Faith is the Key
by Ken Eckerty
You can take any doctrine in the Bible, and I mean any doctrine, and come up with scripture that seems to contradict it. Why do you think we have so many denominations? Every church has their own set of scripture that they use to defend their point of view—whether you're talking about whether one can lose their salvation, the gifts of the Spirit, water baptism, or the final destination of the wicked.
The Word of God is not just a written book of words. It is
a living, breathing, spiritual revelation of the mind of God. The natural
man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. (1 Cor.
2:14) If we simply look at the “letter” of the word without the Spirit’s
interpretation, then we have nothing but cold, sterile words which do not bring
life, but death. We use our Lord Jesus as a good illustration of
this. He took upon Himself the “form of a servant” and walked upon this
earth in human flesh. The religious leaders knew Jesus in the
flesh. They saw Him with their eyes and heard His teaching with their
ears. They knew His mother and father. They knew He came from
We can use this same application to the written word. There are words, chapters, and books that can be read with the eyes and meditated upon with the mind. But the written word is much more than just letters, and if we cannot see past these, we will not see the divine treasures that lie beneath. Just as the people in Christ’s day couldn’t see past His flesh, so too, we are at risk of not seeing past the letter. Paul said “…the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) A good example of this is the Roman Catholic teaching on the body and blood of our Lord. Jesus said that unless we eat His body and drink His blood, we do not have His life in us. (Jn. 6:53) If we read these words literally (in the letter), it seems like Jesus is teaching cannibalism, and in fact, Catholicism does indeed teach that the bread and wine actually turn into the physical body and blood of our Lord. However in the Spirit, we understand that Jesus wasn’t literally talking about His physical skin and the red blood in his veins and arteries. He was speaking of the spiritual reality of consuming Christ: receiving the forgiveness of sins by faith in His blood, being a partaker of His death, and maintaining daily fellowship with the Father in Christ.
Modern evangelicalism boasts today of being literalists—that is, when the text has an “obvious” literal meaning, then it should be interpreted literally. “When the plain sense makes common sense seek no other sense” is the interpretive motto of the evangelical church. As a result of this thinking, the modern church believes in a literal hell, with literal flames of fire, burning literal flesh that will literally go on forever and ever. The problem with this methodology is who determines what is the “obvious” meaning? Certainly we have texts in the Bible written as a narrative; for example: the gospels record the trial, death and resurrection account of Jesus in narrative form. In these cases it is obvious that the literal meaning is the correct one. This is not to say, though, that spiritual application cannot be found in a narrative text. For example, during the trial of Jesus, Peter denied the Lord three times. We believe this literally happened, but is there not any one of us who has not denied the Lord in our words and deeds, and fled from Him (spiritually speaking)? Can we not all apply this narrative text to our own life and experience? In the case of the gospel accounts, I think it is safe to assume that we can interpret these texts literally. Jesus literally went on trial, was literally crucified, and literally raised from the dead.
However, there are other passages of scripture that are not as easily interpreted. In fact, I would suggest that most of the Bible was NOT written to be interpreted literally. The Bible is full of parables, metaphors, and symbolism that represent some deeper, hidden meaning. Is the lake of fire a real lake with real flames OR is it figurative language signifying something else? Are the fires of “hell” (Greek word “Gehenna”) referring to a literal geographical place OR is it simply figurative language to describe the severity of God’s judgment? Is the mark of the beast a literal tattoo or does it have a hidden meaning not obvious if simply read in the “letter?” Theologians like to pick and choose which verses to interpret literally—and it’s usually to help give more credibility to their own theological slant. If a beast with seven heads and ten horns isn’t literal, then why should the lake of fire be? Who gave these theologians the qualification to be the interpretive experts?
NOTE: An excellent article going in to more detail on symbolism in the Bible can be found at: http://bible-truths.com/lake1.html.
You can always find truth in the “letter,” but there is also a deeper spiritual meaning behind the obvious. The “letter” is the obvious, but God’s deeper truths are not so easily found. Those men who choose to go beyond just the pure letter are often called “mystics” or accused of “spiritualizing” the scriptures. The early church fathers would be shocked at some of our modern church doctrine. (Ex. Pre-tribulational rapture, futurist, and ultra-dispensationalism views, etc.) Today’s scholars have discarded much of the “mystical” teaching of the early fathers in favor of a more “literal” interpretation. The idea of “spiritualizing” the scriptures, however, is an absolutely ridiculous accusation. Modern theologians are trying to take a spiritual book and interpret it literally. In actuality, the exact opposite is true. The Bible, appearing to be a literal book, is to be interpreted in the Spirit. The current method of literal interpretation has birthed all sorts of errors in the Church to include transubstantiation, futurism, and eternal torment—just to name a few.
A. P. Adams said,
...I do not mean to say that the spiritual meaning of Scripture is always something entirely different from the letter; oftentimes it is so, but not always by any means. The Spirit of the Word is its real, true, full meaning, whatever that may be; sometimes that true meaning is properly expressed by the letter, but in order to get the full meaning you must take other scripture in connection with it, you must perhaps refer to Old Testament types or allegories, or prophecies. Bible truths run into one another, and all are harmonious with one general plan; we need to study these truths not only to learn what they signify in themselves, but what are their connections with other truths, and what is their relation to the plan; in this way, we get somewhere near the full truth. Partial truths, with a great deal of error mixed in to fill up, are the curse and bane of modern orthodoxy; the Spirit of the Word saves us from this curse. I would not have anyone understand that I teach that under every word, phrase and sentence of Scripture there is hidden away some mystic sense entirely different from the letter, that we must endeavor to dig out. I do not say that this is so; neither do I say that it is not so; for, knowing how wonderfully the letter sometimes hides (as well as reveals) the true meaning, that meaning being something entirely different from the letter, I would not dare to put my finger upon any sentence, phrase or word of Scripture and positively declare,—‘this has not a mystic sense.’ However, what I do say is this, that he who expects to saunter carelessly through the fields of Bible lore, picking up the rarest and most valuable gems of truth upon the surface, as one might pick up pebbles upon the beach, will find a great deal of his building material wood, hay and stubble, in that day when “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (1 Cor. 3:13)
There is a false assumption being propagated by modern
theologians today that the Bible was written to be easily understood. If
this is the case, why do we have hundreds, even thousands of different
denominations each claiming a different belief on “supposedly” very easy to
understand Bible verses. Twenty people can read
a passage of scripture and come up with twenty different interpretations.
Who is right? Can twenty people contradict each other and all have the
truth? There may be many applications, but only one truth. Truth be
told, God has intentionally made His Word difficult to understand.
Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory
of Kings to search out a matter.” God hides deeper truth, and He hides it
behind the “letter.” Perhaps a few examples would be in order here.
In Genesis chapter 2, God tells us that one river ran out of
All Truth is a Matter of Revelation and Faith
Most Bible truths, no matter how obvious and clear-cut they might seem, cannot be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt through Bible study methods. There will always be other passages that appear to contradict. I can get out my various Bible translations, concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries and do a thorough study on any subject. And while these certainly can be helpful in helping my understanding of a certain Bible doctrine, truth is not revealed through our study efforts; and more importantly, truth is never grafted in our hearts through continual mental exercises (study, meditation, memorization, etc.). Intellectualism never leads to the truth. The Bible is a spiritual book, and so it can only be opened by the Spirit. The key to understanding any biblical truth is through faith—revealed and grafted into our hearts by the spirit of God Himself. Yes, we need to study to show ourselves approved; yes, we need to rightly divide the Word of Truth, but truth cannot be obtained apart from spiritual revelation and faith. If we are simply relying on our study helps and commentaries to help us understand and interpret the Word of God, we will fall short; and I strongly believe that much of our current church doctrine is founded on the methods and interpretations of men rather than the revelation of the Father. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” Only Peter gave the correct answer, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ reply was very telling: “…Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” The modern evangelical church prides itself on its seminaries, degrees, conferences, and systematic theology to lead them to into a knowledge of the truth. But it’s quite obvious to anyone with an open mind to see that the Church is in a totally confused state with its various denominations, creeds, and doctrines—each one boasting to know the truth. Which church is right? Carnal fruit can only come from a carnal church, and so the only reasonable conclusion that a person can come to is that we are interpreting the Word of God according to our own intellect and carnal minds. There seems to be very little “revelation from the Father” in the Church today.
Any man who has ever been given direct revelation knows it. He discerns deep within his soul that it has not come about by His own study methods or thinking processes, but given to Him by the Father through His Spirit. It has become ingrained deep within Him and becomes a matter of faith. Nothing can persuade this man. No amount of debate, human reasoning, or “supposed” contradictory Bible passages will convince him otherwise, because He has been given the revelation by God Himself, and the very faith he has is not his own, but is the faith of Christ. You know this type of man because he is willing to stand on the truth of this revelation no matter what the opposition—even willing to die for his beliefs.
Take for example the doctrine of universal reconciliation. For every passage I use to try and prove the validity of this doctrine, someone else can take the very same passage and refute it with the same passion. True biblical doctrine can only bring spiritual life when, first, it is a true revelation revealed by the Spirit, and second, it is accepted by faith. There is no other way. Any other path we try to take to find Truth will, inevitably, lead us away from the truth. When we first came to the Lord, most of us didn’t study theology objectively, and say, “Yes, this seems logical. I will follow Christ.” No! God opened our eyes by revealing Himself to us and we simply believed by faith! It was not an intellectual exercise. God revealed Himself to us and we believed—it’s that simple! And in the same manner as when we first received Christ, we must also grow in grace the same way—by faith. God reveals His truth to us (in His time) and we receive it by faith. Sometimes we are not ready to receive more truth. Spiritual immaturity is one of the primary reasons the Lord keeps Truth from us. Our faith is too small and God must mature us through trials and difficulties to prepare the soil of our heart. As we see God working in our lives, and we learn to trust Him more and more each day, deeper truth is revealed. God desires all of us to mature and grow in the knowledge of His truth, but not all of us are in the same place in our faith.
I use to really struggle trying to figure out what a certain passage meant or formulate an opinion on a certain doctrine. The danger in struggling and struggling with a particular passage or doctrine is to come up with some interpretation in the flesh. We are so study-minded in the Church, that many of our doctrines have elements of Truth, but have men’s fleshly minds intertwined. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with disciplined study to help us understand the scriptures. However, it is much better to struggle in prayer than over our study books. If I don’t understand something, I ask for wisdom from above. In due season, God will reveal the meaning. Sometimes it is years down the road before God speaks to us on a matter. The Lord will use difficulties in our life to bring us to an “end of ourselves,” and it is in this broken state that God reveals Truth. Ps. 18:26 says,
With the pure You reveal Yourself pure; and with the perverted ones You appear perverse.
A person who is proud in his ability to study the scriptures may think he takes Truth away from his studies, but in reality the Lord has met that man where he is and that man walks away with nothing more than carnal doctrine. On the other hand, the man who is broken before the Lord and realizes how little he knows of the mind of God will walk away with direct revelation, and oftentimes, this revelation goes against the common “orthodox” teaching. I’d much rather wait ten years to get direct revelation from the Father than diligently study for a month and receive a fleshly interpretation. Fleshly knowledge brings forth death; direct revelation from the Father brings forth His life.
Another major reason for the doctrinal confusion within the Church today is the matter of pride and self-glory. The Church is filled today with men who are full of themselves and proud of their learned education. Ezekiel 14:2-5 is very telling when it says, “God answers men according to the idols of their own heart.” Again, “With the pure You reveal Yourself pure; and with the perverted ones You appear perverse.” Revelation from the Father will not come to the proud and to those who think they have a “handle on the truth.” The Lord intentionally keeps truth from these men “…that seeing they may see and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand….” (Mk. 4:12) Some things never change. There will always be Pharisees in our midst who will ask, “…dost thou teach us?” and they will cast us out of their synagogues. (Jn. 9:34) These men, instead of receiving revelation from their Father, receive carnal interpretations after the idols of their own hearts.
Why do you think the Lord made His Word so difficult to
understand? Does God desire to confuse His children? Of course
not! He wants us to put all of our hope and trust in Him even when it
looks utterly impossible to men. This brings God the most glory.
Any doctrine that gives preeminence and glory to man is not truth, and any
so-called truth that can be figured out with the intellectual methods of man
and proven in a debate is, rest-assured, not truth. “With men, it is
impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And my dear brothers
and sisters, this takes faith. He wants us to look to Him for
revelation—not to men, study resources, or seminaries.
There “seems” to be a great contradiction in the Bible concerning the doctrine of the final destiny of man. Half the Word of God seems to teach eternal punishment, and half seem to teach universal reconciliation. Which side do we choose? Which is the truth? It’s not a matter of weighing which side has the most support. We can’t lock ourselves in a room with all our study resources and them walk out six months later and declare that “we have found the truth.” God is saying to us, “Here are two seemingly opposite views. Both cannot be true. So which will you choose?” We cannot choose solely on the basis of scriptural evidence, because both views “seem” to have credible biblical support. The answer is “faith.” We will choose based on the faith we have in the work of the Cross.
Our faith is too small to believe that God can save beyond the grave. Our God is too weak because we do not have the faith to believe that nothing is too great for Him. The Lord is asking us, “Will you have the faith to not only believe that I CAN save all men, but that I WILL save all men?” It’s not about “studying”—it’s about faith. Do we have the faith to believe that Christ’s Cross can save to the uttermost? If you don’t have the faith to believe, will you ask Him to give you the faith? If any man lacks faith (and wisdom), ask the Lord who shall give liberally to all men. (Mark 9:24; James 1:5)
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth?”
Will we have the faith to believe that God’s love is greater than we ever imagined, and that He is bigger than we ever thought possible? Will we believe that “with men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible?” Faith is the key “and without faith, it is impossible to please Him.” (Heb. 11:6)