No Plan B
Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor
28 July 2016
There is faith and then there is the faith. Most moderns think faith is a matter of discovering ourselves. Some churches even advertise the fact that their members are not encouraged to believe the same things (cf. 1Co 1:10!). There are as many "faiths" as there are Christians in this pattern of thought; and if so, "let's just celebrate diversity!"
 
Now, there is no doubt that each one must believe for himself or herself, no one can believe for another. But faith in this sense is multiple. In other words, there are as many "faiths" as believers. However, the Bible teaches that Christians share the object of faith, what faith believes. For the Bible there are not multiple doctrines, but a doctrine or body of teaching. The many "faiths" believe the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is the one given to the many that they might become one.
 
This is the distinction between the faith which believes and the faith by which it is believed. Belief is confidence in God's gift of salvation through His Word. The Church has one faith, because she has one Lord. What is the same is what is believed everywhere, at all times, and by everyone. It is blasphemy to talk of "my own faith" in the sense of the content of what is believed. This blasphemy presumes to tell God what He ought to believe. God is no longer God where we have refused to be taught by Him, but have set our hearts on the rusting treasures of our own creating. Either God rescues and saves us (Lk 19:10) or we purport to save Him. There is no middle ground here. Faith trusts and confesses the faith. There is no "Plan B."

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Those who have faith are called the faithful, and those who do not, unbelievers, as were those who did not receive the Son of God coming to His own (Jn 1:11). Although faith is worked in us by hearing, yet it does not belong to that sense of the body which is called hearing, since it is not a sound. It does not belong to the eyes of our flesh, since it is neither color nor bodily form. Nor to that which is called touch, since it has no mass. Nor to any sense of the body at all, since it is a thing of the heart, not of the body. Nor is it outside of us, but deeply seated within us. Nor does any man see it in another, but each one in himself. Last, it is a thing that can both be feigned by pretense, and be thought to be in him in whom it is not. Therefore, everyone sees his own faith in himself; but does not see, but believes, that it is in another; and believes this the more firmly, the more he knows the fruits of it, which faith works by love (Gal 5:6).
 
"This faith is common to all of whom the evangelist instructs, 'But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God' (Jn 1:12-13). Faith is common not as any form of a bodily object is common, as regards sight, to the eyes of all to whom it is present, for in some way the gaze of all that behold it is informed by the same form; but as the human countenance can be said to be common to all men; for this can be said even though each certainly has his own. We say certainly with perfect truth, that the faith of believers is impressed from a single sound teaching upon the heart of each person who believes the same thing.
 
"That which is believed (fides quae) is a different thing from the faith by which (fides qua) it is believed. For the former is in things which are said either to be, or to have been or to be about to be. But the latter is in the mind of the believer, and is visible to him only whose it is; although not indeed itself but a faith like it, is also in others. For it is not one in number, but in kind. Yet on account of the likeness, and the absence of all difference, we rather call it one than many. For when we see two men exceedingly alike, we wonder, and say that both have one countenance. It is therefore more easily said that the souls were many, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that they were of one soul (Acts 4:32), than it is, where the apostle speaks of 'one faith' (Eph 4:5) for someone to venture to say that there are as many faiths as there are faithful.
 
"Yet He who says, 'O woman, great is your faith' (Mt 15:28); and to another, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt' (Mt 14:31) intimates that each has his own faith. But the faith of believers is said to be one, in the same way that a like will of those who will is said to be one. In the case of those who have the same will, the will of each is visible to himself, but that of the other is not visible, although he wills the same thing; and if it indicates itself by any signs, it is believed rather than seen. But each being conscious of his own mind certainly does not believe, but manifestly sees outright, that this is his own will."

Augustine, On the Trinity, 13.2
Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely  goodness and mercy  shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell  in the house of the LORD forever.
(ESV)
Prayer
O Lord, You have once and for all delivered the faith to the saints. Grant that we might confess it in the world, that those who know only the dying faith of their own creating might be recreated by Your Word. Amen.
 
For all those who will confess the same faith of the Nicene Creed on Sunday, that they might live in harmony under one Lord, receiving from that Lord His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins
 
For the Siberian Lutheran Church, that God the Lord would grant them His grace to confess the forgiveness of sins through Christ
 
For seasonable weather, that we might be blessed with the fruits of the earth
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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