Before we discuss faith, I want to look at the background of sin and its expression. For the opposite of faith is unbelief, isn’t it? And the disobedience that was fueled by unbelief was really the initial fount from which all other evils of sin have flowed. So, if we understand the fabric of disobedience (independence from God and unbelief), it should help us in the comprehension of true faith.
Romans 5:13 states, “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”1 However, our first parents’ sin (which was a direct disobedience of God’s word concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) occurred before the Law was given. It was the basis for judgment against Adam and Eve. There was a physiological effect as well; immediately upon eating of that fruit, something was introduced into their systems that triggered the process which would eventually result in their deaths. One wonders if our first parents really believed that eating this attractive fruit would actually result in death. Since death had not entered the world at this point in time, Adam and Eve simply would have to take God at His word that eating of the fruit would result in this thing called “death.”
Humanity in Noah’s day also suffered judgment on account of wickedness when the flood waters inundated the world that then was. These events both took place before the Law was given. So, while man was not responsible to uphold the Law prior to receiving it (and thus had no accountability for law breaking), he was still responsible for “conscience breaking.”
Romans 1 speaks to this: “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened” (vv18-20 CSB). Therefore, the Lord was completely justified in bringing the flood upon the world that had turned away from Him. The Lord was also just in banishing our first parents from the garden. Adam in particular was accountable to God, as he had received a direct word from Him and disobeyed, making his sin unique in its character (see Gen 3:16-17). That is why Paul says of humanity’s transgressions from Adam to Moses that their sin was somehow different from Adam’s. “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression” (Rom 5:14 CSB).
God had spoken individually and personally to Adam, and he chose to disobey. Perhaps it was his “love for Eve” that caused him to eat. He could not contemplate going on without her. Whatever the case, his sin was blatant disobedience to God’s spoken command to him. Eve’s sin involved being deceived by the serpent, believing his word rather than believing what God spoke to Adam. But both Adam and Eve’s sins were an act of the will. Therefore, if disobedience mingled with unbelief is characterized by an act of the will, is not faith also, but in the opposite direction? It is not a moving away from God but a turning to Him in a decided act of faith.
The psalmist writes, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple” (27:4).
We have another example of this in the person of Ruth. While Orpah kissed Naomi, Ruth clung to her. How is it with us? Do we cling to God’s faithful Word? Yes, some parts of it are difficult to grasp, but God’s Holy Spirit is available to be our helper. “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (Joh 16:13). Let us put this to the test in our daily reading of God’s Word. Are we clingers like Ruth was to Naomi, or do we have a brief “peck on the cheek” in the morning like Orpah and then go off on our merry way? Reading and meditating on God’s Word is a faith strengthening agent like no other. How our faith needs to be tempered and strengthened. The tempering process is, as both Paul and Peter tell us, a matter of great value. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:7). “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17).
Who is it that recognizes our faith? It is primarily God Himself. “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2).
Notice also Jeremiah 15:16: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” His words being “found” indicate that there was an exercise on behalf of a seeker.
The Word of God was found in Josiah’s day after it had lain dormant for many years and the subsequent Passover was unrivaled in its observance. “And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan” (2Ch 34:15). “No Passover had been observed like it in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel. None of the kings of Israel ever observed a Passover like the one that Josiah observed with the priests, the Levites, all Judah, the Israelites who were present in Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (35:18 CSB).
Let us today be people of the Book, clingers to God’s Word, and, as a result, let our faith be strengthened until the day of His appearing in the clouds when we will go to be forever with our glorious Lord.
1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.