Three Epistles about Faith

2014  

The issue of faith (and justice that is inseparable from faith) is vital in the gospel. In the New Testament there are three epistles that devote special attention to faith. They are Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. We will review them briefly in the same order in which they are located in the New Testament, for surely, in that order there is sovereignty from God.

This order goes hand in hand with what is usually our own experience. In the beginning, Romans teaches us about faith and the righteousness of God; then, when we have stumbled and we have returned to the works of the law, comes Galatians and condemns us to return to the right path. Finally, Hebrews exhorts us to pay due attention so as not to be retained. This can be summed up in three words: teaching, reprimanding and exhorting- concerning the faith.

How we need these three epistles! Not only the teaching about faith, but also the corrective rebuke and exhortation, so that we may not stop tending to and living by it. Romans shows us the importance of hearing with faith, and the results of doing so in the heart of the believer: righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Abraham is shown so that we may look at him and learn from his example. The way God justified Abraham is how he justifies us; the fruits of Abraham’s faith must also be ours.

But our weakness is great, and very soon we find ourselves believing another gospel. We have come to believe that we must perfect ourselves by our works; that grace was good at first, but that now we need the works of the law to please God. We are no longer hearing with faith, but trying to do things for God. Then the Holy Spirit says, Foolish Galatians! Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith (3: 1-2). This epistle shows us, through the allegory of Sarah and Hagar, the impotence of the law that can only give birth to slaves but never children (4: 21-31).Oh, how pleasing to the heart is to return to grace, freedom, security in Christ, and the consciousness of being heirs of God in Christ!

Nevertheless, we still have one more corner to turn on this journey of faith. Hebrews-“a brief word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22) -begins by saying that we must attend more diligently to the things that we have heard (2: 1), that we have become "dull of hearing" (5: 11), that we have become lost in unbelief so it seems we have not entered into God's rest. (4: 1), That we have become like Israel who did not profit from hearing the word because it was not united by faith in those who heard it (4: 2), and that the New Covenant is unspeakably superior to the Old. Romans tell us that "the just shall live by faith: but if any many draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (10:38). He adds that "if any man draw back," because we are in danger of backsliding, because of the trials and afflictions that befall us - by our unbelief.

So then, Hebrews shows us heaven and makes us see Jesus as the High Priest who intercedes for us night and day, who is also the author and finisher of our faith. And he urges us to follow the example of those who preceded us, so that our heart may not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Oh, how we need of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews!

 

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