Faith Precedes Understanding


“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” – Luke 24:13-35


We are all familiar with the cliché, “What came first? The chicken or the egg?” I have entitled this devotional series “Faith Precedes Understanding” because the world will tell you, “Seeing is believing,” but biblical faith and understanding are obtained in the exact opposite order—believing is seeing. Using the above text, Luke 24:13-35, over the next several weeks, I will seek to answer two questions:
  1. What does it mean to really believe?
  2. How is faith born in a person’s heart?

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Paul was proclaiming this truth: faith precedes understanding. It’s only God’s Spirit who can lift the blinding veil from our spiritual eyes and give us understanding, and the Spirit can only operate in the heart of one who truly believes. Therefore, faith must precede understanding.

At some point, belief must transition from the mind to the heart. Hence, real biblical faith is born in the heart. Isaiah 29:13 states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Churches here in America are full of people who believe every word of the Apostle’s Creed, yet many of them don’t really know Jesus because their beliefs are still trapped in their minds and have never made their way to their hearts.

Examining the conversation that took place on the way to Emmaus, we must consider what it means to truly believe and have saving faith. Does your life show any real proof or evidence that you truly have biblical faith? This is a very important question to consider because the only faith that is acceptable to God is true biblical faith.

As we unpack the idea that faith precedes understanding, it is also helpful to remember Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Stay tuned!