By J.T. Pugh
The Importance Of Faith
This particular chapter is very important for at least two reasons. One is that faith cannot be stressed too much, and the other, that there is a great need to define the meaning of “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a very common religious statement which is often given without qualification, and to people who have no idea of its basic meaning, nor how to take hold of it and apply it to their lives. In foregoing studies we have tried to point out, step by step,, how we can, by our acts of faith and obedience, appropriate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to our own lives. Having our faith anchored in scriptural truths is very important if we are to arrive at a lasting and fruitful experience with God.
Faith is the basic element that must exist if any mutual relationship is to endure.
Even in the establishment and pursuit of a secular business, two men who may happen to be partners in such must have faith in one another. The absence of trust and confidence is sure to precipitate the eventual downfall of any enterprise. A home must have the element of strong and faithful trust if it is to truly remain a home. Neither can there be friendship if there is not, first, trust in one another. So it is not a strange thing at all to say, “He that cometh to God must believe “; and ..without faith it is impossible to please Him.”
Man must exercise faith in reference to salvation, for it is here that he comes to a need that he cannot supply within himself. He must reach outside of himself with the imploring trust and hope that he will be lifted and helped. No kingdom can of itself evolve into a higher kingdom. No matter how fine a particular strain of hay may be cultivated to be, it can never, of its own power, evolve into a cow. Neither can the richest and most fertile soil transform itself into a field of corn without the planting and germination process of corn itself. The plant kingdom must reach down into the mineral kingdom and lift out the nitrate, phosphate, and other elements and transform them upward into the plant kingdom. A horse or a cow must reach down to the plant and lift, assimilate, and take the corn or hay into the animal kingdom. It is always the higher kingdom that must do the lifting. “That which is bon of the flesh is flesh,” said Jesus. It remains flesh in its own right until it is born from above. The new birth is a miracle, and only God can perform it.
But how can this transition be made from the fleshly kingdom to the spiritual kingdom?
What is the medium of contact and communication between the earthly man and a heavenly God? Of course it is faith. As we have already considered, faith is the only approach which puts us in contact with God. It is a very important thing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Order To Be Effective, This Faith Must Be Placed In The Word And Person Of Jesus Christ. Not In An Experience.
One minister who now labors faithfully in God’s work, has described how he joyously received the Holy Ghost on a Thursday night and was happy in his experience until the following Sunday. At this time, all the assurance of salvation seemed to leave him. The joy also had ebbed away. For more than a week he recounts how he lived in torment and fear, coming at last to believe that perhaps he had not received the Holy Ghost after all. In fact, he even wondered if he had not sinned against the Holy Ghost. He had been led to believe as the cliches of saints had expressed, “…when you get this Holy Ghost you will know it, and all the devils in hell can’t make you doubt it.” The object of faith had been the experience of receiving the Holy Ghost rather than Christ and His Word.
Many people who have had the Holy Ghost for years could truthfully relate that while their experience and faith was still young and tender Satan came to them and caused them to doubt the validity of their experience. When your faith is placed alone in an experience, it is certain to stagger. Because of life’s disappointments, there will be times that you will not feel as joyous as at other times. Bodily metabolism and health conditions will play a great role in the feelings of a person. If feelings are made the object of faith, then, of course, when a person is not feeling well, his spiritual vitality will be comparatively low. He will likely feel that he may not be saved after all.
We have many experiences, but it is God who remains faithful. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” In 1957 I was on a deep-sea fishing excursion with a group of preachers. The wheel was temporarily given into the hands of one of the ministers, who decided that it was more convenient to steer by a cloud, which seemed to be dead ahead, compass. It was no wonder spent in relocating ourselves So is the case of a person who on the shifting clouds of feeling.
Suppose that your belief in whether you owned the house in which you live was based entirely on how you felt at any given time? On a cold winter day, when you were safe and warm inside, it would not be hard for you to feel the security of home ownership. You would be comfortable and happy. You would be sure that you owned the house. But suppose that one week later your wife or husband failed to place the key in its customary hiding place before leaving for the week-end, and you found yourself locked outside to spend the night in the car. As the cold began to creep into your bones, doubts would also begin to come into your mind as to whether you actually owned the house or not. The security and assurance you felt the week before, as you sat before the warm fire, would have now ebbed away altogether.
Of course this is a foolish assumption, for no one would ever base the fact of home ownership on the way he happened to feel at any given moment. But it is just as foolish for one to decide his present status with God solely by the way he happens to feel at the moment. Happy is the person who knows that the storms come, the waves rise, and the winds blow, even when Jesus is in the same ship. He does not make us safe from danger, but he keeps us safe in the midst of danger. Jesus Christ and His promises must be the object of our faith, and not our feelings.
Faith in Jesus Christ who never changes produces the joy we so much crave as Christians. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” If we have the proper faith in Jesus, we will have the victory. Where there is no faith, there can be no victory. Where there is no victory, there is no joy. And if there is no joy, then there can be no strength to resist the Devil, for the Bible teaches, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
When faith is gone, in its place comes doubt, and its companion, fear. How true the Scriptural statement, “Fear hath torment.” The faithless man is a tormented man. We all need to be led in faith to the “rock that is higher than I.” As a child is comforted on a stormy night by the presence of its parents, so are we comforted when we believe firmly in Jesus Christ and His love for us. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
This Faith Comes By Hearing The Preached Word
Rom. 10:10-17 “…With the heart man believeth unto righteousness…the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
HOW THEN SHALL THEY CALL ON HIM IN WHOM THEY HAVE NOT BELIEVED? AND HOW SHALL THEY BELIEVE IN HIM OF WHOM THEY HAVE NOT HEARD? AND HOW SHALL THEY HEAR WITHOUT A PREACHER?…
SO THEN FAITH COMETH BY HEARING, AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GOD.”
It is sometimes asked, “Why is it, if the Holy Ghost is for us today, that the good people in other churches do not receive it?” Of course, some of them are receiving it today, but the reason that so very few do receive it is because it is not preached as a gift that can be presently and readily received. “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Even though Jesus Christ is preached, he is not preached as John the Baptist preached Him.
In 2 Cor. 11:3, 4 Paul wrote that he was afraid that the Corinthians would be turned away from the simplicity that was in Christ. He warned them about someone coming and preaching another Jesus whom he had not preached. The Jesus Paul preached baptized with the Holy Ghost. John the Baptist stated that he indeed baptized with water, but Jesus, who would come after him, would baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire.
Many preachers today do not preach the Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Ghost and fire, and consequently, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, it is important that we believe according to truth. There are many who have believed, but have believed in vain. In John 7, Jesus spoke of believing upon him “as the scripture hath said.”
Notice the procedure of the apostles in Acts 16 in getting people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In this chapter is the account of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas, their prayer at midnight, and the earthquake which freed them. Beginning with the seventeenth verse is the account of the fear-stricken jailer who would have killed himself had Paul not assured him that there had been no mass escape. Trembling with fear, he fell at their feet and imploringly asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
This heathen jailer asked a question that demanded an answer. The answer given him was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” While this was a correct answer, reason would immediately teach us that it would have to be explained to this man who had never in his life heard a gospel sermon. It may have been that he had not even heard of Jesus Christ. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” This man needed faith planted in his heart before he could believe. Jesus said that this faith must be “according to the scriptures.” So in verse 32 it is stated, “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” This Scripturally unlearned man must be taught the terms of the gospel. This man who had never heard a gospel sermon must know, from the Scriptures, what it meant to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So the apostles took him and his family and taught them the Word of the Lord.
What they taught this jailer led to repentance, “…And he took them that same hour of the night and washed their stripes.” Thus he expressed his sorrow and showed his willingness to make things right as near as he was able. This word which they taught this man about believing on the Lord Jesus Christ led to baptism. “. . .And was baptized, he and all his, straightway. ” This corresponds with Jesus’ statement in Mark 16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. ” It is just as impossible to separate faith and baptism as it is faith and works. “Faith without works is dead.” Baptism is not merely works, but it is an act of faith itself. It is a demonstration of the faith a candidate has in the terms of the gospel. According to apostolic procedure, it was a part of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What they taught about believing on the Lord Jesus Christ led to this man and his house (family) being filled with the Holy Ghost. “…And rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
” Now “according to the scripture,” what happens when a person believes on God or on the Lord Jesus Christ? “He that believeth on me as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…”(John 7:38-39). This is a plain and strong promise. The emphatic declaration is that when people believe on Jesus, as the Scripture teaches, they will receive the Holy Ghost in a rushing river-like experience. No wonder Luke, in describing the jailer’s baptism, added the word “rejoiced” to the description.
In Mark 16, Jesus again shows that believing on the Lord Jesus Christ produces within the believer an energetic, active experience. Among several signs which he stated would follow them that believe was, “…they shall speak with new tongues.” Jesus indicated, ten days before He ascended into heaven, that each time a person was baptized and believed in Him, particular signs would miraculously be manifested in that person’s life. A little thought would lead us to see that this arrangement is both needful and reasonable. Who can correctly gauge the depth of the thinking process? Who can know and judge the human heart? Surely this must be left to God, since he alone knows our mental and spiritual processes. Relative to the heart of man, the Scripture asks the question, “Who can know it?” Thus a sign which automatically accompanies saving faith is safe, assuring, and conclusive. The sign of tongues is a witness, both to the recipient and to the unbeliever, that the candidate has indeed been thoroughly baptized with the Spirit.
The first people to receive the Holy Ghost in the New Testament church era were the one-hundred twenty on the day of Pentecost. How did they receive the Holy Ghost? Peter refers to this great experience at Pentecost in Acts 11:15-17: “…The Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning…Who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ ….” According to Peter, when they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ they received the Holy Ghost.
In the tenth chapter of Acts, Peter went to preach to a very good man named Cornelius. In spite of his goodness, according to Acts 11:14, he was not saved. Why was he not saved? Simply because he had not “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Despite his sincerity and heart hunger, his experience with God was limited to that of a Jewish proselyte. Jesus Christ had never been preached to him. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God …How can they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” Cornelius could not save himself. Only Jesus the Saviour can save. “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” “…I am the door of the sheep…He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “.. *That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in .the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
So we can see, “according to the scriptures,” that Cornelius, in spite of his goodness, was lost beyond doubt. It is no wonder that the sermon which Peter preached to Cornelius and his house was literally filled from start to finish with Jesus Christ. Peter knew that only Jesus could save Cornelius, and that Cornelius could know Him only by faith. The sermon which began in Acts 10:34 was only ten verses long. The key verse spoken was the last verse, and it contained enough truth to save this heretofore Christless man. Notice it carefully. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Cornelius knew his sins were not remitted, for “What can take away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” As Peter spoke of His name, believing in Him and remission of sins, the results were startling. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” Then, according to verse forty-eight, they were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord. This man had repented. When faith came by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and he discovered that “through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins,” he immediately believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the promise, out of his innermost being flowed rivers of living water!
Thus we see that believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost, meant the same thing in the New Testament. When people believed on the Lord Jesus Christ they did get baptized, and they did immediately receive the Holy Ghost. Peter summed it up neatly in Acts 11:14-17, “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, WHO BELIEVED ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST …” Each time in the New Testament where reference is made to believing on the Lord, it also indicates the receiving of the Holy Ghost, and baptism in Jesus’ name!
This statement proved true again in the filling of the Ephesian disciples in Acts 19. The question Paul put to them was, “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?” (R. V.) He could have asked them a question that is very common among us today, but very misleading and vague. This is the question that he could have asked them: “Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ?” While this would have been perfectly Scriptural, it would have given the disciples room to make a personal human judgment of their faith. Salvation is too momentous a thing to be left to human judgment. It is much safer, instead, as Paul did here, to rather ask for divine verification of their faith. He did not so much ask them about their faith as he did about the results of their faith. Notice, “Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?” He very well knew that if they had not received the Holy Ghost they had not believed. Had not Jesus said plainly thirty years before, “He that believeth on me as the scripture hath said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive. .. .”?
Jesus had taught His disciples concerning faith in Mark 11:24, “…What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” The receiving was the proof of the petitioners’ faith. Certainly if he had received the thing he asked for, it could be concluded that he had believed. The father who had a deaf-mute son in Mark 9:22, 23 pleaded, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Receiving and believing are always linked together. Receiving is always a proof of the petitioner’s faith. A few hours before the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry he urged his disciples, “…Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
It would seem strange that, in all things, visible, tangible, and positive proofs could be shown as the result of believing, except in the realm of salvation. It would be frightening indeed if we could point to healing, a job, a restored home or any number of things that could be seen and verified to be the result of faith in God, but, in the awful question of a soul’s salvation, be left without a witness at all. How terrible it would be to be required to exercise a degree of faith strong enough to secure our salvation, and yet never have any visible, audible, or tangible proof that our faith had been effective.
We are happy to note that New Testament salvation is not predicated upon such doubtful grounds. “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” asked Paul. “These signs shall follow them that believe,” said Jesus. Whether you have believed or not is nothing more than a matter of your personal opinion, unless your faith has been rewarded by the signs which Jesus said would follow the believer. Where eternity, heaven, and hell is involved, we dare not trust our opinion. If the signs have not followed, the candidate has evidently not believed.
Notice that Paul, in Acts 19, after ascertaining that the Ephesians had not received the Holy Ghost, immediately taught them that “they should believe on him which should come after…. , that is on Christ Jesus.” You can readily see the results of that faith which had been sown by hearing the Word of God. They were baptized in Jesus’ name and received the Holy Ghost. They believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul had taught them. They were baptized as an act of faith, and signs followed the believers as Jesus had said they would in Mark 16. They received the Holy Ghost and spoke in other tongues. In the New Testament this is what is meant by “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are glad to observe that the recipients of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament church received it suddenly, quickly, and easily. In not one instance besides the day of Pentecost do we have record that those who were filled came by their experience as the result of long periods of tarrying This, it seems, is as it should be, since the Holy Ghost is represented to us as a gift. Since it is a gift, it would seem that it is to be merely received by faith. Usually a person receives a gift with gratitude and thanks, without a strain or a struggle.
One man who has had the Holy Ghost for several years now, has recounted how the impression was left with him, when he began to seek the Lord, that if he got good enough the Lord would give him the Holy Ghost. In the first place, this would seem to place this wonderful experience in the category of a reward for a certain task performed. It is not represented in the Scripture to be this. It is called by the Apostle Peter, on the day of its first outpouring, “a gift.” Quite a number of years later, in describing how the Gentiles at Caesarea had received the Holy Ghost, he again called it “a gift.” It was said of Abraham, that if he could have been justified by works, he might have had occasion to boast. If our works would accrue for us merit, which in turn would effect salvation for us, then we would not need a Saviour. By our effort we could save ourselves. But God will not be a debtor to any man. We either must receive the Holy Ghost as a gift, or we cannot have it at all.
The man we have referred to, who tried to earn the Holy Ghost by his good works, after months of heartbreak and despair, finally concluded that he would never be good enough for the Holy Ghost. At his best, he found glaring discrepancies in his life. Even after he had struggled through a particular day, and triumphantly thought, as he approached the altar that night, “I have not committed one sin today; surely the Lord will fill me with the Holy Ghost tonight,” he would be doomed to disappointment. In the midst of his praying, the Devil would remind him that while there was no outward action at all in his life that day that could be wrong, there were certain evil thoughts that had crossed his mind. How could he expect God to fill him if he thought about such things? Then his goodness would vanish as the morning cloud, and leave him absolutely without merit at all. His goodness was never good enough. When he tried to place his faith there, he found it sinking sand. Condemnation struck him down. Guilt clouded his life and left him absolutely without faith. He had no grounds to claim the Holy Ghost. Jesus said, “None is good, save one, that is God.”
Finally this hungry, frustrated man came to this conclusion: “I am not worthy of the Holy Ghost, and I never will be. Thus I cannot depend on my goodness, for I am not good. But I come believing for the Holy Ghost, not because I am good, but because God is good. My faith rests in God’s goodness, and not my goodness.” Needless to say, victory came for him immediately. In this frame of mind, the Holy Ghost could be given as a gift and not as a wage which he had earned.
On this premise of action, Christ gets all the credit and the glory, and man takes his rightful place as a beggar at God’s door. We shall receive the Holy Ghost as a gift, given to us who will never deserve it, or we shall not receive it at all. Christ must be the object of our faith, not our own efforts. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourself: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Of course, this is not meant, by any means, to imply that the seeker for the Holy Ghost is to expect God to fill him if he is living anything less than a repentant life. The repentant man turns from his sins. Though this does not gain for him merit, it does show that he is honest in his approach to God, and is not trying, as it is proverbially said, “to have his cake and eat it too.” A man who tries to cling to his sinful life and walk with God at the same time is not being honest with God. Since all our relationship with God is on the basis of trust, honesty, and sincerity, God cannot fill such a man with His Spirit. Neither can such a person exercise saving faith for, “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Saving faith can never spring from a condemned heart.
“There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Jesus is our only Saviour. There is no other way to be saved other than to “believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ” This faith is demonstrated by acts of obedience. These acts are not works at all, but relations into which the sincere candidate enters with his lovely Lord. A faithful bridegroom does not count it work at all to hold the hand of his lovely bride at the altar of marriage, or to lift her veil, after the troth has been plighted, to kiss her. He will work many long and faithful hours for her later, because of his love, but these tender public vows and caresses are no work at all, but an introduction of themselves to each other in a new relationship in which they are no longer twain but one flesh.
So we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, not just in word, or in mere human judgment, but by sinking ourselves into the very death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe….”
In this way, sinners were introduced to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This way does not leave the seeker wondering if he has actually believed, if his faith was of such quality, sincerity, and strength that it effected for him eternal life. “Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” “These signs shall follow them that believe.” This is the way the people of the New Testament believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?
Excerpted from “How To Receive the Holy Ghost” by JT Pugh
This material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be used for personal study and research purposes.