It's a question of faith; ultimately, it always has been and always will be! Who's faith; ours or God's?
There is no question that a man must exercise the faith he has been given in order for it to be a true and living faith, and you may accuse me of having a Calvinist hangover if it makes you feel better, but from whence does faith come; does not Scripture tell us that it is a gift from God? Faith, Scripture tells us, 'is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' ( Hebrews 11:1 ). This is obviously not something that originates with man, for the writer to the Hebrews speaks here of things beyond man's comprehension almost, his ability to grasp with any of his physical senses! There are most certainly passages in Scripture that do speak of our having faith, as in James 2:20 ( 'faith without works is dead' ); this speaks of a man's faith, as we read more context, which, unaccompanied by works, or the exercise of that faith, becomes no faith at all, but mere belief!
Reading through the Hebrew, or Old Testament Scriptures, we can see that, for the most part, when a man or woman's faith is talked about, it is in the context of their actions, whether they are faithful or unfaithful, right or wrong. Those who consistently do wrong, as in Deuteronomy 32:20, are spoken of, for example, as 'Children in whom [ is ] no faith'. It might as correctly be said that a man or woman holds their faith as has faith.
There is a controversy raging at this time which purports that there is no more faith, that we, on the far side of the veil, have reached the end of faith. Maybe Faith No More had it right, in that respect. Have we reached the end of faith, or more correctly, did they, in the first century, reach the end of faith? The apostle Peter wrote in his first letter that the end of their faith, a faith which he said was 'by the Power of God', was their salvation. The Greek word translated 'end' here is 'telos', which basically means ( according to most Bible interpreters ) 'termination, or limit'. This word, though, comes from the root 'tello', which means, 'to set out for a definite point or goal'. Clearly, a terminus is in view here! Faith was given, as so many other gifts that we see in Scripture, to serve an eschatological purpose! When that purpose was fulfilled, the gift, its eschatological service fulfilled, returned to its Originator!
Is there faith no more? Now that we have the enduring Presence of God, bask in His Righteousness and partake in the blessings of His Salvation, is it necessary to have evidence of things that we cannot see with our naked eye; do we still hope for the Substance, which is Christ?
As we saw, the writer to the Hebrews comforted them with the words that they were soon to grasp the Substance of their hope, for their faithfulness was the evidence of things yet unseen! This faith was fulfilled; it saw its end, which was evidenced in their lives by their living hope for the Substance which was about to come. The question is, does faith exist today? Is it still necessary to exercise belief in things unseen? Well, on one hand yes, and on the other hand no. The object of their faith, the Substance for which they hoped, was fulfilled, and thus, in that sense, came to its end. The apostle Paul asked the Roman believers ( Romans 8:24 ) this rhetorical question, 'why does one still hope for what he sees?' Christians in the first century AD saw the end of their faith, which ultimately, was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as witnessed by John 14:23. For those who do not yet see that Substance, though the Substance is evidenced among them, faith may yet be necessary in order to reveal this to them. Through our faithfulness, the faithfulness of the people of God, those who cannot see may see, and the eyes of the blind may be opened!
Throughout the history of God's people, but particularly in the first century, it was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as witnessed in places like Ezekiel 36:24-27, and Psalm 51:10-12, that conferred upon His Beloved this faith, the faith that one day, in the fulness of time, the Substance for which they hoped would be revealed from 'Heaven'. As revealed in the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, we see that this Substance came in the form of Jesus the Christ, and was consummated with their full salvation in AD70, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!
As with the faith described to the Hebrews, so you might say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in the first century. The purpose for which He was sent, to give His people a clean heart, and renew a right Spirit within them was fulfilled, but is that the end, or termination of the Holy Spirit of God? Does not He still exist, dwelling within His people to guide them and to comfort them in their tribulations? I believe that we must with doubt say that He does!
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit spoken of in Scripture was fulfilled; it served its purpose, which was to bring His people back into right relationship with Him. However, we may rightly and readily ask the question; are there still those today who are not living in right relationship with their Creator? Are there others who will come to enjoy the Presence of God forever, and if so; how will they come?
I leave you with these questions!
Charles Haddon Shank