While Paul uses a lot of ink arguing for faith rather than works, he never really argues that faith in God without faith in Jesus is insufficient. To modern ears, that seems to be the obvious question.
We know that Paul believes this because his entire life as an apostle was dedicated to teaching Jews and God-fearing Gentiles to believe in Jesus. Why bother if faith in God would have been enough? Why bring salvation to people who already believed in God if they were already saved?
So what is it about Jesus that makes faith in him essential? Well, consider what Paul says in 1 Cor, perhaps his earliest surviving letter. Continue reading
So the Christmas shopping season is fast approaching. Black Friday followed by Electronic Black Monday etc. And if you’re reading this blog, you are likely the sort of person who is very hard to shop for.
I mean, you are far more interested in a good conversation about double predestination than new socks or monogrammed hankies. You’re probably male (or so says Google Analytics, and Google can’t be wrong), and men are hard to shop for unless they are golfers or hunters — and even then they have to pick out their own stuff. Right?
So I thought I’d offer some suggestions that you can email your wife, husband, children, significant other, or congregation. Continue reading
In the NT, “faith” doesn’t greatly change meanings from the OT, except that “faith” in the NT is always faith in Jesus. Before Pentecost, the Jews believed in God and in his promised Messiah, but they did not believe in Jesus — nor were they expected to. He’d not yet been revealed.
But beginning with Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, the faith that saves becomes faith that Jesus is Messiah and Lord/faithfulness to Jesus as Messiah and Lord/trust in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
This is anticipated by Peter’s Great Confession — Continue reading
We’ve already shown how pistis in the Greek picks up the meanings of faith and faithfulness. This is especially evident in Romans and Galatians, but not just there.
When we reflect on the beginning of faith, God’s covenant with Abraham, we have to add another nuance to pistis —
(Gen 15:4-6 ESV) 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
“Believed the LORD” means that he believed that God would keep his promise. It wasn’t about believing God to exist. Abram had believed in the existence of God since he left Ur and traveled to Canaan at God’s instruction. Nor was it about being obedient. In fact, Abraham had been doubting God’s word up to this point. Rather, Abram made a decision to trust God’s promises and to live in reliance on those promises — trust producing faithfulness. This is the meaning of “believed” in Gen 15. Continue reading
(Rom 3:21-22a NET) But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – 22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.
The righteousness of God, that is, his faithfulness to his covenant, has been revealed by (get this!) the faithfulness of Jesus. That is, Jesus’ death on the cross is God honoring his covenant. Why? Continue reading
Let’s take another look at Rom 3:3 —
(Rom 3:1-4 NET) Therefore what advantage does the Jew have, or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Actually, there are many advantages. First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some [of the Jews] did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 Absolutely not! Let God be proven true, and every human being shown up as a liar, just as it is written: “so that you will be justified in your words and will prevail when you are judged.”
Why might the unbelief of the Jews nullify God’s faithfulness? Faithfulness to what? Well, plainly, to God’s covenants with the Jews. Continue reading
Faith begins, not with a Plan or even with Jesus. It begins with God. You see, the Bible actually speaks of the faith of God —
(Rom 3:3 KJV) For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
— as well as the faith of Jesus —
(Rom 3:22 KJV) Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
(Gal 2:16 KJV) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
(Gal 3:22 KJV) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
How very odd! Modern translations deal with these perplexing passages in different ways, but the scholarly consensus is increasingly to follow the NET Bible translation — Continue reading
Notice how far we’ve come without having to speak about Five Acts of Worship, being Scripturally Organized, or even the Five-Step Plan of Salvation.
On the other hand, our basic theology here is thoroughly Trinitarian. Much has been said about God, Jesus, and the Spirit. None is an afterthought or a throw in. Each plays an essential role.
Moreover, while morality in the conventional sense hasn’t played a big role in our discussion, we have found the need for mankind to be transformed into the image of God
— which has huge ethical implications. And we find ourselves called to participate with God in his mission to extend the Kingdom to fill the earth — so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
And we’ve seen that God’s justice and righteousness requires us to be concerned about the needs of others, especially the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless. Continue reading
God’s blood oath
I learned this lesson from Ray Vander Laan. I’ve even gotten to hear him teach it in person. And I know of no other theologian who places so much weight on this event.
But it seems that Paul makes God’s covenant with Abraham central to salvation by faith in Gal 3 and Rom 4. And if that’s so, then the ceremony by which God sealed that covenant has to be important, too.
For thousands of years, men have sealed covenants in blood. In the Middle East, they used to say that they “cut a covenant,” meaning the covenanting parties cut their arms and sucked a bit of one another’s blood. The mingling of blood was considered to bring the parties together so tightly they’d have to honor their words. Continue reading