Archive for June, 2010

Living by Faith

June 25, 2010

As a Christian I know that I am saved by the grace of God through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8). Paul reminded the church in Galatia that they were saved by believing what they heard (Gal 3:2), and, our LORD Jesus himself told the woman who anointed him that her faith had saved her (Lk 7:50). However, we live in a society that is losing its grasp of biblical terminology. The modern atheist is quick to point out that living by faith is to take something on blind trust. They reason that believing in God cannot be proved rationally, nor, empirically, and therefore is no different from believing in the pixies at the bottom of the garden, or, the flying spaghetti monster. For this reason it is important to consider precisely what living by faith means. What does God have to say on the issue?

Consider Romans 3:21-26, a passage about living by faith in Jesus. Amongst its vast treasures I wish to assert two things about faith.

Our faith is based on eyewitness accounts
When an atheist questions faith he or she assumes that they are the only one who is basing their belief on evidence, or, on a lack of opposing evidence. However, my Christian faith is not blindly based on a desired wish, but is based on the eyewitness accounts of those who wrote the Gospels. God has decided to reveal his righteousness v21, which John Stott writes, is ‘God’s righteous initiative in putting sinners right with himself, by bestowing on them a righteousness which is not their own but his[i].’ And God has chosen to reveal this by the medium of scripture. The entire Law and Prophets, which is another way of saying the entire Old Testament, testify that God’s righteousness has been revealed v21. It is in this testimony that I can affirm my faith. Atheists may question the reliability of the Bible (Lee Strobel writes an excellent defence of scripture in The Case for Christ), but they cannot claim that my faith is not based on written evidence.

Our faith is based on an accomplishment
The way I sometimes speak of Heaven can accidentally convey the message that Heaven is a future hope that can only be confirmed once I arrive there. “I have faith that I will go to Heaven.” However, this passage in Romans guarantees that those who have faith in Christ will go to Heaven. God presented Jesus as an atoning sacrifice v25 approximately two thousand years ago in order to redeem us v24.

In the ancient world there was no welfare state. If a family got into debt they could sell themselves into slavery in order to raise the debt money. The price they sold themselves for was a new debt they had to pay to their new owners, which was called a ransom. Once this ransom price was paid the family were released from slavery, which was called being redeemed, or, an act of redemption.

Christians carried a debt of sin. However, Christ paid the ransom by offering himself into slavery. On the cross he became a slave to our sin and was punished accordingly with death, which was the agreed price for sin (Gen 3:17, Rom 6:23). Once Jesus had finished being punished the ransom was paid and Christians were redeemed from their slavery to sin.

Because I have been redeemed by Christ I can be assured of my Heavenly citizenship. The cross is an event in the past, which makes a Christian certain of his or her future even though that future has not happened yet. For example, many students this year will be moving into a new flat or house at the beginning of term. They are not yet a citizen of that flat or house, but, they will have already paid a summer retainer and deposit. This past exchange of money has guaranteed their future dwelling in their chosen flat or house. Jesus has made a past exchange with his blood to make certain our dwelling in Heaven. Atheists might be able to make the valid claim that Christians cannot know what my new home will be like, but, they cannot claim that I do not hold the key to my new home. The key is Christ’s blood, and he gave out that key over two thousand years ago whilst on the cross.

What is living by faith then? It is not as the Atheist suggests, living by a blind trust in a vague hope that what I believe is true. On the contrary, living by faith is too trust in the evidence that is written down in scripture by the eyewitnesses, in order to remind myself of the historical event that was Christ’s crucifixion, which reminds me of how Jesus’ sacrifice has already obtained my freedom from slavery to sin and guaranteed my citizenship in Heaven.

[i] Stott, J. (2008) The Message of Romans. (11ed) Nottingham, IVP.