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Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Law of Faith

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-"Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law."-Romans 3: 27-31

Faith is not something you do. Paul is making certain that we understand faith apart from any rules which we follow or actions we undertake.  Faith is not caring for the poor or sick.  It is not going to worship.  It is not prayer.  It is not adhering to rigorous moral principles.  It is something else entirely.  Faith is the manifestation in our lives of the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  Or, as John Calvin said, "Faith is the firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us founded in the truth of the freely given promise of Jesus Christ, which is both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit."  Whatever faith we have is rooted in the active presence of God in this world, and the work already done in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

But what about all that stuff Christians do?  Doesn't that have anything to do with faith?  Of course it does.  Our faith can grow or shrink.  Our faith can be vibrant or dormant.  Often, what we do affects our faith.  What we do also demonstrates our faith.  We worship because we believe.  We serve because we believe, pray because we believe, study because we believe.  You get the idea.  But faith itself is something else entirely.  One of the essential tenets of the Reformed Faith is that faith is not "chosen."  It is a gift.  As Paul referenced back in 3:24 when referencing sinful humanity, "they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  Everything we have, everything we are flows from the central act of God in Jesus Christ.  You don't "do" faith, you simply receive it as a gift. 

Prayer:  Holy God, on this day please strengthen my faith in you.  Help me to love you with my whole heart, mind and soul.  Please help me to love my neighbor as myself.  I thank you for the gift of faith, and ask that my life be a response to that gift.  I pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

[Phillip Blackburn, First Presbyterian Church]


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