II ROMANS 11
Roy Osborne, Sept. 2012
(reprint from 2002)
A DEFINITIVE VIEW OF FAITH
The kind of faith Paul talks about is not a step in a process, or just the motivational factor that leads to the act of obedience. Instead it is a basic relationship established with God, which is the governing factor of life, not just toward single acts of obedience.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE.
People who accept God as alive, and Jesus as real, are accepting historical facts. The Bible says “even the devils” know the facts of God and Jesus as living. However, that kind of faith only differentiates the atheist from the believer. It says nothing of the character of the believer.
Faith which is taken as a step in a process (hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized), or faith which is only a motivation to obey (be baptized, go to church, do the rituals), does not affect the character of the believer. Two soldiers might obey the same orders and have opposite characters. Each hears the order, believes he must obey it and does it. Character is not involved or affected by the act.
The faith described in Hebrews 11 is a faith which exists apart from all other factors. It is independent of other commands and does not have to be linked to anything else to function.
(Faith that is just a motivator is always linked to the command which is to be obeyed.)
The Faith we are talking about is its own reason for being. It establishes, without any other factor, a relationship with the one in whom the faith is placed. It changes the life of the one who has it. It links him forever with the one in whom the faith is placed. All decisions, of whatever nature (not just commands), are affected by it. It is the opening of communication between two parties, and allows all things to pass between them. In the case of God and man, it is the avenue through which God blesses man, and through which man communicates in worship, prayer, and life style with God.
This is why it is important to set aside our doctrinal and legal approach to “salvation”, which depends on believing the commands and obeying them. This would make salvation dependent on man’s ability to understand, and to obey, and thus would be based on human effort. But salvation is “by grace through faith”, both of which make salvation wholly an act of God. When we say we are saved by faith we do not mean, as some religious groups teach, that simply accepting the fact of Christ and His death is sufficient to save. What we do mean is that faith, which links us to God and opens our whole life to Him and to His will, is the only thing that can save us. It must be His act alone, independent of my understanding or actions, which affects my salvation.
It is important to make this point clear for two reasons. First, because it is correct theology. That is what the truth is on this subject according to all the teaching of the New Testament. Second, because any lesser definition of faith fails to involve the whole life of the individual, and leaves us “religious” but not Christian in all the appointments of our life.
People can be piously religious, satisfied that they have obeyed all the right commands, are in the right church, and have a correct religion, and still be anything but Christlike in all of the non-religious pursuits of their lives. I am persuaded that Christ did not come to earth to establish a religious organization called a church, so that correct rituals could be carried out and formal religion could thrive. I think He came to make us new people, fitted for the eternal kingdom, and that involves changes in our whole life.