Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. Every reader of the Bible will admit that the Scriptures say a great deal about believing. The faith which the Lord demands is wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit. It believes whatever God has spoken. Saving faith chiefly regards Christ as the author of eternal life. It is as fatal to deny the Son as it is to deny the Father. 1 John 2:23.

II. The necessity of faith is taught in all the Scriptures. Against no sin does the word of God speak in stronger terms of condemnation than against the sin of unbelief. "The Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be before they believe me for all the signs which I have showed among them?" Numb. 14:11. "A fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation." Psalm 78:21, 22. To his captious enemies our Lord said, "John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and you, when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you might believe him." Matt. 21:32. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." John 3:19.

III. Very urgently does the Scripture require men to believe. "The Lord said unto Moses, Lo I come unto you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." Exod. 19:9. So Jehoshaphat said, "Hear me, O Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established." 2 Chron. 20:20. "You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he." Isaiah 43:10. Many like phrases have we, such as, "Have faith in God;" "Put on the breastplate of faith;" "Follow faith," etc.

IV. Indeed, no greater question can be asked than this, "Do you believe on the Son of God?" John 9:35. Happy is he who can answer in the affirmative, "Lord, I believe." John 9:38. For "without faith it is impossible to please him: for he who comes to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Heb. 11:6.

V. So clearly does the human conscience perceive that on proper evidence men ought to believe, that Christ's bitterest enemies did not pretend that they were under no obligation to believe, but pleaded that they lacked evidence. Even when he was hanging on the cross, they said: "If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him." Matt. 27:42. Compare Mark 15:32. If he had come down from the cross, the sins of men would not have been atoned. But he did a greater thing. He laid down his life, and thus put away sin, and then burst the bars of death, rising from the grave. Did they then believe him? No. They gave large money to men to say that his disciples stole him away. The human conscience concurs with the Savior in teaching that it is only fools who are slow of heart to believe. Luke 24:25.

VI. The obligation to believe is announced throughout the Scriptures. "After John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:14, 15. Indeed, in so many words the beloved disciple says: "This is his commandment: That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another." 1 John 3:23. When men said to Jesus, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? he answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent." John 6:28, 29.

VII. The common form of making a profession of Christianity seems to have been a declaration of faith in Christ. Thus Peter: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matt. 16:6. Thus Martha: "Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world." John 11:27. Thus the Ethiopian: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Acts 8:37.

VIII. True saving faith is the gift of God, and is wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit. The disciples of Achaia, who helped Aquila and Priscilla so much, "had believed through grace." Acts 18:27. In Gal. 5:22 faith is expressly said to be "the fruit of the Spirit." To the Philippians Paul says: "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." Phil. 1:29. And when Peter made that blessed confession of Christ above cited, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 16:17.

IX. Everywhere in Scripture faith is spoken of as essential to salvation: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who believes not shall be damned." Mark 16:16. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house." Acts 16:31. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe." 1 Cor. 1:21. "We who have believed do enter into rest." Heb. 4:3. "We are of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Heb. 10:39.

X. The Scriptures were written to beget faith in Christ, and a hearty belief of the gospel. John 20:31; 1 John 5:13. If, on the evidence and aids given us, we fail to believe, the whole plan of the gospel is, as to us, in vain.

XI. God has taken great care and used proper means to beget in men lively faith in Christ--the sum and author of the gospel. To this end he permitted Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, to die, and caused him to rise again that they might believe that God had sent his Son. John 11:42. To the same end the treachery of Judas was both permitted and predicted, that the disciples might believe that Jesus was the Christ. John 13:19. The Lord foretold his own death and resurrection to the same end. John 14:29. He also often called on men to have faith in him: "You believe in God, believe also in me." "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me." John 14:1, 11. In the same connection he says that faith in him is the great cure for heart trouble. He prays for the unity of his people to the end that men may be convinced of his divine nature and mission.

XII. True, firm faith has great efficacy in securing answers to prayer. Mark 11:24; John 14:14.

XIII. To all who truly believe, the Lord Jesus is very dear. 1 Pet. 2:7.

XIV. Real, lively faith is very important to preachers who would fearlessly do their duty. "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak." 2 Cor. 4:13. Without this faith, a preacher is a poor, useless creature—a reed shaken with the wind.

XV. The hinderances to faith are all found in the depravity of the human heart, and in its foolish love of honor, wealth, or sinful pleasure. John 5:44; 1 John 2:15; 5:5.

XVI. True faith is very pleasing to God: "The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." John 16:27. Compare John 20:29.

XVII. The most blessed effects accompany faith, such as adoption into God's family, John 1:12; justification, Acts 13:39; Romans 3:21-26; Gal. 3:6, and many places; and life, eternal life, Romans 10:10; John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:40.

XVIII. Unbelief is fatal to all good prospects for eternal happiness. John 3:18; Mark 16:16; 1 John 5:10.

XIX. Prayer for faith, for more faith--is a duty. Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5.