Description: A series of classes on the 'Doctrine of Salvation' using Berkhof's book 'Systematic Theology'.
The Doctrine of Salvation 7
Transcript of a Class by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
[Prayer] Dear Father, we thank you for the truths that come home to us from studying your word
carefully and in detail. And we thank you Father, for even some of the joy that comes to our hearts
as we treasure your word, and handle it, and finger it, and almost poke it, and kick it open so we
can see what is in it. We thank you Father, that this is some of what’s involved in feeding on your
word. We trust you to enable us to discipline our minds more and more that we may do more of this
kind of research into meanings so that we can bring forth from your word things new and things old,
and can feed your people individually and corporately. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dear ones, I would hope in the first part of this period to complete the study that we’re doing of
the scriptural terms, you remember, for the word “faith”. And I would think that maybe we could
finish that part in another 15 minutes. And in connection with those scriptural terms, you
remember, we had discussed the Old Testament terms first and then we discussed the New Testament
terms. And in discussing the New Testament terms “pistis”, or it looks like that in Greek if you’re
learning Greek, “pistis” is the word for faith and we discussed first of all, it’s meaning in
classical Greek. And you remember, one of the guidelines that I mentioned to you in this study was
that you get coming out, again and again, the intellectual element of belief in the word faith. And
alongside it you get perhaps the volitional, in a sense of will, volitional element of trust or of
obedience. And we saw that coming out in the classical uses of the word “pistis”. You remember, we
distinguished between classical Greek and New Testament Greek.
Now, believe it or not, there is another kind that is not New Testament, and that is the Greek that
is used in the Septuagint. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Bible done in about, I
think it was, 200 BC. Does anyone want to differ with me on that? I think it was 200 BC.
Translation of Bible about 200 BC. And so you can see that of course is Greek that is 200 years
older than New Testament Greek and yet is younger than classical Greek if you think of Homer and
Plato and the Boise writing, I suppose 400 or 500 BC, then Septuagint was 200 BC. And you get the
emphasis there of “pistis” being trust and confidence. Trust and confidence. So you begin to get
the word switching over much more from the intellectual belief that came out in classical Greek to
the New Testament meaning of trust and confidence.
Now, maybe we could jump straight to New Testament then. The New Testament term has several – well,
it’s two special meanings. The New Testament term “pistis” has two special meanings. First of all,
an intellectual belief or conviction; intellectual belief or conviction resting on the testimony of
another. And therefore, you can see of course, depending really for its authority on the integrity
of that other person. It is based on this other person, testimony of another, rather than one’s own
investigation. So that’s quite important you see, rather than one’s own investigation and you have
to face it that that is the heart of our trust in a statement such as Jesus’: “In my Father’s house
are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Well we have to say, “Well, we don’t know ourselves. We have not been through death to the other
side.” And so that’s one of the meanings of the word “pistis” in the New Testament, intellectual
belief or conviction resting on the testimony of another rather than one’s own investigation. Now
that kind of meaning you get in Philippians 1:27, 2 Corinthians 4:13, and you could check some of
those afterwards. And then secondly, the second meaning is a confiding trust. A confiding trust or
confidence, and you get this volitional element coming in. In Christ with a view to redemption from
sin, a confiding trust or confidence in Christ about redemption from sin and I suppose you can say
from sin and hell because it includes that assurance of a future life. And you get that coming out
in Romans 3:22 and 25, and 5:1-2.
I would just outline to you loved ones, the steps that old Berkhof suggests people come to that.
First of all, he says there is the step of a general confidence, a general confidence in Christ.
And it might be useful to notice these steps from the point of view of your own dealing with
non-Christians. A general confidence in Christ. Secondly, acceptance of his testimony based on
that trust, and then yielding to Christ and trusting him for salvation.
Why I bring that out is one of the important truths that come home to us from a study of the word
“pistis” is that you always get this business coming out that it is belief or confidence based on
the testimony of another. And so obviously, it’s very important with a non-Christian to build up
clearly in their minds a picture of Jesus and his trustworthiness. I really understand if you say,
“But aren’t there flashpoint conversions where a person knows very little about Jesus, very little
about God and the Holy Spirit has been dealing with them in a time of great guilt, or great
hopelessness or meaninglessness and they just grab by some inner instinct at Jesus?” Yes, but that
will never become a solid conversion unless they grow in their knowledge of Jesus and his
trustworthiness. And I would say that frankly, a far safer approach to leading people to Jesus is
really to talk about Jesus himself. And I honestly think that one of the reasons we used to get
into embarrassing situations in witnessing was we would try to convince a person that they were a
sinner without telling them anything about Jesus and so it became a kind of almost, “I’m better than
you are. You’re a poor sinner and I’m a Christian.” And I really think that you evade all of that
if you take the New Testament pattern seriously and build up their general confidence in Christ.
I would have to say that I would now meet many people, not as a pastor because of all the other
things we’re involved in, and I would have no difficulty in conversing in quite an unembarrassed way
about Jesus. It seems to me that is easy. That’s like discussing Julius Caesar, or discussing some
other great man and I see nothing that needs to be embarrassing about that. It’s when you push a
person too fast, and you say, “Now you must receive Jesus as the Savior.” I think in their dear
minds the main thing is they feel you’re being illogical. I think that’s the first thing.
I think you destroy your confidence in them because they think, “There’s something not right here.
They’re asking me to yield to something that I think is a dead man. There’s something not right.”
Or, they click in the old religious program and they say, “Ah, they’re giving me the old Evangelical
spiel.” And I think that that’s why people get embarrassed when you go too fast with them. But I
think if you’d go at this kind of speed, I don’t think you embarrass people and I think at any point
then they can draw back. And I certainly tend, in witnessing situations, if they push me and there
are all kinds of approaches but they say, “Oh well, I don’t see any reason why I should be a
Christian. I’m perfectly happy as a Buddhist,” or, “I’m perfectly happy as an agnostic.” And I
would say, “Yeah, you’re right. Certainly if there is no one person that is any more truthful than
the others, that’s right. If there’s nobody that knows any more about reality than Buddha or
Mohammad, then Jesus and they are all the same, then I’m with you.” That’s what I’d do.
And I would even hold it to see how they come back on that rather than tell them something they’re
not interested in knowing. And then maybe they’d say, “Yeah, well that’s the way I feel. I feel
they are all the same.” And I say, “Ah yeah, well that’s probably where I differ with you. I
frankly, think that Jesus is a different kind of person, but I mean, I can see if you don’t think he
is. Boy, I’d be the same as you.” And go gently forward until you get them into conversing about
Jesus and about what is the difference between him and others you know. And then it seems to me,
that “Son of Man” booklet is useful, or Paul Little’s “Know Why You Believe” book is useful — where
you begin to discuss Jesus’ divinity and the differences that there are between him and Buddha, or
him and Mohammad.
But I think loved ones, that that’s one of the truths that come home to you when you see the whole
emphasis on “pistis” in the New Testament; it’s intellectual belief or conviction resting in the
testimony of another rather than on one’s own investigation. Now, if you say to a person, “You
know, there’s a heaven you can go to when you die,” and they reply to you, “Well, I don’t believe
that.” Well, it’s up to you to remember and reflect that you believe it because you trust Jesus who
was through death and came back and said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” But if they
don’t know about that Jesus and they don’t have the same respect for him as you do, then why should
they believe in heaven, you see? So I urge you to build up the witness, the great witness and the
great witness is Jesus. Build up HIM, clarify who he is in their minds before you go onto discuss
what he says.
Now, are there any comments or questions loved ones?
[Question inaudible 13:56]
Now that’s interesting Gus, what you’re bringing up, because that brings up it seems to me, the
second side there because I think that’s true, many Christians even are prepared to respect Jesus’
testimony but the real moment when that becomes living trust is when they enter into the loss of a
loved one themselves. And that’s interesting, that you can often get a fellow to change from
Mohammad and Buddha onto that intellectual belief because of the testimony of another, but the only
thing that will transform it into confiding trust is if he begins to experience real guilt and a
real need of this Jesus. So that’s interesting. And of course, the Christians we meet are either
in one section or the other.
And I’m afraid, what we do often is we do not do what Paul said. He said, “Do you remember the terms
in which I preached Christ? How he was raised from the dead, how he was seen by all the apostles,
by 500 brothers?” He goes over the great facts of history, but we often don’t approach the
non-Christian like that. We approach them with, “You’re a sinner,” or, “Don’t you know you’re going
to go to hell?” Or, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” And I think that’s our weakness. I don’t
think they know anything about those things until they know Jesus because he’s the one that told us
the details of those places.
Loved ones, if I could just then quite briefly deal with the verb [“pisteuo”]. It’s hard to keep
writing English letters.
[Question inaudible 16:10]
I would say you start with him as a historical figure, Marianne. I would say the thing that – when
you start with – now, I’m not saying in all cases because I understand fully that there are some
people who are highly intuitive and are not strictly logical in their approach to issues and they
would buy a car just because they like the color, or because they read a consumer report on the
automobiles. So I understand that, and many people are like that and at times telling them of your
own personal experience comes home to them immediately. All I’m asking is that we discern which
kind of person we’re dealing with and I’d point out that many of us get into embarrassing situations
with people who tend to be more intellectual in their approach because we tend to give our personal
experience and their reaction tends to be, “Well, that’s nice for you. That’s good. I’m glad
you’re happy and I know another person that gets happy too and he has his thing.”
And it tends to be that kind of response which is very unsatisfactory to us and then all we can do
is kind of press them forward and say, “Oh, but you should have this, too.” And they kind of feel,
“Well, why should I have it?” And it seems to me for them it’s better to give them the opportunity
to look in the shop window and see what the goods are like and examine them from a distance before
you ask them to buy them. So this is the window shopping here, I think, and the second one is the
buying and I just think it’s very important that you do it in the right order.
Now, on occasion window shopping will include looking at your experience. I tend to think that your
experience speaks through your life. I tend to think that the way you discuss the historical facts
about Jesus, and the whole love and the atmosphere of your own person, speaks to them and that that
is more powerful. That’s why I don’t want us all to try and switch the verse and the line in that
song, but ever from I first heard it I thought it’s rather a self-conscious posturing business that
we are one in the Spirit. And it’s good, it’s a nice song, but “They will know we are Christians by
our love” — it’s a wee bit, “Now, don’t you know we’re Christians by our love? Now, don’t you see
we love each other?”
Well, it seems to me that’s the kind of thing that speaks unconsciously through our own lives and so
it seems to me always stronger to see a person filled with peace talking about the historical facts
of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as God’s Son than to see a person trying to persuade another,
“Well, I’ve got a peace that’s deeper than yours.” And the other person says, “Well, my peace is
pretty deep.” And he says, “Yeah, but mine is deeper than yours. Now for instance, could you go
through…” – and it becomes a kind of unhappy kind of discussion.
So that’s why – but I know, I really do know that it’s seeing a life changed that first makes a
person stop and question. All I’m pleading is that when they question we try to get off all our own
lives which speak for themselves anyway, and we try to get onto these things. Besides, it’s very
healthy pointing them to Jesus rather than yourself.
“Pisteuo” is the verb — it just means “to believe” whereas “pistis” is the noun. So, “pisteuo” is
the verb. And it is interesting that you remember the Hebrew verbs had different meanings according
to the preposition that they took. “Pisteuo” followed by the dative case, there’s a dative case in
Greek. There’s a dative case and when it’s followed by the dative case it has the sense of
“believing ascent”. Believing ascent. You can see that ascent has the intellectual sense in it.
Now it does – when it is “believing ascent” in a thing, like God’s word, it just tends to remain
intellectual. But when it’s believing ascent in a person it includes the meaning of confidence and
trust. So you get some of that in John 4:50 and 5:47. So what we’re saying is the verb to believe,
when it’s followed by the dative case applied to a thing has just the intellectual meaning of
believing ascent. But when it’s applied to a person and a dative case, it includes the sense of
trust, trust in Jesus, trust in Christ.
Now, too, when it’s followed by the word “hoti” and it looks in Greek like “hoti” that’s the word
for “that”. You believe that a certain thing is true. It really usually means just belief that a
certain fact is true and it tends to be just intellectual. One now – you may wonder, “Well, how can
we tell which is which because we don’t understand Greek?” If you have a Greek interlinear, or look
at the Greek interlinear in the library, the Greek-English Interlinear, you can look at the English
on one side and the Greek on the other and you can guess which word is the word for believe. Well,
you’ll be able to recognize [“pisteuo”] in Greek will look like that, so you probably know a pi and
an i, and a sigma and then it will look like that so if it looks like that that’s the word believe.
And then you can tell whether it has this word following, “hoti” or not.
It has the belief that a certain fact is true and that is Romans 10:9, is a favorite verse of mine,
isn’t that right? At least it was a chorus we used to learn. Romans 10:9 and it must be confession
is made, “Because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord,” you see confess, “And believe
in your heart that God raised him from the dead,” believe that a certain fact is true. So that
tends to have the intellectual ascent, the confession is the obedient part. And then the third
meaning is when it has followed by the word “nen” which means in, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has this meaning of a firmly fixed confidence. So you see you’re getting into this personal
trust when you say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” a firmly fixed confidence in Christ when
it’s used with the term Christ. And you get it in Mark 1:15.
So believing in Jesus does not mean just believing that Jesus is alive, but believing him in a deep
personal way. And again, if you have it plus [“epi” 24:12] another preposition, it has the same
sense of a steady and restful repose. A steady and restful repose. And it also has the sense of a
moral, a confidence in Christ and it has a sense of a moral turning to Christ. The moral turning of
the will to Christ. And then the last one is maybe the most important of all and I’ll just take a
separate number, it’s the word “eis”. It means “into”. Believing into Christ. It occurs 49 times
in the New Testament and it is the most characteristic expression used of believing. So the way
believing is normally used is used with this preposition “eis” into, so it means “believe into
Christ” and it means an absolute transference.
This is maybe the completion of the change in the meaning of the word “pisteuo” from an intellectual
belief in classical Greek. An absolute transference of trust from ourselves to another. And that’s
the term that is most commonly used in the New Testament. It is not simply believe that a certain
thing happens but it’s a believing into Christ and it means a complete self-surrender. And it of
course, has the whole meaning of baptism. When you were baptized you were baptized into the water
and the water was there, and you went right down into it. And in going into the water, you entered
into Christ and entered into the tomb with him. And then as you came up out of the water, you came
up in resurrection with him and were raised up as a new creation and sat at the right hand of God.
And so it has all the sense of being absorbed into Jesus, of sinking into him and being lost in him
so that you lost your own identity and from then on you were known only as a Jesus person.
And that’s why we got all the christening mixed up in it because you were given a new name because
you were no longer your old person, you were no longer your old self. You lost that name and then
you were given a Christian name. That’s why we got our first names, our Christian names. And that
kind of emphasis you get in John 2:11, 3:16, 18:36, and on and on for 49 times. But that you can
see is the completion of the change from “pisteuo” as an intellectual term.
This is why you cannot preach easy believism. You cannot share easy believism, “Oh, as long as you
believe in Jesus, as long as you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, as long as you believe that
Jesus died for you.” It’s not that, it’s, “Are you ready to believe into him? Are you ready to
commit yourself into him?” Because of course, believe comes from the Anglo-Saxon to be “gelefa” and
it means in accordance with. And so it means are you willing to be in accordance with your belief?
Are you willing to believe into Jesus? Are you willing to be in accordance with that belief? Are
you willing to be in Jesus? That means are you willing for him to act all the time and for you to
be only what he wants you to be?
So really dear ones, “believe” in New Testament knows nothing of just the head. It knows only of
the head plus the will and that’s what makes a person a Christian. Our trouble of course, is today
we’ve shared a shallow interpretation of the meaning of “belief” so there are many people believe in
Jesus and they aren’t in Jesus at all. I mean, it’s the most hideous of Satan’s tricks because then
you start to try and tell them and then there’s just rebellion because they do not want to hear you
telling them they’re not Christians.
[Question inaudible 29:41]
I was going to do that now Ken. I don’t know that I’d go with it, but it’s just interesting in that
he has it and I think he does bring out – I think Berkhof is always – well, I shouldn’t say just
Berkhof when you get any good scholar who does not necessarily take the same viewpoint as yourself
— you are always most at one when you’re close to the biblical text and the exogenous of certain
words. I think this is excellent what he does and I’ve been trying to go with him a little on the
other, but maybe we could get to that.
I’d just like to do a couple of things. He then secondly goes with figurative expressions and they
are really good. Figurative expressions used to describe the activity of faith in the New Testament
and I’ll just do them briefly because it might be good if we could complete this study today:
figurative expressions for the activity of faith. “One, it is spoken of as looking to Jesus.”
Looking to Jesus. You get that in John 3:14-15 and it has the emphasis of a steadfast looking to
anyone, a deliberate fixing of the eye on the object. Deliberate — that’s the volitional element
and a certain satisfaction to which this concentration testifies. So, a deliberate fixing of the
eye of the mind on a certain object — a deliberate fixing and it includes the satisfaction that
comes from such a sight and such a view — satisfaction derived.
So, to the extent that it’s useful to say it, there you have the will involved and there you have
the emotion involved. The emphasis again is something rather more than belief. It is a looking to.
I would say it is like being in accordance with. A “looking to” implies a changing of the eyes.
I’d emphasize again to you brothers and sisters that you’ll get nowhere if you pray to God for rain,
then go out without an umbrella. You’ll get nowhere in believing in saying, “I have faith Lord. I
have faith,” and not providing for the consequences that will follow from that faith. So faith is
primarily, and this is a dangerous thing because of the mess the liberals make of it, but faith is
primarily action. Faith is saying, “I’ll believe you’ll move back the Red Sea, so I’m putting my
feet in it with a view to going right across.” Faith is action.
I would testify in my own life that I had a purely intellectual faith until I decided that faith
meant changing my life, changing definite things in my life in accordance to what God showed.
Looking to Jesus. It’s also hungering and thirsting. It’s also likened to hungering and thirsting,
and eating and the drinking. You get that emphasis in Matthew 5:6. And there you get that almost
kind of gut level experience, a feeling that something is wanting. We’re conscious of what we need
and we try to obtain it. So it’s that kind of inside thing. I don’t know how you can put it, but
it’s the consciousness of need, I suppose; consciousness of need.
No faith is real that is not enthusiastic and zealous — that kind of thing: a deep consciousness of
need and a strong endeavor to satisfy that need. And you don’t want to push it too far because it’s
not just emotion, but maybe you’d say you have the emotional element there, and then you have the
will element there. But it certainly brings something much stronger than just, “Will you believe
that this is right or that this is right?” “Well, I’ll believe that that is right.” Well that does
nothing. It’s just an intellectual believer of a person, but it’s something more gut level than
Then three, “coming to Christ and receiving him”. Coming to Christ and receiving him: there of
course, you get the whole personal element: that it is a personal encounter and relationship with
Christ. You get that in John 5:40, an action in which a man looks away from his self and his own
merits and looks to Jesus. So you cannot separate faith from its objection which is Jesus.
Ken, now I think that’s really what Berkhof, in fairness to him, tries to bring home. I’d just like
to share with you, loved ones, that Berkhof talks about four kinds of faith, and they may be more or
less true but I’ll give you it and then you can think about it. I’ll try to finish it quickly so
that you have a few moments for discussing. He talks about historical faith, acceptance of the
truths of scripture as history. I think it is fair that the word faith is used at times in that
sense. Believe that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the scriptures as history. So I
think he’s right there. John 3:2 has that kind of emphasis.
So the New Testament talks about a historical, you might call it a faith, but the scripture is true
as far as the facts of history are concerned. Then he talks about a miraculous faith and he would
talk about — Matthew 17:20 as being an example of that: a persuasion wrought in the mind that
certain miracles will be done. And that occurs in the New Testament in many places. It will be
done either on that person or by that person, and you get many references to it. Matthew is one
and Mark 16, 17, and 18 is another.
Now, I think it’s important to make that point and that’s why I kind of go with him in these types,
because I feel that it is possible to go to Kathryn Kulman’s meetings, and it is possible to be
healed and not to become a Christian. I think she would say that too. I think it is possible to –
I know one man in a congregation that I pastored in North Minneapolis about 10 years ago. He, dear
love him, was an incredible mixture. He was one of those spiritual people that came from a family
that had a great deal of contact with spiritism. I don’t know that I have as much wisdom, I think I
may have a little of it now, and I remember one of the daughters of one of the leaders in the
congregation got cancer. And this man had a vision one night that he should tell her to stand.
You’ll smile, but at that time everybody was so childish that we’d do anything, but she was to stand
at the east window of her house at two o’clock in the morning.
Without going on, she is absolutely healthy today. You know, she is well and I met her oh, about
six months ago, and she is fully well and the cancer had disappeared and had disappeared, because
the doctors had diagnosed it the previous week. But this dear brother himself was, among other
things, not willingly, because he was a theater manager who couldn’t get a job, but he was a manager
of the theater we used to meet in when it was a kind of a sex movie theater, and he himself had
difficulty controlling the old swearing.
So, there’s no question that there is a faith that can produce miracles that is not Christian faith
and that does not bring glory to Jesus, and you cannot call it Christian. And I really do think
that there’s a great deal of naivety in a lot of evangelicalism today because we tend to talk once a
person has seen a miracle, or performed a miracle, or had a miracle performed on them, we think
they’re Christian. I just don’t think that’s so. I think there are many people walking around who
are not Christian at all, and yet they have had either the faith to perform a miracle or had the
faith to receive a miracle, and so there is a miraculous faith.
Of course, there is a faith in faith. I remember my mom said, “Oh the aspirin will do you no good
unless you believe it will do you some good.” So there is undoubtedly a faith in faith which maybe
just verges on the psychic rather than the spiritual, but still it’s there. So, I think he’s right
Let me finish: temporal faith. This is I think, one of the things that Ken mentioned, a temporal
faith. Now, I’ll read this exactly as he states it so you know, “This is a persuasion of the truths
of religion which is accompanied with some promptings of the conscious and a stirring of the
affections that is not rooted in a regenerate heart.” The name is derived from Matthew 13:20-21.
Now maybe it’s fair to say that he would almost accept that definition, because he would tie it up
with this reference in Matthew 13:20. I think it’s the parable about the sower [inaudible 41:45]
and they had no root in themselves, you remember, but grew up and disappeared.
Now, I think he means that it is a faith that people seem to express, seem to believe in their
heads. They seem to have some dealing of God with their conscience and they seem to exercise at
least initially, an initial exercise of the will. Now of course, you know where he’s going with his
regenerate heart business because he’s saying that this is one of the people who aren’t elected, and
so it’s not rooted in a regenerate heart. He turns the whole thing backwards and he says, “God
looks down and has determined centuries before that this person is going to be regenerate so he
regenerates them, and that person exercises faith.” Well, we don’t believe that that’s where he
gets this — this isn’t rooted in a regenerate heart. He would say, “This is a faith that is
expressed by somebody who is not of the elect.”
Now, we would not say that. But is it not true, loved ones, that we have met people who seem to
come through to something real and yet it did not continue? And for the sake of those of us who
would believe in eternal security, they did not seem to come right through. Some of us might say,
“Well, they did come right through, but they didn’t carry on.” But I would say even – I don’t think
I would say that. I believe you can fall from grace, but I would believe there are many who seem to
come right through who haven’t really come right through. And I think whatever we believe in regard
to eternal security there, we’d all find ourselves on the one side of the fence that there are dear
ones who seem to exercise a faith that is in some way connected to a conscience. It involves some
initial exercise of the will but it is not a deep change wrought in the heart.
I frankly, would think that it is still a human work. I would say that, and I know that a Calvinist
would certainly say this, but I think I would say that it does not include a supernatural new birth.
It is not a supernatural new birth. It comes very close to it, it seems to have all the elements
of a supernatural new birth — but it isn’t.
I’ll just go quickly. The last one is – he defines as true saving faith. I would simply say that
that is where a person honestly confesses, agrees with God on everything, confesses, agrees with him
on everything that he wants him to do and truly repents. That means sets his will, stops doing the
thing that God has told him, truly receives Jesus and receives and commits his life to Jesus — and
as a result of that, God complete ,