Faith for Faith: The Very Heart of the Gospel

I have written previously explaining the derivation of the name of this site, viz. Faith for Faith, yet in it I failed to fully express its significance, and for that I apologize. And if an apology seems unwarranted at the moment, in a short time I believe that the significance of the expression will become much more apparent, so much so that I might be rightly chastised for having not developed it at the time of this site’s inception.

For the expression faith for faith was not idly chosen, but its choice was because the meaning behind it is the very heart of the Gospel. For the apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (v. 1:17), and he later clarifies his meaning (for its use there was precursory in nature) writing, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law–although the law and prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who [have faith]” (v. 3:21).1 For the hope of the Gospel is that we, who are by nature and necessity unrighteous, might enter into the Kingdom of God, yet the hope of entering that Kingdom is held out of reach for natural men, for Christ says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). Granting, therefore, that the scribes and the Pharisees were together the strictest keepers and observers of the law, to attain a righteousness that not only meets theirs but exceeds it would by itself drive us to despair unless a righteousness that were alien to us were somehow imputed to us.

Paul, therefore, joins with the revelation of this righteousness of God the means by which that righteousness is obtained, viz. through faith. And lest we presume that the faith by which we obtain this righteousness is our own, he states that it is Jesus Christ’s faith granted to us that in turn produces faith in us. For the faith required for receiving that righteousness is as far beyond our reach as the righteousness itself, for we are all by nature deaf and blind, being as unable to muster up any semblance of faith as a dead man is able to arise and speak on his own accord.

In spite of this, many stand in opposition to attributing the origination of our faith to God. These who oppose this hold that a faith that leads to righteousness is our own work and all that one has to do is cognitively consider the merits of Jesus and be convinced thereby apart from the work of the Spirit of God. In other words, to them the ordo salutis is initiated in man and subsequently confirmed and blessed by the Spirit. This belief has diverged into a number of poor doctrines and practices ranging from the “ask-Jesus-into-your-heart” method of evangelism to the use of philosophy in apologetics to argue someone into believing in Christ. While I will not spend any time here arguing against such distortions nor deny that God in grace has at times brought his children to himself through them, I will say that their foundation is rested on a diluted notion of faith. These, as well as others who are otherwise orthodox, make salvific faith out to be far less substantial than it really is, all the while missing the reason why faith is so instrumental to our salvation.

That faith is the vehicle through which one is saved by God is not widely disputed, yet it has been said by some that its choice as the vehicle was arbitrary on God’s part. In other words, if God had so chosen, he could have made another means through which men are saved rather than through belief in him. While I will not attempt to argue against the power of God and his right to do with men as he pleases, I will however argue that faith as the vehicle was not chosen by God willy-nilly, but it is rather the direct answer to man’s rebellion, i.e. why man needed to be saved in the first place.

For if we consider the Fall of Adam, we see there that unbelief (or unfaith, if you will) is the seed from which sprouted his rebellion. While it is widely held that it was his pride that was the primary cause of his fall, for it was said to him by the serpent, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5), that pride was the fruit of his unbelief, founded in the venomous doubt that the serpent injected into his mind at the outset, viz. “Did God actually say?” (v. 3:1). It was this disbelief, this lack of faith in God that led to the fall of Adam and that ultimately plunged the entire human race into ruin. For if Adam had believed God rather than the serpent, he would have never had fallen. If he had believed that God was his ultimate good, that he was the Creator who was alone worthy of all honor and glory, that it was in his paternal beneficence that he withheld from man the knowledge acquired by the fruit of that one tree, Adam would have resisted the serpent and remained unfallen. Yet, as it is, Adam succumbed to his unbelief, reached out to grab the fruit of his promised glory, ate of it, and died.

It is in this context that the promised triumph of the woman’s seed over the serpent is given, expressly that “He shall bruise your [the serpent’s] head” (v. 3:15). In other words, this Seed, as Paul later confirms to be Christ (cf. Gal. 3), would do what Adam failed to do, namely believe God and thus crush the Deceiver. This Seed would believe God in all things in spite of the harshest of circumstances. While Adam failed to believe God’s Word in the most wonderful of contexts (viz. the Garden in which there was great delight, no pain, etc.), Christ would believe God in most terrible of contexts (viz. the wilderness, without food for forty days, and with death on the cross in his future). Jesus Christ would be faithful to the Father in all ways, while Adam could not be faithful to the Father in one way.

In this we see clearly why faith is the vehicle through which we are saved. For unbelief was the wellspring from which sprung our first father’s sin, and it has ever since been the wellspring of all other sins. All sin in every form can be traced back to the single source of unbelief in God and his Word, and all righteousness can be traced back to the single source of belief. It is for this reason that Moses wrote, “Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6), and why Moses later wrote God’s words concerning himself, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me … you shall not bring this assembly into the land” (Num. 20:12). For the former was counted righteous by faith and dwelt securely in the land, while the latter (though he spoke to God as one would a friend) through one instance of unbelief was forbidden from entering into it.

These observations should drive us to the question, “Who then can be saved?” For if Adam fell to unbelief in the perfection of the Garden and Moses fell to unbelief though he spoke to God face-to-face (cf. Ex. 33:11), what hope is there for us who are not nearly as righteous as they? The hope comes from faith for faith, or, in other words, the faith of the truly Faithful One granted to us who are by nature faithless producing faith in us through the power of the Spirit of God. It is an alien faith given to us affording us an alien righteousness whereby we are justified in the sight of God. This is the Gospel, namely that Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (cf. Heb. 12:2), grants to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (cf. 2Pet. 1:3). Nothing is excepted, not even our faith. For as Paul writes elsewhere, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ that you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29), and again, “By grace you have been saved through faith–and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For what reason? So that the one who boasts would boast in the Lord alone (cf. 2Cor. 10:17; Jer. 9:23, 24).

In this Gospel we are invited to turn from our wretched and pitiable state and take hold of Jesus Christ, who is everything to us. Though we may not in the beginning fully understand how we came to believe in Christ so as to lay hold him or at that time have perceived how the Spirit was working in us so as to remove from us our hearts of stone (cf. Ez. 36:26), the Word of God has been given to us so that we might understand these things, producing God-wrought humility in us so that we might ascribe to him all the glory due his Name. For there is nothing that we have received that has not been given to us, yet we often, in our ignorance or in the delusions of philosophy, attempt to retain some credit for ourselves. Faith for faith does not allow this, removing from man every particle of his salvation from him and returning it rightly to him who accomplished it, even Jesus Christ, so that it might be said of him in adoration, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rm. 11:36).

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1 – The rendering of the verse here might be objected to by some, it differing from most, popular English translations. Let me ease that by stating that the first instance of faith here (dia pisteos Iesou Xpistou) is clearly genitive (i.e. possessive) and not locative (see also Young’s Literal Translation). Furthermore, as it is commonly rendered in English, the verse is redundant, i.e. “[T]hrough faith in Jesus for all those who [have faith].” This redundancy clearly misses the design of the apostle both in its immediate context and in how he introduces it at the beginning of his letter, viz. “The righteousness of God has been revealed from faith for faith.”



Categories: Theology

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