Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CONFIRMATION”

 

This morning I want to speak to you about the subject of confirmation, but not the Roman Catholic Church kind of confirmation. I do want, as we approach Christmas, to address the tendency of so many people to think that faith is some kind of blind or baseless conviction. Perhaps you have heard the phrase “blind faith,” or you have heard of Søren Kierkegaard’s notion of “the leap of faith.”[1] “A leap of faith, in its most commonly used meaning, is the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable, or without empirical evidence.”[2] I’m here to tell you that that notion of faith is foreign to the Bible. From Hebrews 11.1 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Taking into consideration the Greek word translated “substance” and the Greek word translated “evidence,” the former referring to a “title deed” (which is proof of ownership) and the later referring to “proof” useful in a court of law, it is very clear that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews would consider the notion that faith is blind to be completely foreign to his understanding of the term.[3]

Differing greatly from what unsaved people think is our view of faith, we recognize that faith as it is referred to in the Bible has for its basis historical fact. This recognition of the true nature of faith is verifiable once it is understood what the Greek word translated “evidence” and the Greek word translated “substance” actually mean. Of interest to those who want to discover and know the truth (and useful to us later in this sermon) is a quote from Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of the Harvard School of Law:

 

“A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence.”[4]

 

That is the basis for every real Christian’s faith. Additional to this is the well-established but almost completely ignored biblical principle of two or three witnesses. Which is to say, from Genesis to Revelation and throughout the Bible in between truth is authenticated, matters of fact are verified, and the rules of evidence used by courts descended from English Common Law that were themselves influenced by the Bible, require fact to be established by two or three independent testimonies. Legal expert Greenleaf also writes, “According to Hebrew text one (emphasis in the original) witness is no witness; there must be at least two or three who know the fact.”[5] Allow me to convince you by reading and quickly commenting on twenty-seven passages in the Old and New Testaments that this principle of two or three witnesses is foundational to Biblical truth:

 

Numbers 35.30: “Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.”

 

Establishing by only one witness the guilt of those accused of murder was forbidden.

 

Deuteronomy 17.6-7: 6   At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

7     The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.

 

Verification of the fact of guilt requires at least two witnesses.

 

Joshua 24.22: “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.”

 

Multiple corroboration of fact was employed in this verse by Joshua.

 

Ruth 4.9-11: 9     And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi.

10   Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.

11   And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem.

 

Boaz made use of multiple witnesses to establish his performance as a kinsman-redeemer in compliance with the Law of Moses.

 

Job 10.17:  “Thou renewest thy witnesses against me, and increasest thine indignation upon me; changes and war are against me.”

 

The patriarch Job acknowledges the principle of multiple witnesses as a principle to establish a basis of fact.

 

Isaiah 8.2:  “And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”

 

When obeying the LORD’s instructions the prophet Isaiah took faithful witnesses to verify his obedience.

 

Isaiah 43.9-12: 9    Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.

10   Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

11   I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.

12   I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

 

Here we see that even God employs witnesses to verify to the Gentile nations that He is the one true and living God.

 

Isaiah 44.8-9: 8   Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

9    They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.

 

Here it is pointed out that the Jewish people attest to God’s uniqueness and the pagans attest to the fact that their own gods are not real. In both instances there is multiple witnesses verification of fact.

 

Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44: 10  And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.

 

12   And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

 

25   And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.

 

44   Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.

 

Though the prophetical implications here are profound, my purpose at present is to show that these verses record real estate transactions that are verified by written evidence and witnesses of the transaction to establish the authenticity of the real estate transfer. In our day this role is performed in many cases by a Notary Public and by witnesses who affix their signatures to the appropriate document.

 

Matthew 18.15-20: 15  Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16   But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17   And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18   Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19   Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20   For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

 

This passage is familiar to us just as the principle contained in it was very familiar to the Lord’s apostles. Multiple witnesses are required to establish matters of fact related to church discipline and reconciliation.

 

Luke 24.46-48: 46  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48  And ye are witnesses of these things.

 

These two men the risen Savior was speaking to are identified by Him as witnesses to the fact that He stands before them having been raised from the dead as was predicted.

 

Acts 1.8:  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

 

How many was our risen Lord then speaking to? About 120 men and women are identified as witnesses.

 

Acts 2.32:   “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”

 

Speaking to thousands on the Day of Pentecost, Peter is here referring to himself and the 120 who stood with him as witnesses to Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

 

Acts 3.15:   “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.”

 

On this occasion Simon Peter refers to himself and the Apostle John as witnesses.

 

Acts 5.32:    “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”

 

Verses 26-27 reveal that Simon Peter and some other apostles had been arrested for preaching, and that Peter and the others are the witnesses he in verse 32 refers to, including the Holy Spirit who brings conviction to the sinner’s hearts that what these men speak is true.

 

Acts 10.39-40: 39  And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

40  Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly.

 

The witnesses Peter refers to in verse 39 were the companions (plural) he brought with him from Joppa, who were mentioned in verse 23.

 

Acts 13.31: “And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.”

 

In this verse the Apostle Paul refers to our Lord’s disciples during His earthly ministry who are the witnesses to His resurrection here referred to.

 

First Corinthians 15.4-8: 4   And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5     And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6     After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7     After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8     And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

 

Is this not corroboration? Hundreds bearing witness to the truth.

 

Second Corinthians 13.1: “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

 

Here the Apostle Paul refers to the Old Testament principle of two or three witnesses.[6] Clearly the Old Testament principle is shown by Paul to be applicable even after Christ’s crucifixion.

 

First Thessalonians 2.10: “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”

 

The congregation, as well as God, are witnesses to the facts Paul addresses.

 

First Timothy 5.19:  “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”

 

Multiple attestation by witnesses to events are required in the Old Testament, are shown by the Savior to be required in the New Testament congregation, and is shown as well in this verse. One person alone is not authorized to make a public accusation against a church leader.

 

First Timothy 6.12:  “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

 

Paul observes that many people could be called on to verify Timothy’s lifestyle and fidelity to the truth.

 

Hebrews 10.28: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.”

 

No comment needed at this point.

 

First John 4.1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

 

Do not take the say-so of any spirit, but try (or test) the spirits to see if they are of God. How can the true from the false be discerned, but by multiple witnesses of fact?

 

First John 5.7-9: 7     For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

8     And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.[7]

9     If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

 

Even in heaven the principle of multiple witnesses of fact is appropriate. Even the Triune Godhead conducts His affairs in accordance with this principle.

 

Revelation 1.1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”

 

What is overlooked by all of the commentators I have consulted is the indication that the revelation of Jesus Christ was “signified” to John by the angel who delivered it to him. The angel engaged in some activity, or provided some evidentiary proof to John, that the message he conveyed was authentic. Of course, this establishes what the other passages I have read so far show, that verification of truth or fact is absolutely required to ascertain that truth. Being a Jewish believer, well-schooled in scripture and having sat at the feet of the Savior, John would not have received any message from anyone as being true unless it was in some profoundly convincing way verified, attested to by two or three witnesses to the fact.

 

Revelation 2.2: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.”

 

Here the Savior commends the church in Ephesus for trying them which say they are apostles, but were not. Of course, they did this by refusing to act upon any information they could not independently verify by means of multiple trustworthy witnesses.

Would to God those of Pentecostal or Charismatic persuasion would do likewise with respect to those who claim to be prophets, or to have the word of knowledge, and whatever other gibberish they pretend is true. However, before you think too much of those of us who are Baptists, we are just as guilty as the word of faith and gift of tongues Arminians, though with respect to different topics than the gift of tongues, losing one’s salvation, and a radical misunderstanding of what constitutes real worship of God. Our tendency is to believe unverified gossip, which happens whenever you abandon the principle of two or three witnesses.

What I propose to quickly pass by you this morning, and to provide proof of with abundant footnotes in this sermon’s manuscript online for later additional study, is an assertion that not only is faith not blind but that faith, real faith, saving faith, Bible faith, must have for its proper underlying basis real confirmation. I am not suggesting the Holy Spirit is absent in this confirmation, but honestly believe that sinful man is so depraved and newly converted Christians are so ignorant that the Spirit of God produces confidence in the truth found in God’s Word even before confirmation of the truth is actually known by reliable means. Just know this. Confirmation of the truth has always been the factual basis upon which real faith is firmly settled, like a strong foundation is settled on solid bedrock. We who are Christians should have no inclination to accept as true or to believe anything for which there is not, or at least at one point in time there was, confirmation.

Thus, it is not a lack of faith that demands evidence, but a presence of faith that demands evidence, because real faith is built on evidence. Three points to convince you of this assertion:

 

First, THE PRINCIPLE

 

The principle is that two or three witnesses seem to always have been required by God in heaven, and by God on earth in His dealings with men, and even in men’s dealings with other men. This does not mean that one must treat every individual who speaks to you as a potential liar, but it does mean that human beings are profoundly flawed and fallible creatures, capable of not only sinful misconstruance of the facts in the form of lies and deception, but also capable of mistakes being made by the most honest and sincere of individuals, be they speaking what they think is the truth, or observing what they think is taking place, or receiving the testimony of another fallible person.

This is why, when you are doing business with your friends, when you are doing business with strangers, when you are engaged with your children, or whatever you are doing that involves exchanging information or in any way relies upon facts, history, or the truth, make sure you seek corroboration of the facts. Truthful people are not offended by those who seek corroboration, but are comforted by those who seek corroboration.

You might be thinking right now, “But faith requires a willingness to fly in the face of facts!” Not really. Faith in God, in God’s Word, and faith in Christ may very well require a willingness to fly in the face of what appear to be facts, or in the face only of facts that reflect what can be seen, but when the situation is properly understood, or when there is consideration of things not seen, it is another thing altogether.

Real faith involves a willingness to accept God’s sure testimony of truth over against what may initially seem to be well-attested facts held to be true by men. However, faith clings to the certainty that God is always true and has always shown Himself to be true, while man has very frequently shown himself to be mistaken about almost everything. This is the reality that lies back of Romans 3.4, where Paul writes, “let God be true, but every man a liar.”

 

Next, THE PARTICULARS

 

I assert that God does not as a general rule demand or expect His creatures to accept as true anything that He is not willing to corroborate by some means. Here are some examples:

Abraham. Abraham was called by God from Ur of the Chaldees to journey to a place he did not know. If you are like me as a young Christian you probably surmised that God spoke, Abraham listened, and then Abraham acted solely on what he heard. Wrong. To be sure, God spoke. However, God also showed His glory to corroborate what He said to Abram.[8]

Moses. Remember Moses and the burning bush? The burning bush that was not consumed whilst it burned, and also the spoken word of God, provided two evidences upon which Moses was authorized to act.[9]

Pharaoh. Why should Pharaoh have listened to the words of Moses to let the Israelites go? Based on the testimony of Moses, Pharaoh had no obligation to comply. However, the testimony of Moses was confirmed by ten plagues that authenticated his claim to be speaking for the LORD. Thus, Pharaoh and his people suffered the consequences of lives lost for not heeding the words of Moses.[10]

Belshazzar. Remember the drunken Babylonian king who saw the terrifying handwriting on the wall? What did he do but verify both the source and the message of that miracle by seeking the aged prophet Daniel to both confirm and to interpret God’s message of judgment and condemnation to him. Belshazzar did not respond to this authenticated message from God demanding repentance, and that very night he was slain by the invading Medes and Persians.[11]

The Virgin Mary. Remember reading about the angel Gabriel’s visit to her, informing her that God had chosen her to bear the Christ child? Consider the attestations Mary had to work with: An angel appeared to her and spoke, his words were confirmed by her virginal pregnancy, by the reaction of her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist, by the response of Joseph to the same angel Gabriel speaking to him, and by the visit of both the shepherds responding to the angels on the night of the Savior’s birth and the arrival of the wise men from the East that took place later.[12] These were not coincidences, people. They were divine verifications of fact.

The Shepherds near Bethlehem. We cannot ignore those who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. There were three corroborations available to them: First, the appearance of the angel and the glory of the Lord that shined all around them. Second, a multitude of the “heavenly host appeared praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Finally, when they went to Bethlehem they discovered that everything was as they had been told it would be.[13]

How about the wise men from the East? The magi from Babylon (where the Jewish people had been during the captivity) had the Hebrew scriptures containing the prophet Daniel’s prediction of Christ’s arrival on the scene and the prophet Isaiah’s identification of Him as being born of a virgin. Then they had the supernaturally appearing and reappearing star that guided them to their final destination.[14] Two witnesses of fact were found in God’s Word, and then there was that star.

The apostles of Jesus Christ. What kind of verification was available to those men? The raising of Jairus’ daughter? Casting out demons? Feeding thousands with but little food? Walking on the water? Raising Lazarus? Healing the man with the withered hand? Curing the centurion’s sick servant at a distance? The voice of divine approval? Seeing Christ in His glory? How about seeing Christ raised from the dead?[15] Too many things to keep track of, really.[16]

Finally, what about you? To be sure, we have recorded in God’s Word these and many other multiple attestations of fact upon which to provide a foundation for faith. I mentioned eight examples and could have rehearsed many more, but the pattern in their lives only illustrates the principle already rehearsed to you; that two or three witnesses are essential, and that two or three witnesses are provided by God, as a foundation for faith. Just a reminder. Cain obviously had a foundation for faith though he was a rejecter, Belshazzar had a foundation for belief but he was a refuser, Herod had witnesses to facts for faith in the persons of the wise men but he refused to believe, so there is ample evidence of those who reject ample evidence. Will you be such a person? You might ask, “What witnesses to facts for faith do I have access to?” First, you have the universal testimony of nature, Psalm 19.1-3:

 

1     The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

2     Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

3     There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

 

You also have the testimony of God’s Word. In John 17.17 the Lord Jesus Christ declared to His heavenly Father,

 

“Thy word is truth.”

 

And, third, you have the testimony of credible Christians. Thus, you have all the necessary ingredients upon which to establish a foundation for faith to rest upon. There is no justifiable reason for claiming that you cannot believe the gospel. You can . . . if you will.

 

Finally, THE POINT

 

The point is you have a sinful nature that stands in open rebellion against God, sometimes rebelling against even the very thought of God. There are multiple witnesses to that fact in your conduct. The point is also that God saw your need and sent His only begotten Son, Who suffered, bled, and died on the cross for your sins, and then rose from the dead. There are multiple witnesses to that fact, as well.

 

As we approach Christmas time this year, as in other years, the great majority of those who celebrate Christmas think it’s a very nice tradition, it’s wonderful for little kids, but it really has no basis in fact; there is nothing to really hang your faith on. Oh, how very wrong such thinking is. Faith is not wishful thinking. Faith is not sentimentalism. Faith is not clinging to unsubstantiated convictions. Everywhere in the Bible and throughout the Christian faith that rests upon the bedrock certainty of God’s Word, faith is shown to be the right conclusions about God and His Son that are drawn from evidence, and from proof, and from performance.

Sadly, the sinner’s mind is so darkened that apart from the Holy Spirit’s intervention no one will actually believe the truth, even when it stares him in the face.[17] Even so, we have great reasons for believing God, for trusting the reliability of God’s Word, and for believing that His future dealings with us will be just as trustworthy and beneficial as all His deeds in the past have been.

The point then of this sermon? We have confirmation. We have confirmation that God is real, that God is good, that God is true, and Jesus Christ saves those who trust Him, and that Christmas should be the intelligent and reasoned response to events that we can prove happened. Christmas, and everything else that comprises the Christian faith, is substantiated by real history, by credible witnesses to fact, and God always deals with human beings on the basis of challenging us to believe Him, to trust Him, based upon verified and verifiable facts. That, my friends, is confirmation.



[2] Dictionary.com definition of leap of faith

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 1040-1041 and 315.

[4] Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony Of The Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics, 1995 reprint), page 28. Greenleaf’s three-volume work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, is considered a classic of American jurisprudence and forms the basis for his study of the Gospels.

[5] Ibid., page 90.

[6] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pages 780-782.

[7] The most thorough discussion of First John 5.7-8 I have ever seen is found in Alan J. Macgregor, 400 Years On: How does the Authorized Version stand up in the 21st Century? (UK: Vision Solutionsni, 2010), pages 147-182.

[8] Acts 7.2-4

[9] Exodus 3.2-6

[10] Exodus 5.1-2; 6.1; 7.8-13, 20; 8.6, 17, 24; 9.6, 10, 14, 23; 10.13, 22; 12.12; 13.15

[11] Daniel 5.1-31

[12] Luke 1.26-38, 39-44; Matthew 1.18-24; Luke 2.8-19; Matthew 2.1-11

[13] Luke 2.8-16

[14] Isaiah 7.14; Daniel 9.24-27; Matthew 2.1-11

[15] Matthew 3.17; 8.1-13; 12.1-13; 14.21, 25; 15.38; Mark 9.1-7; Luke 8.26-36; 51-56; John 11.1-44; 1 Corinthians 15.4-9

[16] John 21.25

[17] 1 Corinthians 2.14; 2 Corinthians 4.13


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org