by Oscar M. Baker
Faith is believing what God has said and then conforming one’s life to what God has said. A mere belief may be passive, but faith implies action. I might believe there was a God, but it might not bring about responsive action on my part. I might not believe what he has said. There are some people that I believe exist. I have met them and talked with them. I have heard them talk, but I have no confidence in the truth of what they say. Then I have no faith in them.
God made some definite promises to Abraham. Abraham believed what God said. It was counted unto him for righteousness. That belief caused him to act. He acted as if the things which God promised were actually going to happen. He organized his whole life with that in view. That is why he lived in tents, temporary dwellings. He was looking for a city whose builder and maker was God, which was going to be let down out of heaven some day. He felt that he was only a pilgrim and stranger here. He did not build a great mansion in the city and settle down as if that was all there was to life.
A person’s actions and manner of life soon betray his faith. His heart will be where his treasures are.
Faith (the Latin CREDO, I believe, hence credit) is based upon a promise of some kind. It expects actions of some kind from the one believed in.
Israel in the wilderness had a promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. They did not believe God. They sent in spies to see if it could really be true. They were looking for evidence. Many today are the same. They continually look for evidence and experience instead of having faith in what God has said. Such are no better than Israel in the wilderness. It must be noticed that only those who received the promise believed. The rest fell in the wilderness and missed the joy which was set before them.
During the period covered by Acts a new hope was offered to Israel. This was a heavenly hope. This was another promised land. It was only to those who were counted as spiritual Israel. It was only to those who would believe the Word and act upon it. This hope was a great city, the New Jerusalem. It was to be obtained either by an earlier resurrection than that of the Last Day or if still living they would experience being caught up into the air to meet the Lord along with those who would be resurrected. This was a definite promise. It had to be believed and claimed by faith. Nothing was said about how they lived otherwise. It was not obtained by any good works. Caleb and Joshua did not enter Canaan because of their heroic deeds, but because they had faith. They believed what God had said about the land and believed that God would give it to them. They would not hesitate to enter in upon the promise. In each case it was a matter of a definite promise being made and the response of one who would claim it in faith.
So to Israel in the Old Testament was offered a land here on this earth. Those who had faith will inherit that land some day in resurrection. After the rejection of our Lord during His ministry, another hope was revealed. He would go and prepare a place for those who had faith in what He promised. That place was in heaven. That was a higher hope than ever was revealed in the law and the prophets. It was obtained only by faith in the promise. The apostles to the circumcision preached thus same promise or gospel. Even Paul at the first preached this gospel. We have no record that the 12 ever preached any other hope. Neither do we have any record that the 12 ever preached to the Gentiles outside of the time that Peter preached to the household of Cornelius. All during the Acts period, what preaching Paul did to the Gentiles was only secondary. It was always to the Jew first. At that time the Gentiles who believed were grafted into the olive tree which of course represented Israel. They then were partakers of the promise made to Abraham. This had always been open to Gentiles if they would first become Jews. But here in Acts the Gentiles were commanded not to become Jews by circumcision as they had always had to do before under the law.
Because of the answer to the prayer made on the cross, Israel was not only forgiven, but in the acts period enjoyed greater blessing than ever before in their history. They spoke in tongues, healed the sick and performed all kinds of miracles. It was a great time for Israel. But as a nation they rejected the preaching of the Kingdom and the returning King, so in Acts 28:28 the apostle Paul closed the doors of the kingdom to the Jews. Since the Gentiles were grafted in, the door was then closed to them also. It is a very dark picture we have at this point. How can the world be evangelized if Israel failed? They were the priestly nation. They had the Great Commission. None of these were for the Gentiles.
So in about A.D. 50 was one of the greatest crises in world history. Would Christianity fail?
But God had a plan. It had been hid in Him from ages and generations. It had never been revealed to any of the prophets. There was not a breath or a hint of this plan until after Acts 28:28 then the Lord appeared to Paul as he had promised on the Damascus road He gave Paul a new revelation. It was this mystery or secret which had been hidden. In fact, there are two mysteries revealed here, but each is so bound up in the other that we do not think of trying to separate them. One is the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES or THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST, and the other is the mystery of the gospel or CHRIST AMONG THE GENTILES, THE HOPE OF GLORY. God had given up the nations back in Genesis 11. His dealings with them from then on could only be thru the Jews as a priestly nation. When Israel as a nation was cut off at the end of acts, the hope of Israel was also cut off.
Pauls’ ministry changed after the Acts period. He now hoped to be manifested with his Lord in glory (Col. 3:4), to be seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father in Glory which is far above all the heavens.
This article was condensed from the original published Jan 1949