Faith vs. Faithfulness

These two are different and they pose vastly different points of theology. For one is the very notion of what it takes to enter and last in a relationship with God and the other is a description of one who is reliable, dependable, and consistent. In some theological circles some have adopted the idea of the faith of Christ rather than the faith of us as the primary import of the salvation transaction, so to speak. Now while all believers would agree that Christ was completely faithful and lived a live worth modeling as such I think it is a bit far to say that these verses are talking about Christ’s faith as key to our salvation. Let me explain.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11)

The writer of Hebrews gives us a working definition of faith. It has to do with belief in that which has not been seen. In others words it is an exercise in risk in that it does not know the outcome of such belief based in verifiable fact. It is an exercise in trust without all the information. It has reasons but it does not have a spread sheet of answers to point to. The writer of Hebrews goes on to make the point that in a similar fashion the world was made out of things that are not visible. In a similar vein not only do we believe that creation happened on faith but creation itself, is a picture of faith.

This is faith. So I have to ask is this how Jesus operated? Did Jesus not know he was God’s son but took it in faith? Did Jesus not know that he was to come and be the perfect sacrifice but took it on faith? Did Jesus have to take it on faith that we would be raised? Did Jesus operate without knowledge? I have heard some believe that Jesus didn’t know he was God’s son until the dove descended at his baptism. That’s not something I would want to say.

But this is what some are adopting as theology. For instance:

16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2)

and

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2)

Now some want to look at the Greek, even though the Greek is itself ambiguous, to take those two phrase faith in Jesus and faith in the Son of God and make it faith of Jesus and the faith of the Son of God. At first glance it looks like a Calvinist’s dream. Yes not only are we chosen before hand and elected but we live our lives because of his faith. I don’t have to do a thing! This is the difference between the subjective genitive and the objective genitive grammar in the Greek of the word Pistis. This is a fairly recent change in the history of theological development. Some love this idea because it sounds like Christ even does the faith part for me also!

But in my view I think this starts to darken the doorway of universalism. I mean that if both the sacrifice and the faith are both Christ’s to take care of what really is my response at all? Why call people to faith if it is really his own faith that does all that is necessary? Furthermore why call people to repentance at all if it is not their own response of faith that is required? I know this argument has already been used for Calvinist’s with even election and evangelism, but I think it has much more weight if we are not truly called to faith ourselves? If it is Jesus’ faith that is binding why is a recognition on my part even necessary, and if it is, then aren’t we back to me needing to have faith again? If so, why interpret this way?

As I experienced it in Seminary when I would try to go other passages to invoke the idea of faith in God I was told that those also were in the “objective” as well. It felt like a hi-jacking of the word of God was taking place. Part of this I saw was because there was this desire to change the thinking of Paul as distancing himself from the law of the Old Covenant. When I tried to make the connection I was told it was not one, but it only follows if you are using logic. I was happy to leave it in seminary but I have seen some articles taking up this cause.

Now I don’t want to say that all takers of this view believe this, but I think that this idea open the doors to this bad theology.

The reasoning used is Paul is not an anti-Semite, this has roots in the new perspective of Paul, thus he wasn’t contrasting the Law and faith but law and now Jesus’ faith. The connection I see is because it is not a contrast about Law and Faith, so they further make the point by changing the faith aspect as well. But this is only necessary to say if you believe that Paul is actually disparaging the law, which I would agree, he is not. Faith in God as opposed to the law does not mean I have to reject the law as useless, I don’t. I can have a contrasting faith in God versus fulfillment of the law without having to say the law was a wicked thing. I can acknowledge the law as useful as Jesus did. That is very possible. Try it.

Furthermore this line of reasoning does not work when you read Galatians chapter 3. This subjective vs. objective nature of the noun is not in play but the idea of the need for faith over the need of the law is. The flow of logic then is it should be faith in God because Paul continues to talk in such a way in chapter 3. It seems silly to call Abraham a man of faith when it was God’s faith and it is also silly for Hebrews to record a Faith hall of fame when it was not their faith actually.

Furthermore if you go to Romans 10 where Paul teaches us that in order to be saved is to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is a pretty clear faith element, so much so that one must also be moved to confess him as Lord.

I say all this because the church already has a grace vs. law problem that the answer seems to be to simply reduce the new testament to the word grace and move on with our lives. The New Testament however is replete with how we are to add to our faith and grow in Christ.

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1)

While the faithfulness of Jesus is something everybody agrees with I think talking about the faith of Jesus is a bit of a misnomer. Jesus didn’t need to operate in faith, but be absolutely needed to be faithful to his calling which he was. Faith was about us placing trust in Jesus words about himself and the Father, but these are truths that Jesus knows. The hall of fame from Hebrews says that Jesus was the author and perfecter of our faith. I believe this to mean that Jesus is the very genesis of faith and gave us cause and reason for it. As in Jesus gave us a new definition of faith in God, he literally gave us a new way to approach God.

I think this is similar to the faith without works thing. As James teaches that demons confess and believe but they do not having a saving faith. Jesus has a trust in God but it is not one that needs works to be real as ours is. His mission of salvation was an exercise in obedience for sure, but not like Abraham’s test with Issac to see if he would produce the needed faith for well, faith in God. This is why these categories are silly? Was belief an obstacle for him? Do we really need to ask if the kind of faith Jesus had was a saving faith?

This is the point: Faith is an exercise that pleases God because as fallen men we do not naturally have it, and it wars against our nature, against what is seen? Against who we are as fallen beings. But would that be true or needed for God’s son who was without sin? His life of faithfulness is absolutely to be modeled but I think a need for his own faith in himself is, a bit much.

thanks?

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Bruce Sims says:

    Reblogged this on Call to Witness.

    Like

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