Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: What Paul Means by the Word "Faith"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

If you sense that your heart is dry as dust, like the valley of dry bones Ezekiel saw, and you want to come alive, the answer is to see what Paul saw in his Letter to the Galatians. He mentions one word almost 20 times--evidently it must be the most important idea he has. You must understand it! That word is "faith."

Now the most astute Bible student in the world is Satan himself; he fears the Bible. If people can learn to understand and love it, Satan knows his hold on them is broken. He does not like this Letter to the Galatians, so he has done his best to confuse the idea of faith. He doesn't mind if Paul talks about it many times here and in Romans, and you read it for 100 years so long as you don't know what Paul means by the word "faith."

The key definition is found in chapter 3, where Paul links the experience of faith with the crucifixion of Christ (vss. 1, 2). He calls it "the hearing of faith," the listening, the experience of understanding, perceiving, appreciating. Paul sees the cross as not only a legalistic maneuver on God's part to satisfy the judicial claims of the broken law (it is that, for the law demands punishment). But Paul sees far more in the crucifixion of Christ than that.

The idea behind all those uses of the word "faith" is a heart-melting, heart-humbling, awe-inspiring appreciation for what led the Son of God to sacrifice Himself for us. There were many Roman crucifixions that went on all the time, but this was different. Paul was awe-struck that the infinite, divine Son of God had been murdered by humanity, and yet it was love for us that led Him to surrender to humanity's bitter hatred like that. Christ was ascending the throne of His people's hearts by the avenue of crucified love.

Life can no longer be the same for Paul. He cries out, "I have been crucified with Christ!" From now on, "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (2:20; 6:14). That is what Paul means by his word "faith." Unless your human heart is made of stone, it will be captivated by such love, and such faith will be yours.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 11, 1998.
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