The following are some of my personal considerations concerning presenting the four different purposes and functions of the four different Gospels.
First, let me say why I think it’s important to examine this teaching – it’s because this teaching is meant to fulfill what Romans 10:17 states;
“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
What becomes overlooked so often from the pulpits is that faith regarding the Bible is specific, whereas the enemy has attempted to state that faith when it comes to God in the Bible is blind – this is ridiculous and unbiblical.
Biblical faith (See Endnote #1 Regarding faith) is very precise in that it is faith that is gained from reading and studying God’s Word, it is never blind; even when it goes against logic and what appears to be the reality of the situation.
Biblical Faith – The ABCs of Faith
You see biblical faith can be understood in the acronym:
“Action based upon Belief, sustained by Confidence”
While faith starts with a belief, it is never meant to stay there, and if it does it will never become faith.
This is what James alludes to when he states in James 2:19,
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
Indicating that belief is not enough for salvation, because the devils (actually demons or evil spirits in the Greek) Have belief, yet are saved because of it.
Belief – A Mental Process
This is because belief is a mental process, it is something that takes place within your brain and doesn’t necessitate action.
You can believe something and never have to be motivated to do anything based upon that belief – it is a mental process only, as opposed to faith which is always seen as being based upon belief, then becoming so much a part of the individual that it produces actions – you cannot separate faith from actions, any more than you can separate belief from a mental process, they are NOT synonyms, though faith starts with belief, if it stops there it never becomes faith.
Hence the reason for the above acronym.
When you are I see someone exercising faith the first thing that we see is their action which proves up their faith.
This is what appears to be the difference between Paul’s argument concerning faith and James’.
Paul describes faith as it occurs chronologically, first based upon belief, then solidifying to the point of producing an action.
Whereas James presents the outside observation of faith, as seen in the reverse order of How is developed within the person’s life.
Paul describes faith in the process of becoming fruit, James describes faith from the observation of the fruit produced.
What needs to be observed is that whereas faith starts in belief, as a mental process, it must grow because of confidence wherein it solidifies and becomes a part of the person not simply a singular thought.
When we exercise faith in God that he will take care of us no matter what, it is not a singular thought that is isolated from the rest of our life.
Confidence Is Produced by the Bible
It is based upon a close examination of God’s word wherein situation after situation, event after event as seen between the covers of the Bible, where the conclusion is that the Bible was written by God himself and not man, and the track record that God establishes based upon this faith which is generated upon the examination of his word, this produces the foundation of faith which changes a person’s life, this produces the confidence wherein decisions are based upon this trust in God which is more than a singular event, it is a relationship of trust.
Hence, the acronym above where belief solidifies into confidence, both of which come from an examination of God’s word according to Romans 10:17.
Confidence Based upon a Track Record
As you examine God’s Word, and you observed prophecies that were written within one testament, were fulfilled within another; you start to believe what it states.
And as you continue to examine God’s word you find prophecies which were written in the Bible which are fulfilled after it was completed, sometimes many centuries later.
Both of these types of fulfilled prophecies start to solidify in the believer’s heart that the Bible is something more than a man-made book.
And as time goes on and you observe that things that were spoken of the Bible thousands of years ago are being validated by science and nature itself lending greater confidence to this conclusion concerning the author.
And yet you also see a wisdom that far surpasses anything a man could a written, wisdom and insights be on human contrivance, time after time; never displaying fallibility, or incorrectness.
All of this brings you to the conclusion that this book written over a 1600 year span, from three different continents, in three different languages, from over 40 different writers from every walk of life; had only one author, that of God Himself.
And it displays the power of God that he could utilize different individuals, displaying their own characteristics and style; yet to say exactly word for word what he desired for mankind to hear – only God could do this.
And with in this track record he showed himself to be steadfast, faithful, consistent, and never changing; and therefore deserves the trust and faith that he demands from his creatures – this is the confidence which solidifies faith in the person’s life as referred to in Romans 10:17.
Which is why when you observe a true mature Christian, what you see is: Action based upon Belief, sustained by Confidence.
This is why the presentation of the Gospels concerning their diversity is so important.
Personal Note – Here
When I accepted Jesus Christ four decades ago; I had spent so many years trying to prove up the consistency of God’s Word in the face of what appeared to be glaring inconsistencies concerning the chronological order recorded in the four Gospels.
I spent so much time studying the “Synoptic Gospels,” in order to prove that God Word was correct and not inconsistent. The word synoptic comes from the idea of what is “synonymous,” and is a reference to first three Gospels, which are presented in a chronological timeline; though there are many of what appear to be consistencies.
The synoptic presentations would attempt to cross reference these three Gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in such a way that would explain away any apparent inconsistencies in the chronological presentation between these three in incorrect – that they are really presenting the same information – exactly (and the book of John, which was never considered part of the synoptic Gospels; cannot be explained with any finality concerning why this record is presented in such a non-chronological, nonlinear manner; making no sense as compared to the others).
What was so unfortunate about the vain attempt to do a parallel presentation of all three of the first three Gospels was that many times the text had to be tortured in order to attempt to explain in one book as being the same event in another. The problem is, it is apparent that many of the obvious events are not the same events presented in another Gospel, better appear similar. And therefore a synoptic presentation of trying to fit things together would sometimes create more problems than it would solve.
My first Bible college class was on the subject of the Synoptic Gospels, and it took more faith to believe this presentation than it did to simply trust God that there were more event’s that were individual to each gospel, rather than a retelling of the same ones over and over again.
Many of the similarities between events are only similarities dealing with different events on different occasions.
Yet, for years this kind of inconsistency, or I should better say “apparent inconsistency;” did not build faith, but it made faith a hurdle.
It was when I ran into this teaching that everything finally made sense.
That there weren’t any inconsistencies in God’s Word, that these three Gospels were never meant to tell the same story over and over again – that not all of the events were the same events across all three books; and that the presentations were meant to be diverse according to the particular book.
Because what God was doing in the presentation of these four diverse Gospels was never meant to be synonymous. They all had different purposes and highlighted different things. And that there were more than one or two situations that seem similar, that we didn’t need to try to push it all together and say they were all saying the exact same thing.
In all of this was because the Holy Spirit desired to present different facets of Christ and His mission, and would intentionally omit certain things in one book; yet also introduced new things which seem similar to other events in other.
What a faith builder this became. I no longer had to try to push them altogether to explain what some saw as an inconsistency. I just explained it was a different event, or in a different location because it was a different event; but I didn’t have to defend God’s Word anymore.
Therefore, the reason for this presentation is to build faith in God’s Word. We don’t have to explain why the first three Gospels are diverse one from another, because they’re supposed to be. We don’t have to explain why they focus on different titles, different functions of Christ ministry, at different places, being written to a different audience, explaining things that are different one from another. It was because God designed them that way.
If we spend all of our time trying to defend that which seems inconsistent; besides wasting our time, inadvertently we disrespect the God who designed them to be this way in the first place. It is what it is – it is God in His Word displaying four different perspectives of Jesus Christ.
And if anyone ask where this “new” teaching came from, you can tell them this question is quite incorrect, because it is not new. If you ask any of the Orthodox church members, who are committed to their denominational teachings, they will advise you that they have been aware of this teaching for many centuries. It has only been forgotten in the last few hundred years within Pentecostal denominations (not quite two centuries old it’s self), fundamentalist denominations (somewhat the same), and the newer offshoots, as well as newer movements. However, if you spend anytime with Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, or other Orthodox denominations, their literature is filled with this information.
This is not New Age teaching, nor anything recently understood; just like the plaque that is presented below during the introduction, the awareness that all four Gospels have intended diversity in their presentation of Christ has been taught since the beginning of the church for 2000 years.
1. How Faith is Miss-taught
Faith is far more important than being a mere tool that is used to achieve a purpose; to get something. Faith/trust is a foundational prerequisite to every healthily relationship we could and would ever have. We are created in God’s image, with this particular value or character trait (“faith”) as a fundamental requirement for intimacy and binding a healthily/mature relationship. Without faith in someone, you will never hold an intimate secure relationship with them. Such is the reason for God’s mandate that man exercise faith in God in reestablishing a relationship with Him. This is clearly seen in Adam’s choice of not trusting God, which is sin. Sin is anything that is opposed to God’s Will, and as such when God’s declares something as sin and we exercise a lack of trust in God’s Will and violate that sin, the relationship changes – on some level like human relationships change when someone violates the trust of another. Yet, when Adam choose to not trust God and introduced sin into God’s creation, it changed everything – including our environment. Many in the “Faith” movement treat faith like a noun – a tool, rather than like a verb (which is more accurate concerning the word “faith,” even as seen in the Gospel of John, which in the English translation translated the verb form of faith into “believe,” which is cognitive/mental as opposed to an action, something not just thought about, but a behavior/action. The Greek words for “faith,” are: pistis, a noun; and pisteuo and pistho which are verbs; however, rather the form is a verb, verbal noun; or a noun [which is in case is a behavior, but functions like a verb], all these words are actions, not a thing to be used as though it has power in itself, like a tool; but a continuous behavior) which is a repetitive action – a way of life (“…from faith to faith…” ~ Rom. 1:17, which is saying: “from faith action to faith action;” it is a daily walk ~ 2 Cor 5:7), a relationship with God. Faith is far more than believing God will give us what we ask for – faith is trusting that everything that God does for us is good (even when it hurts; see Job, Joseph, and more perfectly Jesus), even when it makes no sense – this is the true meaning of Romans 10:28), and understanding that faith is not to be based solely, nor mainly upon our own personal experiences.
(PERSONAL NOTE: after reading the below essay, my wife had reminded me that it was while she was attending one of my Bible classes and heard this message that she first fell in love with me, believing I was some blessed insightful Bible teacher. When in reality I was simply presenting what other more godly men had presented centuries before. Isn’t it amazing how the Holy Spirit so blesses us in understanding God’s Word, yet many times were not cognizant that this blessing has been going on since the beginning, and we simply are rediscovering old truth)