Does Faith in God Make us Invincible and Devoid of Responsibility to Lock our Doors? (Matt 2:22)

“But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.” (Matt.2:22)

Faith-life in this world is doesn’t mean that we should not lock our doors. It is not about supernatural invincibility and perfection all the time. Sometimes, God can also guide us through rational fear. A few verses earlier, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt. Joseph could have argued, “Why flee? Isn’t God powerful to protect us? Is Herod greater than God?” But, Joseph didn’t; he just obeyed. And, then we may argue that God could have averted the death of so many infants. Why didn’t He send legions of angels for the protection of the little ones? But, He didn’t. There were times when Jesus Himself hid. It was not possible for the High Priests and his soldiers to find Jesus without having got a traitor like Judas on their side. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 not only received their dead raised to life again; some were also “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (Heb.11:35). Doctrines that teach full invincibility and divine protection without any personal responsibility or action are strange to the Bible. Christians do go to hospital, use locks on their doors, and drive on the correct side of road; they are normally expected to.

Creed of the 21st Century Christian

  1. We believe in One God, irrespective of nation, language, or creed. He is the Creator of all that is visible and invisible and is the God of all nations.
  2. We believe in the Holy Community of the Divine Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  3. We believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, who by virtue of His pre-existent divine nature (uncreated) could not be born (created) of any human union, but incarnated as the Son of Man by the power of the Holy Spirit once for all.
  4. We believe in the equality, dignity, and fraternity of all humans, made from one blood and created in the very image of God (Slavery, Racialism, and all forms of anti-human discriminations are contrary to the divine order).
  5. We believe in the equality and sanctity of the human sexes, created by God in His own image and likeness, created as male and female.
  6. We believe that marriage is divinely instituted by God as a covenant between one man and a woman, and whom God has joined no man shall put asunder (Polygamy and Divorce are alien to God’s original institution in Genesis 1 and 2).
  7. We believe in the Fatherhood of God, who especially is concerned for the poor, the unprivileged, the oppressed, the widows, and the orphans and seeks the Brotherhood of Christ to also be concerned for the same.
  8. We believe that all humanity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and is totally incapable of redeeming itself by any means within the world.
  9. We believe in One Savior, Jesus Christ, His Eternal Priesthood, His Atoning and Sacrificial Death for the sins of all humanity, His Resurrection from the dead, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, where He continues to make intercession for us as the Faithful High Priest, and His Second Coming for the salvation of all who believe in Him.
  10. We believe in the divine inspiration, total inerrancy, and finality of the Holy Bible communicated to us through the Holy Prophets and the Holy Apostles of Jesus Christ.
  11. We believe in the Unity of the Church as the Body of Christ, spiritually united in faith by the Name, the Word, and the Glory of the Father through Jesus Christ.
  12. We believe in the ministry of prayer (in the One Name), the word (of the One Revelation), and worship (ascribing God the Glory due His Name) in Spirit and in Truth.
  13. We believe that the Nation of Israel, as a people, has a Covenantal and Historical significance in the plan of God for the nations.
  14. We believe in the Ministry of Reconciliation in the power and administration of the Holy Spirit (not by carnal means) to reconcile the world to God through word and deed.
  15. We believe that Christ will come again soon to usher in His Kingdom, for the salvation of those all who believe, for the redemption of their body, and the deliverance of all creation from the bondage of corruption.
  16. We believe in the Final Judgment of the world when all thoughts, words, and deeds will be uncovered before the Judge of the Universe. The confirmed godless will receive the justice of a godless eternity and the confirmed godly will receive the justice of a God-governed eternity.

What Does It Mean To Believe in Christ

There can only be three main varieties of responses to Christ: disinterest, disbelief, and faith. Each of these responses need to be evaluated. But, before we do that, let’s point out some similarities between these responses.

1. Mode of Relating. Each of these responses is a mode of relating to Christ.
2. Personal. Each response is personal, not just in the sense that it’s a personal, subjective decision, but also that it’s a response to a Person, Jesus Christ and not just to some commodity or concept.
3. Decisive. The response is voluntary and decisive. It involves a choice that determines the direction in which one’s faith will progress.

Now, let’s examine each of these one by one.

Disinterest
Disinterest is a value-judgment. The reason why people find the topic of Christ, or Christ Himself, quite uninteresting is either because they have very less information about Him or because they have enough mis-information about Him or because they cannot regard the information they have under their set of values or  important things. They do not think it needs any serious consideration. It is also possible that the disinterest gradually develops, in the same manner that couples may get disinterested in each other due to inability to cope with the disagreements. It may be that the disinterest developed after finding out that one’s agenda or objective was not being met in this relationship. It is probable that Judas Iscariot was attracted by the prospect of a political position in the Kingdom of Christ, but when He saw His Master moving in a different direction, he was frustrated. The disinterest, in such cases, is a remorse over having misunderstood that Christ could serve their original interest; in other words, it is repentance from a false faith in Christ.

However, in the case of those who have very less information, desire for or against salvation can play an important role in evaluating whether time and energy should be expended to consider the Person of Christ.

Evidently, we understand faith to be a voluntary, volitional, and interest-related commitment.

Disbelief
It is important to understand that one cannot have distrust in Christ; one can only entertain a disbelief about Him. Distrust means to regard Christ Himself as not trustworthy. It can only be produced through experience; and, it is not possible for anyone to have had an experience with Christ and still have found Him untrustworthy. Disbelief, on the other hand, is an attitude against Christ. It is not merely an agnostic stance (“I don’t know, and so don’t know if I can believe”), but a skeptical commitment (“I don’t want to believe”). The former may be illustrated as a lost man meeting a stranger in the forest. He doesn’t know him and so is unable to decide whether he can or cannot believe this person. The latter may be illustrated as a woman who finds out that a certain marriage is going to cost her many things, and so rejects it. It is possible that if the other party looks persuasive or too compelling or unavoidable, this woman may develop hatred and disgust.

Evidently, we also understand faith to be a cost-considered, risk-involved, and pre-figured decision. Faith develops through experience and involves a lot of consideration and understanding. The swift to believe are swift to lose faith, unless that faith has taken time, pain, and patience to take root.

Faith
The third form of response is faith.With regard to faith in Christ, one can either have blind-faith or rational faith. Blind-faith is either traditional belief and world-sense or the response of knave credulity. Blind-faith has, at least, two possibilities:
a. It either is so open and credulous that it can change as swiftly as “children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine”
b. Or, it is so closed that it is no longer open to evaluation. In most cases, this closed-condition is just an attitude of prejudice formed through intense commitment to a form of belief, to a community, or to a person; in which case, it is also against someone.

Evidently, faith and affection are related; and, in most cases, affections decide the decision to believe or not believe. However, essentially, faith is knowledge; even as to believe is to know, to have a wrong-belief is to be deceived, and to have no belief is to be ignorant.

Now, we turn to the question, “What does it mean to believe in Christ”, which we’ll examine below through the following categories of knowledge [I borrow the Sanskrit terms from Indian philosophy]:

1. Pratyaksha (Direct Perception).  Faith is a personal and direct spiritual perception of Christ as He reveals Himself to us. In his Second Epistle, Peter writes: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Luke records in Acts that when the rulers, elders, and scribes forbade Peter and John to preach about Christ, they replied: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Act 4:19-20). Now, the Scripture records a number of such eye-witnesses who saw the glory of Christ and also had His vision after His resurrection from the dead. We also have heard in modern times about people like Sadhu Sundar Singh, Dr. D.G.S. Dhinakaran, and Pastor Karamchand Hans who had the direct visitation (pratyaksha darshana) of Christ.  But, this is not the case with many others who believe in Him. Could it be that their faith is different? Of course not, because faith and physical sight are things very different from each other. So, the Scripture says “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Peter even once wrote regarding the believers saying “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls” (1Pet. 1:8-9). So, this faith is not dependent on physical sight or senses. For, if it were, all the world of people that had seen Christ during His earthly ministry would have had faith.

Faith, then, is spiritual perception of Christ when He encounters us through His Self-revelation.

2. Anumana (Inference). Faith is rational understanding based on facts that validate revelation. True faith is knowledge that is open to reason (James 3:17, RSV). Faith is not reasoning, though all reasoning involves faith of some kind (you must, at least, believe in the rules of reasoning). Inferences have starting points: the starting points must be facts. Like the Star that guided the Magi to the house of Jesus, so inference can guide one to Christ, if it is free of false premises and fallacious reasoning; however, faith precedes all this as becoming the primal point of the journey. To note is the fact that it is impossible for blank reason to arrive at any synthetic (informative) conclusion (Cf. Epistemics of Divine Reality). Only reasoning from facts can assist knowledge; reasoning from reason leads to itself; that’s one reason why the pure rationalists end up in a monist and attributeless conception of all reality.

Inference is a tool that can be employed to relate both facts of experience and truths of revelation, like the conclusion of the blind man about Christ that if He was not from God, He could not heal a man born blind (see the argument in John 9:25-33). A number of Scriptural truths like the goodness of God, the omnipotence of God are related with the fact of the experience he had just had to drive the conclusion that Jesus was a man of God. It would, later, only take the self-revelation of Christ to assist this reasoning into solid faith. Reasoning devoid of Christ’s self-revelation would have its limits.

3. Upamana (Comparison). In Matthew 8, we have the story of centurion at Capernaum who came and requested Christ to heal his servant who was lying at home paralyzed. Jesus said that He would come and heal him, but the centurion humbly answered saying “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,’ and he goes; and to another, “Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:8-9). Jesus replied that He had not found such great faith in Israel. This faith of the centurion was formed through an analogical reasoning of Christ’s authority over sickness with his authority over soldiers. The point of marvel, however, is the edge that this comparative reasoning takes. The centurion has faith that his servant lying far away in his home will be healed when Jesus spoke the word here. It was certainly not at all like the centurion commanding his soldiers. That is why, his faith was called “great”.  Thus, faith, here involves an understanding that goes beyond empirical logic. We are informed by the Scripture that this understanding is given through the Spirit Who imparts wisdom as we compare “spiritual things with spiritual” (1Cor.2:13). Thus, analogy does play a role (e.g. metaphors and similes used for God); however, the analogy of faith is only understood by those who share in that faith.

4. Sabda (Word). Faith is ultimately founded on the Word of God. The Scriptures tell us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Jesus told to the religious leaders of His day “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). The pre-understanding of Scripture as God’s Word was important in earlier preaching where Jesus showed to His disciples how the prophecies were fulfilled in Him and where the apostles testified in the Synagogues that the Messiah of prophecy was none but Jesus of Nazareth.
We are told that when Paul preached in Berea “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed” (Acts 17:11-12). Clearly, a three-fold step is involved in the Berean approach:

a. Reception with all readiness of mind. Truth is only open to those who are open to it. Faith is the open door to truth.
b. Searching the Scriptures daily. Personal investigation and judgment of the truth-claim is a noble duty. Also, important to understand is the fact that it is impossible to severe the Faith of Christ from the Revelation of the Old and the New Testament.
c. Believing. This is faith that is based on a spiritual understanding of God’s revelation. What did they believe? They believed the Gospel.

To believe Christ is to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to believe that salvation is only of, by, through, and in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Source of our salvation, the Author of our salvation, the Means of our salvation, and the Limit of our salvation. To be living in any way that stands contradictory to this faith is to be wading on the pathway of disinterest and disbelief. To stand in faith and to grow in faith requires that we take root in the experience of the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Recommended Readings
Explorations of Faith (Studies in Hebrews 11), Introduction and Chapter 1.
Epistemics of Divine Reality, Chs.2 & 4

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2010