Tuesday, April 11, 2017

More Faith: The Thief on the Cross or Abraham

I raised the question to some: Who had greater faith, the thief on the cross or Abraham. Most said Abraham. Did they choose correctly? Let's take a look:

Faith is a variable. The range starts at no faith, and goes all the way to the faith of God - zero faith to infinite faith.

Faith was even defined by God:
Hebrews 11:1 'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Faith is in God and that he is who he says he is and can do what he says that he can do. Faith is defined as evidence in what is not seen.

There are those with no faith:
Mark 4:40 "And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
And then there is the perfect faith:
Romans 3:3 "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"
God is sure of himself because he is God!

That is the range of faith: It's from zero to infinite all at the same time. Abraham was somewhere in between:
Romans 4:16 "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all..."
The faith of Abraham was sure - he was certain that God is God, and has the power for salvation. Incidentally, Abraham also believed in the creation as well as salvation!

Abraham has been the standard of faith for mankind because he was willing to sacrifice his only son, just as God did. (Of course, Abraham had Ishmael, but he was emancipated, and was thus gone.)

Abraham's obedience was credited to him as faith:
 Romans 4:20 "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness."
Therefore, the works of Abraham was credited to Abraham as faith, reinforcing that faith without works is dead.  Abraham had the faith to present his own son as a living sacrifice. He heard God, he listened, and be obeyed. His obedience was a demonstration of his belief and love. God tested him to see if he loved him, and Abraham passed the test although he had never seen God! Abraham was willing to trade the love of his son to show his love for God.

Here is what God said to Abraham, and of course Abraham obeyed:
Genesis 22:1 "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."
Now let's look at the thief (malefactor) who was about to be crucified with Jesus:
 Luke 23:39 "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
The thief admitted his sin and that he deserved death. He recognized that Jesus was innocent, and sensed that Jesus is indeed God: Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. The thief was not sacrificing anything to show his love. He was just showing his love first hand, not vicariously.

Compare the two scenarios now, remembering that faith is defined as evidence of things not seen. Of course, faith is not only believing in God, but that he is who he says that he is, and can do what he says he can do. Every believer, hence, must believe in an Almighty God who can actually follow through with saving, as he claims that he can do. The thief on the cross saw God, and trusted that Jesus had the ability to save, but he didn't rebuke the other thief merely for salvation. He did that because he felt pain for Jesus's eminent death - a demonstration of love.

Both Abraham and the thief trusted God. Abraham only heard God speak, but never saw him, because no one could see God without dying, not even Moses! His faith was in things not seen for he could not see God, nor could he physically know that God has the power to save.

On the other hand, the thief was actually looking at God, and realized that he whom he saw was God in the flesh. He still had faith in things not seen, though - that Jesus was going to his kingdom upon his death. The thief, due to what was occurring at that moment, had faith in Jesus! He could actually see God, but Abraham could not. He felt sympathy for Jesus because he was seeing the injustice of it all.

We don't necessarily know what else God spoke to Abraham, but his Word was there speaking. It was the pre-incarnate Jesus doing the testing. In essence, the Word was saying: Do you love me Abraham? Show me!" just as he asked of Peter.

Abraham believed in what he could not see, but the thief believed in whom he could see!

Abraham must have had the greater faith, because he believed in Him who he could not see. On the other hand, the thief was there looking at Jesus. Even he with a little (sic) faith, would be saved!

The thief, of course, had more than a little faith, which is by the way, enough to save. When even the apostles had denied Jesus, the thief embraced and loved him by his concern. His little (sic) faith was truly great faith, but not as great as Abraham's.  The latter believed in what had not yet happened, but the thief believed in what was occurring. Because he could actually see what was happening, he had lesser faith than Abraham who believed without witnessing.

As living people in these days, it is by faith that we are saved. We don't have the advantage of being there to witness God being crucified, but can only read it as gospel. Because we trust Jesus without ever seeing him, we have stronger faith than the thief on the cross. It is to be noted that the works of Abraham was the same confidence in Jesus that the thief had, the former was faith demonstrated by works, and the latter was entirely by grace. However, Abraham also knew that it wasn't his works which would save him, but his faith to trade his love of his only son for God's sake in thanks for his grace.

I believe that Abraham is still the standard for great faith. Only Moses had the faith to part the waters, and as such, he could have moved mountains, but Moses had more doubts than Abraham - the man truly after God's own heart.

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