What Is Faith?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 11-14

“The were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.” – Romans 11:20

Paul’s statement above is in the midst of his argument regarding Jews and Gentiles and who will be saved. He says the Jews were cut off because of unbelief but the Gentiles stand through faith.

The Greek word for faith is pistis. The Greek word for unbelief is apistia. The prefix a means not. More literally, Paul is saying that the Gentiles stand in faith while the Jews were cut off in not faith.

Pistis is a noun. The related verb is pisteuo. It is almost always translated believe because it wouldn’t make sense in English to say “I faith in you.”

Romans uses pistis more than any other book in the Bible.

So, what exactly is this thing we call faith?

The dictionary says that faith is an allegiance to duty or a person, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, and something that is believed especially with strong conviction.

Okay. Faith is a belief or a trust. And, we are to put our faith, belief, or trust in God.

That is still very nebulous and abstract.

Why am I to put my faith, belief, or trust in God?

If you see God as a homicidal, genocidal killer as he is depicted in the Old Testament and as many Christians proclaim him to the world, then why would someone who does not have faith suddenly put their faith, belief, or trust in God?

Perhaps the scripture that most Christians to turn to get a definition of faith is Hebrews 11:1. It says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But, that is not really any clearer that the definition from the dictionary above.

This is still far too nebulous and abstract for me.

Therefore, I believe the best definition of faith comes from what Jesus taught the disciples all scripture was witnessing to and the one thing Paul was occupied with.

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26)

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46-47)

From the foundation of the world, the Father and the Son’s plan to save us was that the Christ would suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood. He was made flesh, fully man. (Yes, he was fully God too.)

As fully man, what would it take for Jesus to go along with the plan of him suffering, dying, and rising from the dead?

Faith.

Jesus had to have faith that even though he emptied himself to be born in the likeness of men to suffer and die on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8) for the salvation of others his Father would raise him to life.

From the one thing that is necessary – that the Christ should suffer and die but be raised on the third day – we get our definition of faith.

Faith is to trust God that even though I suffer and die for my enemies God will raise me up to life as well as raise my enemies to life with me.

In “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?“, I provided my own translation of Romans 3:21-26 based on Paul’s obsession with the necessity of the Christ suffering and being raised from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

The righteousness of God was manifested on the cross through the faith of Jesus that the even though he would suffer and die his Father would raise him up three days later. Therefore, God justified Jesus’ faith.

This is why Jesus can save believe in me. He can say, “Look at what God did for me. I suffered and died for you. Yet, the Father raised me from the dead. Believe in me. Therefore, pick up your cross and follow me. Suffer with me for others and the Father will raise you from the dead too.”

This is why, after an entire chapter devoted to faith, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Now, go back to what Paul said in Romans 11:20, “They were broken off because of their unbelief [not faith], but you stand fast through faith.”

Why were the Jews broken off?

They did not believe it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They had no faith.

Why were the Gentiles standing, grafted into God’s family?

They believed that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They had faith.

Now, every time I read the word faith I think to myself that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. Doing this brings incredible meaning to the passages that use the word faith (or believe).

As just one example, Romans 12:6-8 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Why does say that the gift of prophecy should be used in proportion to our faith?

“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

To prophesy is to witness to Jesus, which is to say that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. And, therefore, it is necessary for you to suffer and rise from the dead to have eternal life too.

That is a dangerous message to prophesy. No community, no culture, no country, wants to hear that message.

Jesus was a prophet. And, when he prophesied that message, it got him crucified.

Therefore, we can only prophesy, witness to, Jesus in proportion to our faith, to the extent that we trust and believe God that was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

If we have only a little faith, then we truly prophesy only a little.

But, if we have great faith, knowing without a doubt that God raises to life those that suffer for their enemies, then we can truly prophesy greatly.

So, what is faith?

Believing and trusting God that he raises to life all those that suffer for their enemies and brings their enemies to life with them.

What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 1-3

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

I have heard this passage of scripture used in a way that sends a whole lot of people to hell.

I believe Paul’s words get used this way because the translation suffers due to the theological bias of the translators and a misunderstanding of the righteousness of God. The translations are biased and the righteousness of God misunderstood because so many Christians do not see God as only good, as a giver of only life, and as being just because he punishes the wicked with the eternally tormenting fire of hell.

However, if you see God as only, as a giver of life only and never death, and as being just because by grace and mercy he forgives us all for doing what we did not know we were doing, then you will understand these words of Paul in an entirely different way. This other way is more suited to God’s character – light and not darkness, love and not fear that has to do with punishment – and, in my opinion, supported the actual Greek Paul wrote.

Therefore, I will do my best to reveal to clearly and simply reveal by the Spirit what Paul is saying.

Let’s start with the phrase “righteousness of God.” The word righteousness in the Greek is dikaiosyne. This is the word dikaios with the suffix syne.

The ultimate root of dikaios is the dike. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, “It is generally agreed the dike, the basic term in this group, is related to deiknymi, ‘show, indicate.’ Thus its root meaning would be ‘that which is indicated, is in usage, is customary,’ and it from this starting point that it ends up meaning justice. The first appearance of this meaning is as a mythical divine being: ‘There is a virgin, Dike, daughter of Zeus, honored and revered by the gods, inhabitants of Olympia,’ who denounces the unjust deeds of humans before her father and call for their punishment.”

Wait.

What?

Did you get that?

The ultimate root, dike, of the all the words meaning righteousness and justice in the Bible first appeared meaning justice in the context of the virgin of daughter of Zeus who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment.

Is this not what many Christians believe about God?

Is this not what many Christians believe Jesus is going to do at his second coming?

Many Christians believe that Jesus is going to come back and denounce all those that failed to believe in him, which is their unjust deed, and call for their punishment, sending them to fires of hell for eternal torment.

Dear Christian, are you worshiping Dike, the virgin daughter of Zeus, or Jesus, the son of God?

I’ve barely begun and should not alarm bells be going of in our heads?

Am I to believe that Jesus came to reveal that God is actually like Dike, the virgin of Zeus?

Of course not.

Dikaios is an adjective that means something is just, right, or equitable. With dikaios, we can say that something is just, right, or equitable really, actually, factually, concretely, materially, or objectively.

But, Paul is not writing about the dikaios – the actual or objective justness or rightness – of God here. No, Paul is writing about the dikaiosyne of God.

The Greek suffix syne makes the noun it is attached to abstract. Something is abstract if it is disassociated from any specific instance, difficult to understand, insufficiently factual; dealing with a subject apart from an object.

Paul is writing about the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God. This righteousess of God is not associated with any specific instance, difficult to understand, and insufficiently factual.

Until…

“It was manifested.”

The abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God was manifested. The Greek word for manifest, phaneroo, means to reveal, make clear, make manifest. Something is manifest if it is readily perceived by the senses, especially by the sight or easily understood or recognized by the mind. Therefore, the righteousness of God, which was hard to understand, has been made easy to understand. The righteousness of God, which we could not see because it was hypothetical and philosophical, has been made visible. The righteousness of God is now something you can really and clearly see with your own eyes.

How was the abstract righteousness of God manifested?

“Apart from the law.”

The Greek word for “apart from” is choris. It also means without. There is no Greek word the in the original. Therefore, the abstract righteousness of God was manifested “without law.”

Do you understand what Paul is saying?

God’s abstract righteousness, which is hard to understand and perceive, was made real and visible without law. You don’t need law, any law, to understand the righteousness of God. As Western Christians, to understand what is just and right without law goes against everything we know and believe about justice and righteousness. Because in our minds, we only know, conceive, and perceive justice and righteousness if there is a law that can or cannot be broken.

If the abstract righteousness of God was manifested without law, then how did we come to see this righteousness and have it clearly revealed to us?

“Although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

Now, we start getting into some translation problems.

There is no Greek word for although in Paul’s writing. However, there is an untranslated Greek word, de. De means but or and, which is how it is translated the vast majority of the time. I believe this word that was left untranslated should be translated “but.”

Immediately after the untranslated de is a second dikaisyne theou, the righteousness of God. This will be very important as we go.

We might say, “But the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

However, this is still not correct.

“Bear witness to it” is the Greek word martyroumene. The way this has been translated makes it sound like “the Law and the Prophets” are actively bearing witness to the righteousness of God. But, this cannot be correct because martyrourmene is a singular, present, passive, participle.

Basically, a participle is a verb that becomes an adjective. In English, we typically add -ing to a verb to make a participle. In our case, the word would be witnessing.

The voice passive means the subject is being acted upon by the verb. Therefore, if “the Law and the Prophets” are the subject of the passive martyroumene, then it should read something like “but the Law and the Prophets being witnessed.” It would be “the Law and the Prophets” that are being witnessed. But, “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed. We know from the rest of the Bible that “the Law and the Prophets,” which are together known as the scripture, do the witnessing. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

The present tense means an action that is continuous and ongoing. The passive action of being witnessed to that is happening to the subject is continuous and ongoing. Again, this makes it clear that “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed on a continual and ongoing basis.

This present, passive participle is singular. The singular thing Paul is writing about is the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is the subject that is passively being witnessed to on a continual and ongoing basis.

Also, there is another untranslated word in the Greek, hypo. The vast majority of the time this word is translated “by.”

Let’s put all of this together so far.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

To what do “the Law and the Prophets” witness?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.'” (Luke 24:45-47)

“The Law and the Prophets,” the scriptures, witness to the necessity that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead. That Jesus suffered and rose from the dead is clearly perceived, easily understood, seen by the eyes of more than 500 witnesses. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was the manifestation of God, and Jesus said the scriptures are a witness to that.

Now, it should be clear that the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God is manifested, clearly perceived, easily understood, and visibly seen in the suffering, the crucifixion, of the Christ and his resurrection from the dead.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

How did this come about?

“Through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Now we have more translation problems. I know this is a hotly debated subject.

The word “in” does not exist in the Greek.

Jesus Christ is a noun in the genitive case. Basically, this means that the noun possesses another noun. The other noun that is possessed in our case is faith. Therefore, I side with those who say Paul wrote “the faith of Jesus Christ” not “faith in Jesus Christ.”

The “faith of Jesus Christ” makes more sense when we consider that is “through,” or by means of, “the faith of Jesus Christ that the righteousness of God was manifested without law. It was not our faith in Jesus, which, if we are honest, is at best fickle and wavering, that manifested the righteousness of God but the faith of Jesus that did so.

Why is it the faith of Jesus that is necessary and not our faith in Christ?

The entirety of scripture witnesses that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

Who’s faith made it possible for Jesus to be crucified and rise from the dead?

Yours or his?

Pretty obvious isn’t it.

Jesus required faith in his Father that his Father would raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us torture and crucify him.

That is a tremendous amount of faith.

Care to put your faith into action like that?

You wouldn’t stand a chance.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Why “through the faith of Jesus Christ?”

“For all who believe.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

The Greek word  for “for” is eis. It is by far most often translated to, into, or in.

“To all who believe.”

Who believes though?

“Who” is not in the Greek.

Believe is translated from pisteuontas. It is a present, active, accusative, participle. The accusative case is the case of the direct object. The direct object receives the action of the verb.

While it is tempting to think that we are the direct object of Jesus’ faith, faith is a noun. Therefore, the believing are not the direct object of Jesus faith in this case.

There really is only one verb that pisteuontas could be the direct object of. That verb is manifested. If we strip everything extraneous away, then we would have “And now the righteousness of God has been manifested to all the believing.” Although it is possible to see the the believing as the direct object of being witnessed as well.

The believing are those to whom the abstract righteousness of God has been made visible and clearly perceived without law, being witnessed by the by the law and the prophets that is was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead through the faith of Jesus Christ.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing.”

Are there any that the righteousness of God has not been manifested to?

Is it not the Holy Spirit that manifests and witnesses the righteousness of God to us?

Is this not why the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh after Jesus ascended to heaven?

Sure, the manifestation and witness is more and less from person to person, but I believe scripture clearly shows that the manifestation and witness is happening, and will happen, to all.

Therefore, Paul writes, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Where is there no distinction?

Between Jew and gentile. The Jew has the law. The gentile has no law. But, it doesn’t matter because there is no distinction between them. In fact, all Jews and all gentiles sin and fall short of the glory of God.

But, what else happens to them all?

“And are justified.”

Justified is the present, passive, plural, nominative participle of dikaioo. Dikaioo means justify, declare righteous, set right, vindicate. The nominative case means that this participle is the subject of the sentence. It is passive, meaning the subject is being acted upon. It is present, meaning the process of being justified is ongoing and continual. And, it is plural.

The only possible noun that fits all of these requirements is the all that have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

“All are being justified.”

How are all being justified?

“By his grace.”

In what manner?

“As a gift.”

This is the Greek word dorean. It is an adverb, meaning it describes a verb.

Grace is a noun and not a verb. But, the translation makes it seem like “as a gift” is describing God’s grace.

The only verb dorean could be describing is “being justified.” Dorean means freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, for no reason, for no purpose.

All are being justified freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, and for no reason.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace.”

There is nothing you ever do to warrant justification, being declared righteous. It is by grace.

Therefore, there is nothing you could ever do to not warrant justification, to prevent God from justifying you.

“Through the redemption that i in Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

You guessed it. More translation problems.

The Greek word for “as a propitiation” is hilasterion. It is the word in the Greek Old Testament that means mercy seat.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat, a place of atonement.

“By his blood.”

The Greek word for by is “en.” It is by far most often translated in.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat in his blood, that is covered in his blood.

“To be received by faith.”

The words “to be received” are not in the Greek. And, they should not be in the English.

Who handles the blood on the mercy seat?

The chief priest. The high priest.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”

Who took Jesus’ blood into the heavenly tabernacle and put it on the mercy seat?

Jesus.

Who’s faith was required to do that?

The faith of Jesus.

Not you. You don’t cover the mercy seat in the blood of Jesus

We are talking the same faith, the faith of Jesus, that we saw above.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God intended to be a mercy seat in his blood by faith.”

In the translation, the next sentence starts, “This was to show God’s righteousness.” However, I think this is the actual conclusion to the sentence we just read. “This was” is not in the Greek. Nor is the word God. It’s the word for his.

It really should just say “to show his righteousness.” That is, the abstract kind.

The Greek word for show, endeixin, is interesting. It also means to demonstrate or prove. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon says it means “a pointing out,”  and as a law term “a laying information against one who discharged public functions for which he was legally disqualified.” Jesus carrying his own blood to the mercy seat in the heavenly tabernacle was information against all of us and Satan who discharge the public function of crucifying Jesus illegally.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness.”

I think the next sentence and its repeated use of endeixin proves (pun intended) why I put the previous one at the end of the last sentence.

Now Paul writes, “Because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time.”

“It was” is not in the Greek. I think this is one thought from Paul that is the preface to his concluding statement.

Further, the words “he had passed over” are misleading. This the Greek word paresin. The root word for paresin is iemi, which is where we get the word forgive in the New Testament. The Greek prefix par means beside, alongside, related to; disordered, sideways, wrong, contrary to, different from.

To translate this as “he had passed over” seems a little misleading given the Hebrew feast of Passover, the whole context of what we have covered so far, and what we will cover below. Paresin more literally means tolerate.

The word for time is karios. It means a set or proper time, the right point of time. The word for present is nyn, which is almost always translated now. The now time is the appointed time. Of course, the appointed time was the crucifixion of Jesus, that was “the hour” his entire life and ministry was headed towards.

Therefore, the preface to Paul’s concluding statement is “Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness [the abstract kind again] in the appointed time.”

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time.”

Now, what is Paul’s concluding statement about the abstract righteousness of God that was manifested at the appointed time of the cross?

“So that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

“So that” is eis, which is almost always translated to, into, or in. I think is most appropriate here.

In the translation, he is the subject of the sentence. But, in the Greek he, auton, is in the accusative case, meaning it is the object of the verb.

“Might” is not in the Greek.

“Be” is the only verb in the sentence. So, he is the subject of be or being.

“Justifier” is the present, active, accusative singular participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it should be justifying and is the object of the verb being.

“Of the one who” is the word ton. It is in the accusative and goes with the accusative participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it is ” the justifying one” not “the justifier of the one who.”

“Has” is not in the Greek. It is the word ek, which means from, of, out of.

“Faith in Jesus” is the same as we saw above. It should be the “faith of Jesus” or “Jesus’ faith.”

So, what then is Paul’s concluding statement?

“in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

How is God being the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith?

Recall from above, the mentioned Jesus needed faith to be the Christ who had suffer, be crucified, die, and rise from the dead. He had faith in his Father to raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us crucify him.

Why did Jesus do this?

Go back above to Luke 24:47.

Jesus suffered and rose from the dead so “that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name.”

Forgiveness of sins could only be proclaimed in his name if they were actually forgiven.

What did Jesus ask his Father for on the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus asked this of his Father in faith.

The Father answered his request, forgiving everyone, justifying all that have sinned for no reason, so that the Father could be the just and justifying one of Jesus’ faithful request for forgiveness for all.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

Yes, the meaning I have given Romans 3:21-26 is entirely different than what most translators and preachers have said it means. But, it is all in the original Greek if you know what the righteousness of God is that Jesus was manifesting on the cross, what the whole witness of scripture is, and what God wanted to show the world about himself.

Did God want to show the whole world that he was like Dike, the goddess of justice who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment?

Or did God want to show he was something altogether different?

God is just.

God is merciful.

God is forgiving.

Of all, for no reason other than his Son asked him to.

Jesus, the Christ, God’s son, for whom it was necessary to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, according to all the scriptures.

 

Suffering, dying, and rising for the sole purpose that repentance, changing our minds about who God is, a forgiver not a condemner like Dike, and the forgiveness of sins.

Yes, God is justifying the faith of his son Jesus by declaring all righteous, all forgiven.

Faith – God’s Answer to Evil and Violence

TODAY’S READING: HABAKKUK

“And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3

The book of Habakkuk deals with the age old question, “If God is good, then why is the world filled with evil and violence?” This is exactly the question Habakkuk asks of God.

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” – Habakkuk 1:2-3

The question about the existence of evil and violence is the one that mankind has always wrestled and struggled with. Interestingly, one meaning of the name Habakkuk is a wrestler or a struggler.

God’s answer to Habakkuk’s question about evil and violence does not explain their existence. Rather, God’s answer in Habakkuk 2:2-3 only assures us that evil and violence will come to an end. They will be defeated. God’s answer is one we must embrace. Interestingly, another meaning of the name Habakkuk is embrace.

God tells Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain on tablets. 2 Corinthians 3:3-6 says, “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Whatever the vision is that God is writing, it is to be written directly on our hearts. This vision would be clearly understood, plain, for it would be written by the Holy Spirit. Because it is written by the Holy Spirit it is life and death. And, this vision on our hearts would give us confidence through Christ toward God and cause us to know that our sufficiency for life is from God.

The reality of this vision would seem like it was delayed. It might even seem like it would never come, that the vision was really just a lie. But, God told Habakkuk to wait for it. The vision would be fulfilled in its appointed time.

Galatians 4:3-6 says, “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'”

The fullness of time had come. It was the appointed time for the vision to be fulfilled. Therefore, we know that the vision God told Habakkuk to write about was the crucifixion of Jesus, the defeat of evil, violence and death, the elementary principles of the world that we would be freed from. For, ever since Cain and Abel, evil and violence has ruled the world.

1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The devil’s works are stealing, killing, destroying (John 10:10). The devil’s works are lies and murder (John 8:44). Hebrews 2:14-15 says that the Word of God, Jesus, became a man “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Jesus defeated death by dying.

Jesus defeated evil and violence without any evil or violence of his own.

Jesus defeated evil and violence with good and love.

Do you believe that?

I mean do you truly and fully believe that?

To believe that evil, violence, and death are defeated by dying (to yourself), good, and love requires faith.

Faith is God’s answer to our questions about evil and violence. Therefore, God tells Habakkuk, “But the righteous shall live by faith.”

Dying appears to be a defeat, a loss.

Good appears to be losing out to evil.

Love seems impotent in the face of violence.

What can dying, good, and love possibly accomplish in the face of death, evil, and violence?

God says you will live by faith that dying, good, and love do indeed defeat death, evil, and violence.

Dying, good, and love seem so foolish and weak in the face of death, evil, and violence. But, not to God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

God’s statement to Habakkuk that “the righteous shall live by faith” is quoted three times in the New Testament.

Romans 1:16-17 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”

Paul links the righteous living by faith with the gospel, the good news, that says evil and violence have been defeated. This gospel is the power of salvation.

But, why does Paul need to say he is not ashamed of the gospel, the defeat of death through dying, evil by good, violence by love?

The gospel, the good news, and “son of God” where both terms originally associated with Caesar, the ruler of the world at the time of Christ and Paul. The gospel of Caesar, the son of God, would be proclaimed as he returned from a victorious military campaign in which Caesar subjected people to the slavery of his rule through death, evil, and violence. The gospel of Caesar could be proclaimed because he came home alive.

But, Paul says he was an “apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God.” This gospel was “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness  by his resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:1-4)

Paul’s gospel, the gospel of God, has the true victor, the true ruler of the world, dying, seemingly defeated by evil and violence. And, this is why Paul had to tell the Roman church that he was not ashamed of the gospel. He was not ashamed to say that dying, good, and love, defeated death, evil, and violence.

The second time Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted is in Galatians 3:11-12, which says, “Now it is evident that no is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather, ‘The one who does them shall live by them.'”

If one does the law will live by them. But, why is no justified by the law?

Habakkuk followed his questions about evil and violence being everywhere and seemingly winning with the statement, “So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”

We cannot be justified by the law because the wicked always end up in control of the law. The wicked paralyze the law by using it for their own selfish desires. So, the wicked never allow justice to go forth from the law, perverting any justice that goes forth from the law.

So, no one be justified by the law because the law is actually used as a cover for death, evil, and violence. Therefore, the righteous live by faith that death, evil, and violence are defeated by dying, good, and love instead of trying to be justified by the law, which will always be perverted by the wicked.

The last time Habakkuk 2:4 is quotes is Hebrews 10:36-39, which says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

What is the will of God for man?

Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

The will of God for man was to rule in his image, which is light, love, and life (see my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus). To rule in God’s image is to rule the way Christ ruled, which is to rule by dying, good, and love. Therefore, to shrink back and be destroyed is to rule by killing, evil, and violence.

If we rule the way Christ rules, then we will receive what is promised by God.

What is promised by God?

Perhaps what God declared in Genesis 1:31 after he created man in his image and gave man his will – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” God’s promise for us is a very good creation. This is just what Paul speaks of in Romans 8:18-30.

So, Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of the things not seen.” God created the world to be very good. Despite all of the death, evil, and violence that now permeates the world, God will one day restore the creation to its very good status. That process started with Christ’s death on the cross, but it is not yet complete. Therefore, we need faith. Faith is the assurance that Christ’s dying, good and love truly defeated death, evil, and violence. Faith is the conviction that even though death, evil, and violence are so prevalent and seem to be winning that Christ’s death has truly secured the victory of a very good creation, a creation without sin, death, and suffering, for us.

Take note of those who are listed in Hebrews 11 as having lived by faith.

Abel died.

Enoch did not see death.

Noah, who lived at a time when every intention and thought of man was violence but he himself was blameless, was saved through violence by the ark, which is a type of Christ.

Abraham was called out of Babylon, the first empire to rule the world with violence. He went to live in a land of promise, seeking the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. He was seeking a city that was not ruled by death, evil, and violence but by dying, good, and love. That city was Christ.

Sarah conceived, brought forth life, with a man who was good as dead.

Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith.”

And, as you read through the rest that are listed in the hall of faith, you will find that their deeds of dying, good, and love are recorded. For, this is what means for the righteous to live by faith.

So, faith, living by dying, good, and love, is God’s answer to all the evil and violence in the world. We live by faith that Jesus defeated death, evil, and violence by dying, good, and love.

Solomon to Josiah: Faith, Hope, Love

TODAY’S READING: 1 CHRONICLES 3-4

“The son of Solomon was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, Amon his son, Josiah his son.” – 1 Chronicles 10:14

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” – Romans 8:22-24

As I read through today’s reading, the Holy Spirit was connecting these scriptures for me.

STARTING IN PEACE

David had fought to build the kingdom of Israel. But, because he was a man of war, David was not able to build the temple. God promised David that he would have a son who would sit on the throne forever who would build the temple.

In 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, we read of David’s sons. There are 19 sons from David’s wives that are listed. And, David had other sons from his concubines.

But, in verses 10 to 14 we are given a lineage of kings who sat on the throne. That lineage starts with David’s son Solomon. It is likely that name Solomon derives from the Hebrew word shalom. Therefore, a likely meaning of the name Solomon is peace or peaceable. So, this lineage of kings starts with peace.

However, Solomon was not the son that God promised David. Solomon was just a shadow, a picture, of the true son, Jesus.

.Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah prophesied over his son, John the baptist. In Luke 1:76-79, he said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of your God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John guided “our feet into the way of peace” because he led people to Jesus. Jesus is the way of peace.

In Luke 2:14, when Jesus was born, a multitude of the heavenly host praise God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Jesus, the promised son of David, the king, our peace, had arrived.

Therefore, in Luke 2:29, Simeon was entered the temple, picked up Jesus, and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.” Simeon was able to in peace because Jesus had arrived.

ENDING IN DESPAIR

In the lineage of kings given in 1 Chronicles 3:10-14, Josiah is the last one. Basically, Josiah was the last independent king of Judah before the nation went into exile in Babylon. Every king after Judah was subject either to a king of Egypt or a king of Babylon.

Josiah was one of the best kings of Judah. He rid the nation of false gods and idolatry of all of kinds. Not only that, but Josiah reinstituted the passover.

2 Kings 23:21-23 says, “And the king commanded all the people, ‘Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.’ For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. But, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah his Passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem.” Since the passover had not been kept since the days of Judah, Josiah was the only king to keep the passover in Jerusalem.

One possible meaning of the name Josiah is the despair of Yahweh. The lineage that had started with a king who built the temple, whose name was peace, ended in despair. One of the best kings of Judah, the only one to celebrate the passover, brought despair.

However, Josiah was a shadow or picture of Jesus too. The night before Jesus died his celebrated the passover with his disciples and instituted a new covenant.

Three days after Jesus was crucified, he appeared as a stranger to two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Jesus asked them what they were talking about. In Luke 24:19-21, they said, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”

These disciples had hope that Jesus would be the king who would restore the kingdom of Israel and bring peace, the peace spoken of at his birth, to the land. But, Jesus was crucified. Now three days later Jesus had not been seen as he promised. These disciples had lost hope, they despaired.

When the disciples had explained all this, Jesus said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.” In other words, not only had the disciples lost hope, despaired, but they without faith.

Faith in what?

GOD IS LOVE

In 1 Chronicles 3:1-14, the lineage of kings from Solomon to Josiah is made of 16 kings.

Sixteen is the number of love.

Almost everyone, given how often it is used in weddings, knows that 1 Corinthians 13 is about love.

Do you know many characteristics Paul lists about love in 1 Corinthians 13? 16!

  1. Love is patient.
  2. Love is kind.
  3. Love does not envy.
  4. Love does not boast.
  5. Love is not arrogant.
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not insist on its own way.
  8. Love is not irritable.
  9. Love is not resentful.
  10. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
  11. Love rejoices with the truth.
  12. Love bears all things.
  13. Love believes all things.
  14. Love hopes all things.
  15. Love endures all things.
  16. Love never ends.

Agape (the noun not the verb) is the Greek word for God’s love. It is used 18 times in 1 John. But, the 16th time the noun love is used John writes, “But perfect love casts out fear.”

The 16 kings from Solomon to Josiah show that even though God’s people moved from peace to despair God was working love throughout the entire time.

The west side of the tabernacle, the side that was closest to God’s presence, had 16 silver bases that held up the eight frames. There were two bases per frame. Eight is the number of new creation. In the new creation, Jesus gave two commandments of love. So, we have the 16 silver bases.

Silver symbolizes redemption. We were redeemed by the shedding of Christ’s blood. This occurred on the cross. And, it’s Christ’s death on the cross that reveals love to us.

1 John 4:8-11 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had lost hope because they were slow of heart to believe. They lacked faith. Specifically, they lacked faith in God’s love. Even though they had just seen the ultimate display of love – God in Jesus on the cross willingly dying for our sins and at the same time forgiving us.

Therefore, Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

What was Jesus telling them?

Everything about his love and where it could be found in scripture.

FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

Jesus showed these two disciples everywhere his love could be found in the scriptures to build their faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

The word of Christ is love. He came to reveal God’s love. This is why Jesus was sent. And, he gave us two commandments of love. Hearing his word and witness about the love of God is where faith comes from.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus heard the word of love and had their faith built. They went back to the 11 and the other disciples and told them what they heard from Jesus.

Luke 24:36 says, “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace to you!'” The disciples had heard the word of love from Jesus. Their faith had been built. And, Jesus spoke peace to them. The despair, the lost hope, was gone. Now they had peace.

Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Here Paul links faith, love, and peace.

But, in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul said, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Hope and peace are synonymous. But, of the three – faith, hope, and love – love is the greatest because love is how faith comes and faith yields hope.

But, hope is not a wish. The Greek word for hope means an expectation. When we have the word of love from Christ and are faith is built, then we have a sure expectation of peace, regardless of the despair that is in the world. We have this because of the love Christ displayed on the cross by dying for our sins and forgiving us of our sins.

This hope, this expectation, is for the full reconciliation of all creation to God as we see in Romans 8. When the reconciliation is complete, our peace will be full. Then the hope, the expectation, of what is not seen will be seen and we will no longer need to hope.

What a message the Spirit inspired in the list of kings from Solomon to Josiah.