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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Friday, January 27, 2006

Faith and Understanding

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Hebrews 11:3
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Daily Scripture Reading - Proverbs 2

Puritan Catechism

Question #13
Did our first parents continue in the state wherein they were created?

Answer
Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state wherein they were created, by sinning against God, (Eccl. 7:29) by eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6-8).

Devotional Thoughts

Hebrews 11:3 tells us, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." It is faith, this trust in God, that gives us understanding. Specifically here, we are told that by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.

Whatever a person believes about the creation or beginning of the universe and life on earth, it is a matter of faith. Will we believe what the scientist tells us? Will we believe the Word of God? Will we believe the fossil record? Will we believe the facts? The truth is that whatever we believe, it is just that, a belief. What we think about the beginning of the world is determined by where we have placed our faith!

Of course, since we trust God and believe His Word, we understand how the world came to be. We know that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This belief, this matter of faith in the Word of God and in God as Creator, gives us the ability to understand creation. In short, by faith, by what we believe, we come to embrace our worldview. More on that in a minute, but first we need to answer some basic questions about faith and understanding.

From Whence Cometh Understanding?

The first question would be where do we get understanding? According to Psalm 119:104, the Psalmist writes, "Through Your precepts I get understanding." The "Your" here of course is God. So through God's precepts we gain understanding. Well then, what are His precepts? The word precept means literally a "charge, or command." So through the commands of God we gain understanding.

You see, the Law of God has been given to us for several reasons. According to Galatians 3:24 tells us that the Law is a guardian, it keeps us and brings us to Christ. The Law points to our sin and therefore to our need for salvation and a Savior. It points us to Christ.

Further, the Law reveals to us the character of God. The Law is after all rooted in His nature and His character. The Law tell us about what kind of God He is and what He expects of us as we strive to love and obey Him.

So through His Law we gain understanding. We understand His nature, His purposes for creation, and His expectation of us as we are empowered to obey His Law and manifest our love for Him through our obedience.

Psalm 119:130 also tells us that "The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." The entrance of the Word of God gives us understanding. What is He saying here? Reading, hearing, memorizing, and meditating on the Word of God - taking His Words in to our hearts and minds - that gives us understanding! So if we want to have understanding then we must be in the Word of God - reading it, hearing it faithfully preached, memorizing it, and meditating on it. In fact, the only time the word "success" is used in the Bible it is used when talking about the only path to true success being meditating on the Word of God.

Further, we gain understanding by heeding rebuke (Proverbs 15:32). When we listen to correction, to rebuke for wrongdoing, when we respond to that correctly, then we gain understanding. We learn what not to do! We learn what God expects of us. And we learn humility. By the way, what are some of the things that the Word of God is profitable for? For reproof and correction! The Word gives us the standard to use when rebuking sin in another's life. In doing so we help them understand holiness and obedience.

One last note here when it comes to getting understanding is that Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. He opens our eyes to the truth, convincing and convicting us with the Word of God. It is not just a matter of the written Word, but the Living Word, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, our Lord gives us understanding so that we might better serve Him (Luke 24:45; 1 John 5:20).

What is Understanding?

Perhaps an even more relevant question woukd be to ask "What is understanding?" We know now how we get it. We know that the Living and Written Word of God gives us understanding. We know it is by faith that in the Word that we gain a proper perspective and understand what God has done and is doing for His own pleasure and glory. But what exactly is udnerstanding?

The best definition I have found in my studies (and I do not remember where I copied this from) is that udnerstanding is, "the mental disciplines and abilities to discern and obey the truth of the Word of God." It is the ability to hear and do the Word!

In the Proverbs we hear often about three things. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. The three are necessary for godly living. Knowledge speaks of the facts, or truth. It is onformation. Information by itself puffs up and makes us proud (1 Cor 1:8). Wisdom, as we have discussed before, is having a right perspective. To see beyong the surface and see things as God sees them, with a view toward eternity, that is to be wise. In fact, we must have a right view of God in the first place if we are to have a right view of anything else (Proverbs 1:7)And understanding joins the two. Understanding takes our perspective, joins it to what we know, and as a result we know how to act and think, even in difficult circumstances! And all of this we get from God! (Proverbs 2:6).

Understanding How the World was Framed

According to our verse for the day, by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. So we have studied knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in order to arrive at this foundation truth for the Christian life. By trusting God, we understand how the world came into being. Here is where our faith informs our mind. We trust what the Word of God says and in believing Him we understand how He created all that is!

This helps us understand God's purposes for creation. And as we have already stated, your faith will determine what you believe about the beginning of the world.

So why is this important? Because we are speaking here from Scripture about ones worldview. How you view the world around you, its beginning, its purpose, its end - all of this determines how you relate to God and to others. It determines your values and how you make decisions. A worldview is part of who we are and establishes how we view creation and even what we think about God. Remember too, as we have learned this week, what we believe determines how we behave! So what we believe about creation very much works it way out in the way we live our lives.

The best definition of "worldview" that I have found is that a worldview is “a set of fundamental assumptions about the most important issues in life.” So will these assumptions be based on the Word of God or not? How will we inform our minds and our consciences when it comes to the fundamental truths about the creation of the world in which we live?

As Christians, we should have what is called a Biblical worldview, or a Christian worldview. Sadly though many Christians neglect the Word of God and live in complete ignorance when it comes to the truth given to us about the foundation of the world. Many have secular worldviews, worldviews that in reality reject the truth of God, even denying His existence. How can a Christian hold to such a worldview? Simple really. By rejecting the truth of God's Word and leaning on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) instead of gaining understanding from the Word of God!

In the week to come we will examine briefly the dominate worldviews throughout history and see how they reject or interact with the Word of God. But before we are through today I want to give just a few selection of Scripture that we must believe in order to have a proper understanding of how the worlds were framed by the Word of God. The first is John 1:1-5, and the second Genesis 1. See also Exodus 20:11 where God writes with His own finger about how He created the world. Read these passages and see what God says about how the world was framed by the Word of God.


Puritan Voices
This week we will take a look each day at a section of a sermon from the text of 1 John 3:23 titled The Warrant of Faith by Charles H. Spurgeon.

Brethren, the command to believe in Christ must be the sinner's warrant, if you consider the nature of our commission. How runs it? "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." It ought to run, according to the other plan, "preach the gospel to every regenerate person, to every convinced sinner, to every sensible soul." But it is not so; it is to "every creature." But unless the warrant be a something in which every creature can take a share, there is no such thing as consistently preaching it to every creature. Then how is it put?—"He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." Where is there a word about the pre-requisites for believing. Surely the man could not be damned for not doing what he would not have been warranted in doing. Our reaching, on the theory of qualifications, should not be," Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;" but "Qualify yourselves for faith, be sensible of your sin, be regenerated, get marks and evidences, and then believe." Why, surely, if I am not to sow the good seed on the stony places and among the thorns, I had better give up being a sower, and take to ploughing, or some other work. When the apostles went to Macedonia or Achaia, they ought not to have commenced with preaching Christ; they should have preached up qualifications, emotions, and sensations, if these are the preparations for Jesus; but I find that Paul, whenever he stands up, has nothing to preach but "Christ, and him crucified." Repentance is preached as a gift from the exalted Saviour, but it is never as the cause or preparation for believing on Jesus. These two graces are born together, and live with a common life—beware of making one a foundation for the other. I would like to carry one of those who only preach to sensible sinners, and set him down in the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey. There are no sensible sinners there! Look at them, with their mouths stained with human blood, with their bodies smeared all over with the gore of their immolated victims—how will the preacher find any qualification there? I know not what he could say, but I know what my message would be. My word would run thus—"Men and brethren, God, who made the heavens and the earth; hath sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to suffer for our sins, and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." If Christ crucified did not shake the kingdom of Dahomey, it would be its first failure. When the Moravian missionaries first went to Greenland, you remember that they were months and months teaching the poor Greenlander about the Godhead, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine of sin and the law, and no converts were forthcoming. But one day, by accident, one of the Greenlanders happening to read that passage, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God," asked the meaning, and' the missionary, hardly thinking him advanced enough to understand the gospel, nevertheless ventured to explain it to him, and the man became converted, and hundreds of his countrymen received the Word. Naturally enough, they said to the missionaries, "Why did not you tell us this before? We knew all about there being a God, and that did us no good; why did not you come and tell us to believe in Jesus Christ before?" O my brethren, this is God's weapon, God's method; this is the great battering-ram which will shake the gates of hell; and we must see to it, that it be brought into daily use.

I have tried, on the positive side, to show that a free-grace warrant is consistent with the text—that it accords with apostolic custom, and is, indeed, absolutely necessary, seeing the condition in which sinners are placed. But, my brethren, to preach Christ to sinners, as sinners, must be right; for all the former acts of God are to sinners, as sinners. Whom did God elect? Sinners. He loved us with a great love, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins. How did he redeem them? Did he redeem them as saints? No; for while we were yet enemies, he reconciled us unto God by the death of his Son. Christ never shed his blood for the good that is in us, but for the sin that is in us. "He laid down his life for our sins," says the apostle. If, then, in election and redemption, we find God dealing with sinners, as sinners, it is a marring and nullifying of the whole plan if the gospel is to be preached to men as anything else but sinners.

Again, it is inconsistent with the character of God to suppose that he comes forth and proclaims, "If, O my fallen creatures, if you qualify yourselves for my mercy, I will save you; if you will feel holy emotions—if you will be conscious of sacred desires after me, then the blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse you." There would be little which is godlike in that. But when he comes out with pardons full and free, and saith, "Yea, when ye lay in your blood, I said unto you Live"—when he comes to you, his enemy and rebellious subject, and yet cries, "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities." Why, this is divine. You know what David said, "I have sinned." What did Nathan say? "The Lord has put away thy sin, thou shalt not die," and that is the message of the gospel to a sinner as a sinner. "The Lord has put away thy sin; Christ has suffered; he has brought in perfect righteousness; take him, trust him, and ye shall live." May that message come home to you this morning, my beloved.

I have read with some degree of attention a book to which I owe much for this present discourse—a book, by Abraham Booth, called "Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners." I have never heard any one cast a suspicion upon Abraham Booth's soundness; on the contrary, he has been generally considered as one of the most orthodox of the divines of the last generation. If you want my views in full, read his book. If you need something more, let me say, among all the bad things which his revilers have laid to his door, I have never heard any one blame William Huntingdon for not being high enough in doctrine. Now, William Huntingdon prefaced in his lifetime a book by Saltmarsh, with which he was greatly pleased; and the marrow of its teaching is just this, in his own words, "The only ground for any to believe is, he is faithful that hath promised, not anything in themselves, for this is the commandment, That ye believe on his Son Jesus Christ." Now, if William Huntingdon himself printed such a book as that, I marvel how the followers of either William Huntingdon or Abraham Booth, how men calling themselves Calvinistic divines and high Calvinists, can advocate what is not free grace, but a legal, graceless system of qualifications and preparations. I might here quote Crisp, who is pat to the point and a high doctrine man too. I mention neither Booth nor Huntingdon as authorities upon the subject, to the law and to the testimony we must go; but I do mention them to show that men holding strong views on election and predestination yet did see it to be consistent to preach the gospel to sinners as sinners—nay, felt that it was inconsistent to preach the gospel in any other way.

I shall only add, that the blessings which flow from preaching Christ to sinners as sinners, are of such a character as prove it to be right. Do on not see that this levels us all? We have the same warrant for believing, and no one can exalt himself above his fellow.

Then, my brethren, how it inspires men with hope and confidence; it forbids despair. No man can despair if this be true; or if he do, it is a wicked, unreasonable despair, because if he has been never so bad, yet God commands him to believe. What room can there be for despondency? Surely if anything Could cut off Giant Despair's head, Christ preached to sinners is the sharp two-edged sword to do it.

Again, how it makes a man live close to Christ! If I am to come to Christ as a sinner every day, and I must do so, for the Word saith, "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him;" if every day I am to come to Christ as a sinner, why then, how paltry all my doings look! what utter contempt it casts upon all my fine virtues, m preachings, my prayings, and all that comes of my flesh! and though it leads me to seek after purity and holiness, yet it teaches me to live on Christ and not on them, and so it keeps me at the fountain head.

My time flies, and I must leave the last head, just to add, sinner, whoever thou mayst be, God now commands thee to believe in Jesus Christ. This is his commandment: he does not command thee to feel anything, or be anything, to prepare thyself for this. Now, art thou willing to incur the great guilt of making God a liar? Surely thou wilt shrink from that: then dare to believe. Thou canst not say, "I have no right:" you have a perfect right to do what God tells you to do. You cannot tell me you are not fit; there is no fitness wanted, the Command is given and it is yours to obey, not to dispute. You cannot say it does not come to you—it is preached to every Creature under heaven; and now soul, it is so pleasant a thing to trust the Lord Jesus Christ that I would fain persuade myself thou needest no persuading. It is so delightful a thing to accept a perfect salvation, to be saved by precious blood. and to be married to so bright a Saviour, that I would fain hope the Holy Spirit has led thee to cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."


Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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