I find the title for this week’s study somewhat interesting: Jesus never used the term “justification” and the Bible never used the term “justification by faith alone.”
But Jesus surely spoke plainly about how sinners become right with Him. How many times does Jesus emphasize: “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:31, 34-36, GNB)
Martin Luther was the bold one who inserted that one word “alone” in his German translation of the Greek text, thereby causing a theological dust-up to this day. I, for one strongly support what he was trying to do: In a day when the great multitude of church members believed that their future life depended on birth-to-death priestly rituals, here and now, Luther blasted through this dismal fog by repeating the simple New Testament gospel—“away with all this papal accretion, we are made right with God through faith alone.”
On that simple, yet profound, phrase hangs the difference between all those wonderfully sincere voices who point out all kinds of stuff we must do to get God’s attention and approval and those equally sincere voices that echo the clear, unambiguous words: The just, [the ones who are right with God] shall live by faith.”
Of course, it is not really that simple. Just glance over the hundreds of conflicting voices today that are shouting out what “they” mean by “The just shall live by faith!”
Although rarely noticed, the issue is really over the meaning of “faith” because the meaning of faith seems to be controlling their definitionc of “justification.”
I often read and re-read 1 Peter, chap 1—very few passages in the Bible are more personal or clearer as to what the Great Controversy is all about. In verse 5, he gives us the open secret that every boy and girl can understand: “We are kept by the power of God through faith.” This is the formula that has picked men and women out of the gutter of life, which holds families together when tragedy strikes—all kinds of tragedy and disappointment and terror. But men and women who listen are “kept by the power of God through faith.”
What is this thing called “Faith”? Faith is heart appreciation, but more. Faith is the way we say thanks to God’s mercies. Faith has two hands, thanks for pardon and thanks for power. Faith knows that to separate those two hands is how Satan confuses the church.
Of all people, Peter knows that following Jesus is not a picnic (vs. 7). Faith is more than poetry. No longer that cussing fisherman, or the scared disciple who was embarrassed by a gal that recognized him as a follower of the condemned Jesus. Faith changes men and women if it is “genuine” vs 7. Genuine faith really does lead to salvation, vs, 9.
In other words, when we couple “faith” with “justification” we are uniting a unique, deep personal experience with God’s unique act—we call it “salvation”!
We would see all this better if some of our English Bibles would properly translate the Greek word pistis. Whenever most English translations/versions/paraphrases use the English words “believe, or believing,” it would be far more helpful if they use “faith,” or “have faith.”
Faith is not merely believing and accepting the fact that Jesus died on the Cross and that He is coming again. Satan believes that as well. Peter is telling us that “genuine faith” is power. Paul calls this good news about what God does for us: “For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, ‘The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.” Romans 1:17.
Paul is amazingly clear and consistent: “God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. . . . But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. . . . In this way God shows that he puts right everyone who believes [has faith] in Jesus. . . . His [Abraham’s] faith filled him with power, and he gave praise to God. He was absolutely sure that God would be able to do what he had promised. That is why Abraham, through faith, ‘was accepted as righteous by God.’” Romans 3:22. 24, 26; 4:20.
I am so glad that Christian theology is not a summary of philosophical theorems. Rather, it is a summary of actions between our Creator/Heavenly Father and His children—children who have left home and children who have heard the bell of homesickness.
Our Heavenly Father does not bargain or act like some earthly judges. No, He doesn’t play legal games. In righteousness/justification by faith, Jesus comes to heal that which was broken, to restore that which had been separated
Faith is that connection with God that permits Him to give us power over all temptations―not just some temptations, but all of them, from within as well as from without. Faith is simply saying Yes to all that God stands for in our lives. Faith describes our response to God’s grace.
Faith is the one word that has divided every church group since New Testament days. Getting the word, “faith,” right heals broken friendships. This is the faith that John describes in Revelation 14: 12: “Here are they who keep the commandments of God and the faith ofJesus.” Whatever kept Jesus from sinning will keep you and me from sinning. Peter calls it the “power of God through faith.”
To put it another way, What is our only possible response to all the “ good news”? Both Peter and Paul say that one word, “faith” is our best and only way to thank God. And to find the promised peace and joy now and the eternal life when Jesus returns.
Genuine faithsimply reflects the Spirit and Choices of Jesus. And, as Paul says, that is all that is needed to “put us right and to stay right with God.” (Righteousness by faith).
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3482