Copyright © 20021
Faith Is The Substance
Faith is not just the fuse of a spiritual explosion. It is more than the trigger to produce a sign and wonder. It is not just a necessary ingredient for a miracle. It is substance, in fact the substance that God created to be the pith and marrow of the true Christian life.
Faith was substance in Jack Mavros, one of God’s hidden saints, very few of whom are known to the established Christian circles of earth; but “Grandpa Jack” was known in Heaven. He worked as a cobbler in his own small repair shop in North Hollywood, California.
A friend of mine was in his shop one day, when in blustered a motorcycle gang member in his typical black leather jacket. He hit the counter with a pair of shoes and yelled out, “Clean these, ol’ man.” Grandpa Jack was not a cleaner of shoes, but a most able shoe repairer. He took up the shoes and cleaned and polished them beautifully, and then handed them back with his usual sweet smile.
“What’s the take, ol’ man?” asked the potential gangster.
Grandpa Jack looked puzzled. He said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. You see, I don’t understand English too well. I’m a Greek.”
“How much for the shoes?”
and the author, Summer 1968,
Bible Teaching Conference
Camp Seeley, Crestline, California2
Now Grandpa Jack understood. “Oh, nothing!” he said. “Any time you are passing by, bring them in and I’ll be delighted to do them for you!”
This drinking, swearing, drug-taking youth was stunned. He had gate-crashed into a different world, where faith in Jesus was not just a doctrine, or the repetition of scripture texts, or an occasional miracle, but substance. He went out of the shop in a daze. Perhaps for the first time in his life he had met with Jesus. The only words he could find to say were “Nut-case!”, which he must have realized were completely inadequate to describe the situation.
Shortly after this, Grandpa Jack was called Home. They found him dead, on his knees. There came for him just such a summons as came for Mr. Standfast of the Pilgrim’s Progress—“The contents whereof were, that he must prepare for a change of life; for his Master was not willing that he should be so far from Him any longer.”
I also had the privilege of knowing Pastor George Hart of Glasgow, the founder of the India North-West Mission and the author of an amazing record of God’s miraculous supply of his needs, World Travel with the Living God.3 A friend of mine told me of this little revealing incident when Pastor Hart came as a guest to his home. It is a courteous custom in England to call a guest in the morning by taking him a cup of tea. Into Pastor Hart’s bedroom he went with a cup of tea. He found him as he expected—praying. “Pastor,” he said, “I have brought you a cup of tea.” Excuse me, Lord,” said George Hart, “I’m going to have a cup of tea.”
The Lord Jesus was real to these men and in these men. Their faith was the very substance of their lives. Because of this, the only true foundation, God could work miracles through them, for they were men of God. Shallow Christianity is as greatly entertained by fascinating accounts of miracles wrought by faith as the world is by magic or spiritualism or parapsychology, and Christians can be as ignorant as the world is of the faith which is the living substance of the “faith of the Son of God” [Galatians 2:20].
“Now faith is… substance” (Hebrews 11:1). Hupostasis is the Greek word, anglicized, translated “substance,” which means “that which stands under” or “substratum.” The word is used of title deeds which give assurance and confirmation of the fact of inheritance and ownership. Faith is not optimism, wishful thinking, nor looking on the bright side of things. It is sterling reality. Faith always works. It always produces. It is one of those everlasting principles, one of those laws or divine forces that are of the very foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven. “…Now abideth faith” (1 Corinthians 13:13). So faith originated with God. He is the Almighty, Everlasting Believer from whom all faith originally proceeded. In His presence there can be neither doubts nor doubting. In Heaven, every living being of whatever order, rank, or quality fully believes God, and because of this has complete confidence and belief in the present—which is Faith; complete confidence and belief in the future—which is Hope; and complete confidence and belief in each other—which is Love.
Divine Faith—A Gift
All things that God has made bear the imprint of His fingers. God is a Trinity of three eternally distinct Persons in perfect unity; so all of His creation bears the stamp of His Tri-unity. Consider man—a most wonderful testimony to His creative skill: he is tripartite, a triple unity after the image of God. Man is dead if only a body; he is incomplete if but a soul; he is impersonal if only a spirit. As man is the image of his Creator, he has in faint measure what God has without degree.
Man has life; but God doesn’t have life—He is Life! The Lord Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, the visible image of the invisible God, proved His Deity by saying, “I am the Life.” [John 14:6] The Nicene Creed4 quite correctly has the Christian say, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life.” The Life of God is infinite and eternal in extent. Man is alive, but how limited, how circumscribed, how minute is his life in its degree.
God is also Love — unfathomable, everlasting, unmeasurable Love.
Stronger His love than death or hell;
Its riches are unsearchable;
The first-born sons of light
Desire in vain its depths to see;
They cannot tell the mystery,
The length and breadth and height.5
— Charles Wesley —
Man has love, but how limited it is! One of the highest forms of love we know on earth, in sacrificial quality, is that of a parent for a child—a mother’s love, a father’s love. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15).
Faith originated with God. Like His eternal life and His everlasting love, faith is of His essence, an essential quality of His nature. God exercises faith in an unlimited degree. It is revealed in the book of origins—Genesis. “And God said, ‘Let there be,…’ and there was…” (Genesis 1:3). This is faith. His Son is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Ever in the mind of God, from the beginning of the cosmos, was the intention, the unalterable design and belief that the Logos—the Everlasting Word—should be the One who would reconcile all things unto Himself. See how that Lamb, as God manifested in the flesh, representing the Father, exercised His divine faith—perfect faith: “Father…I knew that Thou hearest Me always” (John 11:41,42). All of His “I will’s” are the demonstration of His faith; for although that handful of His disciples were so weak through the flesh that finally they all forsook Him and fled, yet the Word, strong in His almightiness and sustained by His divine faith, stood as an unassailable rock:
“I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)
“I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18)
“I will come again and receive you unto Myself.” (John 14:3)
The faith that God has in absolute perfection He gave to man in limited measure when He created him in His own image; but since the fall of man, how much weaker now is the measure of faith man has.
One of the great errors of our present evangelical society is the confusion of the great fullness of original divine faith, the faith of God, with the human quality of faith resident in man. Human faith is limited; divine faith is unlimited. We confuse a steady confidence, a human optimism, a kindly trust, a genial benevolent glow of good will, with the all-conquering, almighty, ever-victorious faith of God. The faith of the Scriptures that subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, and many other things, is not the human quality, but the divine.
The apostles found that their faith was small and limited, so they petitioned the Master: “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Jesus replied, in effect: “You have no faith! If,” said He, “ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed…” They had the human, but they needed the divine quality. All their human faith, although they exercised it together, would not move a pebble one inch; but one portion of divine faith—although only the size of a grain of mustard seed—has within it the potential to remove a mountain. Human faith is an inheritance, a part of our Adamic nature; but divine faith is a donation—“…faith…not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Peter speaks of those who “have obtained like precious faith with us” (2 Peter 1:1). Consider a simple illustration. Human faith believes that, by a process of nature, sea water can be transformed into grape juice, but it is by a means far beyond man’s ability to originally control or to effect. That is, by evaporation through the sun’s heat and by the wind’s conveyance of water vapour in the clouds, water from the oceans eventually reaches the vines and is transmuted by them into wine. Believing this, man prepares the soil, plants his vines, and so by faith, a human faith, eventually he receives the reward of his confidence. But it was by an act of divine faith that water was transformed by Jesus instantaneously into wine, better wine (John 2:1-11). Human faith believes that out there, in the great deep, there is a silver harvest to be gathered, and schemes and plans and labors to bring the fish in; but despite a night of toil it may be, at last, that nothing is taken. But, oh, the miracle of divine faith!
The Galilean fishers toil
All night and nothing take;
But Jesus comes—a wondrous spoil
Is lifted from the lake.
* * *
The night is dark, the surges fill
The bark, the wild winds roar;
But Jesus comes; and all is still—
The ship is at the shore.6
All the stimulating pep-talks about turning faith loose really mean this: stir up and use your human faith, the Adamic faith that you have by nature. Notice the psychic7 level on which it works and the kind of atmosphere it requires. Divine faith needs no atmosphere; it triumphs in spite of a hostile one. It bows adverse circumstances to its will. There is a power in the human quality of faith—but how faint, how limited it is. Compare, for example, a wayside scene in Palestine, and Jesus healing the sick, being moved with compassion by their sorrows, to the super-advertised, worked-up atmosphere and accompanying stage effects of some modern evangelistic healing services. One is the divine faith triumphing; the other is human faith being stimulated and the Lord in mercy healing a few sick folk. These simple peasants were not possessors of the new birth. The Holy Spirit was not yet given. But faith–a temporary faith—was quickened in them through the Living Word spoken, a faith produced by the presence of Jesus—the Word of God—and they were healed. Peter walked upon the water by this faith which came to him by the word of the Lord—“Come!” But the faith of the Son of God had no root in him; he was not yet born of the Spirit; his human faith could not sustain him to go on walking on the water, and he began to sink.
This precious gift of divine faith is an utter confidence in God, an assurance that what He says is true. When the life, as a consequence, is ordered in accord with this faith, it always produces a work. Otherwise, it is not a living, that is, a true, lasting and constant faith, but a dead one, says James (2:17).
Faith is believing what I know to be true; it is not an attempt to believe what I fear to be false. It is not the stultification of intelligence (which is credulity); it is superior to intelligence, yet it works in cooperation with it. Before this faith is divinely given, there must come a revelation of truth, that is, a word from God. “So then faith cometh by hearing… the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This is a personal and direct word given to an individual in whatever way God chooses, yet so that the one receiving it consciously realizes that the great and living God has spoken. This is one of the privileges of the Lord’s sheep. “My sheep hear My voice” [John 10:27]. Divine faith is always within the divine word, so “the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice” [John 10:4]. The word of the Lord bringing with it its own quality of faith is not any word that anyone takes in his own will from the Scriptures, or from a promise box. If there were more waiting on the Lord, there would be more direct words from the Lord and more of the true life of faith being demonstrated in the midst of an unbelieving world. For faith can never be just a mental assent to a truism; faith must ever be translated into a corresponding positive action of the will to believe and do.
Unbelief and Non-Belief
Against positive faith stands the negative of unbelief. Unbelief is mental acceptance of untruth and a corresponding act of the will not to believe the truth. The untruth is accepted because in some way it is congenial to the carnal mind which is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). The Scripture does not mean that He had not the power or was unable, but that under the circumstances no good would have been done by a display of the miraculous. Unbelief is a steady determination not to be convinced, whatever happens. It is revealed in the atheist who says to the believer in God, “You cannot prove to me the existence of God!” Already, you see, he has convinced himself that it is impossible to prove God’s existence—“You cannot prove to me.” Is there any value in trying to do so against such an attitude?
There is another state, not positive like faith or actively negative like unbelief; it is a neutral state which we may call “non-belief”. It is not inclined to truth by its nature, like faith, nor is it antagonistic to truth by nature, like unbelief—although it may be in opposition through ignorance. Most people are non-believers, not unbelievers. The simple folk of Palestine, of whom Jesus said that they were like “sheep having no shepherd” [Matthew 9:36], were of this character, and so were swayed either way. If they were influenced by the Son of God, then they wanted to make Him king—even by force, if necessary. But when they were persuaded in the opposite direction by the priests and scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus said were of their father, the devil, then they allowed Jesus to be crucified.
Acquiring Divine Faith
How does one acquire the divine quality of faith—the gift of God? The Most High uses as a bridge our inherited human faith: “He that cometh to God must believe that He is” (Hebrews 11:6). Then by our willing reception of an implanted incorruptible seed of the Word of God, given directly and personally by the incoming Holy Spirit, spiritual conception takes place. We are born from above: first birth in Adam has received second birth in the Son; old human birth has acquired new divine birth.
It is in the spiritual as in the natural life—some feel more, others less, but all experience some pangs and travails of soul, ere the Man Christ Jesus is formed within them, and brought forth and arrived unto the measure of His fullness who filleth all in all. If God deals with thee in a more gentle way, yet so that a thorough work of conversion is effected in thine heart, thou oughtest to be exceedingly thankful. Or if he should lead thee through a longer wilderness than I have passed through, thou needest not complain. The more thou art humbled now, the more thou shalt be exalted hereafter. One taste of Christ’s love in the heart will make amends for all. And if thou hast felt the powers of the world to come, and been made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, I know thou wilt rejoice, and give thanks for what God has done for my soul.
George Whitefield, 1736 (Journals)
This new birth is the impartation to us of an entirely new quality of life—“eternal life”—which is the very life of God. This God-given life miraculously changes a “goat” into a “sheep.” The new sheep-life can never perish. It is divine; it lives forever. Because one of the qualities of the nature of God is the divine quality of faith, this most precious possession comes as part of the very nature of the new birth. So this faith is the gift of God—“Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
But what treasures come with the gift of the Holy Spirit in new birth! With it all the various manifestations of the divine nature are given to man in limited measure—in seed form, but, nevertheless, in exactly the same divine quality as God has Himself. We receive the peace of God which flows like a river and which is beyond human understanding; the love of Christ which passes knowledge; the gift of immortality; the hope of God which stretches into the boundless eons of eternity; and the faith of God, steadfast and impregnable, which enables His children to begin to share “the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe” (Ephesians 1:19). All this in seed—not in fullness; the same in quality—not in quantity. It is not infinite in supply in us as it is in God. On earth, all living things grow to maturity and then begin to decline; but those who have the divine life will grow forever. It is a growth that goes on to infinity. His children are a perfect image of their Beloved, in their limited measure; but they will ever be reaching up towards the full stature of the Son of God. They will throughout all successive ages, all new dispensations, all other dimensions, throughout all eternity, whilst serving Him in the sphere of His appointing, ever be arriving at a new sphere of service and being prepared for yet further spheres; for “His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3).
Spirit of faith, come down,
Reveal the things of God,
And make to us the Godhead known,
And witness with the blood.
’Tis Thine the blood to apply,
And give us eyes to see;
Who did for every sinner die,
Hath surely died for me.
* * *
Inspire the living faith,
Which whosoe’er receives,
The witness in himself he hath,
And consciously believes;
The faith that conquers all,
And doth the mountains move,
And saves whoe’er on Jesus call,
And perfects them in love.8
— Charles Wesley —
- Copyright held by Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship, Inc. Edited and annotated by Jim Kerwin. Co-edited by Denise Kerwin. ↩
- Photo courtesy of friends Dennis and Patti Holland ↩
- World Travel with the Living God by George Hart had a foreword by none other than J. Edwin Orr. It was published by Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Ltd. (London and Edinburgh). The date was not provided on the title page. ↩
- The Nicene Creed is one of the earliest statements of faith and correct belief. Adopted by a major church council which met in 325 A.D. in the city of Nicaea (hence the word Nicene), it was later revised by a church council meeting in Constantinople in 381 A.D. The creed is still recited in the liturgies of many denominations. ↩
- From the hymn O Love Divine, How Sweet Thou Art! ↩
- From the hymn The Galilean Fishers Toil ↩
- Psychic, as Pastor Gutteridge uses it here and elsewhere, refers to the power of the mind. The word is derived from the Greek psuche, the New Testament word usually translated into English as soul. ↩
- From the hymn Spirit of Faith, Come Down ↩