The Tyranny of Faith
By Fred O. Blakely
The paradoxes of God's kingdom are a source of never-ending marvel and delight to those initiated in its mysteries. Many and varied, these apparent inconsistencies tacitly suggest in themselves the divine wisdom and power by their contrast of these qualities with the judgment and might of man.
When they are illuminated by the individual's experience of God, and their actual incorporation into the Deity, the implicit witness becomes both explicit an unimpeachable. Not only is absolute harmony clearly evident, but with its perception there is the abiding knowledge that only God could have produced so unreasonably by human judgment, yet in such glorious reality.
Experience of these evident anomalies include the following evidences:
1) Living, though dead (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:19-20);
2) Saving life by losing it (Lk. 9:23-26; Jn. 12:24-25);
3) "Seeing Him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27);
4) Being "not in the flesh" (Rom. 7:5-6; 8:8-9), though "in the body" (Heb. 13:3);
5) Sitting with Christ "in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:1, 6) though still in the world (Jn. 16:33; 17:15);
6) Being at the same time with the Lord (Jn. 14:21-23; Rev. 3:20) and absent from Him (II Cor. 5:6-8);
7) Nourishment in the wilderness (Deut. 8:15-16; Ps. 23:5; Jn. 6:27-33);
8) Streams in the desert (Is. 35:6; Ps. 46:4-5: 78:15-16,20; Jn. 4:10-14; 7:37-39)
9) "A root out of dry ground" (Is. 53:2);
10) Peace in the midst of conflict (Jn. 16:33);
11) Joy in suffering (Acts 5:41; Rom. 5:3-5; II Cor. 12:7-10; Jas. 1:2-4);
12) Knowing that "which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:19);
13) And experiencing that "which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:6-7)
Although not specifically catalogued in Scripture, another such paradox is plainly manifest to those who seek by God's grace to both live and walk in the Spirit. It may be denominated the delightful tyranny or taskmastery of faith. Here, obviously is a contradiction in terms, for the ordinary concept of such an imposer of burdens is any thing but pleasant. The connotation given to the taskmasters by the he overseers of the Egyptian oppression, as well as by the Mosaic law, and that arch-tyrant sin, has crystallized the institution as a symbol of cruelty, fraught with fear and awe, rather than joy and gladness.
So, if faith may be regarded under this appellation, and at the same time its dominion be said to constitute a happy experience, surely we have all the essential paradoxical elements.
The Despotism of Faith. That faith is a hard and relentless despots over its subjects, no one who possesses it in dominant measure will question or deny. In that view, those who mistakenly come to Christ to escape the yoke of Divine authority and compulsion are in for a rude disappointment. It will be to find that they have leaped form the frying pan into fire.
If the law drove and chastised with whips, faith will do so with scorpions. Under faith, in comparison with the carnal level of life, the burdens of their souls will be increased and doubled, not lightened. Genuine faith "rouses the whole soul, quickens its energies, and works them to weariness" in the service of its object, which is Christ.
In these remarks, obviously, we are writing in the Spirit, and so from the standpoint of holy scripture, not from the unregenerated standpoint of the typical modern churchman. The reason for this situation is clear. In Christ, God has not abandoned His requirement for righteousness; by faith He has implemented it. Christ is not the end of righteousness for the believer, but of a means for its achievement that was weak and ineffective (Rom. 8:3-4; 10:4, 10; Heb. 7:18-19). Hence, under His reign not one whit less of the moral righteousness required by Moses is expected (Mt. 5:17-19). Rather, the standard has been greatly elevated. A righteousness that vastly exceeds that of the ordinary concept of the law is demanded (Mt. 5:20; Phil. 3:7-9).
It is the achievement of this superior quality of godliness that entails the harder drive and the heavier burdens of faith. In other words, God has a much bigger and more difficult job to be done under Christ than was purposed by Moses. So it is necessary to employ an agent commensurately more severe and compelling.
Its Tyranny over the Faithful. The austerity of faith, and its handmaiden, a living devotion, was felt by both our Lord and the Apostles. "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God!' exclaimed Jesus, under its driving pressure (Heb. 10:5-7).
It brought Him form the riches of heavenly companionship with the Father to the poverty of earthly indigence and obscurity, and investment with the likeness of sinful flesh. It compelled Him to be subjected to every temptation that is common to man, "yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15); to humble Himself in meek and complete obedience to the will of God in all its particulars, and so to perfectly "fulfill all righteousness" (Mt. 3:13-17).
Virtually consumed by the austerity of this adamant master (Ps. 69:1-4, 7-9; Jn. 2:17), He cried out, as He approached the final point of His perfection through suffering, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Mt. 26:36-38).
At last, the faith of Christ nailed Him to the cross, and did Him to death in His submission to God, that He might provide atonement for the sins of a lost world.
The tyranny of faith bore heavily upon the Apostles. By it, they left all and followed Christ--the fishermen, their nets; the publican, his tax booth; and the Pharisee, his place of high and auspicious stance in the Jewish hierarchy.
Under that dominion, they suffered the reproaches of Christ; they were defamed and persecuted, and made "as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things," "a spectacle unto the world, angels, and to men"; by it, they were "appointed unto death," which all save one is said to have suffered as a martyr (I Cor. 4:9-13).
That was the burden they bore under faith. The end that faith achieved for them by its mastery was personal experience of "the righteousness of God" (Rom. 3:21-22; Phil. 3:1-9), and the privilege pf finishing their course, and the ministry which they had received from the Lord Jesus to "testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24; II Tim. 4:6-8).
The Taskmastery of Believers. In believers today, faith, if given full sway, will exert its taskmastery. It will goad them to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Tit. 2:11-14), to continually reckon themselves "dead unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:1-11), and to practically take up their cross daily and follow our Lord (Lk. 9:23-25).
It will constrain them to live "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world," and to earnestly desire the coming of the Lord, and the consummate redemption that is to be brought to His people at that time (I Pet. 1:5, 13).
The stigma of peculiarity, nay, of eccentricity and religious fanaticism, together with the related aspersions which that status of actual sanctification in Christ will elicit from an evil and adulterous generation and a carnal "church, will not diminish the faith of the elect. Rather, as the case was with Jesus and the early Christians, this reproach will be patiently and courageously endured.
It is thus evident that the despotic drive of faith in whomsoever it controls is, indeed, rigorous. In view of that rigor, it is a paradox par excellence that faith's mastery can, in any sense, be regarded as pleasant or delightsome. But such is the excellence and antithesis of the mind and ways of God to those of men. It can be, and is happily so, with those who know God and walk with Him.
Delightful Aspects of the Situation. The severity of faith's mastery is not only mitigated, but completely neutralized in its wholehearted subjects. Instead, there comes a holy delight and an unspeakable joy in its dominion.
Under a system of law, the Israelites continually murmured against God. But under faith His people, although pressed harder, learn to "glory in tribulations," and to rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer for Christ (Rom. 5:2-5; cf. Acts 1:41; I Pet. 4:12-16). They "count it all joy" as they are constrained by their faith to present themselves as a living sacrifice to the will of God (Jas. 1:2-4; cf. Rom. 12:1-2).
"Strengthened with all might according to His glorious power," they are enabled to bear their burdens and perform their duties "with joyfulness" (Col. 1:17).
Its Manifestation in the Biblical Faithful. Such was clearly the sentiment and action of the biblical faithful. Moses, whose faith transcended his times in measure, counted "the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt" (Heb. 11:24-27). Our Lord Jesus Himself, despite the inconceivable enormity of His sufferings for us, "rejoiced in the Spirit" (Lk. 10:21; cf. Jn. 15:11). In Him, indeed, was "the oil of gladness" to the superlative degree (Heb. 1:9; cf. Ps. 45:7). He indicated that both the obsession and delight of His soul was to yield unreservedly to the Father. "My food is to do the will of Him that send Me, and to accomplish His work" (Jn. 4:34).
Thus, Peter's carnally-minded desire to spare Him the anguish and humiliation of the cross constituted a vexing offense (Mt 16:21-23). Nay, it is not too much to say that Jesus' entire time of servitude under the yoke of faith was dominated by the joy that was at once "set before Him" and abode within Him (Heb. 12:2).
Among the Apostles and early saints, Paul's expression of his pleasure in the dominion of faith is dominant. "If I an offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you," he exclaimed to the Philippians (Phil. 2:15). To the Corinthians he declared, "I will most gladly spend and be spent for your" (II Cor. 12:15).
As his friends sought to dissuade him form subjecting himself tot he "bonds and afflictions" that certainly awaited him in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-23), he replied in classic form. "What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:10-14).
The secret of such dedication appears in the Apostle's remark to the Ephesian elders. "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).
It is further evident in his assertion to the Philippians. "I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:7-11).
The Experience by Contemporaries. That heavenly joy in the service of Christ is not extinct. It is, or may be fully as much a part of the contemporary believer's experience as in centuries past. Those today who have the "same spirit of faith" (II Cor. 4:8-18) as God's heroes of scriptural record realize like joy and confidence in its possession.
Who, having known God by faith, would desire to revert to the "weak and beggarly" level of life in actual alienation from Him (Gal. 4:1-9)? Who that has "tasted that the Lord is gracious" (I Pet. 2:1-5) would turn from that heavenly fare to the carnal nations provided by a system of mere law? Who that has partaken of "the good Word of God" and has become partaker of the divine Nature and of "the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:1-6), would choose, because of the "afflictions" of the gospel, to go back to the utter poverty and weakness of life in the flesh?
Hence, although faith will require one to grovel in the dust before God, it will imbue him with a sense of great willingness and gladness in the obeisance. After it has exhausted itself in devotion to God, the only lament of the heart of faith is that it could not have done more for Him who has been so divinely gracious to it. So is our Lord's yoke easy and His burden light (Mt. 11:28-30). And thus are His commandments "not grievous" (I Jn. 5:3).
Reasons for Delight. Reasons for delight in the paradoxical joy in the mastery of faith include these:
1. By faith the individual is given the mind and heart of God. "A new heart will I give you... I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh... I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes," is the promise (Ezek. 36:26-27). In elaboration, it is said, "I will put My law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jer. 31:31-34; cf. Heb. 8:7-12). So fused with the Spirit of God is the individual mind possessed by faith that there is identity of view and attitude. Such a one would not have the fellowship and favor of God on any other terms than those imposed by God, if it were in his power to do so. With the Psalmist he can say, "I delight to do Thy will, O God. Thy law is within my heart" (Ps. 40:8; cf. Heb. 10:5-7).
2. The Possession of God's Presence. The Deity indwells one through one's faith (Eph. 3:17). Thus, by faith he is lifted from the status of a servant to that of a friend, and a son, and a companion of God. So through faith is his own will and volition energized (Phil. 2:13). No longer is he coerced from without. In a sense, he becomes his own master, being driven from within by an authority and force that is integrally a part of himself and, hence, with which his mind is in absolute and hearty accord. Christ tabernacles within the citadel of his very being. Because of that the Lord's will is the believer's law; His preference and desire, the passion of his soul. As Jesus' delight was to do the will of God, and to accomplish His work, so is that of the person of faith. Wonder of wonders, this transformation! A rebel is changed into a zealous adherent, and is unspeakably delighted in the experience.
3. The Retention of Individual Liberty. Although faith enslaves one, it does so with the wholehearted consent of the captivated one, and so preserves the essentials of personal freedom. Herein is a vital element of this delightful servitude. The joy of it is born of that "liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" (Gal. 5:1). Faith makes of him who has it a more abject slave than the law ever did, or could do. At the same time, it makes Him happy in his slavery. Paradox of paradoxes! Mystery of mysteries! None but God could effect such an end. As there was demon possession, so there is a possession by God. The individual that is so indwelt can never experience drudgery in God's service, or gall under the press of the divine yoke.
4. The Illumination of the Way and the Goal. Law, because addressed to the flesh, stresses the burden of compliance. In contrast, faith, pervading the heart, spotlights the joy of serving HIm whom we love and worship, and the recompense at the end of the way. It is not that the burdens are less, but that their press is overbalanced by the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" which their endurance is to procure (II Cor. 4:16-18). So, as it has well been said, "All the way to Heaven lies through heaven, and the path to Heaven is heaven." At least in a preliminary or firstfruit sense, that is the case. In the ultimate sense, of course, the joy of the Lord will be experienced only in Heaven.
Conclusion. In conclusion, the need of a word of caution is clearly evident. It is unwise and futile to seek to invoke faith's mastery -- "touch not, taste not, handle not" (Col. 2:21) -- over those who do not possess it. To do so would be as attempting to compel a blind man to walk as though he had vision, or a dead man to perform as if he were alive.
The natural man does not even comprehend God's law; much less is he able to subject himself to it (I Cor. 2:14; cf. Rom. 8:7-8). Fundamentally, his derelictions at this point are not a matter of the will. They stem from the lack of ability.
The servitude of faith, therefore, is for those who truly believe, and so are empowered for that service. The folly of expecting and demanding it form unbelievers is manifest. If continued, such an expectation cannot but result in frustration.
Those who do not have the faith of Abraham will neither do nor have pleasure in his works (Jn. 8:39). Such dominion, if imposed, will not be delightful but vexatious and obnoxious. In a state of alienation from God, the individual will never consent to it. This master must come from inward constraint, not by an outward compulsion imposed by men.
The better and only practical procedure, therefore, is to seek to produce faith in the individual. When faith comes, it will, through God's word, impose its own dominion. And it is only then that this mastery can be a joyous experience.