Our Belief and God’s Glory:
Christians are called believers. We must believe to be saved. Saving faith (believing that God is who he says he is and that he has done what he said he has done and will do what he says he will do) is the means of our salvation. I strongly suspect this is because our belief stands in relation to God’s glory, and, of course, I am not alone in this thought.
The essence of faith consists in due ascription of glory to God.
Owen goes on to explain that we cannot obtain faith or belief unless the attributes or qualities of God that make God glorious are manifest (made plain or obvious) to us.
Belief and God’s Glory in the Old Testament:
Before God’s incarnation in Christ, God showed himself through his creation, through his Word (in all it’s literary forms), in all his works, in his revealed will, in his law, and in the institution of worship rituals. Christ was revealed to God’s people through types like Moses, Joshua, Joseph, and David and through shadows like the rock, and the bread, and the unblemished slain lamb so that there was a longing and an expectation to see the complete revelation of God’s glory. Moses, who had been the instrument of so many of God’s miracles and who was surrounded by God’s cloud of glory and who spoke directly with God still begged God, “show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). And David, who had such sweet communion with God, longed to forever “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Psalm 27:4).
Belief and God’s Glory in the New Testament:
New Testament believers have the amazing privilege of gazing upon God’s perfect revelation of himself in Christ. In Christ we see the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3) The ultimate way that God’s qualities are made plain to us, Owen confirms, is in Christ alone, “so as,” and here is a connection between our belief and God’s glory, “that we may glorify God in a saving and acceptable manner.”
He who discerns not the glory of divine wisdom, power, goodness, love, and grace, in the person and office of Christ, with the way of the salvation of sinners by him, is an unbeliever.
So, according to Owen and the Apostle Paul, (see Romans 1:16-32 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-6), unbelievers do not see the glory of God in Christ; they do not recognize Christ as God and so they cannot glorify God in an acceptable manner.
Unbelief lies at the heart of wickedness.
Opposite to belief of course stands unbelief, and unbelief lies at the core of our sin. Why? Unbelief does not glorify God. Unbelief does not show God to be holy. It does not show him to be trustworthy, sovereign, good, faithful, merciful, loving, strong, wise, just, kind, all-powerful, all-knowing … – it does not show God to be God. Unbelief does not show God to be who he is as he is; unbelief does not show God as glorious.
This darkness in the minds of men, this ignorance of God, his nature and his will, was the original of all evil unto the world, and yet continues so to be.
I think Owen is right. It is often pointed out that the first sin was the sin of pride – the sin of man wanting to be God. Before pride though, a seed of doubt about the trustworthiness of God and a growing suspicion that he might not be looking out for her best interest crept into Eve’s mind and opened the gates to that sin and all the disobedience that followed.
The Disconnect between Belief in God and Behavior:
It is interesting to observe that a man can say he believes, and maybe really believe that he really believes, and still act as if he does not believe. It’s as if the mental assent, the agreement, which confirms Christ is God is somehow disconnected from belief in God’s promises, and commands. To consistently (and consistently implies “without repentance”) display this illogical behavior, I would emphatically suggest, strongly implies that the man really doesn’t believe. Of course this would be true for a woman also. Other than the plain fact that the heart is deceitful above all things, I’m not sure, in a rational creature, exactly how this incongruous separation works.
Fretting, Worrying, Crying, Blaming, and Temper Tantrums:
Here’s an example. By definition Christians are people who believe Christ. Christian people are supposed to believe Jesus is Lord and that Scripture is God’s word so they read Paul’s words (which is considered Scripture – see 2 Peter 3:16):
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, ESV).
They read this, but when things are not going according to their expectations or their good plan for themselves and life gets a bit uncomfortable, or perhaps even excruciatingly painful for a short time or for a very long time, they fret and worry and cry and blame, and sometimes have temper tantrums. They do not believe that, in whatever “bad” circumstance they are in, God knows about it, has even planned for it, and is working all things for their good. In fact, truth be told, they don’t, or can’t, really believe God is both sovereign and good and that he is wise. The behavior that comes out of their unbelief gives witness to a god who is significantly less glorious than God really is. What’s worse, their fretting, and worrying, and crying, and blaming, and temper tantrums tell whoever is watching what they really think of God.
The wicked cannot rest.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. Isaiah 57:20, ESV
The wicked are not resting in who God is or in his promises. They are not quietly trusting God. Instead, they are quite disturbed like the tossing sea.
Examining the simile, like the tossing sea, in Isaiah 57:20,] commentator J. Alec Motyer in his book, The Prophecy of Isaiah, explains that “the disturbed sea” is subject to internal forces “of its own nature which make it turbulent, restless, and unsettled.” So Isaiah teaches us that, like the tossing sea, the wicked are driven to turbulence by their very own internal nature. They are all confused and chaotic by nature so they cannot rest; they cannot be quiet.
Also, they are constantly tossing up mire and dirt so that, Motyer comments, all the muck “is driven out into the open.” Motyer comes to the tragic conclusion, as does Scripture (Isaiah 57:21), that this is because, the wicked “do not have peace with God” nor will they “enter into peace at death.”
Trust, Calmness, Quietness, Rest, and Salvation:
It seems then that the relationship between salvation and trust and calmness, and quietness, and rest is this: Those who trust God, those who really believe him, are quieted and calmed because they know the nature of the One they believe in and are at peace with him (Romans 5:1). They are in an internal state of rest no matter the state of the circumstances around them. Their souls are resting calmly and quietly because they know God’s character and his promises. And, because they know God’s character and his promises, they believe him. And, because they believe him, because they trust him, they are saved.
The connection between this quiet trust and God’s glory is of course obvious; God is glorified. He is seen by the quiet trusting soul to be who he is. He is portrayed to the one watching the quiet trusting soul to be who he is. The behavior of the quiet trusting soul tells the world of The Only True Savior – it tells the world who God is.
Love fits in all this too.
Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these,’ (Mark 12:28-31, ESV).
Certainly God loves believers (1 John 4:9-10; Ephesians 2:4). In his lecture, Heaven, a World of Charity or Love, which you can listen to if you don’t have the time to read, Jonathan Edwards connects perfect tranquility and joy to the perfect love that one will find in heaven:
The other fruit of this love in heaven … is perfect tranquility and joy. Holy, humble and divine love is a principle of wonderful power to give ineffable quietness and tranquility to the soul. It banishes all disturbance, it sweetly composes and brings rest, it makes all things appear calm and sweet. In that soul where divine love reigns, and is in lively exercise, nothing can raise a storm.
We can only experience this kind of perfect love when we finally see Christ. When we see him face to face, we will love perfectly like him because we will finally be like him (1 John 3:2).
Love is transformational.
And of course here on earth, though we cannot experience perfect love for God, we can love God and we can experience God’s love for us. We can experience love for God because love is transformational. Love transforms us because the Spirit that transforms us into the image of Christ is the Spirit of love that pours God’s love into us (Romans 5:5), and that produces love in us (Galatians 5:22), and that perfects God’s love in us (1 John 4:12-13) as we abide in God’s love (1 John 4:14-18) so that our unloving natures are becoming like Christ’s nature which is not only loving but is also quiet and calm.
True Christians are … clothed with the meek, quiet, and loving temper of Christ; for as many as are in Christ, have put on Christ.
In his essay, Religious Affections, Edwards sees Christ’s calm and quiet nature in his reaction to his tormentors:
not opening his mouth when afflicted and oppressed, in going as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, not opening his mouth; praying that the Father would forgive his cruel enemies because they knew not what they did; not shedding others’ blood, but with all conquering patience and love, shedding his own.
If therefore we see any of the followers of Christ, in the midst of the most violent, unreasonable, and wicked opposition of God’s and his own enemies, maintaining under all this temptation, the humility, quietness, and gentleness of a lamb, and the harmlessness, and love and sweetness of a dove, we may well judge that here is a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Return, rest, and be saved.
Isaiah 30:15, the verse at the top of this blog, is a sad commentary on a nation identified as God’s people. It is a sad commentary on a people who could have repented and evidenced true trust in the Holy One of Israel, the Sovereign LORD, by resting down on the Lord in quietness free from frenzy and anxiety, but who chose to place their trust in the pagan nation of Egypt instead. It is a sad commentary on a nation that chose the wrong savior, and who, instead of gaining strength, grew weaker and weaker until one day they were taken captive.
This sad commentary does not have to be mine or yours for, while we are living, there is still time to hope and rest in God alone. There is still time to glorify God with a calm and quiet trusting nature and, for those who are resting down on him, there is the sure hope that we will be able to gaze upon and enjoy our Savior forever.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God, (Psalm 42:11, ESV)
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The first Edward’s quote (love in heaven) is from Edwards, Jonathan, Charity and Its Fruits:Living In the Light of God’s Love, “Heaven is a World of Love,” Kyle Strobel, ed., Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, pp. 294-295.
Edwards, Jonathan, Religious Affections (Part III, Section I, Point VIII), (Public Domain) accessed April 27, 2014 from ccel.org @ http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/affections.vi.vii.html
Motyer, Alec, J., The Prophecy of Isaiah (pp.477, )
Owen, John, Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, “The glory of the person of Christ, as the only representative of God unto the church,” Ch. 2, (Public Domain) accessed April 27, 2014 from ccel.org @ http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/glory.i.v.html
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Dr. R.C. Sproul, in his devotional, Faith Defined, provides helpful definitions for the three kinds of Christian faith:
- Notitia. Notitia refers to the content of faith, or those things that we believe. We place our faith in something, or more appropriately, someone. In order to believe, we must know something about that someone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Assensus. Assensus is our conviction that the content of our faith is true. You can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. Genuine faith says that the content — the notitia taught by Holy Scripture — is true.
- Fiducia. Fiducia refers to personal trust and reliance. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is only effectual if, knowing about and assenting to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in Him alone for salvation.