Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Christ: The Author of Faith

Faith, in the Scriptures, usually means trust. Consider that the Bible, in the most famous of the New Testament's passages on faith, explains faith in this way: "Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive even though she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11) Faith is simply this: our recognition that God is faithful towards us. To recognize that God is faithful towards us is to trust God; we expect his mercy and trust his promises. Paul explains time and again that trusting God's promise has always been the true direction of faith, even from the time of Abraham: "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6).

But trusting God's faithfulness does not come from ourselves. It comes from God's faithfulness, through our awareness of God's faithfulness. It is "from faith to faith" -- from God's faithfulness to our faith in him. Knowing that God is faithful does not come from observing the world and our troubles in it. Neither does faith come from refusing to observe the world and our troubles in it. Our trust in God cries out for God to make good on our troubles, to redeem us and restore this world. Apart from knowing that God is faithful, we do not actually trust God. Unless God genuinely is faithful, trust in him is worthless. Unless God keeps his promises, there is no point at all in believing them.

Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises. In Christ, we see healing and newness of life given to those whom he meets. In Christ, we see others spared suffering and death, given forgiveness and redemption, while Christ instead suffers and dies. We see resurrection from the dead. We see the hope of mankind. When Christ is present, we see the evils in the world being undone. When Christ is present, we see the beginning of the new creation, the one that redeems the old. When we know Christ, we see that God is faithful towards us. Faith in God is created by our encounter with Christ. It is a simple thing to increase our faith: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) Christ himself is the author of our faith; our trust in God comes from him and through him and because of him.

Again, this has implications for our evangelism. For the message of Christ itself has the power to create faith. We proclaim God's faithfulness in Christ. Those who understand God's faithfulness now have faith in him, since that is what faith is. "So then faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)

Faith in God through Christ is also the beginning of a transformation within us. It is the death of our trust in our own efforts, the death of our ideas of ourselves as our own gods. It is the rebirth of hope, of love. It is the beginning of the new creation inside us, as it is said, Christ in us is the hope of glory.

Index for systematic theology series

No comments: