Faith in Romans, Part 5: Two Sides of Faith: God’s and Man’s:Volume 5, Number 6
Created Date: November 16, 2019
Posted Date: November 16, 2019
The word “faith” is found 9 times in the third chapter of Romans, the first being our text for today; “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”. To understand this verse, we first need to understand the essence of faith. It’s often said that the Bible is the best commentary on itself and Scripture is very clear about faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” . The word “substance” is translated from the Greek “hupostasis”* (G5187) found 5 times in the New Testament (NT). The King James Version (KJV) translates it “substance” only here; “confident or confidence” in 3 passages, , and and “person” in . Strong defines it as: “a setting under (support), that is, (figuratively) concretely essence, or abstractly assurance (objectively or subjectively).” The word “evidence” is from the Greek “elengchos” (G1650) found only one other place in the NT where it is translated “reproof in the KJV: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” . The Lexicon defines it as “evidence, demonstration, proof, convincing argument.”
Faith exists in human interactions as well as those involving our Creator. Two separate and distinct agents are at work with faith, one is passive, the other active. By passive, I mean impotent, i.e., powerless to produce a result. By active I mean dynamic, efficient, effective, i.e., power to produce a result. The passive agent is always a person. The active agent can be a person or God:
• Human interactions; a man or woman who believes, i.e., puts their faith in the word of another person is the passive agent. The active or operational agent is a person who gives their word to do something. For example, someone who tells another they will pay 10% interest on money loaned to them is the active agent. The passive agent is the person who believes, i.e., has faith that the active agent will pay them 10% on the money they loaned. Men and woman who take Scriptural vows of marriage are both passive and active agents; meaning they place their faith in the other when they promise to love, cherish and be faithful until death do them part. The passive agent believes, i.e., has faith that the active agent will do what they promised.The passive agent’s faith means nothing if the active agent fails to pay the 10% interest they promised, breaks their wedding vows, or fails to do whatever they said they would. The passive agent may have great faith in the word of the other, but if the object of their faith, that is the active agent, does not have the ability to carry out what they said because of extenuating circumstances, or they lied; the passive agent is let down, regardless of how strong their faith. In human interactions, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen is based on the variables or whims of the active agent.
• Interactions involving Creator God; all human beings are passive agents; we have the choice of believing, that is, placing our faith in God’s Word, or not. Placing faith in God’s Word is not a work; anyone can believe, i.e., exercise faith, whether or not one is intelligent and wise, educated, young or old. But the active agent is God, He is dynamic, efficient, effective, He has the power to produce a result and He will. Our faith, whether weak or strong, rests on the Rock of Ages,; “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. God’s Word is truth, ; and it is impossible for Him to lie, . The merit or strength of Faith resides in God and He will not fail.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,. There have been many people who heard or read the words of Scripture without really hearing them. An example of this was when Jesus told the unbelieving Jews “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.” . They heard His words but really didn’t because of unbelief, they were not enlightened by God’s Spirit, just as many today can hear or read the Bible, but it does not take root in their heart and mind, so to speak.
Now, back to the context of our text. In the ending verses of the second chapter of Romans Paul explains that most Jews didn’t recognize the purpose of the Law of Moses,. They followed it in self-pride, believing themselves superior to the Gentiles. They were self-righteous and failed to recognize that no one can keep the law perfectly; that God gave it to teach them their need for a Savior because all Jews and Gentiles are sinners. Of course, there were some Jews who recognized this and humbly offered the Law’s required sacrifices, recognizing their sin and thanking God for forgiveness. They were Jews inwardly, their hearts having been circumcised in the spirit, and not in the letter (the outward appearance); they didn’t seek the praise of men, but of God, . Paul explains in Galatians: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” . Today, many still don’t recognize the Law’s purpose and think they must follow parts of it to please God.
The third chapter opens with the question, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?”. Paul answers: “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” . In “much every way” is meant that they were God’s chosen people. God meant for the Nation of Israel to represent Him to all mankind; they were to be a Kingdom of Priests, a Holy Nation, . But it turned out that Israel proved an incontrovertible fact, which is that mankind is incapable of meeting God’s standard on his or her own. After Israel rejected the offer of their Kingdom by Peter and the 12, they were set aside from their position of prominence for a season, as recorded in the first chapters of Acts. God called Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles as Acts continues. It’s been almost 2000 years since then, during which any Jew or Gentile who believes the Gospel revealed to Paul is saved, . When this age of Grace closes and believers are taken up to heaven, , God will continue His dealings through Israel with the Great Tribulation. After which the Lord Jesus Christ will return to establish His Kingdom on earth and the Nation of Israel will finally fulfill God’s purpose for them ---- because they will be filled with His Spirit, ; . Thus, Israel was advantaged in every way. But their advantage was chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God; they recorded God’s Word for mankind, Romans 3:2, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 2 Timothy 3:16.
Which leads us to our text, “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” Romans 3:3. The question is answered: “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”. All those who did not believe were passive agents of faith, they had the option to believe or not to believe, but their unbelief, or lack of faith, had no effect whatsoever on the Faith of God. God Himself has always been and is still the active or operational agent in faith “….the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. The 11th chapter of Hebrews lists men and women who are witnesses to what faith in God’s Word accomplished. Those witnesses were all passive agents of faith in that they believed God and acted in obedience of faith. God was the active, operationally effective agent in each case. Example - Israel marched around Jericho 7 times in obedience of faith; they were passive agents as they had no power to destroy those great walls. It was the active or operationally effectiveness of All-Mighty God Who destroyed the walls, .
Considering the witness accounts in Hebrews 11 of what faith accomplished, we are to run the race of faith,; “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith (the word “our” is not in the original); who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” .
* It is interesting to note that the term Hypostatic union comes from the Greek word hypostasis. Hypostatic union is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence, the most basic explanation for the hypostatic union is Jesus Christ being both God and Man, He is both perfectly divine and perfectly human.