By Enoch Kwan
Knowledge about God is helpful for knowing Him. However, knowing God personally and knowing about God are still different. Hebrew 11:6 says “. . . without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
The list of stories of faith in the whole chapter 11 in the book of Hebrew is interesting. The faith of these people in God did not have many doctrinal elements. This is in contrast to many churches, pastors and scholars today who focus on the statements of faith derived from theologies. It is worth noting also that these people who were praised had no Bible to read, hearing no sermon from pastors and no theologies to consider in their days. While many churches today emphasize on believing the correct doctrines. They propose to make sure the new believers know the basic statements of faith yet do very little to train the congregation to please God with their faith.
It was in God they trusted. The Faithful God filled their vision and they saw nothing else and trusted nothing else. Everything else, including the talk about God, “looked strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace.” The target of these people’s faith were all in God Himself. Their knowledge about God only came gradually after they came to know and trust Him personally.
Sometime during the Christian church history, our baptism preparation classes shifted to ensure the proper doctrines and took off from the relational faith with the person of God. We built the knowledge of the new believers and overlooked helping them to build their relationship with God. In time, focusing on doctrinal correctness became the culture of our faith. Christians trained under our care are knowledgeable people in many ways but have very limited relationships with God if there is at all. Then a trend and tradition of relaying knowledge about God took over as people who do not know God or have no real relationship with Him were appointed teachers and leaders in our churches.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ days were knowledgeable people, experts of the Scriptures and the Laws. They were once the revivalists of their time. They probably have Bible study classes. They published commentaries and were guardians of theology in their days. Yet, so ironically and tragically, these seeming holy, sacred, and religious tasks did not build their faith in God and they failed to relate to the Son of God. Is this happening to me today? Is it happening to you today?
In reading the Old Testament history, Psalms, and prophetic books, I found that there are so many occasions where God’s conversations with the people are recorded. I seemed to witness a God-Person so close, so loving, so patient, so powerful, so hurt. I could feel God’s heart and His desires. I found myself praying along and speaking to God in obedience. Personally, I found many of the epistles in the New Testament discussed matters of church and doctrines and diluting the God-People interactions. These doctrines can even at times distract my conversations with God. I am not devaluating the New Testament, but I want to point out the benefits of reading the Old Testament.
True, Hebrews 11 is a chapter of Faith. Yet, it will do us good to have faith in God rather than to have faith just in religion, theologies, or doctrines. After all, it is our relationship with God that makes it interesting when we live in heaven in eternity – not the other stuff that is supposed to help build such relationships with God.
Brothers and sisters, we need to examine our own faith. Is your relationship with God based on “correct doctrines only?”, is there an active, ongoing, and growing interaction in your spirit with God? Is your focus in your daily Bible reading and devotion to God Himself or just about God? Knowledge and theologies are necessary just in case; however, faith in God that builds a real relationship with Him is necessary no matter what!!
Author at Cultivating a People for God