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Sep 2010

The Symbol vs. The Substance of Faith

A Symbol of Commitment

Just over 4 years ago, I entered a covenant with my wife Heather. The ring that you see is a symbol of that covenant. The covenant itself is the substance; the ring is the symbol. On one level, true faith in Christ works this way as well. There is the substance of faith and there is also the symbol of that faith.

This afternoon, I was reading the gospel of Luke with some students in the commons building at VCU. One of those students was a gentleman who has yet to give his life to Jesus Christ. He has a little bit of “religion” though, so as we discussed the importance of truly receiving Christ on his own terms before we can become “children of God” (John 1:12), this gentleman made a big deal about the fact that he had already been baptized.

As the other students did a great job of explaining to this gentleman why that baptism, all by itself, could never replace true repentance and faith in Christ, I looked at my wedding ring and thought, “Maybe he will understand this.”

I took my ring off and said, “Am I still married?” He responded immediately, “Yes.” I continued, “The reason that I am still married is because I possess the substance (a true covenant with my wife) that is represented by this symbol.”

And then I asked him… “If you were to put on this ring, would you be married?” He immediately responded, “No.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because I don’t have a wife.”

I looked at him and said, “If you can understand that, then you can also understand this: You possess the symbol of a relationship with Jesus Christ (baptism), but you do not have the substance (true repentance, faith, obedience, love).”

Afterward, with him present, we all prayed that God would reveal to him what it means to truly have the substance of faith in Christ. Join us in praying for this gentleman. I believe that God will hear and answer your prayers.


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