“But also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, . . .” (2 Peter 1:5 NKJV).
I have watched as a crew of workers built a road (or driveway) on private property in Bangladesh. First they dug out the soil to a pre-determined depth, then filled it with pieces of concrete broken into chunks the size of one’s doubled fists and larger. After those are packed and leveled there will be a layer of brick chips several inches thick, and ultimately a cement pavement.
The order of fill is of great importance as the varied materials in the base strengthen and support the smooth surface. If the smaller chips were put in first, on the bottom, they would eventually be pressed into the dirt and the road would become uneven and broken. The larger concrete chunks will stay at the correct level.
Few Biblical scholars attempt to find a logical or necessary order to Peter’s wonderful list of Christian virtues in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Except, that is, that all agree that faith is first, intentionally and essentially. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Any positive relationship with the Creator begins with the acknowledgement that “He is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently see him” (Hebrews 11:6).
So Paul presents faith as the primary defense against Satan’s attacks (Ephesians 6:16). It is to be earnestly defended (“contended for”) by the church (Jude 3). Faith in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, and savior of mankind is essential for salvation (Romans 10:8-13). Every step of Christian growth and service is based on the foundation of obedient trust in God.
Some argue that Biblical teaching on faith presents it always as the possession of the believer – that quality or virtue which allows him to depend on God for all blessings. Though that is certainly a part of Biblical faith, one must also recognize that without an authoritative body of doctrine to which one holds, faith becomes totally subjective and may indeed become different things to different people. Faith is on or in someone or something. Without an object faith is powerless.
Jude wrote to a Christian community to exhort them to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This inspired writer maintains that there is an objective standard received by “all the saints” which would not change. It was delivered “once for all.” He clearly understood “the faith” in terms of that body of doctrine which all must believe, and to which all must hold (Titus 1:9).
A few decades ago, at the height of the Church Growth Movement in the United States, several polls were conducted to determine why people chose to identify with a particular church. Doctrinal teaching was usually a very low priority. People were much more likely to choose a church because of family history, location, attractiveness of facilities, friendliness of the congregation, personality and abilities of the preacher, and other such factors.
In the current climate of ecumenism (unity), doctrine is necessarily devalued. The decision has been made by most denominations to focus on what believers have in common (often very few things) and to overlook and tolerate that on which they disagree (almost everything believed and practiced). The result is that many so-called Christian authorities now agree that members of other major religions will also be saved – even those who reject the Bible as God’s inspired Word and Jesus as his only Son.
What seems to be ignored in this decision is that it requires the abandonment of Biblical faith. If there is no standard of what or whom one believes in, of what use is belief? This is ironic in that most of the time, the one thing all agree they have in common is “faith.” But it is obviously not Biblical faith based on an accepted standard (the Bible). Modern ecumenical faith is just the intellectual admission that there is a higher power. Biblical faith however confesses that Jesus is the divine Lord, and that he was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9; 1 John 4:1-6).
Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount with a parable of two builders. The foolish builder built on sand and his house was destroyed by storm. The wise man built on rock, and his house endured. Jesus application was that the wise man represents those who hear his words and do them (Matthew 7:24-27).
Faith is our foundation. Everything spiritual begins with a commitment to truth which leads to obedience. That is the big stuff that has to underlie all else. Without faith it is impossible to please God.