By Thomas A. Davis
When the headline of a Mumbai newspaper read, “Sadhu Claims He Will Walk on Water,” I followed subsequent reports with considerable interest. A Hindu holy man had set a date when he would publicly walk across the surface of a tank of water.
When the day for the miracle arrived, a crowd such as only India can mass pressed to the site. The holy man came with a group of his closest followers and mounted the platform beside the tank. After a few brief preliminaries, he stepped confidently onto the fluid surface.
At that point we kindly draw a veil over the sadhu’s embarrassment by simply reporting that he was not the second human being to walk on water.
But while only one other person besides Christ has ever accomplished this feat—I’m referring to the apostle Peter—it is absolutely necessary that every Christian walk on water. For, I suggest:
Faith is walking on water.
Faith is walking on water all the time.
A strange definition? Let me explain.
Every Bible reader is familiar with the story recorded in Matthew 14 when, at Jesus’ command, Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk toward Jesus on the water. In doing so he did what was utterly impossible and what no human being ever had done before or has done since. He was going against a physical law that is absolutely unvarying. No man can walk on water. The law of hydrodynamics unbendingly forbids it. So unthinkable is the concept that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic for the word impossible used the symbol of a man walking on water.
But Peter walked on water!
What made it possible for him to do that? What supported the weight of a full-grown man on a surface that invariably ruptures under the weight of a tiny frog?
The answer is faith. Faith, not as a self-fulfilling force that creates its own reality from its own assurance, but as an unflawed confidence in Christ's word that permitted Him to bring about that wonder.
Here is a lesson that we Christians must learn: the basis of faith is that through Christ we do what it is impossible to accomplish on our own.
Whenever a person genuinely becomes a Christian, he has, in effect, said, “Lord, bid me come to You on the water.” And in a spiritual sense, he must continually walk on water.
Walking on water is doing by faith what God asks us to do. What does God ask of us as Christians? In some respects, He asks different things of each of us. He has requirements for me that He does not have for you. I may be naturally inclined to show a quick temper, while you may naturally be easygoing. Obviously, God will need to deal with me differently from the way He deals with you in this area.
The point is: each of us is unique, and God tailors His requirements to the individual situation. There were times when Jesus had to gently rein in the impetuous Peter. At other times He reproved Thomas for being too wary and doubting.
But while God customizes His requirements, He always does so from the same unchangeable reference point: His great moral law, the Ten Commandments. For while His “commandment is exceeding broad” (Ps. 119:96), meaning that it can adjust to the personality needs of each individual, it is also exceedingly solid and unyielding when one pushes against its moral imperatives. God’s customized handling of each person is not by overlooking any weakness or excusing any sin, but by dealing with us as individuals, correcting the weaknesses, and continually subduing the sins.
There are those who will insist that the law has been annulled. It is not my purpose to go into this matter very extensively. But Paul, writing more than 20 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, said that the law was still “holy, and just, and good.” Rom. 7:12. The fact that Paul was referring to the Ten Commandments is plain from verse 7: “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
One of God’s requirements has never changed—implicit obedience. Adam and Eve’s seemingly slight transgression, and its results, illustrates how very particular He is in that respect. He is no less particular with us today.
“Work out your own salvation,” wrote Paul. Phil. 2:12. “Strive to enter,” Jesus urged. Luke 13:24. “Here are they that keep [Greek: keep fully by careful watching] the commandments of God” is the way John describes the saints who are living when Jesus returns. Rev. 14:12.
Jesus took hold of the broad, varicolored spectrum of the divine law—“the law and the prophets,” or all the Old Testament—and drew it into two bright beams, one respecting God, the other respecting our fellow men. But He further focused those beams into one point of concentration: love. Matt. 22:36–40. “All the law and the prophets,” He said, converge in love.
Moses delivered his final oration to the Israelites before he climbed Mount Nebo, never to return. In it he reviewed God’s leadings and reminded them of God’s requirements and promises: “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Deut. 30:6.
Here is the key promise. The expression “circumcise your heart” refers to the experience of the new birth, which is a new life. “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom. 2:28, 29.
Ezekiel wrote God’s new covenant promise to Babylonian captives who were experiencing God’s judgments for Israel’s corporate waywardness: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.” Ezek. 36:26, 27.
God declares that, in His power, we can obey His requirements—you can do it!
This expresses a complete gospel, a meeting of the law and the gospel, or grace. Of this the famous Augustine of Hippo declared, “The law was given that grace might be sought; grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.” Well said. And in this is described true walking on water.
Adapted from Of Course You Can Walk on Water, by Thomas A. Davis. Reprinted with permission of Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, MD.