faith; analysis of chapter one in robert n wilkin's book "the ten most misunderstood words in the bible"

9.30.2014 |

recently, one of my very favorite students asked me to read a book titled "the ten most misunderstood words in the bible" by robert n. wilkin.  eager to dig into what the author would reiterate from God's word, i read the first chapter last night, and went through it a second time marking it with bible verses, and writing this blog post will be my third time to take in chapter one.

first, however, i want you to know that i am no doctoral theologian, but i could call myself a scholar of the bible, not because i just read it, because i have been transformed by the saving grace of Christ through the propitiation of Christ. daily i desire to read the bible, study the bible, and i strive to apply God's words to my life for the glory of God alone.  i will never claim to know everything about God and how he works, for the mysteries of Christ lead me to worship him all the more, but i am grateful for the most endearing love letter of all time, his Word.

it is my desire that this blog post be gracious and seasoned with salt as told in colossians 4:6 and that this post is saturated in scripture, God's word, not mine. 
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
the first chapter titled, "faith," showed me that i was out for a rough journey through this book.

let me just outline my notes for you with small explanations and excerpts from this book.  grab your coffee, your double edge sword of God's word, and let's digest this together.

chapter one, faith: 

page 7
the book starts out with the beautiful truths of ephesians 2:8-9.


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.
i love this verse, how beautiful it is that God would choose to reveal himself to us and would choose to save us through faith in his son jesus.

the author agrees with this verse, and builds the entire chapter around this verse.  that we are saved by faith, and nothing else. (which is exactly what i believe because that is what God shares with us in his word)

however, believe can have multiple meanings.  the word believe in the the greek is pisteuo, or πιστεύω.  this means "to place confidence in, or to be persuaded, or to credit, or to believe, or to put faith into"

i have a problem with how the author uses the word believe in english because demons believe that jesus is God (james 2:19), i have friends who believe jesus is a real guy, i have family who believe that jesus died on the cross because that's recorded in roman histories, judas iscariot believed that jesus was the son of God and saw him do good works and walked beside him, but this believe does not require them to put their faith into christ to save them.  


page 9

the author quotes john macarthur, "...the gospel does not call for a mere decision of the mind, but a surrender of the heart, mind, and will-the whole person-to christ." the author of this book disagrees with this, but when i read the bible, i see a call to follow jesus with my entire heart, mind, soul, and strength (deuteronomy 6:4-6, and jesus refers to this in luke 10:27)

i beg to ask the question, so what sets the demons believe from a Christ-follower's believe?  


the author of this book disagrees with gregory koukl's words that "...true biblical faith entails action and identification"

have you ever performed the trust fall?  maybe we could all just rename it the "believe fall".  if i stand in front of someone, let's say mark, i 100% believe that he will catch me, because he loves me.  however, if i never fall with the faith that he will catch me, do i really believe he is capable of catching me?  likewise in our faith in christ, i can believe that jesus has saved me, but if i choose not to do what he says, do i really believe that he saved me? john 14:23 provides a beautiful promise to us.
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
and 2 john 1:6 shows us that, like john macarthur stated, biblical faith requires action.
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
page 12
the author writes, "saving faith doesn't include commitment, obedience, or turning from sins." read that again.  you don't have to be committed. you don't have to be obedient. you don't have to turn from sin....?  the author believes that...?

this cuts me deep.  if  this is what you believe, then what is the purpose of Christ dying for you?  so you can remain walking in darkness?  so you can save yourself? so you can live a hypocritical "so-called christian" walk?


i don't see this when i look into the bible, what God has to say about it. mark 1:13-15 states: 

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
and acts 2:38 mentions
 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

and matthew 3:8 says
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

and if bearing fruit is important, than we can't neglect looking at luke 3:8-9
Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
so, after looking at the bible, God's faithful and true Word, i think it is pretty evident that when you surrender your total self to christ in repentance of your sin there will be an overflow of the heart to walk in obedience towards christ. when you truly recognize what christ has done for you, you can not help but glorify the lord through bearing fruit (galatians 5:22-23believe requires action.  i believe jesus has saved me solely by his death and resurrection which causes me to back up what i say with action: commitment, repentance, and obedience. my faith is in christ and he alone is my salvation, and because i believe what he has done for me, i will bear fruit in the power of christ (philippians 2:12-13, A for the kingdom and to the glory of God (matthew 5:16, B). 
A: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
B: In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

more scripture references (click on the underlined verses and it will take you to the passage in a new window)



page 13
this author is highly concerned with getting away with not doing works.  though i agree that works do not save you-christ atoned for our sin on the cross-i do not biblically agree that you genuinely believe what christ has done for you. the mind set is skewed.  works should not be "duty duty duty" but rather "delight, delight, delight." following christ is a relationship, not a religious duty.  relationships are joyful and we respond out of love. where is your heart when you serve the lord? it better not be for self-glorification for matthew 7:21-23 states
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

james is addressing believers in james 2:14-26.  i wanted to put the entire passage in this blog, though i know it is long, because i want you to see God's word for yourself.  


What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
page 15
because i don't believe that works save you, i don't disagree with wilkin's belief when he says that "God clearly wants endurance of the faith;" however, i disagree in his logic when he presents his anti-arugement in that "only those who preserve in good works until death will escape eternal condemnation." 

the fruit you produce in your christian walk is an overflow of the faith christ has gifted you.  they are not separate entities.  

yes, we are biblically called to endure in keeping God's commandments and faith in christ to the end (revelation 14:12), though it is the power of christ in us that provides this endurance. he is the author and perfecter of our faith (hebrews 12:1-2) and standing for jesus will be difficult because of the persecution, and hate, and dislike that comes our way, but the one who endures to the end in faith will be saved (mark 13:13)


page 16
the author states that "we are not saved by perseverance in obedience or having eternal faith. we are saved by faith in the savior who is eternally faithful to his promise."

i would like to highlight hebrews 11.  this is the hall of faith, some pretty ordinary, messed up people who do extraordinary things through the power of God for the glory of God.  all the hall of faithers have one thing in common, faith in the one true God.  their faith in the living God caused them to act, to move, to respond in obedience.  they turned over their whole selves to God in faith (1 thessalonians 5:23-24)

if the love of christ controls us, like it did the hall of faithers (2 corinthians 5:11-21) we must emulate christ in faith and we see the ultimate form of obedience in christ in philippians 2:8
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
as a christian, we are to emulate christ in the power of christ. obedience is essential.  though we fall, though we are seriously imperfect, though we go through dry seasons, through we give in to temptations, though we break God's all-sufficient heart, there is forgiveness with true repentance.  we are told in 1 peter 3:12 that the Lord hears the prayer of a righteous person and we are made righteous through the blood of christ.  
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
1 john 2:4-6 not only says that obedient faith perfects God's love in us, but it gives us assurance 'by this we may know that we are in him' that we abide in him, are apart of his kingdom.
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
and yes, we fail miserably but 1 john 3:6-10 says that if your lifestyle is a pursuit of sin and not of christ, it most likely demonstrates that you don't know christ.  practicing righteousness, or producing fruit of good works through faith, is evidence that we are of God.  

obedience is evidence, the fruit or good works of our transformation.

page 17
along the lines of salvation, how can we be assured?  see above scripture in 1 john 2, or check out what God says about your assurance of salvation.

examine yourself as 2 corinthians 13:5-7 describes
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.
are you unashamed of the gospel and do you walk in faith as romans 1:16-17 outlines
 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.

have you surrendered your life to christ, romans 5:1-9
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
hebrews 10:19-31

later on in page 17, the author states, "jesus never asked anyone to pray a prayer, walk an aisle, get in a wheelbarrow, or do anything in order to believe in him."  while i agree that praying a prayer and walking an aisle do not save you anymore than a life raft in a raging storm; i do disagree with the intent of this sentence. jesus DID in fact command us to deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow him (luke 9:23), repent and believe (mark 1:15), respond to christ's call (acts 19:4-5 and matthew 14:29), endure (2 timothy 2:12-13), and die every day to our selves (1 corinthians 15:31).  there is a choice you have to make.

page 18-19
wilkins contradicts himself in his book.  remember how he started off chapter one, with ephesians 2:8-9 which states that salvation is a free gift from God through jesus and it is not based on our religious tasks [my translation]? well, wilkins says that faith is not a gift of God.  

he talks briefly on being born again (which, cool fact, is what my birth name "renee" means).  i see in the bible where being born again happens the instant you surrender your life to the hands of the creator of the universe.  ezekiel 36:26-27 says that God will give us a new heart and will give us the holy spirit to convict us and walk in obedience to the father. 
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules
and based on deuteronomy 30: 6, we will get a new heart.
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live
i am so comforted by 2 corinthians 5:17-21. the fact that i have been born again upon surrendering my life and that i no longer am the person i used to be, i am free. 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
page 20
the author states that "faith is not a decision."  

which is weird because when i read hebrews 11, i recall all of the hall of faithers having to make a decision whether to be faithful to God or walk their own way.  when i read the calling of the disciples throughout the gospels, i recall matthew leaving his tax-collecting and following jesus. i recall peter and andrew, and james and john immediately leaving their nets and deciding to follow jesus (matthew 4:18-22), i recall the blind man having to walk to the water in faith to cleanse the mud off his eyes (john 9:6-7).  i recall martha having to make a decision to follow jesus in john 11:25-27.  and again in mark 8:29, peter is faced with a decision to follow or deny christ.  hopefully we will respond, make a decision, in faith like these who are mentioned in the bible.
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
page 21-22
so the author finally asks, at the end of the chapter, if i believe that saving faith means believing in the lord jesus christ for everlasting life and if i believe nothing else will save me.

so do i believe this? with out a stutter or a shadow of a doubt, yes, jesus is the christ, the son of the living God whom i have surrendered my all to and through my enduring faith through christ, i will all the more glorify the lord joyfully bearing fruit so that other people may look at my life, see the transforming difference that christ's resurrection has made in my life, that they too may experience the wonderful fellowship with the lord over all things.    

i could tell you who i was before i surrendered my life, my all to christ, but that in and of it self would be twice as long as this post. 

i don't want you to base your theology solely on what i have written.  i don't want you to base your theology solely on what a guy selling books has written.  i don't want you to base your theology solely on a pastor behind a pulpit in a suit and tie tells you.  i don't want you to base your theology solely on what a friend has told you. 

i want you to dig into the inherent, inerrant word of God in which he himself has breathed and can make no mistake.  

2 timothy 3:16-17 says that 
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work
and hebrews 4:11-13 states,
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

finally,
is faith misunderstood? biblically, i think the author is misunderstanding the faith in which christ jesus has called him. faith in christ's propitiation is all-sufficient for salvation and bearing fruit is a natural and compulsory response to the gospel's overwhelming grace.

paul tells us in 1 corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

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