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Faith a Means to a New Beginning

Acts 6:8-15

Jim Davis

There is much confusion as to what constitutes faith? What is faith? Where does it originate? Is it subjective or objective? Does it originate from within or from without? How is it developed? How can I know my faith is real? Are there different faiths?

"Obedient to the Faith"

As we come to the scriptures for today's lesson we find the word "faith". Previous to Acts 6, the word "faith" has been used three times in the book of Acts. In Acts 6:7, the word "faith" is used differently. Notice the three verses from which we see the word "faith" thus far in the book of Acts.

 
Acts 3:16
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (NIV)

Acts 6:5a
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit . . . " (NIV)

Acts 6:7
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (NIV)


There is A System of Faith

In Acts 6:7, the word "faith" is used to refer to something outside of us, " . . . a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." In this verse, faith is something we are obedient to. It is something outside of us. It is referred to as "the faith" to which the priests were obedient. They were obedient to "the" faith, which means only one faith. They were not obedient to "the many faiths" or "the faiths"; they were simply obedient to "the faith".

Jude uses the word "faith" in this fashion.
 

Jude 1:3-4
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (NIV)


Jude urges Christians to " . . . contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." He speaks of "the faith" and he indicates that it was entrusted "once for all". Here we see faith as something outside ourselves that has been delivered and entrusted to us. This "faith" is something with which we are entrusted and must contend for.

We also notice that the faith once delivered can be perverted. The reason we must contend for the faith is because there are always godless men who are always ready to change the faith once delivered.

Paul says that there is one faith.
 

Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (NIV)


In an age of many faiths, the Bible reveals only one faith. Today we are encouraged to believe in ourselves. We formulate our doctrines in unique ways by saying, "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieved." We may bring much of this kind of thinking to the Bible as we endeavor to formulate our own belief system. But notice that it is a faith conceived in the mind. It can be no stronger than the individual because its power is derived from what the person is capable of conceiving and believing. A faith conceived in my own mind is limited to my powers of conception. The obvious limitations are real. This kind of faith amounts to a subjective faith based on subjective beliefs, which I have formulated by my own limited powers of conception. It does nothing more than make a god out of myself.

The uniqueness of the statement "a large number of priests became obedient to the faith" is seen in the fact that they believed in something outside of themselves that had been delivered to them through the preaching of the apostles. It was a personal faith solely based on an objective standard of faith that came through Christ and his apostles.

True Christian Faith Comes Through Christ
 

Acts 3:16
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (NIV)


I notice something very interesting in this one verse. I notice that there is a subjective faith, that is, an inward faith; but it is a personal faith that comes "by faith in the name of Jesus; it is a faith focused on Jesus Christ and a faith which comes through Christ. Personal faith has to do with placing our personal trust in the system of faith that comes through Christ.

When faith becomes totally subjective anything can happen. Of late, there has been some hype over a cult that is planning mass suicides before the coming of the 21st century. A leader of the cult movement was interviewed as he made the claim that the very words coming out of his mouth were the words of God. God was supposedly speaking through him. In essence, he was asking his followers to place their faith in him. He wants them to believe what he says as the very word of God. If they believe in him, they will end up in a mass grave with a dead end road to eternity.

When we come to the book of Acts we see the importance of a faith and trust in the name of Jesus. A personal faith in God comes through Jesus. When Peter and John healed the lame man at the temple in Acts 3, they proclaimed that he was given complete healing through the faith that comes through Jesus Christ. Here we see the power of faith that comes through Jesus Christ, yet the power resides in what Jesus is capable of doing, not necessarily what I am capable of understanding and believing. Faith is powerful when it is placed in the right object regardless of how small the faith of the individual. Jesus said, "If you have the faith of the size of a mustard seed, you will remove mountains and nothing shall be impossible for you." A faith in Christ is not limited to human weakness, but it is a living faith that is unlimited by the power of Almighty God.

We are supposed to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) If my faith is limited to what I can conceive and believe, then it is not faith because I am walking by sight. A few days ago, I saw a blind lady walking down the street. She wasn't groping her way down the street, it wasn't a casual walk, but it was a brisk aerobic walk. She was rapidly walking down the sidewalk as she held her white cane out in front of her. It was such a fast walk, that initially I wondered if she was pretending to be blind. But a second glance revealed she was really blind. I thought, "There is a spiritual lesson." I found myself wishing that I could walk as fast by faith as that woman was without sight. Faith is a walk without sight; it is stepping into the will of God, while trusting in the sustaining power of God.

Faith is more than what I can conceive and believe; it is simply trusting in the revelation and the power of God in spite of my ability to see. If my faith is limited to what I can conceive, then it is limited to only what I can see. True faith takes us beyond what we can see and at times even believe.
 

Ephesians 1:18-23
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)


Retracing Our Steps to Discover What to Believe

At times we become furious when someone wants to redirect our faith. It is fearful and intimidating to be released from what I conceive and believe at any moment. We are so afraid of where it will lead. Yet, if we are walking hand in hand with God, it can only lead to higher ground. The Jews in the context of our passage are having a difficult time giving up what they believe to accept Christ. Yet, it was essential for them to accept Christ that they might fully understand what they already believed.
 

Acts 6:8-15
Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)-- Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (NIV)


Often it is necessary to retrace our steps to see where we are so that we might discover where we need to be. Retracing our steps can shed light on what we already know. It is in Acts chapter seven that Stephen meets the opposition with the plain teaching of God's word as he begins to retrace God's redemptive work from Abraham to Christ. He endeavors to show them that Christ was in God's plan for them all along. Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of every promise made to Abraham. Stephen shows how God went about developing a nation from Abraham's descendants. He reveals the work of Moses as Moses leads their forefathers out of Egypt. Stephen reminds the Jews that angels gave the living words Moses received at Mount Sinai. Moses said, "God will send you a prophet like me from your own people". Stephen was proclaiming that Jesus was the prophet that God had promised. His proclamation was backed by the living word given by the angels.

The Jews prided themselves in being Abraham's descendants and disciples of the law given by Moses, but Stephen in essence teaches them that in accepting Moses they must accept Christ. This shook the very foundation of Jewish beliefs, yet Christ was the only foundation for Jewish teaching.

They accepted Moses' teaching, but as they studied what Moses said they formulated a subjective doctrine of beliefs contrary to Moses' teaching. Their doctrine gradually became subjective in content as they lost sight of the living teaching once delivered to Moses by angels. To reveal the error of what they considered sacred made them furious.

Stephen was encouraging them to accept the teaching once proclaimed by Moses. He was pointing them back to the beginning of it all, for that is where true faith begins. He was contending for the faith once delivered to Moses. Their system of faith came through Moses as angels gave it. It wasn't a subjective standard better felt than told; it was an objective standard given by God to direct what was to be held sacred in their hearts. A real Jewish faith was to be guided by every precept given by Moses. It was only through following Moses teaching that they would discover the Messiah.

When they refused to accept what Moses taught about Christ, they were in essence rejecting the teaching of Moses upon which their faith was supposed to be built. No less is true in the twentieth century. For our personal faith to be valid today, it must come through the objective standards given by Christ. It is the faith that comes through Christ teaching which heals our souls. When we reject the teaching of Christ, we reject Christ. There is no alternative; we must accept Christ and all he taught. If we reject anything he taught we are totally rejecting Christ.

Some take a stance that says, "Well I don't believe everything in the Bible, but I believe in Jesus Christ and after all that is really all that matters." It is at this point that our faith becomes totally subjective as we reject the teaching of the Bible in favor of our own personal beliefs about Christ. Moses, the prophets and the apostles of Christ wrote the Bible. To reject the Bible is to reject it all, including Jesus Christ.

Jesus instructed the seventy he sent out saying, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (Luke 10:16 NIV) Believing in Christ is believing in God; it makes little difference who is proclaiming the message. If it is an apostle of the first century or a preacher in the twentieth. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me." (John 13:20 NIV)

Jesus states the penalty for not believing, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:48 NIV) This was also true of the Law of Moses, Moses would judge these people, for they refused what Moses proclaimed about Christ.
 

Thesselonians 4:8
Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Our personal faith becomes valid when we render obedience to the system of faith delivered to us through Jesus Christ through the teaching of the apostles. The only way we can be certain our faith is valid is by retracing our spiritual steps to see if we have gotten off the spiritual path God has made for us. Only the word of God can shed light on that path.
 
Psalms 142:3
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. (NIV)

Psalms 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)

Psalms 27:11
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. (NIV)

Psalms 77:19
Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. (NIV)

Psalms 119:35
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. (NIV)

Psalms 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (NIV)


Conclusion:

Jacob spent all his life running his life by his own standards. He found nothing but heartache. After he had swindled himself out of everything near and dear, God appeared to Jacob and said, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau."

What Jacob says at this point is interesting "So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone." (Genesis 35:1-3 NIV)

God is asking us to come and worship him, for he has the word of life. We must retrace our steps and if necessary, we must allow God to redirect our steps into the paths of righteousness. It may require cleansing ourselves or our idols and foreign gods. This is the only answer in our day of distress.

It is essential that we accept God's plan of salvation once delivered to the saints for all time, for this is where we discover God's plan for a new a beginning.

Give God's plan of salvation for the invitation.
 
 
 

 

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