Often people express passion to preach the gospel. Many are already preaching the gospel having claimed it. I see youngsters express great interest toward the gospel. They aspire to become great preachers, usually after someone, and do great works and preach great sermons. They have ideas they believe will work for the gospel. Yet, I see the one factor missing that perfects their passion. It is the same factor missing in the many that have been preaching the gospel. All these have zeal for the gospel, but as Paul at one place said of his countrymen, it is not according to the knowledge of God. I am not voicing about their intellectual knowledge in the gospel, for they are all educated for it in one way or another. Yet, I am speaking of the touch of God upon them that produces zeal according to His knowledge. It is the zeal He uses.
Often people use the following Scripture to signify passion for proclaiming the Word of God. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isa. 6:8). All the same, they are without the cause that led to the willingness of the prophet. That cause is the missing factor in many people aspiring to preach the gospel. In fact, they never had an occasion to find it, because they never learned of it from their predecessors or role models. All they have learned is to preach the gospel with the knowledge they acquired of the Word. This then gave them, as it is in those preaching the gospel, intellectual faith than saving faith. Saving faith is from God through the factor that gives zeal to serve Him. With intellectual faith they learned the steps involved in salvation and carried them; they were academically prepared to preach the gospel, but not for God’s work that enables them to proclaim Him, and are convinced they are with zeal as the prophet. Zeal wrapped up in intellectual knowledge is without God’s work and is of the flesh. And the gospel too will be presented according to the flesh.
God’s work firstly involves His calling. He then avails the cause or factor that gives zeal to proclaim Him. It is the removal of iniquity and the forgiveness of sin. He accomplishes it for them by voicing it from His Word. Intellectual faith does not have any chance of accomplishing it, since it does not lean on God’s voice. When people aspiring to preach the Word come out into the world with it, they do everlasting works for God. They have authority from God to do His works. With the change that came about in them through God’s voice, they bring forth a people for God after their nature. This is saving faith. And God’s voice constantly leads them, because they have been made able for it.
Intellectual faith is a destructive force. It is a faith by rote. It works with the cleverness of Satan. Heresies are born from it. It destroys the rich tradition in the Word and of Christianity. It creates confusion regarding God’s Word, will and promises in the mind of the hearers. All in all, it creates a people with passion for flesh and mind, and their desires. It accomplishes nothing for God, but works against Him by not giving concrete knowledge of the matters relating to Him. Often it creates division and abrasions between people; they do not fully enjoy the fellowship of the brethren. More and more people are adopting it, since it is easy on their minds. It makes them the saved before men. It gives them the power to lead themselves so that they do not wait on God, trust Him for His promises, and seek Him to be blessed or spend time in His presence. There is more vanity in it than one can imagine. It robs the glory of God. Men and women with it can never bring comfort, bear the weak and encourage good works like those with saving faith. For they have never seen the ways in which the Almighty works in and for them; their knowledge of Him is only academic.
The reason intellectual faith is destructive and even self-damaging is that it deeply discourages and rejects practicality. This is its inherent quality. A great number of people followed Jesus until He spoke the words that truly implicate their relationship with Him. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves’” (John 6:53). We know from John’s writing that many turned away from Him after hearing these words. They believed Him, but only with intellect. So, when they were challenged, they left Him. They were only there to seek gain and amusement from His works. This did not allow them to be practical. Immediately Jesus’ words became complex for them. Are they really complex? To those with saving faith they aren’t. Their meaning is clearly understood and Jesus knew His believers would understand. In fact, as much sorrow as it caused Him seeing many leave He knew His words were necessary to reveal true believers. Often times Jesus spoke to indicate the separation of the believing from the seemingly believing or those with intellectual faith. And to think His words do not do the same now will be utter naivety.
There is life only when feasting on Jesus. People with intellectual faith are in dire need of understanding this. To eat His flesh and drink His blood is to feed on His Word and live on His ways respectively. To feed on His Word is to be led by Him or receive guidance from Him for all matters. He knows our makeup, desires and thoughts, and to eat His flesh only helps us to make right choices for God’s glory. For every matter, doubt, question, fear and inadequacy He has the answer and by feeding on Him we receive it. His answers are delivered to us by His ways. And living on them is drinking His blood, as we no longer live on our own guidance and interests. We reflect sacrifice by which He shed His blood. People with intellectual faith do not come this far with their thinking, because it seems very odd and out of this world to them. And no doubt they miss the best gift of God. Paul reveals it in the following. “While they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you” (2 Cor. 9:14).
Saving faith or a faith that dwells on Christ’s continual guidance alone receives the surpassing grace of God. You see, we are saved by grace, but the surpassing grace (grace after grace) is availed to us through eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood. It is an indication to our stupendous growth in faith that reflects our intimacy with God. Such grace is the reason we overcome the world and our faith is victorious. This means we do not worry, and though Satan morphs himself to worry us, we revert to our trust in God. The upshot is we become appealing to others that seek to grow in Christ. With this in mind Paul confidently wrote to Philemon saying, “and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake” (Phile. 1:6). Philemon’s practice of faith toward Jesus and Christians has staggeringly grown that Paul did not miss making note of it. One might ponder how he managed it in the early days of Christianity. It was from the teachings of Paul to whom Christ availed the surpassing grace of God. This is evident when Paul speaks of the manner in which Philemon’s faith was effective. He was filled with the knowledge of every good thing for Christ through the saving faith in Paul. There was so much camaraderie in those days between preachers and believers. And it was by one reason alone: preachers did not pursue intellectual faith.
People with intellectual faith will no less be treated by God and Christ than those who never believed in the gospel; they will not escape that which God prepared. “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (Rev. 15:8). Their only way of escape is to embrace saving faith now and then if God permits establish it. The patience of God continues to search for those who are willing to proclaim Him with the factor He accomplishes for them. The more they let the days pass by the nearer they get to inescapability; not only they, but also those that emulate them. And Christ confirmed His message through John, because He said, “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed’” (Luke 23:29).
So the saying is true, i.e. intellectual faith does not save and is worthless to pursue while saving faith avails life for the surpassing grace of God. Unless and until those that aspire to preach and are preaching together with their audience realize this, they will continue to make deliberate attempts to defunct the rich tradition in the Word and of Christianity. They continue craving for fleshly opinions and things. And when the Word of God comes to pass, they will be no more. But, as for us, let us continue pursuing the things we have known about God and Christ. Let us be with the surpassing grace of God so that we go from glory to glory, and maybe, they will learn from us. For “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).