When it comes to evangelism, the subject of faith is right there at the top, and for a good reason. Paul would write to the church in Rome, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). We will talk more about this idea of calling on the name of the Lord in a later lesson. Still, the question is then asked, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) The critical need for believing and having someone prepared to talk about the Christ is at the core of the subject of salvation. Salvation is not void of human involvement. We have spoken about our task of sharing Christ with others; today, we consider believing, that is, the hopeful by-product of sharing Christ with others. If you are wondering how vital believing is, consider these words from Jesus himself, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). So, what does it mean to believe? We will not answer every aspect of this question, but we can consider a couple of basic things concerning belief from Paul’s writings to the church in Thessalonica.
“For this reason, we also thank God without ceasing because when you
received the word of God which you heard from us….” 1st Thessalonians 2:13
Over the years, many of us may have seen the “steps to salvation” teaching tool. Although it may seem mechanical in some ways, it presents some simple truths about God’s plan for redeeming sinful man. The first two are linked together, and they are hearing and believing. Two words caught my attention as I considered this idea of believing. First, there is the word “received,” which means to learn. There is a learning process that unbelievers must go through, just like we did. At times, it is essential to understand where someone is in their thinking before you try to teach them from God’s word. Then there is the word heard, which means to listen. We should consider the importance of this word. Listening is vital! There will be those who “Keep on hearing, but do not understand” (Isaiah 6:9). Historically, we find God’s people themselves being hard to hear, so it should not surprise us that many today will not listen. So, we see two-character traits of those who will come to know what biblical faith is: they are listeners and learners. I like the ETRV here, “Also, we always thank God because of the way you accepted his message. You heard it and accepted it as God’s message, not our own.” The later part of that verse gives us further insight into believing.
“…you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is, in truth, the word of God,
which also effectively works in you who believe.” 1st Thessalonians 2:13
Paul says they “welcomed” (NKJV) or “accepted” (NIV) the words which he shared with them as “the word of God.” I remembered years ago, someone sharing 1st Thessalonians 4:8 with me. They did so because I was frustrated that few wanted to hear the word of God. It reads in part, “So anyone who refuses to obey this teaching is refusing to obey God, not us.” Of course, there is always much to learn about presenting God’s word to others. Even Jesus could not win over the majority through His words. With a genuine love for the lost, we do our best to share the truth with others. Ultimately, the decision is theirs to make. The church in Thessalonica welcomed what was taught to them, grasping that it was the word of God that was being spoken. To have biblical faith, one must accept the Bible as God’s very words, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17). Once again, I like the ETRV, “Using the Scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and will have everything they need to do every good work” (v17). Thus, we understand when Paul writes about how the word of God “effectively works in you who believe.” Biblical faith must see the Bible as it is, the written word of God, if it has any chance of bringing about salvation and setting the course of life down a path that seeks to do His will each day.
Today we have briefly considered two things surrounding biblical faith. First, it is the result of someone willing to listen and learn. Second, they are eager to listen and learn because they acknowledge the source of that which is being shared with them, God. When these two traits are present, the opportunity for a biblical faith that leads to salvation is ready for development. The simple truth is this, “But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Dear God, help us to be ready to share the faith with those around us in hopes that we may find someone who diligently wants to seek You.