1. Primacy of Faith
2. Purity of Faith
3. Practicality of Faith
Primacy of Child-Like Faith
For a child, faith precedes understanding. His faith doesn’t say “I am never going to drink milk until I understand how a brown cow can eat green grass and produce white milk and yellow butter.” In modern times, there is a great clamor about providing evidences for belief; however, the Bible always talks about the primacy of faith over evidence. In fact, Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as itself being “the evidence”. This might appear to be very troublesome for some; however, the history of the Church has giants such as Paul, Anselm, Kierkegaard, and Barth who have affirmed the primacy of faith over understanding. We will try to understand this with the help of two examples from the Bible; but before that, it is important to understand that biblical faith doesn’t encourage blind-belief; in fact, truth is integral to faith: faith without truth is blind; truth without faith is powerless.
The Case of the Rich Man and Lazarus
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, who sat at his gate in misery. The rich man died and found himself in great agony in hades. But, when he looked over the other side and saw Lazarus with Abraham in paradise, he wished that Abraham would send Lazarus to relieve him of his misery. When Abraham tells him that this is impossible, he requests Lazarus to be sent to his brothers instead, hoping that they would certainly believe if they saw someone raised from the dead. However, Abraham makes a classic statement about human nature when he says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” In other words, if one is not able to have faith in the words of Scripture, there is no other persuasion possible for such a person. Evidently, here, for a believer who starts with faith every blade of grass resounds with praises of God; however, for an unbeliever, who keeps looking for evidence, no evidence will suffice.
The Case of the Apostle Paul
In Acts 7-9, we read the story of an angry Saul, breathing violence against Christians. He was a person well educated in the Jewish Law and had these to say about himself: "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." (Phil.3:5,6). For Saul, the Christian claim that Jesus was unfounded. He saw no compulsive evidence for the statement that Jesus is the Christ. However, in Acts 9, Christ encounters him and his life is instantly transformed. He is transferred from darkness to light and the veil that was over his mind earlier, when he read the Old Testament, is removed (2Cor.3:15,16). After this conversion experience, we find something amazing about Saul. We are told that he "immediately preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God", and that he "increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 9:20,22). Now, previously he did know the Scriptures about the Messiah, but he didn't understand them as referring to Christ. However, it was after his heart turned in faith towards Christ that the Scriptures began to come alive to him.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about how he found out, after his salvation, that the various theories of atonement weren't able to perfectly describe the fact of atonement, and yet the failure of the theories could not in anyway disturb Lewis' faith in the atonement of Christ. When we first believe in Christ, our minds aren't very compounded with theological questions and debates. A believer looks at theology as only an attempt to understand faith. There may be differences in the approaches people take to understand faith. However, it is very important for a Christian to not lose his first child-like faith due to the complexities of theology and experiences in the world, no matter how hard those experiences are. When we retain that original child-like faith, the Scriptures will come alive to us. If not, not even Lazarus sent from paradise can help us.
Purity of Child-Like Faith
The child's mind is not muddled with conflicting ideas that an adult has come to hold and experiences that he has underwent. The child's mind is pure and able to receive faith in its pure form (1Pet.2:1,2); therefore, the child's faith is pure, i.e. consistent. However, a variety of conflicting thoughts compounds the adult's mind with dispositions towards both faith and unbelief at the same time. Therefore, it is very important to have child-like pure faith. We must note that only pure faith is faith in the Bible, and Christ often refers to it as "great faith". Impure faith is equal to unbelief or little faith.
The Case of the Centurion
In Matthew 8:5-10, we read the story of a centurion whom Jesus praises for his great faith. The centurion's faith was great not because he had a large quantity of faith; it was great because it was pure and consistent. It was great in quality, in purity. His faith was unmixed; it was pure. Thus, he was able to see a logical connection between his authority over his soldiers and Christ's authority over diseases. He said, 'I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."' The words "I also" indicates his recognition of the authority of Christ. He reasoned properly and was able to apply his knowledge of authority in military office to faith in the power of Jesus over sickness. That's why Jesus called His faith as "great".
The Case of Peter Walking on the Water
However in Matthew 14:31, we see Jesus rebuking Peter for having little faith. It was because when he saw the storms and the waves, this latter experience made him forget or take into account the fact that he was still walking on the water because of the word of Christ. His adult-experiences of the fatal storms and waves interfered with his experience of Christ. Thus, he allowed fear to overpower his faith which resulted in his losing balance, prompting Jesus to rebuke him for his little or inconsistent faith.
The Case of the Disciples and the Epileptic Boy
In Matthew 17:14-20, we see Jesus rebuking his disciples again for failing to cast out a demon. These disciples had earlier gone out and cast out demons in Jesus' Name. However, when it came to this epileptic boy, unbelief interfered with their faith. Perhaps, the demon began to act up and twist the boy as if intending to kill him when they had began to command it, which disturbed them intensely and shook off their faith in authority of Christ. Perhaps, as a result unbelief took over their hearts and they weren't able to cast out the demon. Whatever, Jesus was not happy with the disciples for lacking faith even like a mustard seed. Mustard seed faith is not about small faith or big faith; mustard seed faith is about consistent and whole faith. As the mustard seed, though small, is complete in itself and able to bring forth and mustard plant, similarly when the disciple's faith is whole and complete and is free of all inconsistency and fragmentation through doubt, he can instruct the mountain to be removed and cast into the sea, and it would obey.
To have child-like faith means to have pure, consistent, and logical faith; one in which memory and logic are not confounded or perplexed by immediate oppositions of faith, one that doesn't forget the Word and works of God.
Practicality of Child-like Faith
James tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). If one asks the question, "What are the things that prevent adults from practising what they believe?" he will not be surprised to find that these are entanglements created by man himself: social pressure, economic pressure, position, reputation, false ideas, imaginations, and all worthless worldlings. Jesus said that these thorns and thistles prevent the seed of God's Word from bearing fruit in a person's life. However, child-like faith is not like that. It is prompt to put faith into action. There is a reason why Jesus said that it is difficult for the rich (meaning those who are slaves to the being-rich-mentality) to enter into heaven; it is because they have grown up in the wrong way and it would be impossible for them to practice or act out faith at all until they had undone the evil effects that mammon has had on them. That was one reason why Jesus asked the rich young ruler to sell his all, give it to the poor, and come follow Him; the young man had to be born-again, to become a child again.
Why was it so difficult for the pharisees and the sadducees to accept Jesus when the marginalized and even gentiles were flocking towards him? Why is the case that traditional Christians have difficulty in experiencing the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit while newcomers instantly receive healing, salvation, and the gift of the Spirit? The reason is simple: the traditional ones have grown up the wrong way and that wrong way prevents them from accepting all that Christ has for them. Now, this is not to say that this is the case with all traditional Christians. However, it often is. But, when one is broken down, when one has lost all hope and willing to do anything that Christ asks of him, then grace is given to the humble, the empty hand of faith is filled, and the child receives what he longs for.
1. Faith is primal. Often times, a child of God may not understand things, but his faith is unshaken because he knows whom He has believed. His faith is personal.
2. Faith is pure. The faith of the child of God is not mixed with unbelief or fear; his faith doesn't have a short-term-memory of God's works in his life and the life of the saints. The child of God is surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and he runs the race looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of his faith (Heb.12:1,2).
3. Faith is practical. The faith of God's child is active and effective. He gets what he prays for because he does what he believes and acts in accordance to his faith. His faith is not a blind wager; it is evidence, it is substance (Heb.11:1).