Faith as a Masticator
grand remedy and preventative. "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith." (Hebrews 4:1-2).
In a previous article, we sounded an alarm unto our brethren against the danger of so yielding to the active and hostile principle of unbelief—which is still within us, that it should obtain complete dominion over us; and then, we should only be described as those marked by "an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12), that is, as apostates. It is therefore fitting that we should now consider the
The exhortation begun at Hebrews 3:12, is not completed unto Hebrews 4:11. The connecting link between the two chapters is found in the words, "So we see that they could not enter in—because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19), that was what gave point to the exhortation of 3:12, and that is also made the basis of the warning of Hebrews 4:1 and the injunction of 4:11. Israel had a promise of entering into Canaan—but it profited them not, because they did not mix faith with it (Hebrews 4:2). We, too, have a promise of entering the antitypical Canaan—but it will advantage us nothing if it is received with unbelief.
The promise made to Israel is recorded in Exodus 6:6-8, yet the fact remains that—excepting only Caleb and Joshua—none of the adult Hebrews who were delivered from Egypt ever entered Canaan! Did then the promise of God fail of its accomplishment? No! Why not?
First, because that promise of Exodus 6 was made to Israel generally and collectively, as a people—it did not specify that all, or even any, of that particular generation were to enter in.
Second, though no condition was expressly named—yet, as the event proved, it was necessarily implied: The promise must be "mixed with faith" (Hebrews 4:2); as the threat of Jonah 3:4 could only be averted by repentance. Had an absolute and unconditional promise been made to that particular generation, it must have been performed. Instead, the fulfillment of that promise was suspended on their believing and acting accordingly.
Thus, it was a promise addressed to human responsibility. God made no promise to Israel that He would bring them into Canaan—whether they believed and obeyed—or not. Nor did their unbelief make the promise of God of none effect. It was accomplished to the next generation, who believed God and obeyed the instructions of His servant—see Joshua 21:43.
God's dealings with the Hebrews furnish an analogy of the principles which operate in connection with the promise of the Gospel, which is addressed to sinners as moral agents. The promise is indeed "sure to all the [chosen] seed" (Romans 4:16), for every one redeemed by Christ will truly enter the purchased possession.
Yet, the Gospel itself does not testify directly to any individual that Christ so died for him in particular, that it is certain he shall he saved by His death. Instead, it proclaims, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved—but he who believes not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). It is only by my believing the Gospel that I am secured of eternal life, and it is only as I hold fast the Truth and am regulated by it—that I can legitimately enjoy the comfort of the Gospel. In other words, I can only spell out my election—as I put my trust in the atoning blood of Christ, and then serve Him.
The Gospel is addressed to human responsibility. It demands a believing acceptance from those who hear it. The proclamation that Christ is a Savior for Hell-deserving sinners avails me nothing, until I make personal appropriation of it. It avails me nothing, until I regard the Gospel as being addressed to me individually.
It avails me nothing until I mix faith (Hebrews 4:2) with it—that is, until I accept God's verdict that I am a Law-condemned, lost, and bankrupt sinner—and come to Christ owning myself to be such, and put my trust in the sufficiency of His atoning sacrifice. Then, it is that—on the authority of Him who says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ—and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31), I have Divine warrant to be assured that He is my own Savior, and to say with Job, "I know that my redeemer lives" (Job 19:25), not because I deem myself of God's elect—but because I have received the sinner's Savior.
God's Word, whether it is the hearing or the reading of it, only profits the soul as it is "mixed with faith" (Hebrews 4:2). FAITH is so many-sided, and its operations so diverse, that (in condescension to our weakness) it has pleased the Holy Spirit to use quite a number of varied figures to set forth its operations and acts.
It is likened unto looking (Isaiah 45:22), unto setting to our "seal" (John 3:33), fleeing "for refuge" and laying "hold upon the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:18), eating (Jer 15:16), drinking (John 7:37), and committing "unto him" (2 Timothy 1:12). In our text, the similitude of mixing faith (Hebrews 4:2) is taken from the mingling of the saliva with our food, which—through chewing it thoroughly and rolling it about in our mouth—is an aid unto digestion; and to the mixing of the juices of the stomach, so that the food is duly assimilated and becomes part of our bodies.
If our food is not properly chewed and mixed with our salvia, it will cause indigestion, and so far from being assimilated and nourishing the body—it will upset us. So it is with our hearing of the Gospel: If we do not mix faith therewith, not only will the soul receive no profit—but it will add to our condemnation in the Day to come. We may listen to God's servant and be duly impressed with his solemnity, or stirred by his earnestness, we may admire the logic of his arguments and the eloquence of his diction, we may be moved by the forcefulness of his illustrations and brought to tears by his descriptions of Christ's sufferings—and yet, obtain no spiritual benefit therefrom! Why? Because we were occupied only with the preacher and his preaching, admiring a sermon. Because we failed to mix the Word "with faith"—and faith has to do solely with God.
Faith, my reader, brings in God. He is its sole Object. Faith has to do not with reasonings, feelings, or inward impressions and impulses—but with God and His Word. When a convicted sinner hears the Gospel and mixes faith with it, he realizes that God is speaking through the minister, that God is speaking directly to him, that God is addressing his own immortal soul. It is now that he begins to realize the force of that Word, "he who has ears to hear—let him hear" (Luke 8:8). "Let him hear" means "let him heed". Let him take home to himself what he hears and be suitably affected thereby. It is the same if I am reading the Word. If I would mix it with faith, then I must regard that Word—as God speaking through it, speaking directly and personally to me, speaking that which is true and for my good, and I must respond thereto and act accordingly.
The Feast is spread and the broad call is made, "Come; for all things are now ready!" (Luke 14:17). That invitation is freely made to all who hear it, and there is a place assured at that Feast to every one who responds.
In order to respond, I must mix faith with it—that is, I must thankfully recognize that invitation is made to me, utterly unworthy and unfit though I feel myself to be. I must believe that God means what He says, and promptly avail myself of His gracious overture. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15). It is not as one who has reason to believe his name is written in the Book of life, nor as one who feels a qualifying work of grace has begun in him—but simply as a sinner, I am to come to Christ for salvation. Receive that Truth into your heart as a little child, as addressed to you, and you have mixed faith with it, and masticated the Gospel.
What we said above, was designed chiefly for "seekers"—or awakened sinners, longing for peace of soul. It is to the young Christian, that we would more especially address our present remarks—and to him, we would say, "The secret of success in the Christian life is to continue as you began. As you obtained the pardon of your sin in the first case by mixing faith (Hebrews 4:2) with the Gospel—so you will only grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—only by mixing faith with the Word of God. Only by so doing, will you become a fruitful branch of the Vine; only thus will you obtain strength for the production of good works; only thus will you glorify God in your spirit and body which are His, adorn your profession, and be a real help to your fellows.
While we may not be able to fully analyze and understand the whole process of bodily nutrition—yet there is no mystery about it—for it is regulated by certain laws of dietetics appointed by our Maker. The growth and development, the health and strength of the body is determined, in the first instance, by our regular partaking of food—wholesome food properly masticated. The analogy holds good spiritually. The food which God has provided for our souls—is His own Word, the heavenly manna; and that Word does not act upon us magically—but according to fixed principles instituted by God—the first of which is that it must be received by faith. For that reason, it is called "the Word of faith" (Romans 10:8), it is the Word to which faith is due, the Word which profits us not until received by faith. For the same reason, we read of being "nourished up in the word of faith" (1 Timothy 4:6), that is, the Word broken up into words and "mixed with faith."
Seed which is cast into the earth brings forth no fruit, unless it incorporates the fructifying virtues of the soil. And the Word of God, as it falls on our ears, or beneath our eyes, will produce no fruit—unless it be mixed with faith. It is faith which admits the Word into our hearts and gives it a subsistence in the soul.
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). That is not a definition of what faith is—but a description of what faith produces. The Divine, spiritual heavenly and supernatural objects, which are presented to us in the Word, appear intangible and nebulous to the unbeliever —but faith gives them substance and reality! Though the things hoped for are invisible and future—faith makes them sure and solid and gives them a real subsistence in the soul. Faith does for us spiritually, what imagination does for us naturally. Faith gives the things promised by God—a present actuality in the heart, and makes Christ and Heaven more certain than if seen by the physical eye.
The material food that we eat only advantages us—as it is duly mixed with our saliva, swallowed, and then digested by the juices of the stomach. When that food is masticated and assimilated, it becomes a means of strength within us, being made a part of our bodies. In like manner, when the Word is properly meditated upon, "mixed with faith" and assimilated, it is a means of spiritual energy within us and becomes a part of our lives. When Truth is really believed, it becomes so united to the faith which receives it, that it is incorporated with it, is realized in the soul, and is taken up into that new nature whereby we live unto God. Only as the words of God are personally appropriated and spiritually digested, do they become a living principle within us, energizing unto obedience. Faith is not a mere assent to the truth of the things presented—but is such a reception thereof, as gives them a real in-being in the soul, so that they produce their proper effects.
We are bidden to "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and receive with meekness the engrafted Word" (James 1:21). As a "graft" draws all the sap of the stock unto itself, so when the Word is "engrafted" into us, it causes the faculties of the soul—our thoughts, affections, energies and wills—to serve God. When Christ spoke of His disciples as branches of the Vine, He said, "the branch cannot bear fruit of itself—unless it abides in the vine." To which, He added, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you" (John 15:4, 7), not only do our persons need to be engrafted into Christ—but in order to be fruitful—His words must be engrafted into us. By receiving the Word in faith and meekness, it becomes incorporated with the soul; and as the nature of the stock and graft become one common principle of fruit bearing, so the Word received by faith into the soul becomes one common principle of obedience.
We are also exhorted to "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16), and that can only be done by "mixing faith" with it. One great aid to that is to ruminate frequently upon some portion of Scripture.
The word "ruminate" signifies to "chew the cud," as all clean animals do—that is, those that were "clean" under the Mosaic law. But the counterpart in us is to muse upon what we have heard or read, which is the best aid there is for a weak memory. Meditation stands to reading—as mastication does to eating. If we are to "mix faith" with the Words of God, we must fix the mind on them. That is the force of the contrast presented in James 1:23-25: the profitless hearer of the Word is likened "unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror," but "immediately forgets what manner of man he was." "But whoever looks [bows down and inquires] into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer—but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."
As we meditate upon the Word and mix faith therewith (appropriating it to ourselves), it sets love to work: "While I was musing—the fire burned!" (Psalm 39:3) As the Truth is believed, and its purity, its sweetness, its value, its suitability unto our case is realized in the soul—under such a consideration of it—love is drawn forth unto its Author, and obedience becomes easy. In this way, a delight for the things of God is increased within us, and we perceive them to be excellent and precious. Faith makes the soul in love with spiritual things, and love fills us with the desires after them. By the Word being incorporated into the soul, its natural operations are changed and moved to the production of spiritual effects; unto which, previously, it had no virtue, no desire, no strength. Finally, as faith is mixed with the Word of God—it transmutes it into earnest prayer.
What has been pointed out above of the Word in general, pertains to each part of it in particular. Take its doctrinal parts: They will profit you nothing, unless faith be mixed with them; that is, until carnal reasoning on them is completely set aside, and I receive them unhesitatingly as a part of Divine revelation unto me personally. So it is with its precepts. Said the Psalmist, "I have believed your commandments" (Psalm 119:66); that is, he regarded them as addressed to himself personally, as Divine laws which must regulate his life, and he applied them to his own walk. So with the promises: Where they are given in the plural number, faith puts in its claim and individualizes them; and for the personal pronouns, substitutes my own name! Equally so with the Divine warnings and threatenings. Not until I view them as meaning what they say, and as addressed to myself individually, do they have any effect upon me; but when I mix faith with them—I tremble at God's Word! (Isaiah 66:2).