Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Much Faith Is Enough?

Recently I commented on pamphlets given to a member of our church. These pamphlets, authored by Harold camping of Family Radio, announce that the world as we know it will end on May 21, 2011. This announcement is bold and striking enough but Camping goes on to warn true believers to withdraw from churches of any kind because according to Camping no church has the Word of salvation and that all churches have false doctrine of which the most offensive is that anyone who
chooses to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ is saved. According to Camping God chooses who will be saved and to say man can choose is in itself sin.
In a pamphlet entitled “I Hope God Will Save Me”, Camping further explains his ideas concerning salvation. Since God chooses who will be saved, Jesus did not die for all mankind and “whosoever” means only those who come with all their heart, soul, strength and mind which is evidenced by a faith that God gives to those who He chooses to save, whether or not they want to be saved. Anyone who desires to be saved cannot unless God chooses him. All he can do is “cry, beg, and beseech God that maybe they too might become saved” (“No Man Knows The Hour”). Thus Camping reduces the promise of God given to us in Romans 10:13 (Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved”) to an uncertain hope that if someone repents long enough, prays hard enough and does the right things (such as withdraw from church), maybe, just maybe, God will, in His mercy, give him salvation. Consequently, Camping has reduced the promise of salvation to a vague hope based on works.
Camping explains the promise given in Romans 10:13 as meaning that those who believe with all their heart, soul, strength and mind will be saved. Such perfect faith only comes as a gift from God as he saves an individual that He chooses to save. Those who desire to come to God are not saved unless He chooses to give them that perfect faith. The problem with this is how can anyone, even Camping, be sure that he has such faith? How much faith is enough?
When Camping says “all your heart, soul and mind”, one can only assume he is referring back to the Law of the Old Testament as mentioned in Luke chapter ten. A lawyer tested Jesus asking what was needed to inherit eternal life. Jesus in return asked the lawyer what the Law said, to which came the reply, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus replied that what the man said was accurate as far as the Law was conerned. However, no man has ever been saved by the Law which can only condemn. No man  has lived up to this standard? It is precisely because we cannot that Jesus died on the Cross to bring us forgiveness for our shortcomings.
Consider believers in the Bible. Did they have perfect faith? Hebrews mentions Gideon, Barak, Samson and David, all of which showed by their actions that they had anything but perfect faith. Consider also that while God pronounced that Abraham’s faith was accounted to him as righteousness in Genesis 15:6, in the following chapter Abraham committed an act of unbelief by which Ishmael was born. Paul mentioned in Romans 7:15 that he too would sometimes do what he would not do. 1 John 1:8, written to believers, indicates we all still sin. Doesn’t sin indicate we do not have perfect faith and that we do not love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind?
Jesus invites all who labor and are heavy laden to come. It is an open invitation. Would it have been fair of Him to invite those that had no possibility of coming and still invite, “All” to come? Who then are those God has given? Who are those God has called? The simple answer is the “whosoevers” of this world. We don’t have to make it complicated. God said in John 3:16 “whosoever believeth in Him (Jesus), shall have everlasting life.” Does it have to be a perfect faith? Can it be a perfect faith this side of eternity?
Jesus said if we have the faith of a mustard seed we could remove mountains (Matthew 17:20). What bigger mountain is there than our debt to sin? In Mark nine, Jesus honored the faith of a father who said, “I believe, help thou my unbelief.” The point is not the amount of faith, but the object. Ephesians 2:8,9 says, “By Grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast”. Even our faith comes from God, in this Camping is correct. However, He gives it to the “Whosoevers” who will come. Is it wrong to take God at His promise? I come even though my faith is not perfect. He only asks me to receive (John 1:12, I Corinthians 15:1-2). He gives all I need to do so. To believe less is to doubt His Word and that is sin.

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