I want you to turn with me for the first Scripture tonight from Matthew 8. As most of you know, I've been studying here lately, quite a bit, in the book of Haggai. And I have still two or three or maybe more sermons I want to preach to you from my studies in Haggai.
But this evening, I felt that we should turn to Matthew. My voice is bad, as you no doubt noticed this morning, and that's one of the reasons I didn't feel like going ahead on Haggai tonight. Because when you get started on Haggai, you've just got to preach. You can't just teach a Bible lesson, you've just got to preach. Because that Haggai was really a preacher! And with my voice the way it is tonight, I couldn't do justice to anything that Haggai said, so I thought we'd give you a teaching lesson tonight beginning with Matthew 8. You pray that my throat will be better by Wednesday evening, and I'm sure that it will be.
Matthew 8:5-13, speaks about the Place of Faith in the Christian Life, and that's what we want to think about together tonight.
"And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour."
Now, as we begin to think about faith or the place of faith in the Christian life, this is a good point to begin, and just go from "Genesis to Revolution," as the fellow said, when he couldn't pronounce the word for Revelation --- he said he went from Genesis to Revolution when he preached. And one can do that beginning with this idea of faith starting here in Matthew 8. There are a lot of things involved here, and this is not really the center of the message, these few verses I've read to you, but there are two or three things that we should call to attention here before we begin to look at the subject of faith in a more point by point or organized fashion.
We notice several things here. The centurion came begging. He came to Jesus, "beseeching him," it says. And telling him about his servant being home sick of the palsy and seriously or grievously tormented. And the Lord said to him, "Well, I'll come to see you next week." No, that's not what He said, is it? Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." That was the Lord's immediate answer, wasn't it? No delays. No fooling around about it or anything, but Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." And then is when the centurion really showed his faith, isn't it? He said, "Oh, Lord, it's not necessary. I'm not worthy for You to even come under the roof of my house. It's not necessary for You to even come under the roof of my house," he said, "just speak the word and I know that my servant will be healed." And that's when Jesus said, "I have not seen such faith in Israel," meaning that this man's faith was an outstanding example of faith, though this man himself was a centurion and very probably a Roman, though not necessarily. Some of Jewish decent, of course, did serve in the Roman army, that is of Jewish blood I should say. But this man very likely was a Roman. And yet, Jesus said in Israel He had not seen such faith.
And then He goes ahead to speak of the fact that many shall come from the east and the west and sit with the fathers, that is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom, but that the children of the kingdom, that is, the Israelites are going to be cast out into outer darkness because --- He's speaking in a general sense here, of course --- because of the fact that they had not faith in a national or in a general sense. Of course, the individual Jews or Israelites who believed were saved, and are saved, and are kept saved, and are in heaven just like we will be, because of our individual salvation.
Now, going on from that little introductory section, let's begin to think about faith in a one, two, three fashion for a few minutes.
In the first place, we find that faith is required to produce pardon. You know, you just can't be saved without faith. It just can't be done. It's like the little boy who started trying to tell somebody how to get to a certain place, and he just couldn't figure it out. He kept telling them, "Well, you go this way and then you turn," and then he'd back up and he'd scratch his head, "No, you go that way and you turn this and that and something else." And finally, the little boy just gave up and said, "Well, you just can't get there from here."
And that is the way it is when you start trying to think about salvation or pardon without faith; you just can't get there from here, can you? It's impossible.
You can't do it. The only thing that will bring us to pardon in Christ is faith, isn't it? Ephesians 2:8 and 9 speaks of that when it says: "For 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."
So, even that simple reference that most of us have learned by memory shows clearly that faith is required to receive pardon. You just can't be saved without faith. You have to have the faith and exercise the faith in Christ, in order to obtain pardon.
"We're saved through faith," as Paul said here in Ephesians 2:8 and 9, the two verses we just quoted, but if we look over in John chapter 3, we find a verse that tells us the same thing, only in slightly different wording, where John says that we are saved by believing. Now, believing is exercising faith, isn't it? John 3:16, of course, is one of our verses that we've all learned in Sunday school when we were children, if we went to Sunday school, where it says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth," that is, has faith in, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." So, John says there that we're saved by believing, which is just another way of saying that faith is necessary to salvation!
Now, if we look a little further, Jesus had something to say about faith when He spoke in Luke chapter 8, and He said that the faith of the woman with the issue of blood had made her whole. Then if we go on a step further, we find something else from Galatians chapter 3, verse 26. If we read there together, we find these words, "For ye are all the children of God by," what? "By faith in Christ Jesus," as he says. Or in other words, what he's saying here is that faith in Christ can save anyone. That's basically what the message is here in Galatians 3:26. He was speaking to saved people in the church at Galatia, no doubt, when he wrote these words. And he said, "For ye are all the children of God by," what? "By faith." And by faith in what? "By faith in Christ Jesus."
You know, a lot of people seem to think that faith is just sort of a magic word and you say, "faith," and that gets you anything. Or you say, "faith," and that gets you saved or it gets you healed or it gets anything else you desire. But, of course, that's not what the Bible teaches about faith. The thing that counts about faith is not the word "faith" or even the faith itself. But the thing that really counts about faith is the object of the faith, isn't it? The object of the faith is what really counts. And who is the object of all true faith? Jesus, the Savior! He's the object, the only proper object of true faith. And it's the object of the faith that brings the results, not the faith itself. The faith is, we might say, like a doorway into the object of the faith, which is Christ.
Now, we said that faith is required first to produce pardon, and then we've given you a few examples of this. Let's go a step further now, and think about the fact that faith is required to please God. Some people don't seem to understand that. I told my wife I was going to preach this sermon to myself tonight. You know, sometimes we get so busy and so active and so worried and so work, work, work, go, go, go in the Lord's service, that we are trying and trying and trying in our own power and in our own energy and in our own efforts to do the Lord's work. But that's not what it takes to be successful in the Lord's work, is it? Success is just doing what He tells us to, serving Him in a faithful manner, in a true church that preaches and teaches and practices the truth, and then depending on Him, having faith in Him to produce the fruit, to produce the increase --- And He will.
Yes, He will! Oh, we may not get big crowds overnight. That's obvious. Most people don't want to hear the truth. You say, "Oh, I thought anybody would want to hear the truth." No, that's not true. People do not want to hear the truth, until the Lord gets hold of them and draws them to the truth. They just don't want to hear it! It bothers them when they hear the truth, when they find out that all men are sinners by birth, when they find out that men are on the road to hell without Christ. It really bothers them. And yet, those things are true, but it bothers them. And they don't like to hear these things until God begins to work on their heart and draw them to Himself.
But faith is absolutely required to please God! We have many good Bible examples of this, of course. The first one that comes immediately to the mind of everyone might be Noah. Yes, old Noah. He pleased God, not because he built the ark. He pleased God, not because he was better morally than the rest of the people, though no doubt he was. But why and how did he please God? It tells us in Hebrews how and why he pleased God, if we look there at Hebrews chapter 11:7. So how did he please God? It says, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by," what? By his good works on the ark. No, that's not what it says. "Which is by faith." That's all it says, isn't it? That is how he pleased God. The faith that he exercised, or the faith that he had and showed and practiced.
There are several other examples. One that we could name quickly would be Enoch. Remember, we're thinking about the fact that faith is required to please God. Enoch pleased God, not because he walked with God, although that must have been a wonderful experience for Enoch to walk with God. And yet, we can walk with God today in our everyday life, can't we? He walks beside us. Enoch pleased God because he had faith. You may say, "Well, where do you find that?" That is in Hebrews again chapter 11, if you look at verse 5: "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." He pleased God. And what did he please Him by? By faith. The only way we can please God is by faith.
Abraham pleased God because he had faith. We see in Hebrews 11, verses 8 and 9: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." And how did he proceed even further to show his faith? It says there in verse 10, "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." So Abraham pleased God, not by what he did, but by faith. And it was his faith that caused him to do what he did. We cannot properly serve God in any manner, except by faith, and under His leadership.
Some people seem to think that serving God is something that you just kind of pump yourself up for and that's it. But that's not it at all, is it? Proper service to God is something that comes from the inside out. Otherwise, it is just a pumped up thing. And it is not really serving God! It's something that you're doing in and of yourself if it's not by faith.
Daniel pleased God because he had faith. If you look again in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 33, it speaks in an indirect manner about Daniel, when it says this: "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions." Now, that's clearly talking about Daniel there, isn't it? He "Stopped the mouths of lions," by faith.
Now, as we go on a little step further, remember we've thought for a minute about the fact that faith is required to produce pardon, or in other words to be saved. Faith is required to please God, That is, to serve Him. The next step in our list is, faith is required to pray. You say, "Well, I thought anybody could pray." No, that's not really true. We can see various references in Scripture, but we can just go right ahead there with chapter 11 of Hebrews, and we'll see and indication there, even in that eleventh chapter, that faith is required to pray. Hebrews 11, verse 6, the second part of the verse says, "For he that cometh to God must believe that he is." In other words, without faith you can't come to God, (and that would include coming to Him in prayer obviously, because when we pray, we're coming to God, bringing our petitions to Him). So, he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." So, unless you have faith, you can't really properly pray. The only prayer that the unsaved could properly pray is the sinner's prayer that the publican prayed, which Jesus commended in His parable when He said, "This man went down to his house justified, rather than the other." The publican's prayer, remember was, "God be merciful to me a sinner." That is the only prayer an unsaved person can pray and expect it to be answered.
Now, the saved who have faith in God can pray, but faith is required to pray. And, of course, the unsaved man doesn't have faith. If he had faith, he would be saved. Therefore, he cannot pray properly, except the sinner's prayer, as shown in the example of the Pharisee and the publican.
Prayer is exercising faith in God! We've already seen a little of this in the reference there in Hebrews 6, the last part of the verse that I read to you. But let's look now in James for further confirmation of this, the fact that prayer is exercising faith in God. In James chapter 1, verses 5, 6 and 7, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." Now, what is that man he's talking about that—that just well not think he's going to receive anything from the Lord? That man who has not faith. That is, that man who is wavering, who has not true faith in the Lord. If he asks, in faith, nothing wavering, then he'll receive from the Lord. "But," as he says, "That man that's wavering is like a wave of the sea that is tossed around everywhere by the wind." And there's no need of him thinking that he's going to see his prayers answered from God --- Because he won't. He doesn't have that faith in God when he prays.
Prayer is expecting something from God! If we look at I John chapter 5, we find a good reference in this connection. First John 5:1-15says: "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." This, of course, is a clear indication that in order to pray properly, one must truly be expecting from God. And unless one is truly expecting from God when one prays, then it shows a lack of faith when one prays. We just as well not expect that prayer to be answered, as we've already shown in an earlier reference.
Now a step further, we see faith is required to go forward in the Christian life! There's just no way that we can go forward in the Christian life, unless we have faith as we proceed down the roadway. You know, this is not a perfect illustration of it, but we could say that it's like driving your car on a high speed motor way after dark. I know, of course, our speeds have been cut down now to where this makes an even less perfect illustration.
But "back in the good old days", when we used to drive seventy or eighty miles an hour on the motor ways, we were out-driving our headlights on our cars.We were driving faster than we could possibly stop after seeing something with our head lamps at night. Now, that was, in a sense, a pretty good illustration of exercising faith, which is required to go forward in the Christian life! If you just would not drive any faster than the length of your headlights would allow you to safely drive, then back in the good old days, you would have driven perhaps forty miles per hour at most, if you had very good headlights, but we all drove seventy and eighty in those "good old days", on the motor ways. This was an exercise of faith in going forward at speed. That example is a pretty good illustration of what we're talking about!
In Galatians 2:20, we have a referencewe want to read in this connection, where it says: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by," what? "By the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." We see here a full confirmation of our previous statement that faith is required to go forward in the Christian life.
The Christian's intake, or renewal we might say --- and by the way, that's a word that's badly abused nowadays, renewal --- the Christian's intake or renewal is by one thing only. It is by faith and only by faith. The Christian's advance in God's work and God's service is by one thing only, by faith. Acts 14:22 deals with this thought further, when it says this: "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in," what? "in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Or one could say many tribulations there as well. So, the Christian advances only by faith.
As we go a step further here, we see the Christian is to adhere to the truth in his advancing by faith. There is no way that a Christian can truly advance, unless he adheres to the truth. I know we have many fine people who are misled and yet, they're not truly advancing, when they don't adhere to the truth. No matter how much they think they're advancing, no matter how much they think they're progressing, they're actually going backward if they leave the truth. As it says in First Timothy 4:1 --- "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron," and then he goes ahead and gives more details further down through the chapter, as he proceeds. But the point is already made, that the Christian, in order to progress, the Christian must adhere to the truth. Because anything that is not adhering to the truth is a going backward or a going away from the true faith.
The Christian is to advertise the true faith. He is to advertise the faith. The Christian is always to advertise the faith. Romans 1:8: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." Now that was definitely a broad scale advertisement of the faith that this Church had been putting out, because they were so well known for their faith. This Church was so well known for their faith that Paul could truly say here that "your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world". Everywhere they had heard about this wonderful group of people in the Church at Rome who were spoken of all over the known world then because of their faith. And so the Christian is to advertise the faith.
And if we "advertise" the faith, it will have an effect on others! It will draw others to want to have this faith that we have. And I don't mean advertise it in this foolish and wild manner, but I mean just keep living a faithful life in the Lord. Just keep serving the Lord in faith. Keep standing for the truth. Keep preaching the truth. Keep witnessing to the truth. Keep living a faithful Christian life, and when we do that it is advertising to others, isn't it?
It's like the old joke that we tell sometimes which is not a joke but it's really the truth. It goes like this: "What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. And that's quite true, isn't it? What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say". That's true of most all unsaved people who are watching us as Christians. It's what we are that they see, not what we say. It is what we are which they read. And if we really are what we say, then the witness really works, doesn't it? Then it really works, and often bears fruit! But if we're not what we say, then the witness is a failure! And in fact, the witness is worse than a failure in that it often drives them away, rather than drawing them to the faith.
Another step we could take in this discussion of faith is this: Faith is required in order to prevail! There is no way that we can win without faith. You can't have the victory without faith. It's impossible. Oh, you might be a successful business man. You might even be a successful big business man. But you can't prevail in the Bible meaning of the word as a christian. You can't succeed, you can't be a real overcomer in the biblical meaning of the word, without faith. You can never have real victory without faith!
We have many good references along this line, but perhaps the best one is over in I John again, chapter 5, where it makes it very clear what we're talking about. And it says these words in I John 5:4: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our," hard work? No, it doesn't say that, does it? Back up there a minute. We read it wrong, didn't we? "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Now that's plain enough even a child can understand it! The only way to genuine victory, the only way to be a real overcomer in the biblical meaning of the word is to be a man of faith, a woman of faith. There is no other way.
Oh, I know we can do all kinds of things in our own power! We can get a good show going in the sense of putting on a good show of Christian living, even a show of successful Christian living! But we don't have real victory except in the Bible manner, do we? There is no real victory without the fact that faith is the victory that overcometh the world.
Some people think that we can build a church on all kinds of things. That we can build it on tea parties, or that we can build it on entertainment, or food and fellowship, or that we can build it on fast, bouncy music, and all kinds of things. And many people do build so-called churches on that, but that doesn't really build a church, it just builds a crowd, doesn't it? The thing that builds a real church is the plain, simple preaching of the Word that gets people saved and then teaches them the truths of God's Word. And then the real fellowship comes not from tea parties and from getting together like that --- though there's nothing wrong with a tea party once in a while, I enjoy one just as much as anybody does.
But that's not what you go to church on, that's what I'm saying. I enjoy a good bite and a Church "fellowship" with food as much as anybody does, but that's not what you build a church on. You build a church on the preaching and teaching of the truth, and the working together of people who believe the truth, to win others to believe the truth. And when they come to believe the truth, what have they believed? They have believed "the faith," haven't they? They have exercised faith in Christ when they believe the truth. "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me." This is the only way to really build a genuine New Testament Church. It is not based on anything except the preaching and the teaching of the truth, and the joint faith together of the members and officers of the church in the spreading of that Bible truth.
Faith is God's means of victory over the devil as well. You may say, "Well, the devil just gets me down every once and a while and stomps on me." And I think we've all thought that, haven't we? I've thought that sometimes myself, and I'm sure you have, too. It may have even been true, occasionally, that he sort of gets us down and stomps on us!
Yes, faith is God's means of victory over the devil. There is not any other means provided for us. The old devil is a pretty smart cookie. He's a smart operator. He's not one of these fellows like we have in one of our magazines (referring to one of our African publications, "The Message," which we published periodically) back there, you know, a little illustration that is the typical picture of the devil with the cloven hoofs and the horns and the tail and the pitch fork in his hand. That's not really the devil at all, is it? That's just our little silly illustration of the devil in our mind.
But that's not really the way the Devil is at all. He's really a fancy fellow. He is also a very religious fellow as well. And he's always dressed in his Sunday best, and generally looks like a fellow you would want to have as a friend! And no matter what he's telling you he can make it sound like gospel truth. But I'll tell you how you can tell whether he's telling you gospel truth or not --- you just turn over and read in the Word. And I'll tell you that fellow will run quicker than anything when you start reading and quoting the Word to him. Even the Lord Himself defeated the devil by quoting the Word to him, didn't He at the time of His own temptation?
So if you want to know how to have victory over the devil, the way to have victory over the devil is by faith. And the way you show this faith and defeat the devil, is you just start expressing this faith. And when you express this faith, one of the best ways to do it is by quoting Scripture, isn't it? There are no words that we can say that are better worded or better arranged or more powerful than just what the Scripture says! The Scripture says it, doesn't it? So just start quoting the Scripture.
Faith is God's means of victory over the devil. Let's read in I Peter chapter 5. In First Peter 5:8-9 we see what we are talking about here when we say that faith is God's means of victory over the devil. It says: "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
Now I'm glad it doesn't stop there, aren't you? It goes ahead and says this following: "Whom resist steadfast in," your own power? Does it say that? No, it doesn't say that, does it? "Whom resist steadfast in the," power of the church? No, it doesn't say that either, does it? "Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." In other words, don't think you're being uniquely tempted above anyone else, because it's not so, is it? It's just not so! He says, the other brethren in the world are also knowing these same afflictions that you are. So don't feel like you're the only one, or get too busy with a pity party!
You know, even Elijah got to thinking that once, didn't he? And this was just after he'd called the fire down from heaven. Just after he'd slain the 450 prophets of Baal. And then he got to thinking, "Well, I'm the only one left, and Jezebel's trying to kill me." That's what he said. But, the way to defeat the devil is to do as it says here in I Peter 5:9: "Resist steadfast in the faith." Just don't let him get you down. You may say, "But I can't help it." Well, when the devil tries to get you down, do two or three things and you'll see, he'll run every time!
In the first place, read your Bible. Remember how Jesus Himself quoted the Word of God to the Devil at His temptation!
In the second place, get around some real good Christian brother or sister and start having some real honest to goodness Christian fellowship.
And in the third place, pray often and regularly!
And then you'll see that the old "fellow in red - the Devil" doesn't have a chance. There is just no way for the Devil if we walk always by faith! He can't make it. He can't cut the ice at all.
(Of course you all know that the Devil does not prance around with horns, in a red suit, with horns, a spiked tail, and a pitchfork! In real life he may appear as a fine fellow, cultured and likeable, to lead men astray! Or he may appear as a beautiful woman, etc.)
Now the last thought -- Faith is God's method of victory over the flesh. There's just no means of victory over the flesh except by faith. That is, none that really works. I know people think, "Well, we'll do penance, and we'll do this and we'll do that, and we'll do something else, we'll go off into a cave and meditate and all kinds of things like that." But none of these things really works to bring victory over the flesh, or to restore fellowship with God!
You don't get the victory over the flesh except in one way, and Paul tells us about that in Philippians chapter 3. If we read there in Philippians 3:3, we find that faith is God's method of victory over the flesh. It says: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." And then he goes ahead to show that if you were talking about just the flesh, then he had the right to have lots of confidence in the flesh. More than most others, because he was of the best tribe. He had been circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and a Pharisee. And you couldn't be more self-righteous or more religious than that in the eyes of the ordinary Jews at this time in history.
But yet, what he's showing us here is that the real circumcision of the heart is that which comes about by faith for those who worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and don't have any confidence in the flesh or in the things of the flesh, or the ceremonies, in other words, that so many people depend on for salvation.
You know, it's amazing how many people believe --- and we'll close with this thought --- it is absolutely amazing how many people believe that various good works have something to do with their salvation or with their fellowship with God.
Good works are not what brings us into fellowship with God. Instead, it is true fellowship with God that produces proper, God honoring, good works. So they've got it backwards, you see. Baptism doesn't do it. Baptism is not what brings us to God. Observing the Lord's Supper is not what brings us to God. Doing this, doing that, doing something else is not what brings us to God and gives us the victory.
The thing that both brings us to God and gives us the victory, is faith. Nothing else works. Nothing else ever has, and nothing else ever will!