OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE FAITH
Let us now go on to consider what faith is and also what the work of faith is. In 3:2 Paul says, “And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow-worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and encourage you for the sake of your faith.” In 3:5 Paul goes on to say, “Because of this, when I also could bear it no longer, I sent to know your faith, lest somehow the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.” In both of these verses Paul refers to “your faith.” Paul was deeply concerned about the Thessalonians’ faith. In these verses faith is not only subjective, referring to the saints’ believing, but also objective, referring to what they believe in. Objective faith also refers to what we may call our belief. Belief denotes what we believe in. In 1 and 2 Thessalonians it is difficult to tell whether faith is objective or subjective. For the most part, as used in these two Epistles, faith is both objective and subjective.
Faith is related both to a view and to sight. First there is a view, a scene, before us, and then we have the sight to see this view. Spontaneously, we have faith. This means that when we have the view and the sight, we automatically have faith.
Suppose you are preaching the gospel to a group of unbelievers. What you speak to them is not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance. You tell them the story of the gospel, relating how God loves them and how He sent His Son to be a man and to die on the cross for them. As you are speaking, you are not merely telling a story—you are presenting a view, a scene. Those to whom you are speaking begin to see this view. They realize something about being a sinner and see that there is a God, Jesus Christ, and the cross. This view portrayed in the preaching of the gospel is God’s revelation. As soon as unbelievers see this revelation, spontaneously faith is produced in them, and they believe. They believe in what they see. This is faith. However, not many Christians understand faith in this way.
In order to have more faith, stronger, broader, and greater faith, we need more view. A broader faith depends on a broader view. An increased view gives us increased sight, and increased sight results in increased faith. Thus, the extent of our faith depends on our sight, and the scope of our sight depends on the measure of our view. This is why we need to know more of the Holy Word and hear more messages. Both the Word and messages help to give us a broader view. Then we shall have greater sight, which produces a greater faith.
BROUGHT INTO THE ORGANIC UNION
This kind of faith on the one hand brings God into us, and on the other hand it brings us into God. In other words, such faith always produces an organic union.
We may use photography as an illustration of how, through faith, God is brought into us, and we are brought into the organic union with Him. When you take a photograph with a camera, you press the shutter. Then light brings a particular scene into the camera to reach the film. In this way the scene, the view, is impressed onto the film. In the same principle, faith brings God into our spirit, which can be compared to the film. Before faith is produced in us, our spirit is blank. But after faith is produced, God is brought into our spirit. Now our spirit is no longer blank. Instead, something of God Himself has been impressed into our spirit. God is brought into our spirit, and we are brought into God. Spontaneously, there is an organic union between us and God.
To be sure, a certain kind of work will issue out of such faith. Genuine faith is never in vain. It is living. It brings God into us, it brings us into God, and it makes God and us one. This living faith works in a particular way. This is what Paul means by the work of faith.
SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING AND DIVINE REVELATION
This word concerning the living God and the work of faith may help you to see the difference between the natural way and the spiritual way of understanding the
Word of God. In reading 1 Thessalonians, a precious book written to new believers, we must be on the alert not to understand any part of this Epistle in a natural way. If we have a natural understanding of this book, we shall be hindered in our reading of it. Therefore, we need to pray, “Lord, I don’t want to understand anything in the Bible, especially any terms in 1 Thessalonians, in a natural way. Lord, keep me always in the spirit, and show me the real significance of the profound terms in this book.”
It would be helpful if you keep in mind certain important terms used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians. In particular, remember that the church is in God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Also remember the work of faith, the labor of love, the endurance of hope, and the turning to God from idols to serve a living and true God and to wait for His Son from the heavens. If you keep these terms in mind, eventually light will come and, gradually, you will have the proper spiritual understanding. Otherwise, you may understand the entire first chapter of 1 Thessalonians in a natural way, in a way that is absolutely not according to the divine revelation. Only when we have the proper spiritual understanding can we receive the divine revelation. The divine revelation in 1 Thessalonians 1 goes along with the spiritual understanding of Paul’s writing.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)