Unbelief and belief

by Mike Ratliff

21 Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath;
And a fire was kindled against Jacob
And anger also mounted against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God
And did not trust in His salvation. (Psalms 78:21-22 NASB)

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. Earlier this week I became involved in a discussion in a Reformed site about a post there on The Atonement. The problem was that it was written by Greg Boyd who is an Open Theist. The site from where the poster got the article is notorious amongst those at CRN as one that is all about casting doubt on every aspect of Orthodox Christianity. All was well until two fellows showed up with whom I had had issues before. What was the problem? Both of these fellows would be right at home at Solomon’s Porch with Doug Pagitt even though they both claim to be Reformed in their theology. However, if you are like me and see God’s Word as absolute truth and any attempt to water that truth down is an attempt to introduce error then when you have discussions with two fellows who want to have “many steams of outlook on the atonement” that are all valid regardless of the fact that their source is from an Open Theist or not, then you understand why I said some things in that discussion that many who lean toward Political Correctness would frown upon, calling me the divisive one. I left the discussion with this parting shot:

It appears to me that you have little or no discernment. If you did have any it has been plowed under by too much seminary.

Why did I get so upset? Why did their attack get me to that point? It got there because they both saw no issue with fellowshipping with known heretics, such as an Open Theist and they both believed there were many ways to interpret God’s Word that were all equally valid. By-the-way, this is the exact same message we used to get from Doug Pagitt years ago when he talked about the many “steams of faith.”

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. 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.

7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“ Today if you hear His voice,
8 DO not harden your hearts as when they provoked ME,
AS in the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw MY works for forty years.
10 “ Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, ‘ They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know MY ways ’;
11 AS I swore in MY wrath,
‘ They shall not enter MY rest. ’”
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,
“ Today if you hear His voice,
DO not harden your hearts, as when they provoked ME.”
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-19 NASB)

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, which 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.

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NASB)

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.

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)

Here are the bold verses in Greek:

8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NA28)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves, it is God’s gift; 9 not by works lest any should boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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, ἔργων. We are being delivered as we walk through our life down the narrow path of obedience, which is a product of this faith πίστεως, trust, or belief becoming manifest in us according to God’s grace, χάριτί. Those truly saved all go through this and these are the ones who cross over into God’s eternal rest, only them.

Our faith, our πιστις, is a product of God’s good work in our hearts that enables us to see the truth, believe the truth, and walk accordingly.

Soli Deo Gloria!




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