Sometimes, people wonder whether faith comes before regeneration or the other way around. Other times, people trust in and look to faith, or what they think is faith, instead of God. I believe that all these issues (and maybe more besides) stem from a misunderstanding of what faith is.
“Now, faith is the confidence of things not seen and the assurance of things hoped for.” That’s from Hebrews. In 2nd Corinthians, Paul writes, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen is passing away, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” I think some people may think that “the things that are seen,” means the things that can be seen with our eyes or otherwise perceived by the physical senses and that “the things which are not seen” means what can be perceived by the intellect or emotions. I am convinced that this interpretation is based on completely erroneous (from error) assumptions. In 1st Corinthians Paul writes about how “eye has not seen nor has ear heard nor has it entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love Him, but we have the Spirit of God which shows to us the things of God… The fleshly man cannot judge the spiritual, but the spiritual man can judge all things.” From this, I gather that “the things which are seen” means the things which can be known or perceived by the natural or fleshly man. It includes not only physical objects that can be smelt or seen or tasted or felt or heard, but reasonings of the mind and emotions and feelings, in other words, all things accessible to the man alienated or separated from God. “The things which are not seen” are those things which are known only through the Spirit of God, that is, through God Himself. They are the things to which the Holy Spirit bears witness and which cannot be known apart from His witness. They are as inaccessible to the fleshly mind or intellect and emotions as they are to the eyeballs. Shortly after the passage about “we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen,” St. Paul writes, “We walk by faith, not by sight,” and it is clear that he is contrasting the things of earth and the things of heaven, the things of time and the things of eternity, for he was writing earlier about “being afflicted on every side, but not crushed… always carrying around in these bodies the death of the Lord Jesus so that the life of the Lord Jesus may also be revealed in us… these light and momentary afflictions (beatings, sorrows, troubles without, fears within, shipwrecks, imprisonments) are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond measure… for we know that when this earthly tent is destroyed we have an eternal building from God in heaven, not made with hands…” The writer of Hebrews says, “It is written, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This ‘once more’ indicates (means, points to) the removing of the things that can be shaken so that only the unshakable remains.” That is what the Apostle is talking about when he writes, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Earth and all that belongs to earth is going to be shaken, and only that which is built on God and by God and through God, in the Son, will remain. Faith is the confidence in these things and the assurance of them.
In other words, faith means knowing God. If the knowledge of God is eternal life, and the knowledge of God given to sinners who were separated from Him is salvation, then the knowing of God is faith. In Isaiah it is written, “Look to Me, all you ends of the earth, and be saved, for I am God and there is no other.” In John, it says, “This is eternal life: that they know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” That is faith – the looking to God, the knowing God, the seeing of God. In Ephesians it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Through faith. The channel through which the knowledge of God comes is called faith, our gaze upon the saving God is called faith. As regeneration is the imparting to us of the life of the incarnate Son of God and sanctification is the perfecting of this life in us, the taking up of us into this, faith is our seeing God, our receiving of His life. The sight of God is eternal life, to those who have sinned also known as salvation; faith is our seeing of God. Thus, salvation or eternal life and faith are indistinguishable; they are part and parcel of the same thing. Faith is receiving the life or vision – sight – of God. Faith means the sight of our souls upon God.
In Heaven the distinction between faith and sight will no longer exist. The glory that now dwells in our spirits will permeate our entire being and all of creation. There will no longer be any division between what is seen and what is. Everything will be perfect reality, everything will exist in the immediate vision of God. Faith will, in very fact, be sight. Our bodies and minds and all the functions thereof will be perfectly united with our souls in experiencing God, and all creation will be joined with us in this as well. From Romans 8: “For creation groans, as in the pain of childbirth, in eager expectation and longing for the day when the sons of God will be revealed. For creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope, that the creation too would share in the glorious liberty of the children of God.” It speaks in Revelation of how we will have no need for sun or moon, for the Lamb Himself will be our light.
Meanwhile, on earth, faith is our seeing of God, faith is our living on God. Faith is walking in the Spirit, instead of in the flesh. The vision is eternal life; seeing it is faith. For now.
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale
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