The soil of biblical faith

Today faith and knowledge are often regarded as two separate and mutually exclusive ideas. In this line of thinking, faith involves believing in something without evidence.  Enter the proverbial leap of faith.

However this dichotomy of faith and knowledge is a relatively recent development in history. While it is possible for people to possess a blind faith in something, this is not what scripture is asking of us. Biblical faith grows up from what is known.

For example consider that time when Jesus invited Peter to step out of  the boat to walk on water. When did Jesus do this? Did Jesus tell Peter to jump out on the water when they first met and before Peter knew who Jesus was?

Jesus commanded Peter, “Come” only after Peter had witnessed him walking on the water. Peter saw Jesus walk on the water before he took a single step.

Furthermore Jesus invited Peter to take this step of faith only after Jesus had healed a leper (Mt. 8:1-4); healed a centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13); healed Peter’s own mother-in-law; calmed the story (Mt. 8:23-27); healed two demoniacs (Mt. 8:28-34) demonstrated his authority to forgive by healing a paralytic (Mt. 9:1-8); healed a ruler’s daughter  (Mt. 9:18-26); healed the blind and mute (Mt. 9:27-34) and fed five thousand with a small lunch (Mt. 14:13-21). Did Mathew record all of the miracles Peter had witnessed? Probably not.

The straightforward question for us is: Did Peter have reason to trust in Jesus’ command “Come”? Peter had good reason to believe Jesus’ authority could enable him to walk on water. After all, at that very moment he was watching Jesus walk on the water!

To be sure, when Peter became distracted by the wind and waves thus losing focus upon what he knew to be true, he began to sink. The point is that the source for Peter’s faith was the rich soil of what Peter knew to be true. Jesus had demonstrated authority and power.

While faith can be demanded when what is promised is not yet seen (Hebrews 11:1), the reason for possessing such faith has already been provided. Throughout scripture God acts before commanding people to trust and obey. We are called to trust in Jesus only after God raised Jesus from the dead. Israel was called to trust and obey God after God first split the Red Sea and worked signs through Moses. After Abraham understood God was speaking to him, God called him to leave his home. And so the list goes on and on.

Those who believe without being eyewitnesses themselves (John 20:29) rely upon the prior mighty acts of God. This is not a blind faith.

This does not guarantee that just because people see reasonable evidence that they will have faith. In his story about the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus observed, “If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). The parable of the Sower remains true.

It might be fashionable today to assume faith and knowledge are not related. Some may find comfort in separating faith from knowledge, because they think this justifies dismissing scripture. However, within God’s word when God instructs people to act in faith, God has already provided good soil for trusting him..

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