Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 8, 1952

The Commission -- Belief

Robert H. Farish, Tarrant, Alabama

We are engaged in a study of the items of the great commission. The gospel was the subject of the first article. From that study we learned that the gospel was the thing, which the apostles were authorized by Christ to preach. The order of the commission is preach the gospel — he that believeth — repents and is baptized shall be saved. The preaching of the gospel precedes belief, for belief cometh of hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17)

The next item in order is Belief, so we will now study belief as a condition of salvation.

Very early in the study of this item of the commission we're impressed with its importance. The order in which Christ puts it in the commission impresses us with its need. One must first believe before he can repent or be baptized. Hence Christ so expressed it in the commission. He that believeth and is baptized — an unbeliever cannot be baptized scripturally. Then we have the additional statement that "he that disbelieveth shall be condemned," and this is in harmony with Rom. 10:14, "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" Many passages could be offered which teach the importance of belief, but these will suffice for the present. Unbelief stands as a barrier barring one from God's blessings for no one can comply with God's conditions of salvation without belief. They cannot subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (Rom. 3) Unbelief is the hindrance that prevents many from being baptized.

It is established that God requires faith of man. Does God require the impossible of his creatures? Certainly not! He requires only of his creature man that which man can perform. This being true, the will of man is involved. Is it within the power of man, by an exercise of his will, to come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God? Some have contended that a man by the exercise of his will could not believe in Christ. This is certainly not true. In the everyday affairs of life we see many examples that prove that man can come to believe in certain things by the exercise of his will. It is within the power of man to believe or disbelieve. To illustrate: Suppose a crime is committed in our community. We know that some one is the perpetrator of the crime, but we have no belief as to the identity of the guilty. Now I raise the question — Is there a possibility, by the exercise of volition, to come to a belief in the identity of the guilty party? Yes, we would resolve to ferret out the culprit and bring him to justice. That is precisely what would be done. Those responsible for running down law breakers would gather all clues and follow the trail indicated by those clues. When sufficient evidence had been collected the suspect would be brought to trial and all the evidence presented to a jury and the jury would be asked to consider the evidence and come to a belief as to the guilt or innocence of the one on trial. Faith depends on evidence. Yet many have rejected Christ, refused to believe on him, without considering the evidence.

Having established that faith is essential, and that man can have faith, we will next consider how does faith come? Or what is the means whereby man believes. We have already laid down the principle that faith is based on evidence. This is affirmed in many passages of scripture. First, we consider John 17:20. "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word." How would they believe on Christ? Through the word preached by the apostles. The language of our Lord indicates that faith must be preceded by "hearing the word." Next notice Acts 15:7, "Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you that by my mouth, the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. Peter here teaches that the believing of the Gentiles was preceded by the hearing of the word of the gospel. This principle is further established in the parable of the sower. In explaining the parable Christ said, "The seed is the word of God. And those by the wayside are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved." Luke 8:11,12 Christ tells us that the seed sown by the sower is the word of God. He further says that the devil takes this word away from the wayside heart. What end does the devil have in view to cause him to be concerned with removing the word from the heart? Christ said it was to prevent their believing and being saved. The devil is just as interested in removing the word from our hearts today. He knows that the word is the way by which man believes. No word of God in the heart, no faith in God. But another passage: John 20:30, "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples which are not written here, but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." Why did the Holy Spirit guide John to record the signs that Jesus did? John wrote "These are written that ye may believe." Finally on this point I refer you to Rom. 10:14-17, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." In this reference the apostle teaches that the order of faith is preaching, hearing and believing. He indicates the impossibility of calling on the Lord without believing by inquiring, 'How shall they call on him in whom they have not heard?" He then climaxes his argument and answers the question by stating "So belief cometh of hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." How clear and reasonable then is the order of the commission "First" Go preach the gospel" — Why? That men may believe and call on the name of the Lord in obedience. Let me remind you that the responsibility of those whom Christ commissioned was to preach the gospel to every creature. Theirs it was to preach the gospel. It was the responsibility of those to whom it was preached to believe it and repent and be baptized — and it is God's grace to forgive those who so obey.

We have already seen that man's faith is dependent upon the evidence presented — that is the gospel preached — the things written. The territory of faith is bounded by the word of God. Where the word has not gone, faith cannot exist. If God imparted faith to man in a direct and miraculous way and not through the preaching of the gospel, why did Christ commission the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel ? Why do religious groups send missionaries far and wide to preach? It is God's arrangement that "belief cometh of hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." God did not arrange to infuse belief into the heart of man by a direct operation upon the man. Peter says "of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34) Christ's commission is not partial. It does not respect the person of anyone. Belief is to come to all in the same way — by hearing the gospel. The apostles were to preach the gospel to all creatures. God "made no distinction between" the Jew and the Gentile but cleansed their hearts by faith. This faith came to both alike. Acts 15:7, "Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe."

If God imparts faith directly to the human heart, what about those that do not believe? Upon what basis and by what rule does he give it to some and withhold it from others? It is impossible to please God without faith. (Heb. 11:6) Hence those from whom God withholds faith cannot be pleasing to God, can't come to Him. Is such an arrangement fair? No, it is not. It is a human arrangement, not God's. God is fair, He is no respecter of persons and in harmony with His character, has provided that man believe by hearing the word of the gospel and the gospel is for all. Rom. 1:15,16, "So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek."