Faith (Part 1)

Published by DonDavidson on

In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the word “faith” a lot—38 times in the New Revised Standard Version, 39 times in the New American Standard Bible translation, and 40 times in the New International Version. But he never uses the phrase, “saved by faith.”

In fact, I did a search for that phrase in, using a variety of English translations, and it does not appear in any book of the Bible.

That’s because we are not saved by faith. We are saved by God’s grace because of our faith. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”

Saved by grace, through faith.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Paul’s famous statement in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the verses before and after that verse emphasize that we are saved by God’s grace, through our faith:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)

Grace means “unmerited favor.” Pastor Mark Batterson differentiates mercy and grace this way: “mercy” means not receiving the punishment you deserve; “grace” means receiving a benefit you do not deserve.

Paul is very clear about what we deserve, for he says in Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Notice Paul says “all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” And since “all have sinned,” that includes each of us. What we deserve is God’s wrath.

But Romans 3:23 doesn’t apply to Jesus. He is not included in the “all” of that verse, because he was without sin. We know this from verses such as Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin.” (For similar verses, see 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, and 1 John 3:5.)

Christ was righteous, because he was without sin. We have no righteousness of our own, but because of our faith God treats us as if we had Christ’s righteousness.

In chapter 4 of Romans, Paul uses the example of Abraham. In Genesis 15:4-5, God tells Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Then Genesis 15:6 adds: “Then he believed in the Lord; and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

In the same way, Paul says, God will treat us as if we were righteous because of our faith in Christ:

Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our wrongdoings, and was raised because of our justification.  (Romans 4:23-25)

“Justification” means to be made righteous in God’s eyes. We have to be made righteous in order for Him to save us, for unrighteousness incurs the wrath of God.

According to Romans 5:1-2, our faith leads to our justification: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

In other words, God treats us as if we were righteous because of our faith, just as God did with Abraham.

So what is this “faith” that Paul is talking about?

Let’s talk about that next week.


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