First-hand Faith

To Pilate’s question “Thou art thou the King of the Jews?” the Lord Jesus responded with His own: “Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others said it to thee concerning me?” (John 18: 33, 34). In effect, He was saying ‘Did the question come out of your soul, or out of your mouth? Have you caught up the phrase, ‘King of the Jews’, from the man in the street, or are you really wondering who I am? Above all, are you prepared to form real convictions, and to act on them at any cost?’ The Lord had no use for academic questions. When one asked him, “Sir, [are] such as are to be saved few in number?” He responded “Strive with earnestness to enter in through the narrow door” (Luke 13: 23, 24). A great many men are interested in purely curious questions in the sphere of religion who have no interest in the “narrow door”. When Pilate asked his careless, hearsay question, Christ was on His way to a very real cross, and that cross, within hours, was to become the central fact in the history of the world. It was no time for unrealities and empty phrases.

   Now the cause of Christ in the world is weakened because His Church has turned aside to give elaborate answers to all kinds of speculative questions, and so to create and maintain a hearsay faith. How much of that which we say we believe do we really believe or because another said it before us? I am not speaking now to conscious hypocrites who have put on a cloak of profession for a reason. The point is that just as an unbeliever may take his doubt from the lips of another, so we may easily live in a second–hand, hearsay faith. How much would our creed lose in bulk, if we honestly eliminated the articles concerning which we have no real convictions? There can be no more salutary thing than for a Christian to ask himself this great epochal question of Christ “Dost thou say this of thyself?” (John 18: 34, my emphasis). No more lethal habit can find place in the Christian life than the habit of passing on the pious platitudes and current phrases, which, on the lips of the first utterer, stood for deep spiritual verities. It seems a pity to say it, but the hymnology of the Church is the occasion of more insincere speech than all other occasions combined. Hymns were, for the most part, written by godly men and women and they express the highest aspirations, and the deepest devotedness. When we are really attuned to those lofty strains of praise and consecration, they are inexpressibly uplifting and helpful, but to sing in a disinterested or unthoughtful state of mind is to practice what is really a falsehood.

   Now, happily, faith in Jesus Christ, because it is trust in a person and not in a mere form of words, is a matter of personal consciousness. The apostle could say “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep for that day the deposit I have entrusted to him” (2 Tim. 1: 12). This was no hearsay faith, but a faith founded upon a real, living relationship with Christ. It is one thing to get a thing at the feet of some teacher, quite another to get it, like Mary, at the feet of the Master. This is not to deny that I may receive something from a human instrument under the hand of God, for the gifts are given “with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4: 12)—but I must still get it for myself as from His hand. In John 4, the Samaritans said to the woman “[it is] no longer on account of thy saying that we believe, for we have heard him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (v42, my emphasis). Let us therefore see to it that our faith—all of it—is founded upon the same foundation! And may we allow the Lord’s question to search the very depths of our hearts: “Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others said it to thee concerning me?” (John 18: 34).