Summary: The law is external. Faith is internal. We all have an external and an internal component to our belief system.
February 28, 2018
Reading: Romans 4:13-25
Faith and Law –/– Faith or Law
“For the promise that he would be heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Verse 13) This one verse sets the tone for understanding today’s New Testament reading.
Paul reaches way back to the life of Abraham, to contrast Faith and Law. Lat’s go back to Romans 2:12-15.
“12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,”
Justified? What does that mean?
“Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal, a fact that makes it unpalatable to many in our day. We tend to distrust legalism and thus we dismiss anything that savors of a legalistic approach. We should be clear that our hesitation was not shared by the biblical writers. In their day it was axiomatic that a wealthy and important citizen would not be treated in a law court in the same way as an insignificant person. Indeed, this was sometimes written into the statutes and, for example, in the ancient Code of Hammurabi it is laid down that if a citizen knocked out the tooth of another citizen his own tooth should be knocked out. But if the victim was a vassal it sufficed to pay a small fine. Nobody expected strict justice in human tribunals, but the biblical writers were sure that God is a God of justice. Throughout the Bible, justice is a category of fundamental importance.” Dictionaries - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Justification
“In Christian theology, justification is God's act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice.” Justification (theology) - Wikipedia
I think what Paul is trying to convey is that Abraham was deemed righteous and justified when God named him “father of many nations”. See verse 17. Now this was a time when Abraham was not circumcised as was required by Jewish law. Sound a little confusing or contradictory? Let’s look at this with an open and curious mind. The law (circumcision) is applied physically and thus can only alter physically. My go to commentator, Warren Wiersbe says it like this: “There must be an inward obedience to the law. He calls that inward obedience a ‘circumcision of the heart’. In other words, a physical circumcision has nothing to do with his justification.” [Note-My synopsis of Wiersbe’s commentary, not a direct quote.]
Maybe another way of looking at tradition and law is to look at the practice of publicly speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is regarded as evidence of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Some followings view that as the only evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit and thusly that tradition and following actually see that as the law in that matter. True enough, the act of speaking in tongues demands faith, both in the believing and in the practice. I won’t belabor the point beyond saying that I believe one can be baptized in the Spirit and lack the evidence of speaking in tongues.
As you can see from 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, each of us are given different gifts, for the common good of all. But all our gifts come from the one and the same Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:30 confirms that not all will speak in tongues.
If you cannot speak in tongues, it does not mean you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. It just means you do not have that particular gift. That's all.
“7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same[a] Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
“30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” 1 Corinthians 12:30