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.
When describing faith as seen in the Bible, some people see a contradiction between what Paul said, and what James said regarding faith and works. This will be addressed next week when we come to learn that what is occurring is that Paul is describing faith that a person has as it works its way towards works, from the insides, where it starts and James starts with how faith is seen in another person’s life from the outside in, where faith produces fruit which we mislabel as works.
But for the sake of argument in this presentation let us look at faith as we see it in others, where the fruit displays the root, where the rubber meets the ground, where the action is what Jesus was talking about whenever he admonished his followers to examine the fruit, or better stated the works or deeds of the religious leaders. Therefore for this consideration, we will examine what is referred to as the ABCs of faith, faith is it is seen in the outworking’s of a person’s life from the outside in.
Biblical Faith – The ABCs of Faith2
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 that is 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 within 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.
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.
2. As taught by W. E. Scott
(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 we are not cognizant that this blessing has been going on since the beginning, and we simply are rediscovering old truths)
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In the New Testament, believers are encouraged to “work out your salvation with fear and tremblingâ Phil 2 12 .
[…] First I like to thank the individual that posted that comment concerning this passage regarding the essay: “Why Four Gospels – A Personal Statement & Introduction – Part 1“ […]
Thank you very much for your comment and citation, however I am not totally sure concerning what point you are trying to make. Also, please leave your name so I can address who I am speaking to in a more personable manner. This type of medium allows people to stay anonymous, sometimes in a hit-and-run type of situation; rather they intend to or not – I am not referring to you. Thank you for leaving a comment.
First let me say I think that we are both not inconsistent in what we are implying concerning faith, just saying it in different ways – faith takes real work. Faith is difficult, and it is meant to be.
Because faith is the basis of every relationship you or I will ever have with another individual. It’s hard to trust people, people are fallen in their nature and therefore capable of all kinds of atrocities and sin.
It was Adam’s refusal to trust God wherein he exercised non-faith in God that created this condition. So I think we would agree that “the trying of our faith is more precious than gold;” because it is hard to exercise in a fallen and sinful world where sometimes doubt seems more real than God.
However, the exercise of faith is not the same as doing works. And the verse that you quoted in the Greek does not state the same thing that we may understand 300 years later when it was first written in the English (even though the King James has been updated more than a few times since its original creation).
First, concerning the translation that you used, which is the King James translation. As a believer of almost 40 years, I have spent many hundreds of hours dealing with the subject of textual criticism concerning Bible translation. And during these years I have utilized many different translations of the New Testament, yet I have come back to the King James translation because it is based upon a particular version of the Greek Textus Receptus which I find more credible than any other translation to date.
And as one of my teachers notes, we are fully aware of any difficulties that the King James introduces, wherein with the newer translations which are not based upon the Byzantine text, but on the Egyptian Alexandrian text are filled with many errors which have not been addressed and many readers are unaware of. Even though these errors are slight, they are still evident to affecting some doctrines when seen in the original Greek.
One of the few problems that we have with the King James translation is that some of the English terms are archaic, and have changed in their meaning from when they were first rendered hundreds of years ago into 21st-century terminology, and according to our current grammatical rules concerning English.
Let me give you one example before I deal with the text that is at hand. 2 Timothy 2:15 states:
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The words “study” in this verse is the Greek word spoudazō, and means “earnestness, diligence (2Pe_1:5). To be diligent, earnest, or eager.” (As per: “The Complete Word Study Dictionary,” Spiros Zodhiates).
Every Greek translator I’m aware of translates this verse to say: “be diligent by your behavior to show you are approved of God.”
Back during that 16th and 17th many words did not hold the meaning that we understand today such as a word “study” which meant to be diligent in behavior, not academics. Another example is the word “conversation” which actually meant behavior rather than verbiage. Both of these English words have changed in their meaning compared to today.
Yet, these are common problems concerning the English of 16th century Great Britain as compared to 21st-century America English and the changes that have occurred. Many of the new translations note these changes, however introduce many others.
Now back to the passage at hand. So that we understand the context wherein Paul was speaking let’s also examine the verse prior to the one you cited. Philippians 2:11-12 states:
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Chapter 2 is where Paul is speaking about Christ, but yet he goes on in speaking to the church members in Philippi, and as the verse prior to 12 states; Paul is addressing them as he is about to leave and states that he desires that they would obey in his absence this Word of God the same as they obeyed in his presence.
Yet when we read the word “work out your own salvation,” not understanding the Greek grammar it sounds like we are supposed to work FOR our salvation, which is not what the text says.
The term used here in the Greek does not mean to work for your salvation, but would actually mean to work out in the same way that a student works out a mathematical problem that is on the board that’s already been addressed, with the answer stated so that the student could understand how the problem and the solution work out in order to gain appreciation of the solution.
This is a very simplistic explanation, but what I’m going to do so that I can further answer any questions in a more specific manner is to post a new post that directly concerns this passage in which I explain the grammar so that it’s just not me saying that it says one thing, when it appears to say another.
I will break down the grammar wherein we see from the grammar that the action that is to be taken is mainly done by God, not the individual. So please see the newest post on our homepage to deal with this in a more specific and exact manner.
For years this text really messed with me, until I listen to Warren Wiersbe (Please see: “Wiersbe Bible commentary: New Testament”), who pointed out that we DO NOT work FOR our salvation; as Christ was the only one that could do that as the sinless sacrifice for mankind.
But we’re to “work out” what Christ did for us in order to understand how much it cost God, which should bring fear to man enough to not throw away so priceless salvation.
We are to examine our salvation by WORKING OUT THE DETAILS in our head so that we grow in faith and exercise faith, as Paul says even when I am absent, as well is when I am present.
Again thank you very much for an opportunity to address this passage.