The Meaning of Faith

The Meaning of Faith

Read Romans 1:8-17

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”

The book of Romans remains one of the foundational books in all the Bible. In the book, Paul lays out all the central doctrines of the Bible for us to understand the depth and riches of our salvation. After his initial salutation and greetings to the believers in Rome and commending them for their faith, Paul gives a simple statement that undergirds everything he will say throughout the book. That simple statement is found in verses 16-17. In providing his summarization, Paul points out two essential truths. First, his eagerness to preach the gospel (vs. 15) is driven by his recognition that the gospel message is the energizing power that brings salvation to all those who accept it. Second, the story of the life and death of Christ, the story of what Christ has done to bring us forgiveness of our sin, freedom from the judgment and domination of sin, and the establishment of a personal relationship with the living God, is not just information. It is not just crucial information that only penetrates our minds to inform us of the historical facts of the life and death of Christ. It is active; it penetrates the soul. The word “power” refers to the supernatural influence of an omnipotent God who grants us salvation by delivering us from the power of sin and placing us within his kingdom.

The gospel reveals the righteousness of God. That is, the gospel message achieves our justification (God’s declaration that we are free from the judgment of sin and now stand righteous before him) and sanctification (the process where we are transformed into the image of Christ). However, the power and salvation of Christ are not universal. Instead, it requires our response of faith. Those who reject the offer of salvation are still the objects of God’s wrath (vs. 18-32). While God reveals his wrath to those who reject his salvation, he tells his righteousness to those who embrace it by faith.

Faith then is the starting point and goal of our salvation. First, Paul writes the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith.” The phrase “from faith” refers to faith being the source or means by which righteousness is given. It is the condition or the subjective grounds by which the salvation of Christ is applied to our life. Second, faith is the goal of our salvation, that faith is not just an act, but it is a way of life. Paul then looks back to the Old Testament to show that this life of faith is not something new or in conflict with the law but the outworking of the law. We are to live under the umbrella and influence of faith daily.

Here again, we need to understand the meaning of faith. Faith is not just intellectual acceptance of the facts of the Bible. As James points out, faith without works (i.e., a transformed life) is meaningless. Faith is only genuine when it changes how we live so that we walk by faith. Inherent in the meaning of the word faith is complete reliance upon some or something. To have faith in Christ is to rely entirely upon him and his word. Genuine faith is expressed in and results in obedience to God and his word. Anything less is not real faith. The question we must wrestle with is not, “do we believe in Christ,” but “do we rely upon and submit to Christ and his word in all things?” Are we living by faith? How is your faith shaping your attitudes, actions, and thoughts today—right now?

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