Faith is more than Brain Activity

walking

I’m starting to read Romans in anticipation of a sermon series in 2019.

Here are some interesting verses on faith:

1:5 – “…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…”

  • Paul’s is seeking OBEDIENCE that is from faith.  The ultimate purpose is not faith without obedience, but faith expressed or lived out in obedience.

16:26 – “…according to the command of God, to bring about the obedience of faith…”

  • the 5th verse and the next to last verse form an “inclusio” on the obedience of faith.

4:12 – “…who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had…”

  • He does not say “think” or “feel” or “think” but “walk” which is a metaphor throughout scripture for a person’s way of living.  See Psalm 1; Proverbs 3:5,6; Deut. 8:1ff.

6:1-14 – Baptism, Death and Resurrection, Presenting your members to God….all ideas speaking of new life of obedience of faith.

This is Romans, the greatest source of understanding salvation by Faith alone (1:16; 3:23-25; 3:28; 4:1-8; 4:22-25; 5:1; 8:1; 10:5-13).  Yet the idea of obedience, walking a godly path, living a resurrected life, permeates this book from start to finish.

The Reformers spoke of faith as knowledge, then agreement and then trust.  We are on thin ice if we think of faith as only knowledge, only something that happens in the mind.

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Gateways to the Atonement

This sermon clip sums up the idea behind my @ONE series at church this Lent season.

gates2

We have been talking about the Atonement.  I compared the atonement to the city of Jerusalem. In the center of the city is the place where people could meet God.  But one had to get there and to get into the city you had to enter one of the gates.

In the same way, the Atonement is the work of God that allows us to know God’s forgiveness and presence.  It is what restores what was broken and reconciles those who are far apart.

The Atonement is the truth that Christ died for us.  By the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus we have the gift of Salvation.

            We who have come to Jesus and by Jesus have come to know the grace of God, have each come in a different way.  These are like the gates of the city.  Our goal is to get to the place of God’s presence, but we are drawn in by one or another gateway into the city.

What are these gateways?

  • Ransom – sin has humanity in its power. It is like a slave master and God purchases our freedom in Jesus. Some know the atonement first through the payment that brought us freedom.
  • Reconciliation – sin has broken the relationship God gave us at the start – we are not friends but enemies of God. By his death for us, Jesus bridged the gap between God and sinners and make reconciliation possible.
  • Substitution – Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sins –we may have become aware of our sinfulness first and rejoiced in the substation of Jesus.
  • Satisfaction – If we have any idea of God’s holiness – which is hard for us to understand because we live in a culture that celebrates and makes money off of unholiness of every kind. God’s holiness is a treat to us because of our unholiness. Those who know the fear of God’s wrath are drawn to the idea that Jesus bore the full measure of our punishment.
  • Rebirth – those who are spiritually dead may not even be aware that they are. Nicodemus did not know he needed to be reborn.   Many have come through the offer if New Birth – the John 3:16 gate.
  • Shed Blood – we saw how the people of Israel offered sacrifices every day, week and year for hundreds of years. This shed blood made atonement, but which had to be repeated over and over. Jesus death and his shed blood is the once and final payment for sin.  No longer do we need to go to the temple to offer scrrivice, but we need only believe in Jesus to be saved.

These are all parts of one reality that we can call the Atonement.  Just as one Jerusalem had many gates, and just as one diamond has many facets, so the Atonement has different parts, but when we receive it we receive all of it.  Let’s say you drive into Madison and you came by way of East Washington.  Can you say you know Madison if that is all you see. To be a real citizen of the city you need to know all the important places in the city.  If you know Madison, you totally get this map:

madison

So with Salvation, to know what Christ has done, you need to know all the important parts of the work of Atonement.

Galatians and Faith

Here are a couple of startling verses for these times when we use the words “inclusion” and “diversity” so freely.

Galatians 1:1
    Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—

Galatians 1:11
    For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.

    The NIV on 1:11 says, “…the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.”

So then we can understand these words in terms of history and theology.  The meaning of what Paul is saying is not hard to grasp.  He is referring to his conversion (recorded in Acts 9 and repeated on other plaes as well.)  Paul and Luke say that no teacher, preacher, mentor or evangelist introduced Paul to Jesus;  Jesus himself made his own introduction on the Road to Damascus.

It is a passage that calls for a decision from the reader.  This blog is about reading the bible for what it says, not for what you have heard others say that it says.  It seems as if you can disbelieve Paul – that somehow he made it up, or was confused.  Perhaps he took a dream, from his sub-conscious, and believed that it was a message from God.   Or you can believe Paul, that he did encounter Jesus, after the crucifixion, on that dusty road.

Sooner or later, as we read the biblical text, we have to decide if we can believe or not.  Is there a God, are there miracles, did the Red Sea part for the Israelites, did Jesus heal the sick and walk on water, and can God speak to us clearly and truthfully?

This is one of those passages where you, the reader, will inevitably make a decision.  Neutrality is itself a decision – for if Paul’s message is true, you do not gain anything from neutrality.

This is why faith is a central theme in the scriptures, both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament.