Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1955
NUMBER 10, PAGE 2,9b

At What Point Does Man Receive God's Blessings?

Thomas B. Warren, Fort Worth, Texas

The question which serves as a title to this article is an all-important one. He who answers it wrongly will be lost: he who answers it rightly (and obeys the same) will be saved! Yet, in all likelihood, there is more confusion over this question than any other which faces mankind. This situation is not prevalent because the Bible is vague about it. Rather, it is because men have either paid no attention to the Bible or else have approached the Bible with prejudice or with confused methods of study. This causes some to advocate theories which are in violent contradiction to the plain teaching of the Word of God. That man receives salvation at the point of faith in Christ is just such a theory.

Where can the answer be found? No answer is of value in religion unless it is the Bible answer, unless it comes from the inerrant authority, the Word of God. Men must go to the "law and the testimony" and be done with mere human theories and philosophies. (Rom. 1:16, 17; I Cor. 1:20-25; I Peter 22-25.)

Study In The Old Testament Will Help To Learn The Principle Involved

Men living today are not amenable to the specific instructions of the old Covenant. The old Covenant was nailed to the cross of Christ (Col. 2:14); it was taken out of the way in order that the Second Covenant could be established. (Heb. 10:9.) However, men today are instructed to learn from the things that were written aforetime (Rom. 15:4), and to look upon the things which happened aforetime as an example. (I Cor. 10:11.) The point at which man receives the blessings offered by God can be learned, so far as the principle is concerned, from these Old Testament examples.

I. The Reception By The Israelites Of The Healing From The Serpent. (Numbers 21:4-9.)

The Israelites had been disobedient, speaking against God and against Moses. (v. 5.) Because of this, God had sent fiery serpents among them, and many of them had died. (v. 6.) The people then came to Moses confessing their sin and beseeching him that he would pray unto God for them that He might take away the serpents. The blessing desired was escape from the serpents. At what point did they receive this blessing?

1. God's blessing offered:

"And Jehovah said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard: and it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he seeth it shall live." (v. 8.) God offered them the healing of their serpent bite. But they did not receive that blessing immediately when God offered it.

2. God's Word — His instruction as to what man must DO in order to receive the blessing which He had just offered. (v. 8.)

Note that God commanded: (a) that Moses should make a serpent; (b) that Moses set this serpent upon a standard; and (c) that those who were bitten were to look upon this brazen serpent. But they did not receive the blessing which God had offered immediately when these instructions were given.

3. Man's faith:

Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto God. (Heb. 11:6.) In order to receive this blessing, then, it was necessary for the Israelites to believe. But no one has ever received a blessing which God has offered upon the basis of a DEAD faith. A dead faith is as powerless as a corpse! But a faith which has not led to obedience is yet a dead faith. (James 2:24-26.) This would lead men to expect that the Israelites would. NOT receive the blessing here offered by God immediately when they believed; and they DIDN'T.

4. Man's obedience to the instructions of God:

Moses had obeyed God, making the brazen serpent and placing it upon the standard. But the Israelites did not then receive the blessing which God offered. Why not? God further instructed them that each person who was bitten was to LOOK upon the brazen serpent. No one received the blessing until he had obeyed this command of God. But what happened when they did look? Verse nine gives the answer; ".. .. And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived." No one ever fails to receive God's offered blessing when he faithfully obeys God's commands.

It is certainly seen from this example that man does not receive the blessing offered by God until he has obeyed all of the commands given by God in His Word relative to the gaining of a particular blessing. Here, then, is the plain order: (1) God's blessing offered; (2) God's word is given; (3) man's faith; (4) man's obedience to all of the commands in God's word relative to the gaining of a particular blessing; (5) man's reception of God's blessing.

II. The Reception By The Israelites Of The City Of Jericho. (Joshua 6:1-21.)

1. God's blessing offered:

God offered Israel the city of Jericho. (Joshua 6:2.) _ Was this all that was required? Did Israel immediately receive the blessing when the offer was made? Of course not.

2. God's Word — His instructions as to what they must DO in order to receive the blessing which He had just offered them.

God told Israel: (a) to have all the men of war compass the city; (b) these men should march about the city once each day for six days; (c) seven priests to bear seven trumpets before the ark; (d) on the seventh day they were to compass the city seven times; (e) the priests were then to blow the trumpets; (f) then all the people were to shout. But Israel did not receive the blessing immediately when God gave His instructions.

3. Man's faith:

In Hebrews 11:30 is found the teaching that the walls of Jericho fell down by faith. This means that the Israelites were motivated by faith; they had faith before they ever took one step in obeying God by marching around the city. Many advocate the theory that one always receives the blessings promised by God immediately when he believes. But did such occur here? It certainly did not! The Israelites believed, but every rock of the wall was still standing in its place! It is seen, therefore, that the expression "by faith" does not demand the meaning: "at the point of faith"!

4. Man's obedience to God's Word:

God had commanded Israel that they should do no less than fifteen acts of obedience: (a) march around the city thirteen times; (b) blow on the trumpets; (c) shout. When they marched around the city the first time, did they receive the city (the blessing offered)? Certainly not! Why not? Simply because they had not yet obeyed ALL that God had commanded them in connection with the reception of this particular blessing. Even after they had marched around the city thirteen times and had blown the trumpets they had not received the city. Why not? Simply because there yet remained the command to shout which they had not yet obeyed. When this last command was obeyed, however, the walls fell down flat! Did all of these acts of obedience nullify faith? Certainly not! See Hebrews 11:30. Did the obedience to all of these commands mean that they had EARNED the blessing ? Certainly not! It still was a GIFT from God. See Joshua 6:2. A gift sometimes has conditions attached, but it is still a gift.

Again, it is seen that the order is : (1) God's blessing offered; (2) God's word (instructions) given; (3) man's faith; (4) man's obedience to the commands given in God's word relative to the receiving of this particular blessing; (5) man's reception of God's blessing.

III. The Receiving By Naaman Of The Cleansing Of Leprosy. (Ii Kings 5:1-4.)

1. God's blessing offered (through Elisha):

.... And thou shalt be clean." (II Kings 5:10.) This was God's grace (favor); Naaman was, in no sense, to EARN this blessing. Naaman did not receive the blessing at this point.

2. God's Word — Instructions as to what he must DO in order to receive the blessing.

These instructions were: (1) go; (2) wash in Jordan; (3) seven times (v. 10.) Naaman did not receive the blessing at this point.

3. Man's faith:

At first Naaman was angered by the instructions contained in God's word to him. He went away in a rage. As long as he was in this condition, he could not please God. (Heb. 11:6.) Later he did believe but he did not receive the blessing at the point of his faith:

4. Man's obedience to the instructions of God:

Did Naaman receive the blessing when he dipped the first time? No. Why not? Simply because he had not obeyed ALL of the instructions God had given relative to the gaining of this particular blessing. But what happened when he obeyed the LAST thing (dipping the seventh time) which God had instructed him to do? He THEN received the blessing! God always bestows His blessings at this point!

Again it will be seen that this order was followed: (1) God's blessing offered; (2) God's instructions given as to what man must do to receive the blessing; (3) man's faith; (4) man's obedience to the instructions given in God's word; (5) man's reception of God's blessing.