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The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


'Useless' Faith?

Is there such a thing as ‘useless faith’ from a Christian worldview? Does the Bible answer the question?

First of all, I think it fair to say that we (professing believers) almost always think about faith in a positive light, as does scripture. The Old Testament is full of men and women of faith. The New Testament tells us we are saved “by grace through faith”. On occasion, Jesus commended individuals for their faith. In the book of Hebrews there is a long list of notable men and women of faith, as well as heroic deeds that were the result of their faith in a great God.

So what’s this about “useless” faith? Is it even a ‘thing’ from a biblical perspective?

I suggest to you that it is, and that ‘useless faith’ is a serious topic at least twice in the Bible, once from the perspective of the Apostle Paul, and once from the perspective of James, the brother of Jesus, in the book bearing his name. The Apostle Paul addresses the topic from something the Bible claims is a historical fact, while James approaches it with human works in view.

For a look at what Paul had to say about “useless” faith, we need only take a look at 1Corinthians, chapter 15, his great treatise on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the final resurrection of believers:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:12-19)

Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who were denying the future resurrection of the dead, although it was being preached that Christ indeed rose from the dead, a fact attested to by witnesses.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul then states that if Christ has not been raised, his (Paul’s) preaching and the faith of Believers in Corinth is in vain (useless) (v 14), a point he reiterated in v. 17.

Moving on to what James has to say about “useless” faith, we’ll turn to James, Chapter 2.

 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.\

First Janes asks his listeners if want to be shown that faith apart from works is useless (v. 20) and then says very clearly that faith part from works is dead (v. 26). Clearly he is saying that faith without works is useless and dead, but in what context? We need only go back to an earlier verse (v. 14) to see that James’ conclusion is based on someone professing faith but never displaying works did not have saving faith. He is saying that if claims o having faith do not produce works, it was personal faith professed, but NOT saving faith possessed, and completely “useless”.

So yes, there is such a thing as ‘useless’ faith according to the Bible, from at least two perspective:

1.  If Christ died but was not resurrected, our faith and indeed Christianity itself is useless (1 Cor 15). This is a serious doctrinal issue.

2. If we say we have faith, but our faith does not result in works to the glory of God, we never had the ‘gift of God’ faith (See Eph 2:8-9) that actually saves (James 2:14-25). This is a serious personal issue.

So we all have good reason to follow some sound advice from the Apostle Paul:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5, ESV)

The Christian Risen With Christ in Newness of Life

The Christian Risen With Christ in Newness of Life

By Charles Simeon

Rom. 6:8–11. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Gospel in every age, when freely and faithfully delivered, has been calumniated as injurious to morality.  But St. Paul, though he well knew how his doctrines would be misrepresented, did not on that account mutilate the Gospel, or declare it less freely than it had been revealed to him: he proclaimed salvation altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, without any works or deservings on our part: but at the same time he showed that good works, though excluded from any share in justifying the soul, would of necessity be practiced by every believer; because the believer, by his very profession, was, and could not but be, “dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness.”  He showed, that there would of necessity be in the believer’s soul a conformity to his Lord and Savior, since he bound himself to it in his baptismal engagements, or rather professed to have the actual experience of it before he was baptized; so that he must be a hypocrite, and no true believer, if he was not holy both in heart and life.  To this effect he speaks in the whole of the preceding context; (ver. 1-7)—and in the words which we have just read, he confirms the idea, and founds upon it an animated exhortation.

To elucidate this difficult, but important subject, we shall consider,

I. The truth he assumes—

In close connexion with this is,

II. The persuasion he intimates—

“We believe,” says he, “that we shall also live with him.”

This persuasion is founded on a firm and solid basis—

From hence is deduced,

III. The duty he inculcates—

In this subject we may see,

1. The proper tendency of the Gospel—

2. The true criterion whereby to judge of our faith in Christ—

[We will not disparage other parts of Christian experience; but the only safe test whereby to try ourselves, is, the degree in which we are dead to sin, and alive to God—“The tree must be known by its fruits”—]

3. The connection between our duty and our happiness—

About the author:  Charles Simeon, (Sept. 24, 1759-Nov. 13, 1836), Anglican clergyman and biblical commentator who led the Evangelical movement.  Simeon was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, where he became vice provost (1790–92).  In 1782 he was presented to the living of Trinity Church, Cambridge, where he remained until his death. Renowned as a preacher, Simeon helped found the Church Missionary Society (1797).

 

The Resurrection

The Resurrection by C. I. Scofield

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” Matthew. 28:6.

Three Vital Truths

Next to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, His resurrection is the most important event in human history.  Indeed it may be said that three facts concerning Jesus Christ are so intimately related as to be of equal importance—His incarnation, His crucifixion and His resurrection.

Without the incarnation neither the crucifixion nor the resurrection would have been possible; (Luke 19:10) without the crucifixion the incarnation would have been of no avail for the salvation of a guilty world; (Hebrews 10:5-10) without the resurrection the fact of the incarnation, (John 12:24, 32, 33) and the efficacy of the (John 3:14) crucifixion would have lacked the attestation to which (Hebrews 9:22) Jesus Himself appealed as the final (Matthew 12:38-40) “sign.” (Romans 4:23-25)

The fact—Jesus rose

That Jesus rose from the dead has been called the best attested fact in human history. It rests upon the following concurrent testimony:

First, the personal witnesses of the resurrection were numerous, (1 Corinthians 15:5-8) they saw Him repeatedly, (John 20:14-29) knew Him intimately, knew His stature, features, (Matthew 28:16-17) the tones of His voice.  They were the holiest men the world ever saw, (Mark 16:9-11) incapable of falsehood. (Luke 24:10)  They were incredulous, hard to be convinced. (John 20:24-28)  They bore witness to the fact immediately, when their testimony, if false, could have been refuted.  Every true Christian is a personal witness that Jesus is alive.

The resurrection of Jesus proves His deity, “Declared to be the Son of God with power, (Romans 1:4) according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”

Completes our justification, (Romans 4:25) “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification;”

Makes the believer’s own resurrection sure, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, (1 Thessalonians 4:14) even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him;”

Gives to the Church a living head, “And gave him to be the head over all things to the Church;” (Ephesians 1:22)

Restores to the sheep of God their great Shepherd, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, (Hebrews 13:20) that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will;”

Establishes His High Priestly office, “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

Gives the sinning believer an Advocate, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” (1 John 2:1)

Gives the Church a blessed hope, “Looking for that blessed hope.” (Titus 2:13)

And the earth a coming King, “And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, (Luke 1:30-33) and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Acts 15:14-16)

Preach the resurrection

Surely it is well that the tremendous fact of the resurrection of Christ should be restored, in our faith and motive, to its biblical prominence.  No one can read the Acts and the Epistles without seeing that the resurrection was, next to the cross, the central theme of the Apostolic preaching.

Modern denial

Today both the incarnation and the resurrection are denied by men who claim that such denial is possible within evangelical lines; but the Scriptures say that if Jesus did not rise there is no resurrection, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, and they who sleep in Jesus are perished. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

No wonder that around this truth the Apostles, by the Spirit, threw the sternest sanctions, as in the case of Hymenæus who, (1 Timothy 1:20) erring at this vital point, was delivered unto Satan that he might learn not to blaspheme. (2 Timothy 2:17-28)

Perhaps Peter best expresses the effect of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, when he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3)

That it was the rebirth of Christianity is, of course, patent to the reader of the Gospels and the Acts.  Nothing is more evident than that Christianity went into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, with the body of Christ. (Luke 24:19)

But something occurred which suddenly lifted that group of sorrowing men and women into an ecstasy of faith and joy, and they said it was the coming again to life and activity of their Lord and Master.

The final proof

The fact that Christianity exists today proves that Jesus rose, but the final and unanswerable proof is the appearance of Jesus to Saul.

Harnack, the greatest of patristic scholars, contends that Saul was converted within ten years after the crucifixion.  The resurrection had been, during all those years, the very central subject of controversy.  This means that upon the denial of the resurrection all the dogmatism of Saul’s strong, positive nature had concentrated.

The slow years passed. (Acts 26:12-20)  Then, not to some credulous, wonder-loving peasant or myth-dreamer, but to the very arch-denier himself, scholar, thinker, man of action, man of strong tenacity of belief, of inflexible will—the unanswerable demonstration was given.

The man who, after this, doubts the fact of the resurrection is not accessible to conviction by proof concerning any fact which he does not wish to believe.

What the risen Christ is doing

The ministry of the risen Christ is in three parts:  He is Shepherd of the sheep of God, according to Psalm 23 and John 10; the High Priest of the redeemed, according to John 17 and Hebrews 7–8; the Head of the Church, “Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

As such He baptizes with the Spirit all who believe, (1 Corinthians 12:12-23) thus uniting them to His body, (1 Corinthians 12:8-11) endues them with gifts, guides them in service, (Acts 16:7) renewing their life from His own, and procures for them the mercies (Hebrews 7:25) needful for a pilgrim body in the world.

A caution

Never can the believer know the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, nor enter into spiritual rest and joy, until he comprehends, in some measure at least, this three-fold resurrection work of Christ.

There is a disproportionate attention given to the Jewish earth-ministry (Matthew 10:5-6) of our Lord during three and one half years in Judea and Galilee; (Matthew 15:24) and a consequent neglect of the mighty and varied ministry of the ascended Christ, (Romans 15:8) which has already lasted over nineteen hundred years.  “This ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone.”

About the Author: 

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (August 19, 1843 – July 24, 1921) was an American theologian, minister, and writer whose best-selling “Schofield Reference Bible” popularized futurism and dispensationalism among fundamentalist Christians.

Scofield produced several major theological works. First, he wrote a book called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, which expresses the principles of dispensational hermeneutics. Second, his annotated reference Bible became the standard for a generation. Finally, his Bible correspondence course made his teaching readily available around the world. All three of these works are still available today. Scofield’s impact has been magnified by his influence on Lewis Sperry Chafer, who founded Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS became the most prominent dispensational seminary in the world; its many high-profile graduates include Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, J. Vernon McGee, Hal Lindsey, and Bruce Wilkinson.

 


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