Present Truth – Part 2Tom Ballinger
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Most men have always been of the opinion that God has required of them that they DO SOMETHING. However, God has chosen not to have man do something but believe something. God speaks – man’s responsibility is to believe that which God speaks. Our text tells us that faith is hearing God and believing what He says. Since man’s beginning, God has communicated with him at “Sundry times and in divers manners.” Whenever God thus communicated with man, it has been man’s responsibility to believe the report which came from God. God has placed an extremely high premium upon His Word. Faith believes the report which comes from God.
Notice even in God’s earliest dealings with man, He says to Adam, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). God tested Adam by giving him something specific to believe. Present Truth for Adam in the garden was to freely eat of every tree except one, and in the day that he would take a bite of the one exception he would surely die.
Eve knew of this because Adam told her about the “free-trees” and about the one which was forbidden. She talks with the Serpent about what God had said. Of course she got God’s Word all messed up. She forgot to say they could eat freely (Genesis 3:2); she added to what God said, for she told the Serpent that they could not touch the forbidden tree (v. 3). Also there was a lack of respect for the words God chose to use, for she says, “lest ye die.” When God spoke to Adam, He was much more emphatic for He said, “Thou shall surely die.” The difference was that she didn’t say what God had said but rather what she wanted Him to have said. “Lest ye die” radiates the”law of chance”and”statistical probability” to which the modern day Ph.D. loves to refer to when he deals with dogmatic truth from God, such as “surely die.”
As Genesis 3 is read, you become aware with man’s desire to acquire knowledge. The Serpent appeals to Eve’s desire to know, “In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as the gods, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). The forbidden tree was the “tree of knowledge.”
If Eve could only know, for she thought “seeing is believing,” like most of her present day children. What we see is what we know. Note the connection in this as the Serpent connected seeing and knowing, “in the day ye eat. . .your eyes shall be opened. . .knowing good and evil.” Thus, what is seen is what is known. That was Eve’s interest. God was interested in FAITH. Faith is believing what God said.
Adam did not hearken unto what God said regarding the tree of knowledge, but instead he hearkened unto the voice of his wife and did eat. Present Truth for Adam and Eve in the garden was to eat freely of every tree in the garden except one, for in the day that they would eat thereof they “shalt surely die.” After they were expelled from the garden it was no longer Present Truth. Evidently, they were told not to enter into the garden again because a Cherubim was placed east of the garden to guard the way back to the Tree of Life.
Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel, received a report from God. They were not told to eat freely of every tree but one because the Truth connected with the garden was Truth which belonged to the past. God spoke to Cain and Abel concerning a sacrificial lamb. God must have spoken to them concerning the offering of a lamb, for Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Note that it was BY FAITH: for it to have been by faith, God had to have spoken about it. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing (cometh) by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Had not God spoken to Abel and Cain concerning it, it would have been by chance or fancy or imagination. It most certainly could not have been by faith.
A close reading of Genesis 4 and Hebrews 11:4 reveals that God told both Cain and Abel to bring a blood sacrifice to an altar at an appropriate time. The two boys had the responsibility to believe all that God had said. They were to believe that which God had spoken to their parents in the garden. They were to distinguish, however, that God was no longer speaking on the basis of “Garden Truth” but rather on different grounds. Truth relating to the garden was now set aside. The basis for God dealing with man was changed. Consequently, the latest report from God was different from the previous one which had been made known to their parents in the garden.
Abel believed the latest report from God and brought at the appointed time the proper sacrifice to which God had respect. Cain, at the appointed time, brought a bloodless sacrifice to which God did not have respect. Abel brought what God said, therefore, his was by faith. Cain did not bring what God said was acceptable, but rather Cain brought what he imagined would please God. Cain brought the fruit of his labor; i.e. vegetables from the ground. Abel offered the “blood of the lamb”; Cain brought “turnips”: you “can’t get blood out of a turnip.” Remember — for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
God did not have respect to Cain’s offering because it was not BY FAITH. It could be said that Present Truth in Cain and Abel’s day was the bringing of a lamb to the altar and the shedding of its blood. By the shedding of the lamb’s blood, it signified that Abel identified himself with the lamb, and that the lamb was dying in Abel’s stead as Abel’s substitute. God accepted Abel in the person of his substitute. It could be said that this establishes man’s means of access to God, i.e. by means of blood. The blood of an innocent substitute provides the way of access to God. This is a principle which culminates finally in God offering His Own Son as God’s Lamb. God’s Lamb sheds His blood for the sin of the world.
After Abel offered the acceptable sacrifice and others learned that the means of access to God was by blood, we learn of a subsequent revelation given to man. This revelation concerned an impending judgment and a way of escape. This was proclaimed by the Prophet Enoch. “And Enoch also, the 7th from Adam, prophesied of these saying,…” Notice, “prophesied” clearly indicates God spoke to Enoch telling him what to say. Enoch believed God and prophesied saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all…” (Jude 14). Genesis 5 informs us that he walked with God for 300 years after he begat Methuselah. This indicates that Enoch was in agreement with what God told him. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Of course the answer is emphatically no! For 300 years Enoch prophesied, believing all that God revealed to him.
Enoch believed the truth regarding the “blood of the lamb” as the means of access to God. He believed a subsequent revelation from the Lord which caused him to walk with God; being in full agreement with what God had made known unto him. That is the example of a WALK OF FAITH.
Faith is progressive. Enoch’s faith did not stop with the sacrifice; it moved on and believed the latest report from God. It concerned the judgment and the escape. By FAITH he was translated. In Plainer Words, God rewarded Enoch according to his faith. Since his translation was BY FAITH, the Lord must have spoken him about it. Enoch believed what he heard from God concerning the translation, therefore, it was by faith. Faith was not the vehicle that translated Enoch but rather the grounds for God taking him. Enoch had the testimony before his translation, “that he pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). It is apparent that if any others had; believed, they too would have been translated. Present Truth in Enoch’s day consisted of:
1. a substitutionary sacrifice and
2. a translation of saints
Probably, as today, many believed the report about the “blood of the Lamb” but did not specifically believe truth that related to the Present. As it is today, there are many who believe Jesus Christ was God’s Lamb and that He bore away the sin of the world, but they never get any further in their Christian life than the cross. They never progress in faith any further than the Sacrifice. They can never “walk with God” because they did not agree with Him regarding His present purposes. Many are trying to bring in a Kingdom, many are attempting to spread one, and some are praying for one to come; all of which are dispensationally incorrect. The vast majority of Christians ignore the truth concerning the Great Secret made known to Paul, the prisoner, “by revelation.” This concerns an invisible church over which Christ Jesus is Head. Those who walk with God believe the latest report from Him. The latest report from God was written by the pen of Paul, the Prisoner of the Lord. But most act as though the Prison Epistles are not in the Bible; many don’t even know what are the Prison Epistles.
Others knew of Enoch’s translation for he spoke of it for years as he warned of the impending judgment. He walked with God and was not: for God took him. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch “was not found.” This speaks to us of the fact that those who believed enough to have their sins taken care of by the sacrifice of an innocent’ lamb, did not believe the additional report concerning the translations.
In Hebrews 11, Noah follows Enoch in the list of the “elders” who had obtained a good report by believing all that God had revealed. A study of Noah reveals that he had Abel’s faith, and he also had the faith of Enoch. That’s not all, he had something more. He was given additional revelation from God. He was called upon believe something more than Abel and Enoch were required to believe. He was given additional information on the judgment. He was told that it would be by water. He was told that God would use water from heaven (rain). Hebrews 11 tells us how the “report,” which Noah believed, was heard. His faith came by “hearing” this report. The report came to him by the Word of God: “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
There was no other way for Noah to have known about the flood and how he was to have been delivered out of it.
He was told to build an ark. God even told him how it was to be done. 2 Peter 2:5 says that Noah ‘3 a preacher of righteousness. He preached concerning the coming judgment. He warned of things not seen as yet. I would imagine that, as a preacher, he told how to be delivered through the flood that was to come. Many, perhaps, in his day even showed signs of initial faith in Present Truth. They probably ordered the lumber and began to build them an ark. But they grew “weary in well doing”, their intentions were good, however, they never got around to finishing it. The day the rains began, perhaps many back yards had the makings of arks in them. Noah, however, “prepared an ark to the saving of his house” – note that it was BY FAITH. It could not be said that others prepared one by faith, for they did not finish theirs. Many today treat Present Truth, as did those in Noah’s day. Many start out but are “moved away from the hope of the gospel.” They fail to “make their calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). It could be said in Noah’s day that only his household believed Present Truth.
Present Truth for the four examples given could be outlined thusly:
1. Adam – free trees vs. forbidden one
2. Cain and Abel – the blood sacrifice
3. Enoch – translation before the judgment
4. Noah – the ark to go through the Flood
It was required of each to believe all that had been revealed previously. It was absolutely imperative for each to believe specifically what God had spoken to them. Each one was called upon to believe Present Truth. Truth relating to Adam was not truth relating to Cain, Abel, Enoch, or Noah. This study is to point the reader to the necessity of rightly dividing truth. May these examples illustrate the fact that God at different times spoke to different people concerning different subjects. Each was required to believe all that God had revealed, especially that which was spoken as an additional revelation.
The latest report from God is found in the epistles written by Paul the Prisoner. God speaks to the Church of the One Body today, not audibly, nor in visions, nor in dreams, but through His word. Truth for today comes to us in the Prison Epistles.