart is a spear, see Job 41:29) as he tries to bring you down with questioning God’s word and the temptations of your flesh and the allure of the world system. You need the shield of faith. Trust God. I’ll leave you with Psalms and a Proverb that should give you pause.

Psalm 115:11  Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.

Psalm 118:8  It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 9  It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

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