“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”
It is important to how I understand Romans to look at the phrase “From faith to faith.” Let me start this discussion by reviewing what I said commenting on Romans 3:22.
In my discussion of Romans 3:22, I take the viewpoint that our salvation is not by our faith but by the faith of Jesus Christ. It was the faith of Christ that led him to the cross and enabled him to endure the cross that gives me and everyone else in the world our salvation.
That means the foundation of the Christian good news is the faith of Christ. Two thousand years ago, salvation came to the entire human race, because Jesus had such immense faith.
However, that isn’t where faith ends. In order to give me the life here on earth that God wants me to have, I have to add my faith to the faith of Christ. So my salvation history goes from the already established acceptance of me by God because of the faith of Jesus, to my faith in God’s goodness, that grants me the willingness to accept the help of God so that my day to day life can become wonderful.
At Birth or before, the faith of Christ gives me salvation then at some point in my life, my faith puts God’s salvation to work, and makes the power of God’s salvation applicable to my day to day life here on earth. Now I want to look at the phrase “From faith to faith.”
My eternal destiny is a given. Heaven and Hell are no longer an issue. It is a given of my life and everyone else’s life that we all are going to spend eternity with God. In an eternal sense, we are all saved. That is the sense of the two words, “from faith.” The realization that God loves me is where my faith finds its beginning point.
I do not need to accept Christ as my saviour. I do not need to be born again. I do not need to accept a particular doctrinal position. I do not need to muster up enough faith in order to be saved. The good news is, that it was the faith of Christ on Calvary that gave each of us permanent, irrevocable, unchanging peace with God and that happened a very long time ago.
That is the sense of what St. John taught us in John 1 :
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Christ enlightened every man, not just Christians, or Westerners, or Jews, or Holy Spirit baptized people, or good people or any other category of mankind that our bent toward divisiveness causes us to create. Christ has already touched every person.
There is a related text in Acts 2:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…”
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was given to specific men so they could prophesy [Like Elijah or Isaiah] or rule [Like Moses or David]. The new arrangement is that God is giving us all the Holy Spirit so that our sons and daughters, old people and young people, men and woman can hear from and speak for God.
There are simply no qualifications necessary for receiving the Holy Spirit. There are no exceptions. If I believe “All” means everyone when it is said “For all have sinned…”, it is dishonest to claim that all means only certain people when it talks about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh.
The faith of Jesus has saved everyone even before they are born. The light of Jesus has enlightened every person every second of every day that person has lived. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on every person ever born. That is the Gospel.
God has totally accepted all of us on the basis of the Faith lived out and died for by Jesus. However the story does not end there. Salvation is from faith [The faith of Jesus] to faith [My faith]. My faith does not bring salvation. My faith actualizes God’s power so that it can be applied to my everyday life, in this world, in this body, at this time.
Many people have faith in the message of Jesus, who don’t believe in Jesus. I do not think that matters in the least to Christ. Jesus did not come to aggrandize himself. God sent Jesus to give us a better picture of God. God is love. God is light. God is unmarked by the prejudices, fears and angers that corrupt me. God’s love is pure, undiluted, creative, powerful, and accessible. That is the gospel of Jesus.
God is, who God is, quite independent of anything I believe or do. When the unmanageability of my life, knocks down the fences I have erected against God’s love, I come face to face with the God Jesus wants me to know. One AA man said, “Most of us had our first clear glimpse of a God who really cares while we were puking in a toilet.” In the same way, when the terror of a battlefield destroys a person’s God blocking defences, that person is suddenly aware of a God that cares.
Here is how Jesus said it in The Beatitudes:
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
When, for whatever reason, we want to learn a new way to live out our lives , God is there. That is the gospel.
Will a person that turns his life over to God ultimately come to the place that he acknowledges Jesus? Frankly, that is none of my business. That is strictly a matter between that person and her or his Higher Power.
I do think that more people would come to recognize the role of Jesus, if the church would offer a view of Christ that is as beautiful as Christ actually is. I know the Jesus I know today, after twelve years in 12 step recovery is far lovelier than picture of Christ the church gave me as a boy.
Now I want to look at another part of this scripture. If our eternal destiny is a settled matter, in what sense is it that the Gospel is salvation to those who believe. We have already touched on the answer. The term salvation refers to a changed life here on earth. It is not referring to eternal salvation.
When we understand that God is everlastingly on our side, we can begin to turn our will and our life over to him. At that point, our human life can begin to experience the power of God for the salvation of our human, earthly life.
Applying the word save to this life as opposed to eternal salvation is common biblical practice. For example if you search the Psalms for the word “Save” it normally refers to saving the human physical life. That is normal for the whole Old Testament.
Using the word save to refer to this life is common in the New Testament also. For example:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. [Matthew 16]
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Paul’s use of the word salvation refers to our life here on earth and not to eternal life.