by Mike Ratliff
Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. (Psalms 78:21-22 ESV)
Dealing with Emergents and others who insist that they are Christians while what they say and do is marked as distinctly the fruit of unbelief, can be a very trying experience. I suppose that is why our enemy will never stop his attacks on those who are called by the name of Christ to discourage and confuse them. I read part of an article today written by Doug Pagitt, an Emergent, about a dialogue or conversation he had had with Chris Rosebrough, a fellow blogger of mine in the Christian Research Network. The consensus Pagitt and his fellow Emergents came up with that they felt described those of us who would be considered Orthodox Christians was that we are so because we are driven by fear. However, the one thing that struck a chord with me in this was Pagitt’s description of the differences in our faith and his was that they are nothing more than different “streams of faith.” In case you are interested in that “article,” here is the link.
However, as I said, that phrase, “stream of faith” struck a chord with me and I have learned, as I have gotten deeper and deeper into the Truth War, to stop and listen to the Lord when that happens. The following is the product of that, at least, so far.
There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect. What separates them? What is the difference? It is not that different streams of faith, which are all equal and going to the same place, color people. No, that is what the Emergents are selling, but that is most definitely not what God’s Word explicitly says. No, the difference between those in Christ and everyone else is that the former are possessors of faith, which is the Greek word πιστις, which is transliterated as “pistis” It and it’s many grammatical forms are translated as “assurance,” “faith,” ”belief,” et cetera throughout the New Testament. Before we define “unbelief,” let us define biblical faith, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor.
Carefully read the following passage my brethren.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-19 ESV)
What do those who have πιστις that those with unbelief, απιστιας, “apistias,” do not and visa versa? The Greek word translated throughout the Bible as belief or faith, πιστις, is actually a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof. That’s right, the faith that Christians have that brings Him glory and is exhibited by those who believe God and obey Him is rooted in believing the proof He has given. As we can see in this passage, those with πιστις obey God because they have not hardened their hearts and rebelled, which is exactly what those with απιστιας instead do. In this passage, those who died off in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land died in their απιστιας, their unbelief. On the other hand, those who did enter in did so because of their obedience, which was the fruit of their πιστις.
πιστις is not a feeling. It is not something that we have based on faith in ourselves in any way. No, our Lord said it well in the discourse He gave to the Eleven the night before His crucifixion.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV)
No, the faith of those who walk in obedience to God is based in and focused entirely on Christ. It is never based in or focused on ourselves. When we make that huge mistake, we are setting ourselves up for a nasty fall. Faith that produces a godly life that brings God glory is an assurance and belief in our awesome God and what He has done on our behalf already and what He has promised to do for us in the future.
Therefore, when we see the Emergents attempting to blend together their different steams of faith we see people who are exhibiting nothing more than απιστιας, which is defined as faithlessness or uncertainty, distrust, and unbelief. In the New Testament, it is shown to be what marks those who do not acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour. These doubt Christ’s power and do not trust in the God of promise. Oh, some have a religion built around a Jesus of their own construction, but this is not Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord, and Saviour. No, their Jesus is their buddy and has no problem with “sins” and participating in the blending of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity because, hey, these are just different streams of faith, right?
Therefore, we must examine ourselves. Are we walking before the face of God in πιστις, in obedience to His revealed will in the Word of God, or are we walking our own way in απιστιας. The former is the walk of obedience of the children of God. The latter is the walk of rebellion and with faith in self with the elevation of uncertainty to the status of a virtue.
We teach that all those in Christ are so because of what God has done.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)
Here are the bold verses in Greek:
8τη γαρ χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι δια πιστεως και τουτο ουκ εξ υμων θεου το δωρον 9ουκ εξ εργων ινα μη τις καυχησηται (Ephesians 2:8-9 WHNU)
In the (τη) for (γαρ) grace (χαριτι) you are (εστε) being delivered (σεσωσμενοι) through (δια) faith (πιστεως); and (και) this (τουτο) not (ουκ) from (εξ) you (υμων), of God (θεου) the (το) gift (δωρον); not (ουκ) from (εξ) works (εργων), that (ινα) not (μη) any (τις) might brag (καυχησηται). (Ephesians 2:8-9 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The faith that believes God is a part of this gift. Without this, no one believes. The best we can do without it is works, εργων. We are being delivered as we walk through our life down the narrow path of obedience, which is a product of this faith πιστεως, trust, or belief becoming manifest in us according to God’s grace, χαριτι. Those truly saved all go through this and these are the ones who cross over into God’s eternal rest, only them.
Now, is our faith, our πιστις, built on fear as these Emergents are saying or is it a product of God’s good work in our hearts that enable us to see the truth, believe the truth, and walk accordingly?
Soli Deo Gloria!