Faith’s Joy Depends on the Historical Incarnation of Jesus

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—

2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Nelson, Thomas (2009-02-18). Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV) (p. 1178). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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John wanted to assure his readers that the historical incarnation of Jesus was historical truth. Historicity is the bulwark of faith. In history, real knowledge exists. Someone lived, accomplished certain things, and then died. It is knowledge that can be verified. There were eye witnesses, and they spoke of what they saw. Faith draws upon knowledge, for there cannot be faith in non-existence. Genuine faith could not be placed in that which does not exists, because that which does not exists could not be brought to mind toward which one would claim, “I believe.”

From the outset, John established that faith pointed to what he saw, heard, and handled. He heard Jesus speak. He saw Jesus move among the people, healing some and speaking to others. John touched Jesus and knew He was real. He was witness not only to Jesus’ life but also to His death and resurrection. His writing showed that he trusted what he saw and heard. One might argue, “Isn’t faith that which is in the unseen.” Yes, but it is also in evidence of what one sees. The writer of the Hebrews letter writes,

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of the things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). The world around us stands out visible to our eyes. Why then do we need faith? Observation is one thing, but understanding is quite a different matter. Both lend to faith. However, the understanding receives enlightenment through faith. That which one observes supplies evidence just as much as that which one does not see. We do not see words, and a deaf person does not hear them, nor can a blind person read them. However, their lack of hearing, reading, or touching does not at all discount their existence. How then does one know such words exists? Another brings the evidence of the reality of those words. It is valid for one to introduce evidence to another.

The hope, joy, and faith of John’s audience of his letter depended on the historical fact of Jesus and His death and resurrection. All that Jesus did and spoke was as true as the most recent events of the past. It was just as certain the accounts of the US presidential lines, the various wars in which the US fought, and yesterday’s news.

John gave witness that they [the apostles and others who knew and followed Jesus] heard, saw, and touched the living Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, came in the flesh, lived among fallen humanity, suffered persecution and opposition, was executed, and rose again from the dead. John had earlier written of these events in his gospel.  Now he sets this very truth out as foundational when he writes to his audience. Since Jesus was who he said he was, that claim and historical fact makes all the difference for all who believe Him. That belief acts as an anchor of allegiance to Him as Lord of all.

There are different types and levels of allegiances. Many pledge allegiance to a political party, and that causes them to rally for that party through time and money regardless sometimes of the candidate. For many, the platform for that party are simply benchmarks for society as a whole and are the drawing card for allegiance. Nothing calls individuals to absolute obedience to them. They simply hold them as what the party stands for and can be changed for the next election cycle. They may not be burned into the minds and hearts of all who pledge allegiance to the party. It is allegiance to a non-personal. People can hold differing opinions and interpretations of the elements of this non-personal platform and still give allegiance to it.

Many pledge allegiance to a nation and the flag that represents that nation. The Constitution also stands as a standard for that nation. Yet, the Constitution’s interpreters can read into or skew the meaning of this Constitution to mean other than what the original writer meant until this document becomes meaningless. The pledge to the Constitution becomes a pledge to a generalized form in which the content becomes lost or changed over time as people go about living their lives as though it does not exist until the rights the Constitution bestows are removed. Then people get up in arms that a group or person stands in their way between them and that form. Their complaint is about the form and not so much their commitment to its contents.

The interesting thing about giving allegiance to a nation or a document as the Constitution is that a ruthless dictator can rule the nation while spewing out propaganda for gaining allegiance of the people. Germany was a good example during World War II. The document could also contain lies lacking any attachment to reality. Giving allegiance to such a national leader or document is giving allegiance to that which is false. Yes, people can give allegiance to something false or false knowledge, something not grounded in truth or evidence. Such an allegiance has occurred numerous times in history. Consider the false Greek and Roman gods without history or reality. Deceit undergirds this allegiance. The proprietors of the temple of Diana in Ephesus is a stellar example of profitable deceit. People deceive without giving evidence or verification of their claims.

However, John carries allegiance well beyond a party or document. Rather, he points to a living person and not some impersonal entity like a political party or document. Since an allegiance is to a person, it takes on a far different dimension. It is true that people give allegiance to other people. However, such an allegiance frequently takes on an external commitment. They give up their material goods and time to become involved in some sort of membership or group the person to whom they give allegiance represents. Jesus calls for an allegiance that is greater and deeper than the external. It is one that involves internal motives, thoughts and intents, feeling and desire, and behaviors untouched by a mere man. Following Jesus calls for an allegiance that renders internal change of all we are for expressing a new way of life.

Let us return to the Hebrews passage a moment. Observations of the world about us gives evidence that it came about some time in the past. How one understands what one observes depends on one’s interpretation of what one observes and how that interpretation agrees with reality. Since we are far removed from the origins of existence, all we can do is attempt to propose hypotheses and try our best to test them with the best tools available, which are better than those 200 years ago but probably inferior to those in 200 years from now. Nobody saw existence come about. That eliminates observation. Even then, much about origins is speculation and requires some sort of faith that whatever first thrust the elements of what exists also existed. Many scientists simply claim they do not know the origins of existence. The writer of Hebrews offers a starting point. All that we see did not come about from that which is visible. That is, all that began to exist did not give rise to that which began to exist. Rather, that invisible God created all that began to exist. Faith is required for both views of how things began to exist. However, the Hebrew writer claims that the invisible God as Creator is far more credible than the starting point of the visible giving rise to the visible or eternal matter.

The same thing holds true with John’s message. He wrote his opening statement based on living testimony (evidence), “That which was from the beginning” (1:1). If Jesus was from the beginning, as John claims from the mouth of Jesus Himself, would such first-hand evidence be more credible than drawing conclusions from lack of observation?

If all Jesus said was true, and John recorded what He said, would it not make sense to give allegiance to such personal first-hand knowledge, especially when Jesus supported this knowledge through His resurrection from the dead? The opening paragraph of John lays the foundation for this new way of life by setting forth the person to whom all allegiances are rendered. With this foundation established on a person, John can then set forth the argument that true allegiance assumes the same depth of personal allegiance as Jesus had with His Father, which John illustrates specifically as he works out throughout his entire letter of 1 John the substance of this allegiance to Jesus.

Faith Versus Evolution

The following is an excerpt from the book “Nothing But the Gospel (Action Faith Books Press, October 2014, Amazon: http://amzn.to/1EzgJyk).Nothing But the Gospel Cover for Kindle

Faith in the unseen reality enables us to understand seen reality and its order as from God.  Evolutionists depend on seen reality.  They cannot to come to grips with the material world as created.  Their faith resides within the scope of the material world and cannot reach beyond it without the Creator giving the understanding that He created all things…

While we perceive the world and gather knowledge from it, God alone informs us of Himself and that this world comes from Him. The letter to the Hebrews confirms God’s initiative when its writer states,

“By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things which are seen were not made of the things which are visible” (Hebrews 11: 3).

Understanding of the divine requires faith. Perception, human wisdom, or reason cannot bridge the gap between that which we see and God. Perceiving unseen reality requires an act of God in the human mind and heart. Knowledge and discernment of the world and of spiritual realities need divine enlightenment or spiritual understanding.

Consider an illustration. Evolutionists would not draw the same conclusion as the writer of the Epistle of Hebrews. Atheistic evolutionists would disagree with the understanding that the “worlds were framed by God.” They would reach a very different understanding. Rather than claiming faith in God gives understanding, evolutionists would claim science gives understanding. That is, a Big Bang occurred apart from any God and eventually produced the worlds in space. The evolutionist begins with what one sees and draws the conclusion about evolution and the origins of the universe. Such an understanding is devoid of faith in the God of the Bible. Rather, it is faith in seen reality. Faith in unseen reality gives understanding of the origins of creation – God.

Hebrews offers a stunning conclusion.  Faith in the unseen helps us grasp and understand even what we see – the created order.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

True Biblical Faith

If you ask a dozen people to define faith, you would probably receive a dozen different answers.  Some say, “You gotta have faith.”  What does that mean?  Some base faith on a feeling such as, “I trust my gut.”  Some theologians say, “You can find God through creation.  Just look at the stars and the beauty of the earth.”  Others take a step or two farther and claim that God is in creation or that creation is God.  Still others announce, “You are the only one you can trust” or “You have to take a leap of faith.”

If we consider all of these, they have one thing in common.  They either are faith in what one sees or there is no object for faith.  The Bible has a very different take on the matter of faith.  In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul states,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The Corinthian church arose from the Greek-Roman culture, which was polytheistic.  The people carved images of things from the created order and set them up as gods.  There were gods that they could see, and they worshipped them.  Where their faith was, their hope followed.  However, when they became believers in Christ, they had to reorient their worldview.  This was especially true in the difficulties they encountered during their time.  That reorientation was a radical departure from what they saw to unseen realities.

In writing to them, Paul once again reminded them of the true nature of faith.  Its object was the unseen God and His unseen promises.  He informed them that Christ was the object of their faith, and that He dwelled in unseen reality.  For this reason, he encouraged them not to lose heart.  The things of creation were helpless to uphold them in their trials, inasmuch as they wanted to cling to these created objects.  The God of the entire universe held sway over all the created order including them.  He was their rock and anchor.  Consequently, in spite of the difficulties they encountered, they could be assured that they were safe in the hands of the Almighty God, the Father of the Lord Jesus.  They were His children.  In light of these truths, he referred to trials and difficulties as “light afflictions” in comparison to the glory they would encounter when they left their earthly tent – their created bodies.  God’s oversight was their hope.

How much more true is that for us today who face threats of annihilation in a world gone mad with greed, power, and lust.  Keeping our eyes on the unseen reality of God and His promise to be with us and on Jesus who saves us enables courage.  The letter to the Hebrews encourages us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He suffered far worse trials and temptation and was executed.  His resurrection guarantees the fulfillment of God’s promise that those who believe Him as the Savior will be with Him eternally.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.