22 October 2010 (Sheshi/Kippur)|
Day #220, 5934 AM
The Bigger Picture
Continued from Part 1
I have just returned from Cranleigh Baptist Church where I heard Orlando Saer preach on Romans 4. He is a good preacher...
Orlando's sermon got me thinking. It was about the nature of faith, Summarised, he said that biblical faith is not trusting our own efforts to secure us righteousness (salvation) in God's eyes (Rom.4:1-5). This includes:
Rather, biblical faith means trusting God's promises (vv.16.-25) by:
- a. Trying to get right through our own morality (vv.1-8);
- b. Trying to get right through religious rituals (vv.9-12); and
- c. Trying to get right through spiritual regulations (vv.13-15)
All of which is sound doctrine. He then went on to say (quoting Paul) that the purpose of Torah is to reveal our sin areas (also correct). But there is far more to Torah than that: it is also a cultural way of life, designed to build community along a certain pattern (tavnith), it's also a health code, and ensures we give demons no legal rights to oppress us. These things Baptists never mention. The doctrine is good for alpha-Christians but goes no further: it creates miniature trees instead of natural, full-grown ones. I can well imagine how Romans 3 was interrpetated last week.
- a. Focussing on his power (vv.16-17);
- b. Recognising our weakness (vv.18-19); and
- c. Believing His promise (vv.20-25).
Baptists are very fond of Romans and Ephesians - I am sure they would elect these as their favourite biblical books.
Correct faith establishes the Law (Torah), not abolishes it!
"Do we then nullify the Torah through the belief? Let it not be! On the contrary, we establish the Torah" (Rom.3:31, ISRV).
Orlando rightly pointed out that Abraham was justified (made righteous before Yahweh) by his faith before he was circumcised. The obedience to ordinances did not save him, but was a fruit of salvation. But this faith is only the first step, not the first and the last step:
But was that the end of the matter? No! For we read:
"And [Abraham] believed in Yahweh, and He reckoned it to him for righteousness" (Gen.15:6, ISRV).
Yah'shua repeats this in Matthew 5:48. Then we read how Yahweh bears witness of Abraham:
"And it came to pass that when Abram was 99 years old, that Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am El Shaddai - walk before Me and be perfect'" (Gen.17:1, ISRV).
Abraham and his seed were blessed because he did these things (v.4).
"...because Abraham obeyed My voice and guarded My Charge (Requirements): My mitzvot (commands), My chukim (laws, ordinances), My Torot (teachings)" (Gen.26:5, ISRV).
Being declared righteous by faith (trusting) in the manner Orlando preaches is absolutely correct but maintaining that righteousness depends on the fruits of obedience, which is the evidence of that faith (trusting). Hence faith (trusting) without works is dead (Jas.2:20.26). Legalism (abortive salvation) is trying to reverse the order! The difference lies in the acquisition of righteousness and its maintenance. And that is what James reminds us we must not forget.
What about people like Jews, Catholics, Mormons and others who believe that righteousness acquisition is gradual? They need to learn Romans 4 and discover grace! Unfortunately, they tend to overreact in the opposite direction and discount works altogether.
We are first covered by the blood, through faith (trusting), and then transformed by the blood (sanctified) by obedience to Torah, thereby establishing Torah in our lives by having it written by the pen of the Ruach (Spirit) on our hearts. We become living Torah.
We can lose our covering by doubting the power of Yahweh, failing to acknowledge our helplessness (which otherwise leads to pride), and not trusting His promises. Without that, how can there be sanctification? So Romans 4 is truly where we need to start. That makes us evangelicals. But we go further - onto perfection through obedience, and that makes us Israelites - we are 'Hebraic-root Evangelical Christians', I suppose.
(From the Diary of Lev-Tsiyon, 19 October 2003, England)