Faith Cometh: What Faith Is Not Pt.1


“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

James 2:19 (LSB)

The most stubborn obstacle to truth is not ignorance but lies. To the innocent and unlearned, the word falls on clean, receptive soil, unhindered by preconceived ideas. But to seasoned believers, who will make up the greater part of readers of this book, the pure seed of truth set forth herein must try to find a lodging in soil that is already chock full of thorns and weeds accumulated through false teaching about the subject of faith over the years. Therefore, it is necessary that the first things we say must be negative. All the false ideas of faith must be cast down, or they will constantly rear themselves up in the reader’s mind, taking exception to revealed truth.

We are going to consider, one by one, those things which we generally call faith and demonstrate that they are manifestly not Bible faith. It will become apparent as we go along that some of these things are directly against faith, and some are the exact opposite.

Faith is not a state of mind. Faith does involve an intellectual state. The mind is involved. But an opinion or a conviction about something is not faith. As James pointed out, “the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19, LSB). Do they have faith? Are they justified by their believing? Of course not, although their “believing” is of a higher quality than that of the converts of modern day evangelism. At least they tremble, a phenomenon exceedingly rare today. But faith is more than a frame of mind about something. It is something you do that can be seen. Otherwise, why did James ask that he might see it? (James 2:18).

Not only does a state of mind fail to constitute faith, but sometimes faith is exercised when knowledge or intelligence contributes seemingly little. When King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden image and commanded everyone to fall down and worship it at the sound of prescribed music, Sadrack, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do so. The king then promised to throw them into a burning fiery furnace. “… and what god is there who can save you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15, LSB). The king challenged the faith of the three men. Notice they were not able to say that they were of the opinion that God would deliver them, but that God was able. “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods, and we will not worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:18, LSB). That is a confession of faith. It is made in view of the second commandment. “You shall not make for yourself an idol—any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” (Deuteronomy 5:8-9, LSB). Their act of obedience was in view of what God had said, although they could not say what He would do. You do not have to know the outcome to act in faith. This brings up the second false idea of faith.

Faith is not assurance. These are two different words with completely different meanings. Many people have false assurance yet no faith. Have you ever felt perfect assurance that something was going to turn out a certain way, and then see it turn out exactly opposite? Have you ever been sure about something, and then discovered you were wrong? Even so, I fear many people have assurance of salvation who have no faith and will surely be surprised to wake up in hell. This comes, to a great degree, from false teaching about faith and from reversing the order of faith and assurance. Many precious saints live a life of faith and never have any abiding assurance. I do not think this is desirable or necessary, nevertheless, it is far safer than living a deceived life under a false assurance in which there has never been real Bible faith. John Bunyan, a mighty saint of God, whose classic writings have blessed millions, never had a consistent assurance. Yet, his life demonstrates a paragon of Bible faith, and his fruits are those of a man of God.

Assurance comes through continued faith and a progressive revelation of the goodness of God and His design in grace toward us. We gain hope through faith and, continuing in faith, are assured (Hebrews 6:11; 2 Peter 1:5-10). You need not consider yourself faithless if you lack assurance and are yet obedient. If, however, you have assurance in disobedience, you have good reason to believe that assurance is false.

Let me give one illustration. God has determined to set His people free from their Egyptian bondage. He has demonstrated His power in a number of miracles and plagues upon Egypt, but Pharoah has stubbornly refused to let them go. Now, He promises one more plague He will bring upon Pharoah and upon Egypt, and the children of Israel will surely be set free. He will pass through the land of Egypt and smite the firstborn in every house so that they die. The Israelites are to kill a lamb and apply the blood upon the sideposts and the upper doorpost of the house wherein they live and eat the lamb. He promises to spare the house where blood is applied.

Now, let us consider two possible attitudes of Jewish householders to these tidings. Here is one man who, upon hearing the command of God and the threat of the death of his firstborn, does not take it too seriously. He is quite busy all day making final preparations to leave Egypt and doesn’t get around to killing the lamb and applying the blood, but he has assurance about the matter. God is a good God. He will not kill our little boy. He knows I have been busy all day and just haven’t had time to do what He told us we should. Everything is going to be all right. There is nothing to worry or be concerned about. Here is the second man. The prospect of all the firstborn in Egypt dying strikes fear to his heart. He is alarmed and sets about to diligently obey all that God has said to do. Even after slaying the lamb and applying the blood, he has no assurance about the safety of his child. All night long he is uneasy, constantly checking to see if his son is safe. When God came through Egypt that night, what was He looking for? He was not looking to see if the people were frightened or comfortable. He was looking for blood. And when He saw the blood, He saw faith. 

Faith is not a frame of mind, a conviction, or assurance: It is something you do, in view of who God is and what He has said. It must be readily consented that faith does involve a state of mind and a strong conviction of a thing, but that in itself does not constitute faith. Such a degree of conviction is necessary to commit one to the object of his faith and act upon it; but this may or may not have comfortable assurance in it. Men also manifestly are convincingly deceived at times. This certainly could not be called Bible faith. A more specific word is given about this aspect of faith in chapter five when Hebrews 11:1 is considered. The walk of faith is the walk and behavior of a people whose hearts are set on obedience to God. They do not necessarily have assurance about the outcome of their obedience, but they are sure that they cannot bear the consequences of disobedience. Faith is faithfulness. A faithful people are a people whose hearts are set on following the Lord. Assurance is desirable and blessed, but it is the reward, not the substance of faith.

Promotion is not faith. While preaching a series of meetings at a church in Georgia a few years ago, another pastor came by the pastor’s home which I was staying. He was bubbling over with excitement about how he was learning all about faith. He has already “believed God” for several things and gotten them, and he was now believing God for a riding lawn mower. “It won’t be long before I will have it,” he declared. “I have already announced it in church twice, describing exactly the kind God is going to give me.” That is not faith. That is promotion! Sooner or later someone is going to “feel led” to buy him a riding lawn mower to get God off the hook. After all, he has believed God for it, and if he doesn’t now get it, he will become disillusioned about God. Someone will have to do something to save God’s face and the preacher’s faith.

Preachers of this sort of faith will defend it by saying that people must declare their faith―that is, they must tell exactly what they are believing God for. Then they will cite Biblical examples of such. There are many, but one example is the words of Abraham to the young men and his son, Isaac: “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there; and we will worship, and we will return to you” (Genesis 22:5, LSB) and “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8, LSB). Another example is the words of Elisha the Prophet to Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10, LSB). We have no argument with the prophetic declarations that come as a direct revelation of God’s purpose. But note this carefully. In every instance the thing declared is totally beyond the ability of the hearer’s human means to perform. It had to be a supernatural work of God. None hearing the prophecy could fulfill it. It had to be God. Now, were these declarations made to prove that the person had faith? Most certainly not! The prophets would have shuddered at the thought. They were made to prove God was faithful. Often, simple Christians, in their anxiety and strong desire to prove they have faith, declare something that they have not seen with spiritual vision. Then they have to stretch and strain circumstances to make it appear that what they said was a declaration of faith. All of this sort of bondage is saddled upon Christians through an erroneous teaching about faith. 

I visited a city in Louisiana a few years ago for a series of meetings. On that visit, a pastor greeted me with a big smile and a confident declaration that we were going to have revival that week. “We are believing God for revival this week,” he declared. During the announcement time he not only talked about the revival we were going to have but the “200 we are going to have in Sunday School next Sunday.” Then he asked everyone who was believing God for revival that week and 200 in Sunday School next Sunday to raise their hands. Who wants to be accused of unbelief? When it came time for me to speak, I simply observed that one of two things was true. The first possibility being that we would see revival that week and 200 in Sunday School the next Sunday, or the second possibility would surely be true. Namely: Everyone present, including the preacher, had lied. If they were truly believing God with Bible faith and assurance, then what they were believing would happen. Otherwise, they were not believing and were simply lying when they said they were. I do not doubt they were trying to believe, but that has no more substance than downright unbelief.

For further reading
PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Dan Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies by Costi W. Hinn
A Change of Heart by Allen S. Nelson
Justification and Regeneration by Charles Leiter

Conrad Murrell

Conrad Murrell served in evangelistic ministry for over 50 years and was powerfully used by God in many Assemblies of God and Baptist churches in the United States and around the world. Throughout that time, Conrad pastored churches in Texas and Louisiana, successfully hosted numerous Bible conferences, engaged in continuous itinerant preaching, and diligently evangelized throughout the United States and Mexico. In addition to his fruitful ministry, he also wrote several books, many of which are read worldwide today. Mack Tomlinson's biography of Conrad Murrell is a testimony of God's grace and truth in the life of a man called by God for the proclamation of the Gospel.

Conrad Murrell was a significant contemporary and friend to two of the 20th Century's leading experts on revival, Leonard Ravenhill and Richard Owen Roberts, as well as a dearly loved co-laborer and associate of several other significant evangelists of our age, such as Manley Beasley and Al Whittinghill. Like them, he was a committed, passionate, and anointed itinerant minister. He was a man's man, a man of conviction and grit, but most importantly, he was God's man—a man completely devoted to his Lord and Savior.

October 7, 2023

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