Feb 18, 2011

Faith in the Blood

"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Romans 3: 21-26)

My father, a Primitive (Hardshell) Baptist pastor, has kept me informed of some of the discussions presently going on among the Hardshells. One of those discussions concerns scriptures which state that sinners are saved and justified "by faith." Since Hardshells reject the idea that hearing the gospel and having faith in Christ is necessary for justification and salvation, they have had to come up with ways of explaining away those many scriptures that make hearing the gospel and faith to be necessary for justification and salvation. One of the ways they have sought to handle those verses that make faith a requirement for justification and salvation is to affirm that the "faith" in those many passages is either 1) the faith Christ himself exercised or 2) the faith that God the Father has in the work of his Son.

My father rejects the interpretation of some Hardshells who want to ascribe "faith" to God, or to divinity. Dad rejects the idea that "faith" is exercised by God as this would imply a weakness or limitation in God, the same as if one said that God had "hope." I of course agree with this and have added arguments to his in our private discussions of this "interpretation." However, I must confess my mental laughter which occurs nearly every time we discuss this issue. Now, my dad and I do not have heated disagreements over Hardshellism, as we have had in former years. My father is almost 78 years old and had heart by-pass surgery almost twenty years ago. I do not try to rile my father in his old age. He knows my views and I know his. We have "had it out" on Hardshellism in years gone by and there is no need to hash and re-hash it. I laugh because I see their "twisting" of scripture, to uphold their man-made premises and propositions, as humorous. I laugh at their puny efforts to crack the rock of truth regarding the relationship of faith and salvation. They are so wedded to their Hardshell errors regarding the scriptural relationship of faith and salvation that they will do all manner of "twisting" of scripture in order to make each text conform to their errors. Their view that one can be saved, born again, and justified, and who nevertheless has no faith in the God of Abraham and Jesus, is so abundantly countered by express scriptural statements, that it is a thing of wonder and amazement how Hardshells could confess to believe the bible and yet believe such errors.

Though I inwardly laugh at such efforts to resist the truth of scripture, I also mourn for the practice. It is not funny, but serious. Hardshellism is a disease in the body of Christ. Hardshell teaching against the idea that one must believe in Jesus to be saved is serious. God is not pleased with such teaching. It is anti-gospel. God's word is "believe and be saved" (Acts 16: 31) but the Hardshell word is "be saved whether you believe or not." God's word says that the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever, but Hardshells believe many unbelievers are justified from such wrath. (John 3: 36) Now, I do not say that all Hardshells are damned, because many of them truly do believe in Jesus and in the gospel. But, that is not to say that God will not judge them severely for their preaching an anti-gospel.

It is not to be denied that there are passages that speak of "the faith of God" (Rom. 3: 3) and "the faith of Christ." (Gal. 2: 16) What is meant by these phrases? Do they affirm that God the Father and Christ both "believed" and "trusted," in certain things? That they relied upon certain persons and things?

"The faith of God" and "the faith of Christ," in the passages previously referenced, are in the genitive case and function as adjectives. One could translate "God's faith" or "Christ's faith." The presence of the definite article "the" before "faith" is also significant. Oftentimes, in scripture, when "faith" is used with the definite article, it signifies not the action of believing or to the state of mind of the believer, or to the condition of belief, but to the object of belief, that body or system of truth, to the gospel, or to basic Christian doctrine. One scripture that clearly shows this, even by Hardshell admission, is Jude 3, where the apostle says that Christians should "earnestly contend for THE FAITH which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3) Here "the faith" refers to the object of belief, to the gospel. In the above referenced scriptures, therefore, the mention of "the faith of God" and "faith of Christ" simply means "the gospel or truth of God."

God gives "faith," and this is true regarding the object of belief and of belief itself. He gives the gospel, the truth, the doctrine, or the faith. He also convinces men of the truth and in this way is said to give faith, or a confident state of mind.

Some commentators think "faith of God" in Romans 3: 3 means "the faithfulness of God." I don't think this is the intention of Paul, however. It is true that the "unbelief" of Jews will not make the "faithfulness" of God "without effect (success)," but God's "faith" also will not be made to fail by the unbelief of the Jews. In the passage Paul contrasts the "without-faith" ("unbelief") of the Jews with the "faith" of God. If "faith" = "faithfulness" then, to be consistent, "unbelief" must = "unfaithfulness." Likewise, if the "faith" of God denotes saving truth, to be consistent, "without faith" must denote absence of truth, or to false truth that damns, or to "damnable heresies." (II Peter 2: 1)

"Their unbelief" therefore means their lack of truth, which would denote their non-possession of it in their hearts, which we called "unbelief."

In the Greek of Galatians 2: 16 it is not possible to translate "faith OF Christ" to "faith IN Christ." There are passages which speak of "faith in Christ" and there are those which speak of "the faith of Christ" and they ought not to be interpreted in the same way. They do not mean the same thing. The "the faith of Christ" always denotes either object or source. Thus, "Christ's faith" means the same thing as "Christ's gospel." (II Cor. 2: 12) There is no difference in saying "the gospel of Christ" versus "Christ's gospel." There is no difference in saying "the law of the Lord" versus "the Lord's law," etc. Thus, when the scriptures speak of "Christ's faith" it refers to his gospel. In the Greek of Galatians 1: 23 it is clear that "the gospel" is equated with "the faith." According to Berry the text says "...now announces the glad tidings--the faith which once he ravaged..."

To be saved by the "the faith of God" or "the faith of Christ" is to be saved by the gospel. But, the Hardshells deny this. They not only deny that "believing" (the verb) is necessary to salvation, or that "faith" (the noun - the state of the confident mind) is necessary, but they deny that the gospel (or "the faith") is necessary.

The problem that the Hardshells have with Romans 3 is that it on the surface teaches that one must "believe" in Jesus, in "the blood," in order to be saved and justified. They cannot use their "time salvation" method of misinterpretation, in this passage, as they do in other passages that connect faith with salvation, because they see how it contextually is clearing dealing with eternal salvation. So, some have come up with the idea that "faith in the blood" is not a reference to the faith of the sinner, or of the one who believes, but to God the Father's "faith" in the blood of his Son. Again, this is laughable. It is laughable because it shows how their message is to convince people that believing in Jesus and his blood is a non-essential for salvation. What a message to send out to the world! I am sure the Devil is pleased with it.

Dad is correct to argue against the idea that God the Father has "faith" or "belief" in his Son and his redemptive work. This language is inappropriate and not used in scripture. When Paul said - "we walk by faith and not by sight," (II Cor. 5: 7) he clearly defines "faith" by its lack of absolute or complete knowledge or "sight." God walks by sight, not by faith.

If Hardshells would study the context of Romans 3 they would see that "faith in the blood" is an allusion to the mental state of those who "believe." They trust in the blood of Jesus, they rely upon it for salvation. The expressions - "unto all and upon all them that believe" and "justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" all refer to the believing of sinners, not to the believing of Deity.