“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Christians should constantly make an effort to grow in their knowledge of God and the Word He has given us. In addition to the growing of one’s faith, it’s important to also grow in one’s understanding and knowledge of God’s Word. This is because the two of them are intertwined. It’s possible for someone to have a simple yet saving faith in Jesus without knowing much about the Bible or theology in general. However, Christian faith is placed in Christ, trusting that He died and rose again. These realities are true, historical facts that happened 2,000 years in the past. It is definitely true that none of us believe through our sight, because none of us have seen Christ in the flesh. Jesus appeared to His apostles and others in Jerusalem once He rose from the dead. Once He ascended into heaven, that would be the last anyone would see of Him (with the exception of Paul and John) until the end of the world, when He will return in glory and majesty.
However, Jesus did give us His Word. The faith we have in Christ is not just something that was passed down through oral traditions and word-of-mouth. The reality of the true man Jesus of Nazareth was not corrupted along the way as it was transmitted across the globe. Rather, for the sake of the Church, He ensured that the entirety of Scripture would be written down, copied with diligence, and exist throughout the rest of mankind’s time on the earth. When we look back at the oldest Bible manuscripts, it is astounding how certain we can be that they are accurately the same message as the original writings (despite what secular scholars might want you to believe.)
Side note: for more information on the reliability of Biblical texts and the accuracy of Scripture, I highly recommend checking out Alpha and Omega Ministries, run by Dr. James White. He has tons of blog posts, videos, and debates defending the historical integrity of the Bible, and the information he presents is sure to nurture your confidence in Scripture.
Seeing is not everything, especially when it comes to Christianity. When Thomas the apostle did not believe in the resurrection until he saw Jesus in the flesh, Jesus replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) We are blessed by the fact that our faith in God is not a belief of mere physical sight. Even those who personally saw Jesus still needed the Word of God preached to them! Simply physically seeing Jesus doesn’t produce Christian faith. Rather, we are given the gift of faith through the Words of Jesus’ mouth, and he extends that Word to us in baptism and preaching.
It’s a common misconception that the faith of a Christian is just blind trust, where we “follow” Jesus just because. When a young child asks a difficult theological question that they legitimately want an answer to, their parents might be quick to tell them, “That’s just how it is. You need to have more faith.”
I’m not trying to say that we can understand every reason behind God’s every action. I’m also not implying that we shouldn’t trust God with all of our heart, no matter what situation we are in. Rather, we should be joyful and recognize the fact that He has blessed us by giving us answers.
He has given us the privilege to know His plan of salvation and why He does certain things. He is not asking us to blindly follow Him, with God silently marching ahead and never saying anything to us. Instead, He takes hold of our lives and guides them with the instruction of His Word. He communicates His intentions and plans through the Word and Sacraments. We are perpetually blessed by the fact that we can always hold on to Christ and His crucifixion, even when everything else in our short lives seem uncertain.
It’s important, though, to talk about the other side of the coin. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith in Christ does not work in the same manner as the scientific world. Our faith is not a collection of data and observations, verifiable by repeated experiments conducted throughout our lives. Too many Christians base their faith on the condition of their own lives and what they find when they look inside their hearts. Sadly, these people are told that if they’re going to church enough, being nice enough to strangers, and making sure they tithe 10%, they can be assured that they have faith. Looking to ourselves and into our hearts for the assurance of our faith can never end well. When we look into our own hearts, even as Christians, all we find are “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.” (Matthew 15:19) Our sinful hearts are the same hearts that Jesus came to redeem. Until we enter God’s heavenly kingdom, our hearts and minds will be filled with sin.
Every Christian, no matter how devout, will have moments of doubt and unbelief. In fact, our entire lives are spent still being sinners who are only justified on account of Christ. Instead of looking introspectively for evidence of our faith, we need to look to something (or someone) outside of ourselves. We look at the cross, Christ crucified. We look to His Word where He assures us that He has hold of us. We look back to the moment of our baptism, the moment when Christ claimed us as His own.
God could have written down just one sentence of Scripture if He had wanted to. He could have simply said, “believe in my Son because I say so.” And it certainly is true that we trust in God because He is omniscient and perfect. But how do we know this about God? How do we know He is loving and kind and gracious? How would we know any of these important details if God had not given us the full story? Thanks be to God that He wrote down an entire book for us, preserved it throughout all of history, and delivered it to us, where we read countless stories of God’s mercy and faithfulness. God rules over our world and all of our history. He didn’t leave us on our own to figure things out with our own reason. He called us to faith with comprehensible, faith-creating words. The Word – His Son, Jesus Christ.
“In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
Hebrews 1:2 (ESV)