Monday, January 29, 2007

If Faith is Passive, Why is a Person Commanded to Believe?

Transcribed from A Veiled Reference, by Dr. John Niemelä, Professor of Hebrew and Greek at Chafer Theological Seminary.
Now one of the things [i.e., questions] that is often alleged when we speak about a passive or a stative idea of faith is, “Well, how do we deal with the fact the Bible commands belief? ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved’ [is a] command. That sounds like I have to do something. That sounds like I have to make a decision. That sounds like I have to do something.”

Commands to believe do expect a volitional response. There is no denying that. But the volitional response is in a slightly different area than we might think. The unbeliever obeys the command [to believe] by exposing himself or herself to biblical truth, allowing God’s word to make its persuasive case.

We look at the Gospel of John, and the Gospel of John is arranged around eight signs that are designed to prove to the reader that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing this, a person may have life in His name.

God’s word is persuasive. The unbeliever who exposes himself to God’s word and seeks not to put up barriers, seeks not to add to the veil, but seeks to come to an understanding, a fair understanding of what it really is saying, is someone who is open to be persuaded. That’s all that a person can do—make themselves open to be persuaded. Because what happens when we decide to believe something that we know isn’t true? We’re “making belief.” We have to know that it is true before we can believe it. The point that we have understood it to be true, we have believed it. But we have to be open to allow it to persuade. And the unbeliever is in that same situation. The command is to put ourselves in a position of being able to be persuaded by the word. If a person says, “I’m open to the word,” and he never opens the Book, and never talks to Christians, and never does anything to be exposed to the message, he can say he’s open all day, but is he?

The concept is: in order to be persuaded, we have to have the word in a position to be able to affect us. The issue for the unbeliever is to be open to God’s truth that is revealed by the Spirit. When he or she becomes persuaded that Christ has irrevocably given him or her everlasting life, he or she has believed.
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