“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
What does it mean to die in faith? It means to die with Bible doctrine in your soul. The two Greek words used in this verse confirm this meaning. The first Greek word is “kata,”which means according to a norm or standard. The second Greek word is“pistis,” which means the body of faith that is believed (Bible doctrine). So how does a believer prepare for death? Make sure you have Bible doctrine resident in your soul. When doctrine triumphs in your life, Jesus Christ triumphs in your life. When Jesus Christ triumphs in your life it is because you have reached spiritual maturity and you are occupied with the Person of Christ. And if Christ triumphs in your life, He will also triumph in your death. Living by God’s grace prepares you for dying with God’s grace.
The previous verses told us that these heroes of the faith were looking for promises that were eternal, which they “saw” by means of doctrine. You and I have the ability through Bible doctrine to see the next action after the Rapture of the Church — the function of the Tribulation, the end of the Jewish Age, the Second Coming of Christ, the ability to understand the Millennium and all millennial passages, and not to confuse them with anything in this dispensation. Abraham, through doctrine, could look down the corridors of time and anticipate these greater eternal blessings. Abraham, because he had so much doctrine in his soul, could actually anticipate the fulfillment of the promises given to him in the Abrahamic Covenant.
All these “heroes-of-the-faith” believers from the Old Testament had one thing in common – they had Bible doctrine in their souls as it was revealed to them during the time in which they lived. They all understood that their time on earth was but for a short period compared to eternity. Like Church Age believers, they were pilgrims just passing through this life on their way to the full culmination of everything that eternal life entails.
Eternal life is God’s life (one of His attributes) imputed to the human spirit (its home) at the moment of salvation. This imputation of eternal life occurs simultaneously with the imputation of the human spirit. We possess eternal life the very moment we trust Christ as Savior. Since it is God Who imputes eternal life to the believer, it is a matter of grace. Therefore, eternal life is not deserved nor can it be earned. This means that anyone who has believed in Christ for salvation (whether they are living their spiritual life or not) possesses eternal life. It also means that believers are secure in Christ forever. (John 5:25-26; 11:25-26; 14:6; I John 5:11-13)
Eternal life means living in a state of eternal peace and happiness for every believer regardless of his eternal rewards. Some believers will reign over cities and some will not, but we all will live in magnificent mansions. Though our primary motivation for the execution of the Christian Way of Life should always be our personal love for God, knowing that there are degrees of reward should also motivate our advance to spiritual maturity.
“For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”
This is a reference to the acknowledgement that these believers understood they were strangers on the earth. So we have a contrast between where these heroes of the faith came from and where they were headed both physically and spiritually. Because they advanced in their spiritual lives, it is clear they were moving toward a country provided by God. In other words, they understood the principle that you go where God guides you and plant yourself and advance spiritually until such time God guides to another geographic location (if at all).
These super grace heroes also understood that the ultimate destination for every believer is Heaven and they advanced with that truth in mind. They lived their spiritual lives in light of eternity just as we should. If they had their minds on another country like the one they left behind (but they didn’t) they could always return. However a return to the former “country” would mean divine discipline for being out of God’s will.
When we study the will of God, we must consider the doctrine of Divine Guidance since it is the means of discovering the will of God. The Scripture declares in many passages that God will continually guide us. Jesus said that when He departed this earth, He would send a Comforter to teach and guide us. This Comforter, of course, is the Holy Spirit and He is indwelling you right now, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “will” is “thelema” and refers to the designed plan of God for every believer. Therefore, the will, the plan and the purpose of God are all synonymous terms. Throughout the Word of God we are commanded to know the will of God. Therefore, the questions are: “How can I know God’s will for my life?” and “What is His plan for me?” (Romans 2:18; Ephesians 1:1)
A Christian who does not know God’s will is said to be a “fool” according to Ephesians 5:17. The opposite of being foolish is being wise. Wisdom is application of the Word of God. Therefore, God’s will can be discovered by knowing and applying His Word. Knowledge and application of God’s Word can be gained only under the control of the Holy Spirit, since He is the teacher of truth. (John 14:26, 16:13-14; Romans 8:14; I Corinthians 2:16)
As with everything in the Christian way of life, divine guidance from the Holy Spirit is only a potential. We must make the choice to allow Him to guide us. We do this in three ways: grow in the Word of God, know the will of God and submit to the will of God. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)
Presentation of the body means to place yourself under the authority of God and submit to His will. This is to be a life-long, constant commitment, not a one-time decision. The Christian life is made up of thousands of moment-by-moment decisions to obey the mandates of God. Only by obeying His mandates, which include being controlled by the Holy Spirit, can God guide us to His will. Therefore it is important to spend a maximum amount of time in fellowship with God and under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you are out of fellowship with God, it is impossible to be guided by the Holy Spirit. This is the reason that we need to keep “short accounts” and “keep our sins confessed up.” (Ephesians 5:18; I John 1:6-10)
According to Romans 12 the only kind of sacrifice that is acceptable to God is one that is alive and set apart. As believers, we are said to be alive and set apart unto God and dead to and separated from Satan’s world system. And God views this as a reasonable service on our part. It should be the love for Christ that constrains us to submit ourselves to God and allow Him to guide our lives. The will of God should be our constant rule for life. (Romans 6:13; II Corinthians 5:14-15)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discover what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. (Romans 12:2) We see from this verse that the way to discover God’s will is by knowing God’s Word. It takes the renewal of the mind, which means to change from Human Viewpoint Thinking to Divine Viewpoint Thinking. Since the Bible is the only source of the known will of God, whether by direct statement or by deduction from doctrine, knowledge of His will is based on our understanding of His Word. Therefore, God the Holy Spirit guides the believer based on the doctrine that he has learned, believed and stored in his soul.
Through knowledge of doctrine we learn certain things in the Bible that we know are the will of God and certain things that are not the will of God for all believers. For everything else, we must use a combination of known factors (doctrine in our soul), divine norms and standards, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If indeed the Holy Spirit is controlling our lives, He will guide us into all truth and will empower us to execute His will. Grace is God’s plan for mankind. God’s plan is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. God’s plan after salvation is grow in grace. Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind on the basis of what Christ did for us on the Cross. Grace is the undeserved mercy of God towards us. Being in the will of God is the same as being in His plan and being in His plan is the same as fulfilling His purpose.
Growth is a grace process of learning the Word of God under the control of the Holy Spirit. Application of what you learn brings wisdom, stability and maturity to your spiritual life. Once again, this is a process; a little here and a little there, line upon line and precept upon precept. Study plus application plus time equals compliance with and advance in the will of God for your life. All of these principles must be in place in order to do God’s will. Control by the sin nature, failure to know God’s Word and lack of spiritual growth prevent you from doing God’s will. God wants us to think divine viewpoint. Divine viewpoint, of course, is found in the Bible. We have the completed canon of Scripture in one book. Contained in this book is everything that God wants us to know about Him. As we learn to think His way, life becomes meaningful and understandable. Our strength to live the Christian life comes from Divine Viewpoint Thinking. However, we must have a spiritual vocabulary in order to think divine viewpoint. Therefore, we are right back to learning God’s Word.
If you, as a believer in Jesus Christ, are doing what God has commanded you to do, eventually you will end up where God wants you to be. This is a matter of growth. No one does the will of God perfectly all the time. The important thing is to continue to advance. If we aren’t advancing, we are retreating. Many of us are like Jonah, we have to be swallowed by a whale and regurgitated before God can get our attention! The key to being where God wants you to be is doing what God wants you to do where you are right now. For example, simply going to a foreign country does not make a person a missionary. God uses believers who are willing to do missionary work, like sharing the gospel and being a testimony, in their own town. It’s pretty certain that if you won’t share the gospel in your own town, you’re not going to share it abroad where conditions are much more difficult. When we learn what God wants us to think, and what He wants us to do, and begin doing both consistently, He will guide us to where He wants us to be.
The Book of Acts gives us a perfect illustration of divine guidance. This story in Chapter 11 is about Peter preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. This, of course, was a surprise to the legalistic Jewish Christians who thought that the Gospel was only for the Jews. You will recall how the Jews considered the Gentiles heathens. (Acts 11:1-16)
God, through the Apostle Peter, shows the Jewish believers in Jerusalem that the Gospel was to be preached to everyone. In verse one the Jewish believers received word that Peter had preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. In verse two, the legalistic Jewish believers confronted Peter. In verse three, their objection was that Peter ate with the Gentiles who did not observe Jewish dietary laws. In verse four, Peter began to describe the events. It is during this description that we see the divine guidance of God.
God guides through prayer. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to come boldly to the throne of grace (a term for prayer) that we may receive mercy and may find help in time of need. Therefore, it should be perfectly normal for the believer to ask for guidance in prayer. However, if the will of God is clearly stated in the Word of God, then there is no legitimate reason to pray about it. For example, a believer is told not to marry an unbeliever or a believer who is not advancing spiritually; no prayer needed. However, a person could and should seek the Lord’s guidance as to which believer to marry.
Unlike the occasion in Acts, before the canon of scripture was completed, God no longer speaks to us audibly. God now speaks to us through His Word. Many believers think that God is our “fairy god mother” with a magic wand and that He can be coerced or bribed by our prayers. In order for our prayers for guidance to be answered we must first make sure that we are praying properly. Proper prayer means that you have named your known sins to God and that you are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer should always be directed to God the Father, in the name of God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. God’s answer of guidance may come in a variety of ways. For example, He may close a door of opportunity in one area, only to open another door in a different area.
God guides the believer through the knowledge of accurate Bible doctrine that has been stored in the mind. God never leads us contrary to His Word. Therefore, it is important to study and believe God’s Word. The more Bible doctrine you know, the more of God’s will you know.
Peter used the information that he had received from Jesus, which he had stored in his mind, to realize a new truth. The truth was that believers were no longer governed by the Mosaic Law. Peter observed and evaluated the situation from divine viewpoint and reached the correct conclusion. Remember that this was before the completion of the canon of Scripture. Prior to the canon, God used the spoken word, dreams, trances, visions, animals, bushes, etc. to communicate with man. Now that we have the Bible, the complete revelation from God, there is no need for direct communication from God. And there has been no new revelation from God since the completion of the canon of Scripture in 96 A.D. If it does not agree with the Word of God, then it’s not His will.
Discovering God’s will for our lives should be top priority for all us. Faithful study and application of God’s Word, spending a maximum amount of time in fellowship with God by keeping short accounts and by allowing God the Holy Spirit to influence our thoughts and guide our actions, will lead each of us to His will.