Mar 15, 2016

God's Faith? (xi)

Before proceeding to the scriptures previously stated as next on our list of passages to study, let us recap what we have thus far advanced.

I began with a thesis relative to Romans 3:3 and the proper interpretation of "the faith of God" (KJV), affirming that by "the faith" was meant the divine revelation, the same thing as "the oracles," and which for old testament believers was contained in "the law and the prophets." For new testament believers there is the addition of the oracles of Christ to "the faith."

I showed how "the faith" was an early common term used by the first Christians and that it was associated in their minds with the divine word or oracles, either those given by Jehovah in the old testament, or by Jesus in the new, but especially is it synonymous with "the gospel."

In affirming this I am not saying that "the faith" was a common term among old testament believers to denote their sacred scriptures and oracles. The old testament terms for that body of revelation was generally "the law," or "the law and the prophets," or "the word of God," or "the oracles of God," etc.

Just like "the gospel" was not a common old testament expression, so neither was "the faith"; And, just because the term "the gospel" was not in common use in old testament times does not mean that "the gospel" did not then exist. Likewise, just because the term "the faith" was not in common use in old testament times does not mean that "the faith" did not then exist.

It is clear that Paul, in speaking of "the faith" in Romans 3:3, has the old testament scriptures primarily in mind. However, Paul and the other new testament authors firmly believed that the words of Christ were additions to "the faith," fresh oracles. Further, their writings show that they accepted their own writings and teachings as inspired, and coming directly from the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus became part of "the faith." 

God "spoke" to the people in old testament times "by the prophets," and what he spoke to them, his utterances, words, sayings, or oracles, became "the faith." The various parts of this body of inspired writing were not all given at one time. Thus, "the faith," though beginning with the Torah or Pentateuch, nevertheless increased as God continued to oracle his mind to the prophets. At the time of the coming of Christ "the faith" would have included all the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, or what we call "the old testament." 

The Old and The New Oracles

The first Christians believed that "God in these last days has spoken" (oracled, as it were) unto us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1-2), and so "the oracles of the God" and "the faith of the God" now had further additions. As the old testament oracles came from God through Moses and the other prophets, so the new testament oracles now had come through Christ and his apostles. Further, even in the strictest sense of the word "oracle," who can doubt that the words coming from God out of heaven at the baptism of Christ are not a new oracle? That oracle said "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." And, on the Mount of Transfiguration that same voice said "you hear him."

As we will see, when Paul refers or alludes to these new oracles, he often uses a form of the word "rhema," meaning "utterance." These sayings or utterances of Christ are esteemed by Christians as being as much "the oracles of God" as those of Moses and the prophets.

The Greek word translated "oracle" in the KJV is logion, a diminutive of logos. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines logion as "a divine response or utterance, an oracle."

Let us look at the few passages where "oracles" is used and see if we can discern the meaning in those places.

"This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:" (Acts 7:38) 

Stephen is here alluding to Exodus 19:3 where the Lord called to Moses from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel."

In this passage "the oracles" are clearly the words that God first gave to Moses on mount Sinai and would equal what is called the Torah or Pentateuch (especially the ten commandments). These first oracles did not include the later writings of the prophets, or later utterances of Jehovah. Also, in actuality, the first oracles were "uttered" in the Garden of Eden.

The words God spoke to Adam and Eve were oracles or utterances of God the Creator. The words spoken to the serpent are also to be esteemed as "oracles" and contain the first gospel message called the protoevangelium (Genesis 3: 15-16). Further, not only did LORD God "utter" or "say" things to Moses with his "voice," but he spoke to the entire congregation of Israel out of the burning mountain. The words the people heard were "oracles." Consider also that the entire Book of Leviticus is nothing but the dictated utterances of God (and yet it is one of the least read, ironically).

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." (Heb. 5:12)

Again, in this passage, it seems clear that "the oracles" is another reference to the complete word of God or to the entire old testament revelation. Further, if we substitute "the faith" in the above verse instead of "the oracles" we have "the first principles of the faith of God." Also, the definite article is before "God" in the Greek text of the verse so that it is literally "the first principles of the oracles of the God." This is one of those concatenative genitives, or a genitive chain of two links (actually three, but for our purposes, we consider the last two -τα στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ).

John Gill, in his commentary, wrote: "by the oracles of God are meant the Scriptures, not the law of Moses only, but all the writings of the Old Testament, which were given by the respiration of God, and are authoritative and infallible."

"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (I Peter 4:11)

Again, the entire old testament revelation is here alluded to, with however the addition of new testament oracles.

Finally, we have "the oracles of the God" (Rom. 3: 2) in the context of our primary verse under study. Again, who can doubt that this verse in the context of our study of Romans 3:3 shows that "the oracles" denotes the entire old testament revelation, with the inclusion of the words of Christ?

The fact that this "faith" (of Rom. 3:3) is "of God" does not negate the fact that "the faith" denotes the divine revelation, but simply states something about "the faith." Certainly "of God" does not mean something that is subjective with God, or an object of God's own trust and belief. Further, I showed how "the faith of the God" is equated in Romans and Paul's other epistles with these expressions:

The oracles of the God
The faith of the God
The gospel of the God
Announcing the good news--the faith
The faith of the gospel or faith that is the gospel
The word of the God
The doctrine of the God

It was shown that it is a generally acknowledged fact, recognized by many new testament Greek linguists, that the question of whether "faith" in a given passage refers to subjective faith or objective faith often becomes one of interpretation, and that based upon study of context and other factors.

Some translators and interpreters affirm that about one half of the instances of "faith" in the new testament refer not to subjective faith, but to objective faith, to the thing believed. I stated that this is true, and probably that more than half, and perhaps nearly all, of the uses of "faith" with the definite article refer to what it is that is believed by Christians, which is the Bible, the doctrine, the word, the gospel, etc.

In affirming this, it is not denied that faith in Christ and the gospel is a requirement for salvation. Many passages teach that clearly. What is affirmed is that too many passages that have been traditionally taught as referring to personal subjective "faith" are really talking about "the faith," or the gospel.

Further, it seems quite natural to expect that "the faith" would be given such a prominent place in the apostle's writing about "faith" seeing that he affirms that it is "the faith" (oracles, word, or gospel) that produces "belief" or "trust" in that divine communication. This, as we will see, is what he affirms in Romans chapter ten.

I also affirmed that those Bible translators who translate Romans 3: 3 as "the faithfulness of God" do so completely without foundation. I affirmed that such was an arbitrary interpretation and that it gave an unusual and uncommon definition to the word "pistis" or "the faith." 

Of course, my main thesis involved a denial that "the faith of God" was subjective, denoting faith that God himself possesses. We showed how this idea was incompatible with the nature and perfections of God, who can no more believe and trust than he can hope and fear. In future postings, when we examine those passages that speak of "the faith of Christ," we will again discuss whether Christ, in either his divine or human nature, exercised faith.

In this posting and the next we will be looking at other expressions where "the faith" is mentioned, some with the genitive noun and others in association with other words such as "the word of the faith" (Romans 10: 8), "impotent in the faith" (Romans 14:1), "the same spirit of the faith" (II Corinthians 4: 13), and "before the faith came" (Galatians 3:23).

The Word of the Faith
το ρημα της πιστεως — to rēma tēs pisteōs

"But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what does it say? The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of the faith, which we preach." (Rom. 10:6-8)

The phrase το ρημα της πιστεως occurs only here. In the expression "the word of the faith" there are several important considerations to be made at the outset.

First, though most English translations put the definite article "the" before "word," as does the KJV above (twice), yet few, like the KJV, put the definite article before "faith." But, why put the definite article (which is present in the Greek) before "word" but not do so before the word "faith" (seeing that it has the definite article preceding it in the Greek text)? Is this decision by translators justified? Or, is it an error in interpretation and showing bias?

It seems clear that the first mention of "faith" in the above citation is a reference to the subjective faith of believers. This is because, 1) the definite article is missing, "faith" being an anarthrous noun, and 2) the preceding verses speak of "everyone who is believing." (vs. 4) Further, Paul defines "everyone who is believing," that is, "the believer."

Defining "Believer"

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (10:1-4 KJV)

By apostolic definition, per the immediate context of Romans chapter ten, a "believer" is one who has:

1. Been brought to believe that righteousness and justification before God cannot come by the law or be based upon one's conformity or obedience to it, or by law keeping, or works of law, and

2. Been brought to believe that the law can only condemn and can never justify, and

3. Been brought to believe that all who seek to be justified by the law will by the law be judged guilty, and

4. Been brought to believe that only the righteousness and obedience of the Christ, and his keeping of the law, is the only righteousness that is accepted by God, and

5. Been brought to believe that this righteousness is credited to the believer of Jesus, that is, that the righteousness of Christ is imputed by the means of faith in Christ's person and work, and

6.  Been brought to believe that those who seek justification by the law and by moral fitness have "not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God," and are "ignorant" of it.

7. Been brought to believe in essence, or in a word, that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who is believing" and who is not "going about trying to establish his own righteousness" via keeping law, and who therefore are:

a) not ignorant of the truth of salvation, but wise unto salvation, and
b) have a zeal for God according to knowledge
c) saved

In this context, and in all the new testament, a "believer" is a "Christian." He has heard "the faith," the revelation given of God through Christ, especially the gospel, and he has placed his faith, trust, or confidence in it. Likewise, he has by this act of faith "received Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col, 2:6), and thus his salvation, righteousness, etc. He, by union with Christ, has been declared by God to be free from the condemnation of the law and fully justified.

Law Language vs. Faith Language

In the context of these apostolic words there is contrast and comparison. First, there is the comparison between the language of legal righteousness, or "the righteousness of the law," versus the language of faith righteousness, or "the righteousness of faith." This comparison or contrast may also be said to be between unbelief and belief, or between the believer and the unbeliever.

When Moses speaks the law speaks. When the law speaks, Moses speaks. When Moses speaks, God speaks. The language spoken was legal and contractual, involving covenants and promises, with benefits and rewards. Further, all commentators realize that Paul in this context "personifies" the concept of "righteousness." By this method, righteousness and the law, and faith, and unbelief, may all be said to "speak." 

Personification of "righteousness" 

In the context that we are studying, "righteousness" is personified, both that which is "of the law" and that which is "of faith." As such, both are said to speak, to have a language that is peculiar to it. Both have their peculiar jargon, and spiritual linguists (believers) are able thereby to discern the dialect of each and thus the character and kind of each.

"Personification of an Abstract Noun" is commonly defined in grammar and literary books as "treating the idea, or concept as if it were a person - making an abstract force or power more real." It is "giving human qualities to an abstract idea." John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is a good example of this method of writing and reasoning. Paul personifies not only the abstract noun "righteousness," in this epistle, but others such as "sin," "death," etc.

Faith righteousness is known by the type of questions it does not ask, by the way it does not talk, as well as by the way it does ask or talk. We can say "a man of faith (or Christian) does not talk like that," or "does not say such things."

A person's words reveal things about the person speaking. Principally they often reveal nativity and nationality. Within that context, they reveal thoughts and ideas, and thoughts and ideas reveal inner character, or what is called in Scripture "the heart" (Greek cardia). Jesus said "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matt. 12:34) Doubtless this idea is present in the mind of the apostle as he reasons with his audience in the beginning of Romans chapter ten. On the night of Christ's betrayal, one person on the scene "said to Peter, surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech (accent) betrayeth thee (gives you away)." (Matt. 26:73) On this verse Dr. Gill commented (emphasis mine):

not his spiritual speech, for he had not been speaking in the language of a disciple of Christ, like one that had been with Jesus; nor his swearing neither, for this rather showed him to be one of them; but his country language, the brogue of his speech, the Galilean dialect which he spoke:

"The righteousness of faith" is known by its fruit, and its language is fruit. The same can be said of "the righteousness of law." "Faith righteousness" is contrasted with "legal righteousness" and each is known by its language. As Dr. Gill indicates, the language of the Christian, or the "believer," is different from the language of all other non Christian faiths.  The language is different because the creed is different.

In the expression "the righteousness of faith" the emphasis is on "faith," for it is the word that differentiates that "righteousness" which is pleasing and acceptable to God, from that which is merely "legal" and which is the result of one's own making, based upon obedience to law.

Faith righteousness does not speak a certain way, or ask certain questions for at least two good reasons. First, it does not ask certain questions because it already knows the answer, and doubts not. Second, it does not ask for a divine revelation, or word from God, because it recognizes that such exists already, and is, in fact, in the heart and mouth of all who have heard this word of God.

It is a religious question that asks "who shall ascend into heaven?" And, "who will descend into hell?" They are the well known questions that have been asked by seekers of absolute religious truth since the beginning of the world. Both questions have one thing in common; they both deal with the idea of one who has personal experience in the realm of spirits, whether they be in the heaven or in the abyss, and who can therefore give a sure word about those places, and about the deity or deities, and the destinies of men.

The Christian does not ask who has such authority to speak about such matters because he believes that this "sure word of God" that men have universally sought, has been in fact given to us by Christ, who has both come down from, and ascended back to heaven, and thus has authority to speak and give to men what they are seeking, and he answers the question "who shall ascend into the heaven?" Further, the Christian does not ask "who shall descend into the deep" because he knows that Christ did in fact descend into Hades, into the deep, and came forth, and spoke to men afterward.

In the next posting we will continue with our analysis of the context of Romans chapter ten and the expression "the word of the faith," and also to study the verses previously announced as next to be examined and properly interpreted.

(ps. with my father near death, I will not be able to continue this study for awhile. Thanks for all the prayers offered)

No comments: