Sorry for the long delay between posts, but Ruth and I were away on a short holiday and was unable to work on the blog. I hope that from now on I will be able to get back on schedule of sending out a post every two-to-four days.
Let’s begin this post with Galatians 3:23-26
23 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” English Standard Version
In her amazing book, The Crucifixion, Fleming Ruthledge points out that, “God’s righteousness is active not only in the call but also in the response, even the response of faith,” p. 330 Importantly, a few pages earlier she gives a working definition of “the righteousness of God,” when she states, “The righteousness of God is God’s powerful activity of making right what is wrong with the world.” This includes of course the justice of God in dealing with the issue of sin, not only within the world, but also within the individual heart.
What is important for us to remember is that faith is not a work or a response that springs from our heart but instead a gift from God. We are not capable of faith if we rely upon our self to bring it forward. Faith comes from the Holy Spirit implanting within our hearts the “word” of God that brings transformation.
When we pray, study the Bible, read the Bible, discuss the Scriptures with others or meditate upon the Word of God, we are opening our heart to the “Word” to pour into our soul the gift of faith. Romans 5:5 puts it this way, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
In reality the words, love, Christ and faith are interchangeable. Ernst Kasemann, in his now famous commentary on Romans wrote, “Faith is constituted by the fact that with the preaching of the gospel the Lord who is the basis of the gospel comes upon the scene and seizes dominion over us,” Commentary on Romans, p. 108
Rutledge states, “We may say therefore that Christ evokes faith, begets faith, gives birth to faith, elicits faith, with the understanding that it never becomes a possession our own that we can take credit for, but is always a work of its own.” p. 330
Let’s look once again at Galatians 3:23-26 but this time substitute Christ every time we see the word faith. “Now before Christ came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming Christ should be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by Christ. But now that Christ has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through Christ.” You see, faith is not something we conjure up from within us; it is a gift that activates us towards God.
Rutledge uses a Biblical illustration that explains much better than I can what I am trying to say about faith. The story is found in Mark 9:21-24 and it is the story of a demon possessed boy and his father’s call for Jesus to help.
21“And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood.
22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’
23 And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.’
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ ”
Jesus evokes faith by His enabling word, “all things are possible to him who has faith.” This gives birth to the father’s cry of faith, “I believe.” Ruthledge points out, “The faith that is thus evoked forever remains a gift, not a human achievement. In this life, there will never be a time when we will not need to say to the Lord, ‘Help my unbelief.’ We cannot choose to have faith; we can only receive it with joy and thanksgiving.” P. 331
Let’s end with 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God.” When we allow the Spirit to pour the love of Jesus into our heart through hearing the Word of God we are new creations and the old has passed away. Notice the text doesn’t say the old may pass away, but instead has passed away. All this is from God.
Yes, we are new creations in Jesus no longer enslaved to the law, the nature, or sin and death. We are free in Christ and this is through the cross. We cannot even respond to the wonder of this freedom on our own so God gives us the gift of faith. He pours His love and His faith into us through the Spirit. We are transformed into believers, not by anything we do or anything that springs up from within us, but through the wonder and mercy and grace of God.
How do we receive this amazing gift of faith? We open our hearts to God’s calling our name. “Behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
If you have a loved one who is struggling in their relationship with God or life in general, then pray for them. Ask God to continue “in Power” to keep knocking on the heart of your loved one until the door is open and they enter into relationship with God. Some of you have been praying a long time and you call out to God, “I believe, help my unbelief,” and that’s fine. Don’t give up. My mother prayed for my father through 72 years of marriage even when she lay half paralyzed from a stroke in a nursing home bed—and God heard her prayer.
Faith isn’t something your loved one needs to dredge up to become a Christian, faith is a gift that will come through the Spirit’s still small voice calling his/her name. Our prayer simply needs to be, “Lord, open their heart and let your love shine in.” And when they do the gift of faith will flow through them like water in a parched land.