Faith is another of those religious words we throw around but aren’t very clear about what they mean. And in Christianity faith has a particular meaning.
Paul uses “faith” four time in these few verses. Faith is the way human beings find salvation (v.16). Whatever exactly the phrase “through faith for faith” means, it is clear that faith is intimately tied up with God’s passion to set all things right (the “righteousness of God,” v.17). And faith is the means of living out that same passion (v.17).
But what does Paul and the other biblical writers means by faith? Faith means:
-reaffirming the truth as we have come to know it in and through Jesus Christ.
-entrusting ourselves to God the Father through Jesus Christ.
“Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.” This classic statement from the Barmen Declaration written against the Nazification of the church in 1934 nicely captures both these aspects of faith (hear, trust, obey).
-being betrothed to Jesus Christ.
Faith connects us to Jesus Christ, the one who loved us to the uttermost while we were enemies. Such love evokes our love and makes us Christ’s forever.
Truth, trust, and troth – these are the three aspects of biblical faith. Too often faith is reduced to affirming truths which results in intellectualism. Faith is also often reduced to troth, which results in mere sentimentalism. Faith as trust alone usually ends up in legalism or moralism.
Paul’s use of faith in our passage reflects this multilayered reality. Faith connects us to Christ who is the truth in whom we believe (v.16). Faith connects to God’s passion for setting all things right and we consequently trust this passion as the way to move toward the kind of world we know God wants (v.17). And faith also is the way we experience and embrace the love of God that captures us body and soul for God.