What is faith?
Is it how we control God? Jesus did say that he could do no “mighty works” in Nazareth because of their lack of faith.
Is it how we prove God? If you had enough knowledge to make an argument so convincing that people would have no choice but to believe, would that be faith?
Or is faith a decision to be stupid–the opposite of reason? “Stop thinking and just believe,” they used to say to me; “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength… but none of your mind!”
Some think it’s the opposite of “works” …like doing nothing.
Some think it’s the way we get “saved” …like how God “cooks the books”; he substitutes “faith” for “righteousness.”
Some say faith is our choice, our “free will”–not that we get it for free, but that we will it into existence, free of any other will, as if we were our own uncreated creator.
Where does faith come from?
In Romans three, Paul will tell us that our lack of faith does not nullify the “faith” of God or the “faithfulness” of God (“faith” and “faithfulness” are one word in Greek).
If God has faith, in whom would he have faith? Perhaps the Father has faith in the Son, and the Son has faith in the Father, and they both have faith in the Spirit who has Faith in God the Father and the Son… perhaps, even from a temple of flesh, like you or me?
If God is faithful, to whom would he be faithful? Perhaps God the Creator is faithful to his Word, and his Word is faithful to the one who speaks the Word, such that if that One said, “Let us make Adam (mankind) in our image and likeness,” it would happen–God would be faithful to himself, no matter how unfaithful Adam might be to God.
In Ephesians, Paul writes “There is One Faith.” In Romans 1:17, Paul writes “From faith to faith… the righteous shall live by faith.”
I don’t think the Romans heard a much-disputed theological word, like “faith;” I think they would’ve heard something more like “trust.” Trust is a decision but a strange sort of decision. It is to decide to not decide but let another decide about you and your reality.
Thirty-one years ago, my two-year old daughter cracked her head open on the fireplace, doing something she wasn’t supposed to do which she had likely watched me do. She was constantly trying to make herself in my image. In the emergency room, the doctors tied her down upon a “papoose board,” to keep her still as they began to stitch up her wound.
She was restrained on the outside, just as all of us are restrained by laws and our “knowledge of Good and evil”; but she was not restrained on the inside. She was screaming in terror, and I could read the panic in her eyes–“Daddy, Daddy!‘Why have you forsaken me?’”
Instinctively I bent down and put my face in front of hers. She could see that her pain was my pain. She could see herself reflected in my eyes as I saw myself reflected in hers. I spoke a word: “Elizabeth, trust me.”
Just a few weeks later, the same thing happened again. But this time the doctor said, “Elizabeth, if you can be still, we won’t need the papoose board.” I put my face down in front of hers and said, “Elizabeth, can you trust me?” She said, “Yes, Daddy. I trust you.” She locked her eyes on mine, and I locked my eyes on her, and we were still.
It was trust–the greatest gift she could give me, and the greatest gift I could give her.
Is faith how we control God our Father or how we surrender to God our Father?
If I had the power to keep my daughter from ever wounding herself on the fireplace, I don’t think I would use it, for then I could never give her the greatest gift–not my power but my heart. Perhaps Jesus did no “mighty work” in Nazareth, for he wanted them to see his “mighty heart”?
Is faith how we prove God, or how he proves us, how he creates us?
There is one thing Adam was clearly missing in the Garden on the Sixth Day of Creation before the Fall. And there is one thing we all need before we could ever be the image and likeness of God: That’s faith.
Is it the opposite of reason? No. It is the Reason, the Logos, the Logic of God.
Is it the opposite of works? No. It is the only work. It’s how the Trinity works.
Is it the way we get saved? Yes. But more than that, it is salvation, creation, and our connection to reality itself—reality is Grace.
Every moment of your existence is entirely dependent on the faithfulness of the one we all crucify in faithlessness. Perhaps God won’t wake us up to his “mighty works” until we’ve learned to trust his mighty heart. Without trust, the kingdom of heaven must burn like “hell.”
Is faith our free will? It is God’s Free Will. It is God’s Judgment. It is Righteousness rising from the dead within us. It is Christ in me and in you; it is the Good and the Life.
Where does it come from? It comes from the tree in the middle of the garden.
When we’re “proud” of our faith, we crucify the Good, and everything dies.
When we’re grateful for our faith, he is risen and is our righteousness.
To come to the cross is to surrender your faithlessness to our Lord’s faithfulness; it’s how he makes us faithful.
We can’t preach the Gospel if we think the Gospel is dependent on us.
The Gospel is the proclamation of the Faithfulness of God.
Romans 1:16 “The Gospel… is the power of God unto Salvation.”