Vol. 1 - No. 4
"FAITH IN THE FAITH"
by Robert A. Bolton
In developing the majestic theme of the gospel of Christ as God's power to save sinful man, the apostle Paul, with one grand sweep of the inspired pen, presents the great scheme of redemption in few words when he declares in Romans 1:16‑17:
“For 1 am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.”
Presuming we understand “the gospel” as referring to the “good news” of Jesus Christ as “the lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), including facts to be believed (1 Corinthians 15:1‑4), conditions to be met (Mark 16:15‑16, etc.), and blessings to be enjoyed (Acts 2:38, etc.), there is much of tremendous importance to be learned from these statements. (1) The gospel is not some-thing of which any man should be ashamed. How could it be when we consider that “Christ died for our sins?” (2) Although God has other power, both miraculous and non-miraculous, His power to save man from sin is the gospel. (3) While the good news” includes the fact that Christ died “for every man,” (Hebrews 2:9) the gospel is God's power to save the believer, not the unbeliever. (4) The gospel is not limited to any particular race or nation, but is sufficient to save any or all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile. (5) In the gospel is revealed the way provided by God for sinful man to be forgiven or, as Paul affirms of God: “that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) (6) The righteous, those forgiven or justified by the gospel, shall live by faith.
Now, the particular text within the con-text of Romans 1 with which we are concerned is verse 17: “For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.” Exactly what is the apostle saying?
To comprehend the full import of this passage, we may profit by a consideration of other statements bearing upon the subject. Many passages emphasize the importance of “faith” in the sense of “personal belief.” Consider the following: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resur-ection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25‑26) See also Acts 10:43; Romans 10:9‑10; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 5:1, 4‑5; etc. That such “personal belief” involves more than mere faith in the “historical Jesus” is evident when we consider such words as assurance, conviction and confidence” used in connection with “faith.” For example: “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) “Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God ... for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:12, 14). Thus, faith that avails is “faith working through love,” (Galatians 5:6) faith that involves “assurance, conviction and confidence.”
But the question arises concerning the source of such “confident assurance.” Just where do we get this “faith” or “conviction?” Again, many are the scriptures providing insight into this matter: “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word “ (John
17:29) “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing ye may have life in his name.” (John 20:30‑31) “ that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” (Romans 10:8) “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) A classic Biblical example of this important point is the conversion of the Phillipian jailer recorded in Acts 16:30‑34, where Luke says that Paul and Silas, having told the jailer to “believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved,” ‑ spake the word of the Lord unto him...” Thus, the word of God is the source of belief.”
The King James Version of Hebrews 11:1 reads: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for...” (“ sub”‑“stance”), that which stands under” or gives support to the things for which we hope. Without such faith, there can be no hope, but such conviction comes from the word of God. Therefore, it is no great surprise that inspired writers use the word faith” as referring to “the system of faith,” “the word,” or “the gospel.” For example: “There is one faith “ (Ephesians 4:4‑5) “ the word of God increased and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) Paul and Barnabas exhorted the disciples “to continue in the faith.” (Acts 14:22) In Jude 3 we are exhorted “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.” Surely Jude is not saying we should contend for what we “personally believe,” even though we “personally believe” that for which we contend,” but rather, that we are to contend for “the faith” which was delivered,” that is, “the gospel.”
Understanding that such “faith” is a “revealed” or “delivered” faith, we should be able to comprehend such statements, in context, as Paul's affirmation to Jewish Christians in Galatians 3:23‑27, where he says: “But before faith (the gospel) came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith (gospel) which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (the gospel). But now that faith (the gospel) is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith (the gospel), in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” Granted that “personal belief” is of necessity involved in men being sons of God in Christ, the context of Galatians 3 demands the “faith” under consideration as referring to the “system of faith,” “the gospel,” or that faith” which has been “revealed.”
And so, with this understanding, let us return to our original text of Romans 1:17, “For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith ... the righteous shall live by faith.” Does it not harmonize with all we have learned to understand Paul as saying that in the gospel is made known the gracious plan of God in forgiving, justifying or making men righteous by faith, which “good news” within itself is the grand motivating force inducing men to believe? Supportive of this view is Romans 3:21‑22, where we read: “But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe"
Although the words “believeth” and “faith” in our text have reference to “personal conviction,” what we must never forget is that such “faith” must have as its source, “the gospel” or “system of faith.” For whether or not Paul's application of the Old Testament quotation, “But the righteous shall live by faith,” is made to “personal” or “revealed” faith, in reality “the righteous live by faith in the faith!” For how else would they live “by faith?” Certainly, a proper appreciation and application of this fact would go a long way toward solving many problems we face.
For example, if brethren had “faith in the faith,” they would not affirm that we do many things for which we have no authority,” for they would be zealous “not to go beyond the things which are written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) They would not embrace the “where there is no pattern” philosophy, because they would respect the fact that “whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9) And they would not hold the silence of the scriptures in contempt by asking, “Where does it say not to?”, for they would cling tenaciously to the principle of Revelation 22:18‑19.
My beloved brethren, think! Would not a strict adherence to the principle of faith in the faith” cause us to accept without equivocation the fact that Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work?” (2 Timothy 3:16‑17) And would not our attempt to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) really mean that we walk by “faith in the faith?” Surely so! But on the other hand, if “the faith” by which we live or walk is not really “faith in the faith,” then why would it not follow that we are “ashamed of the gospel?” As those concerned with being righteous by the gospel of the crucified and risen Lord, let us strive at all times and in every way to “live by faith,” or as we might properly say, to “live by faith in the faith!"