Faith Throughout History
The idea of faith has always been an integral part of Christianity. The first recorded sermon of Jesus had to do with believing: "At last the time has come!" Jesus announced. "The Kingdom of God is near! Turn from your sins and believe this Good News!" (Mark 1:15)
Jesus chastised His closest followers for their periodic lapses of faith: "And he asked them, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?" (Mark 4: 40) In another place, Jesus referred to his disciples as, "You faithless people!" (Mark 9:19)
When He visited His hometown of Nazareth after His ministry had begun, "he couldn't do any mighty miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them." (Mark 6:5) The reason Jesus was not able to do any mighty miracles was because of the people's unbelief. Throughout the Gospels, faith is often seen as the link between people's needs and God's provision. A father once brought his son to Jesus for healing. The father said, "Have mercy on us and help us. Do something if you can." Jesus' answer showed the importance that He placed on our faith: "What do you mean, 'If I can'?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes." The father's response was beautiful in its honesty, "I do believe, but help me not to doubt!" (Mark 9:22-24)
Jesus also rewarded those who exercised their faith towards Him. There was a woman with a serious bleeding problem. She believed that if she could just touch Jesus as He walked past in the crowd, she would be healed. Not surprisingly, she was healed when she touched Jesus. His response was, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. You have been healed." (Mark 5:34) The Greek word that is used here for, "well," is a derivative of "sozo." This is the word we would get the idea of "eternal life" from. It implies more than just a physical healing. Jesus was telling this woman that her faith not only led to her natural healing, it also led to her spiritual healing and renewal.
Jesus praised those who demonstrated faith. A Roman Officer sent some Jewish Elders to ask Jesus to heal his very sick servant. The officer knew that if Jesus just spoke the word, his servant would be healed. Jesus was actually amazed at the Roman's faith and said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!" (Luke 7:9)
Of the four New Testament Gospels or accounts of Jesus' life, the Gospel of John discusses the idea of faith and believing more than any of the others. John mentions "faith" or "believing" almost one hundred times in twenty-one chapters. It is John's Gospel that contains perhaps the most famous verse in the entire Bible, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Here, John very clearly links belief and faith to a person's eternal salvation. John also makes the point that this idea of faith and belief in Jesus was why he wrote his book. He said that Jesus did many more signs and miracles than the ones that John recorded. "But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life." (John 20:31)
To be continued...
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