FAITH OR PRESUMPTION
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
“Faith” may be the most popular word in the Christian vocabulary.
- What is the “faith” by which the righteous are to live?
- What is “presumption”? How is presumption different from faith?
The Bible tells us about Satan placing Jesus on the roof of the Temple. Satan invited Jesus to jump off. Jesus refused, for two reasons. First, He would have been testing God unnecessarily. Second, He did not want to break His neck. Why would jumping off the roof of the Temple not have been faith? Because God did not tell Jesus to do that.
Satan attempted to persuade Jesus to use the Scriptures as though they are the living God speaking. They are not. God said in the Book of Psalms that the individual dwelling in the secret place of the Most High would be supported by angels so he would not stumble over a stone. But God was not talking about Jesus jumping off the roof of the Temple!
So it is today. People quote, “By whose stripes you were healed.” They say this means you already have been healed, whether you feel like it or not, because the Bible says you have been healed. Healing does not work this way!
Don’t go around saying you were healed when you have not been healed. If you want to know whether you have been healed, ask your doctor. And don’t expect God to reach down and touch you when you are claiming you have been healed. Why should He if you say you already have been healed?
Years ago my right knee became arthritic. It was swollen to the size of a melon. It felt like someone was sticking a knife in it. I went to the doctor. He gave me a shot of something and said I would be on crutches. Can you imagine a school principal on crutches? I don’t know why, but I did not pray. But God touched me anyway. I felt the touch. I told my wife I was healed, that God had touched me. I went jumping around our house in Palo Alto. Before God touched me, I did not claim I was healed. It took about ten days for the swelling to go down. That was many years ago. Whenever I feel any recurrence of pain in my right knee, I stamp my foot down hard, hard. I will not have it. God has healed me!
We are not to treat the Bible as though it is the living Word. The Lord Jesus is the living Word. You can walk in fellowship with Him and the Father and talk with them all you want to. When God says you are healed, then you are healed even though you may not see the evidence immediately.
I hope you can see the difference between saying “by faith” you have been healed, versus praying and waiting until God actually touches you. Saying you were healed because the Bible says so is a false, misleading idea. It is not genuine faith. It is presumption.
Hebrews chapter 11 is one long definition of what God’s idea of faith is.
I have been a Christian for many years. From what I have seen, I do not believe most Christians understand what faith is.
- They have been taught that we honor God when we “step out in faith” without hearing from God. This is a common belief, proceeding from incorrect teaching.
- They have been taught that if they “speak the word of faith,” they can get whatever they want. By faith they can command angels.
- They have been taught that “living by faith” often means we do not work, and expect other people to give us money.
- They have been taught that if they give money to a minister in “faith,” they will receive back that amount with interest.
- One common error that may have been deduced from the Protestant Reformation is that we are saved by believing correct theology without any change in our behavior. The idea is that “The just shall live by faith” means the righteous are not required to live righteously, but just believe the facts about Jesus. This truly is a deplorable misunderstanding and has done immense harm to the character of those Christians who believe “I am righteous before God if I believe in the Lord Jesus, and there is no need for me to inconvenience myself by practicing righteous behavior.”
All of the above teachings are not in line with Hebrews chapter 11. They all proceed from the desire of people to live without a close relationship to the Lord Jesus. They all are forms of presumption.
What do I mean by presumption? I mean acting on the belief that God is required to honor our desire when we as yet have not heard from the Lord.
The saints of Hebrews chapter 11 had fellowship with God, and God spoke to them.
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Hebrews 1:1)
Perhaps we of today do not believe we can hear from God, and so we utilize whatever formula we think will obtain what we desire, and proceed blindly, saying we are living by faith.
What we do not realize, I guess, is that faith is obedience to the living Christ. It is not a formula derived from the Bible, it is obedience to God Himself. If anyone asks you for a definition of “faith,” respond by saying: “Faith is obedience to the living Christ.” If you say that you will be completely accurate.
We can trust the Bible promise for safety and survival, such as Psalm 91. And that is faith in God’s Word. But even then we must go to Christ to obtain the details of how we are to respond to a given promise, because how we are to respond may differ from one situation to another.
Faith is obedience to the living God. We exercise faith when we hear from God and do what He says.
When we do not hear clearly from God while we are having a problem, or desire to move forward, we pray, take one step in the desired direction, and then watch the fruit of our action. If we have peace, and the results of our action seem godly, we take another step, and then watch the results of our action. And so on and on, step after step, watching and listening very carefully to determine whether or not God’s blessing is with us.
What we never are to do is to determine what we want and attempt to force it into existence, or speak it into existence, or believe it into existence. This is not faith, although many seem to think it is. It is a good way to “break your neck.” It may be a long time before you realize you have gotten yourself into deception. But when it dawns on you that something is wrong, don’t try to bull it through. Stop what you are doing and ask God to correct you.
We are approaching chaos in our country. How long is it going to be before the Christian leaders and their followers realize that if they will go to Jesus and ask Him what they should do, instead of planning another seminar, the living Christ will speak to them and have fellowship with them? Then He will lead them, and they are to be sternly obedient, not improvising or being creative. When the Ark is moving, we are not to attempt to assist it or touch it. We are to keep praying that God will show us what to do.
It is time for the Body of Christ to install the Lord Jesus as its Head!
I have said that faith is obedience to Christ, not our plunging ahead into miserable or unlikely circumstances when we have not heard from God, believing that we are honoring God with our “faith.” This is not faith at all. It is presumption.
The ways of God ordinarily are ways of peace and joy, not a frantic attempt to make something take place. Sometimes while we are obeying God, there are days or even years of patient waiting. We do not understand what is taking place. But every time we pray, we have the assurance that we are obeying God, not attempting to force our desires into existence.
Many years ago, as a young Christian, I had a strong desire to do great works of power, to be “God’s man of faith and power.” I greatly admired William Branham. I have read criticisms of Branham. People can believe what they wish. Branham was the greatest miracle worker of the previous century, in spite of whatever shortcomings he had. He was an obedient servant of Christ.
But as I prayed and tried to obey Christ, He led me into a ministry of explaining the Scriptures. I suppose helping the believers see through the current morass of errors in contemporary Christian teaching may turn out to be as important in the Kingdom as performing spectacular miracles.
I no longer wish to show off spiritually. I just want to obey Jesus. How about you? And I must admit that God does little miracles along the way for Audrey and me, when they are needed. Both of us have been healed miraculously. As I stated previously, I was healed of arthritis. I also was healed of eye problems when I wasn’t prayed for and didn’t ask to be healed (although it is a good idea to ask!). In fact, I was praying for someone else at the time.
The Lord had to remind Audrey that she was not asking for the healing of a congenital thyroid problem. So the next time she went to a service she asked for prayer. She was healed instantly of a long-standing disease. Audrey did not know she had been healed. She did not claim to be healed. But her medicine did not respond it was supposed to. She went to the doctor. He said she no longer had a thyroid problem.
Our healings have stayed with us for many years. Hallelujah!
At one time God told the Israelites that if they would obey Him, He would put none of the diseases of the world upon them.
He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)
The Apostle James told us that we should confess our sins one to another and we would be healed.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
So we ask for healing each day, and then we watch to see what Jesus will do. This is where the adventure of faith is. We do not keep on applying some formula we read in a book. We call on the Lord, and then have patience while we are waiting to see what He will do. In the meantime, we serve Jesus to the best of our knowledge and ability.
We “trust and obey, for there’s no other way,” as the old hymn says.
But what about Hebrews chapter 11, which is a prolonged definition of “the just shall live by faith”? Does it teach us fellowship with God and obedience to God, or does it teach us to step out blindly in the name of Jesus, trusting that He will keep us from “breaking our neck”?
“But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:5,6)
Enoch did not seek to be translated. God took Enoch just because he pleased God. God will do a lot of things for us if we just please Him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
Noah did not decide to go into his backyard and build a boat. It was God who initiated the building of the ark by His warning. Noah feared God, and that is why he took this extraordinary step.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)
Abraham did not “step out in faith” on his own initiative. Everything Abraham did was in obedience to God.
The way of faith, which is the way of obedience to God, is such a marvelous way to live. Every day is an adventure as we look to Jesus for what He desires for that day.
The commands of God are not grievous. It is true that we at times go through dark places, but they are to teach us about the integrity and faithfulness of God. The lessons that we learn in our dark night will stay with us throughout the countless ages of eternity.
We may imagine that when we die and see God, that we will have faith. This is not
true. Satan was a guardian cherub. His place in Heaven was beside the Throne.
Satan saw God continually. Yet he had no faith in God and still has no faith
Thus, seeing God will not help our unbelief. In actuality, genuine faith in God is a
gift that we can pray for. But first we must present our bodies a living sacrifice in
order to prove God’s will for ourselves
Is loving fellowship with the Father and the Son the important thing, or are we supposed somehow to force our will on Them so we can get Them to do what we want? This is the impression left at times by current preaching.
I realize that Jacob wrestled with the angel. But Jacob did not initiate the prayer. The struggle was brought upon him by the circumstance he found himself in. Jacob was fighting for survival, not trying to advance his own agenda.
Here is the difference between faith and presumption:
- In genuine faith, it is God who initiates the desire for change, and we respond with obedience to what God has initiated.
- In presumption, it is we who initiate the desire for change, and we try to force our desire on God by one means or another.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)
(“Faith or Presumption?”, 3725-1, proofed 20210924)