Friday, May 31, 2013

“The just shall live by faith”— A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 13

The Apostle Paul also taught that a believer’s continuing faith played a role in his sanctification, both as an instrument to enable specific ministry and as a conduit for receipt of Divine grace and transformation in general.  As in the Old Testament king David, despite trial and affliction (Psalm 116:1-9), spoke for the Lord because he believed (Psalm 116:10), so Paul and other preachers speak and preach the truth and endure persecution (2 Corinthians 4:8-12) because of their continuing faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:13) arising out of their conversion.  That is, Christian ministry, specifically bold preaching of the gospel in the face of tremendous hostility and opposition, arises out of the continuing faith and confidence of the believer in the risen Christ, his Redeemer (2 Corinthians 4:14).  Paul also taught that God fills believers with all joy and peace as they believe and by means of their faith (Romans 15:13); faith is the human response through which God makes the believer holy, filling him with the holy attributes of hope, peace, and joy.  The Apostle Paul taught that faith was the necessary foundation for boldness and perseverance in gospel ministry and the means through which God transforms believers into His image.  Thus, as the verb believe illuminates the believer’s greater entrustment of himself to Christ in progressive sanctification, so the noun faith illuminates the role of faith in the spiritual life of the regenerate.[i]  Faith prompts the believer to perform specific spiritual ministries, such as speaking for Christ (2 Corinthians 4:13), for power from the Holy Spirit arises out of the “hearing of faith.”[ii]  Faith prompts generous sharing of physical goods with other believers (Philemon 5-7).  Saving faith will always result in good works (James 2).[iii]  Furthermore, faith is indeed essential for spiritual life and growth, because whatever does not proceed out of, whatever is not sourced in faith is sin (Romans 14:23).[iv]  A strong faith will trust in God and His promises despite human impossibilities, while a weak faith will stagger in such situations (Romans 4:19-20).[v]  The degree of weakness or strength of faith leads the believer to its respective degree of proneness to wander and susceptability to fall or to stedfastness and faithfulness (Romans 14).  Patience is produced by faith that is successfully tried and tested.[vi]  It is not surprising, then, that by “taking[vii] the shield of faith” and the “breastplate of faith and love,” the Christian can “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,” “stand,”[viii] and “resist . . . the devil . . . steadfast in the faith”[ix]—faith is key to resisting sin and Satan.  Indeed, God continually keeps, preserves, and guards His people through faith, and so brings them to ultimate salvation.[x]  Those with faith are the regenerate, and all such people definitively overcame the world at the moment of their conversion, are overcoming now, and will ultimately and finally overcome the world and enter the eternal kingdom.[xi]  Faith in both its initial bestowal and its increase in sanctification is not an autonomous product of man, but is initially created and subsequently strengthened by the supernatural efficacy of the Holy Spirit,[xii] although not the Spirit alone, but also the Father and the Son, and therefore, the entire Trinity, give believers both initial faith (2 Peter 1:1) and ever greater measures of faith, love, and other spiritual graces (Ephesians 6:23).  Through the efficacious working of God, the believer’s faith is established, strengthened, and confirmed, with the result that it abounds[xiii] and “groweth exceedingly.”[xiv]  God produces this increase of faith through the Scripture, for faith, while ultimately resting on God, proximately rests upon His revelation of Himself in the Word.  While God produces faith, believers are responsible to “add to their faith” virtue, knowledge, and other holy graces, which develop out of the root of faith;  believers are to diligently and industriously pursue the means to obtain what they desire God to bestow upon them,[xv] and in this manner their faith, knowledge, godliness, charity, and other holy graces will be in them all the more, increasing and abounding, with the result that they bear spiritual fruit.[xvi]  Sanctification takes place as one is “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine,” inspired words that both produce faith and sound doctrine and which describe and delimit what such faith and doctrine are.[xvii]  Believers are to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13), for Paul writes, “by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24).  Indeed, believers “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7),[xviii] so the spiritual life of the Christian is a walk of faith, specifically, faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20),[xix] through whom believers are strengthened by the Spirit to employ their free, gracious, and confident access by faith to the Father.[xx]  Rather than Jewish ceremonial, faith that works by and is being energized by love is what matters (Galatians 5:6).[xxi]  The believer’s faith can grow in quantity, resulting in his proper exercise of his spiritual giftedness and in holy living (Romans 12:3-21), for the more faith the believer has, the more spiritual joy and other holy graces he has, and the greater progress he makes in holiness (Philippians 1:25).[xxii]  An increase of faith will result in an increase in good works, in the “work of faith.”[xxiii]  Indeed, while all believers already have Christ in them,[xxiv] the Father grants that believers, as they are spiritually strengthened, have Christ dwelling[xxv] in their hearts by faith in an ever greater way, and as His special presence in them increases, they are rooted and grounded in love for their brethren, experientially know the love of Christ, and are filled with ever greater degrees of the fulness of God.[xxvi]

This post is part of the complete study here.


[i] The first part of this paragraph examines uses of pi÷steuw, and the latter half uses of pi÷stiß;  similarity of content justifies bringing the two together.

[ii] Galatians 3:5, cf. 3:2.  Spiritual gifts, such as the first century sign gift of miracle working power mentioned in 3:5, are a product which developed out of the continuing hearing of faith (e˙x aÓkohvß pi÷stewß).  The Spirit Himself was received at the moment of conversion and regeneration by the hearing of faith, e˙x aÓkohvß pi÷stewß, 3:2, and His gifts are bestowed in the same manner, 3:5.

[iii] James 2; pi÷stiß appears in 2:1, 5, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26.

[iv] pa◊n de« o§ oujk e˙k pi÷stewß, aJmarti÷a e˙sti÷n (Romans 14:23b). While the specific issue in context is faith in eating certain foods (Romans 14:22-23a), Christian life is a life e˙k pi÷stewß, for oJ di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai, Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38.

[v] That the faith of the Christian life is an outflow of the initial entrustment to Christ of the people of God is evident in Romans 4:19-20’s placement within a context of many instances of pi÷stiß that refer to the moment of justification.

[vi] James 1:3; cf. 1 Peter 1:7.

[vii] The command of Ephesians 6:13, aÓnala¿bete th\n panopli÷an, is to take up the armor to use it in battle, here in spiritual battle. 

[viii] Ephesians 6:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8.  The shield of faith can by no means be neglected; “above all,” e˙pi« pa◊sin, (cf. Colossians 3:14; Luke 3:20; not the tiny minority text reading e˙n pa◊sin), “taking the shield of faith.”

[ix] 1 Peter 5:8-9. oJ . . . dia¿boloß . . . wˆ— aÓnti÷sthte stereoi« thØv pi÷stei.

[x] God has a certain inheritance reserved in heaven (klhronomi÷an . . . tethrhme÷nhn e˙n oujranoi√ß) for those whom He keeps by His power through faith unto eschatological salvation, tou\ß e˙n duna¿mei Qeouv frouroume÷nouß dia» pi÷stewß ei˙ß swthri÷an e˚toi÷mhn aÓpokalufqhvnai e˙n kairwˆ◊ e˙sca¿twˆ, 1 Peter 1:5-6, so that they will certainly receive the end of their faith (to\ te÷loß thvß pi÷stewß), the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9), even if God tries their precious faith (1 Peter 1:7). Sanctifying faith, which is the continuation of initial justifying faith, reaches its ultimate issue in glorification.

[xi] 1 John 5:4-5, o¢ti pa◊n to\ gegennhme÷non e˙k touv Qeouv nikaˆ◊ to\n ko/smon: kai« au¢th e˙sti«n hJ ni÷kh hJ nikh/sasa to\n ko/smon, hJ pi÷stiß hJmw◊n. ti÷ß e˙stin oJ nikw◊n to\n ko/smon, ei˙ mh\ oJ pisteu/wn o¢ti ∆Ihsouvß e˙sti«n oJ ui˚o\ß touv Qeouv;  Those who have been and consequently are born of God (to\ gegennhme÷non e˙k touv Qeouv) are having victories, are overcoming (nikaˆ◊) the world, because the root of that victory, through which the world was at its fundamental level overcome, hJ ni÷kh hJ nikh/sasa to\n ko/smon, (cf. 1 John 2:13; 4:4 with nika¿w in the perfect) took place at the moment of faith, pi÷stiß, and regeneration, through which they were brought into union with that Christ who has overcome (neni÷khka) the world (John 16:33), and gives them His Spirit to destroy their sinfulness and sinning, so that those who believe are those who are overcoming now (oJ nikw◊n to\n ko/smon . . . . e˙stin . . . oJ pisteu/wn), the root of faith in Jesus Christ continuing to powerfully produce results, so that these will ultimately, finally, and completely overcome the world.  Faith “is the victory” as a metonomy for the means through which victory was obtained;  because faith unites believers with Christ, faith is the means through which victory is achieved.

It is noteworthy that 1 John 5:4 is the only instance of the noun pi÷stiß in either John’s Gospel or his three Epistles, although he uses the word several times in Revelation.

[xii] That is, faith is a fruit of the Spirit, something that originates in Him, in contrast to the works of the flesh, which are indeed products originating with the fallen human person, rather than with God (Galatians 5:19-23).

[xiii] bebaiou/menoi e˙n thØv pi÷stei . . . perisseu/onteß e˙n aujthØv, Colossians 2:7.  Compare the other bebaio/w texts in the New Testament: Mark 16:20; Romans 15:8; 1 Corinthians 1:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 2:3; 13:9.

[xiv] 2 Thessalonians 1:3, uJperauxa¿nei hJ pi÷stiß;  a continuing action, resulting in strength to endure persecutions and tribulations, 1:4, and set in contrast to a faith that is “lacking” or deficient (uJste÷rhma, 1 Thessalonians 3:10).

[xv] 2 Peter 1:5-7.  Believers are to add or supply (e˙picorhge÷w) such virtues to their faith, but God gives (corhge÷w, 1 Peter 4:11; cf. 2 Peter 1:1, 3) the faith in the first place.  Compare the e˙picorhge÷w/ corhge÷w in 2 Corinthians 9:10.  By adding or ministering additionally (e˙picorhge÷w) to their faith, an entrance into God’s eternal kingdom will be given or ministered additionally (e˙picorhge÷w) to them, 2 Peter 1:11.

[xvi] 2 Peter 1:8, “these things” (tauvta) the holy graces of the previous verses, can be in them and be increasing or abounding (uJpa¿rconta kai« pleona¿zonta), and they will make them (kaqi÷sthsin) not to be unfruitful (oujk aÓrgou\ß oujde« aÓka¿rpouß).

[xvii] In 1 Timothy 4:6, rather than giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, through his faithful warning ministry Timothy will “be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine,” kalo\ß e¶shØ dia¿konoß ∆Ihsouv Cristouv, e˙ntrefo/menoß toi√ß lo/goiß thvß pi÷stewß, kai« thvß kalhvß didaskali÷aß.  The articular thvß pi÷stewß is not limited to a body of teaching or truth rather than personally possessed and exercised faith because:  1.) Elsewhere in the pastoral epistles a distinction between articular and nonarticular pi÷stiß as, respectively, a body of truth and personally exercised faith, cannot be maintained;  see, e. g., 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:10.   2.) thvß pi÷stewß is in the second attributive position, and “[e]specially when the article is used to denote the second attributive position would we say that it has almost no semantic meaning” (pg. 239, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace).  3.) The personal exercise of faith is intimately associated with the body of doctrine in which faith is exercised.  4.) Being “nourished up” in the realm and by the instrumentality of “the words of faith” supports the idea that personal faith is in view.  5.) Other portions of Scripture indicate that faith is produced by the Word (Romans 10:17, cf. v. 8).  Compare also “faith in Him,” to\n lo/gon thvß ei˙ß aujto\n pi÷stewß, Dialogue with Trypho 40.

[xviii] Note that there is nothing in the context of 2 Corinthians 5:7 that suggests that only a subcategory of Christians who have discovered the secret of the Higher Life walk by faith, while the rest of God’s people do not do so, nor that believers enter into a walk of faith at some point subsequent to their conversion, from which they can fall by not walking by faith but then re-enter by starting to walk by faith again.  It is certain that the faith of believers can vary in its strength, and believers can certainly fail to exercise faith in specific situations, but nothing like the distinctive Higher Life theology is supported by 2 Corinthians 5:7 in its context.

[xix] e˙n pi÷stei zw◊ thØv touv ui˚ouv touv Qeouv is clearly an objective genitive construction.

[xx] Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; 3:12.  Access (prosagwgh/) was obtained at the moment of faith and regeneration, and continues always to be available to the believer (note the perfect tense e˙sch/kamen in Romans 5:2).

[xxi] e˙n ga»r Cristwˆ◊ ∆Ihsouv ou¡te peritomh/ ti i˙scu/ei, ou¡te aÓkrobusti÷a, aÓlla» pi÷stiß di∆ aÓga¿phß e˙nergoume÷nh.  Note the rather frequent association of faith and love: 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Galatians 5:6, 22; Ephesians 1:15; 3:17; 6:23; Colossians1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:6; 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:5, 14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2; Philemon 5; Revelation 2:19.

[xxii] In Philippians 1:25’s th\n uJmw◊n prokoph\n kai« cara»n thvß pi÷stewß, pi÷stewß and uJmw◊n modify both prokoph\n and cara»n; compare 1:20.  The connection between joy and faith is also affirmed in Romans 15:13.

[xxiii] 1 Thessalonians 1:3.  In the “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope” (touv e¶rgou thvß pi÷stewß, kai« touv ko/pou thvß aÓga¿phß, kai« thvß uJpomonhvß thvß e˙lpi÷doß) the genitives all produce what is signified by the head noun.  God works to fulfill in believers “the work of faith with power,” 2 Thessalonians 1:11; oJ Qeo\ß . . . plhrw¿shØ pa◊san eujdoki÷an aÓgaqwsu/nhß kai« e¶rgon pi÷stewß e˙n duna¿mei.

[xxiv] Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5.

[xxv] Ephesians 3:17, katoike÷w.  Paul teaches that all believers have the Holy Spirit (and consequently the undivided Trinity) dwelling (oi˙ke÷w, Romans 8:9, 11; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16) in them, but Christ’s presence dwelling (katoike÷w) in them can increase, so that their personal possession of the Divine presence can grow towards that of Christ the Mediator, in whom dwells (katoike÷w) all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 1:19; 2:9), and who dispenses of that fulness to them (John 1:16).  (The truth here stated does not, and should not be employed to by any means deny the absoute uniqueness of the hypostatic union as properly confessed at Chalcedon, nor should any attempt being made to reduce the union of natures in the undivided Person of Christ to a mere Nestorianizing indwelling of God in the human Christ.)  Compare the greater strength of katoike÷w as compared with oi˙ke÷w in the LXX in Genesis 19:30; Jeremiah 31:28 (Eng. 48:28); Ezekiel 38:11; Judith 5:5; cf. also Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho 78; Theophilus to Autolycus 2:3, and Philo, Flaccus 55.

[xxvi] Ephesians 3:14-19.  A greater degree of the presence of the Son in the believer necessitates a greater presence of the Trinitarian God, for the Divine essence is undivided.

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