Romans 3 & 4
The Law of Faith

Marrieds with a Ministry Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 07 July 2002

Handout: The Law of Faith


According to David Barton, at the founding of our country more than 99% of the people in the American colonies were Christians, and most of those were very devout in their faith. Today, only about 70% claim Christianity, and most of those don't even attend church regularly. What happened?

When my mother was 14 years old, and her mother was in her 30s, they heard the gospel for the first time. Yet only a few generations previous, some of their ancestors had pulled up their roots in Germany and Holland and moved to Pennsylvania in order to have the freedom to worship according to their Mennonite and Dutch Reformed faiths. How did the gospel get lost in so few generations?

We must restore the lost and weakened gospel common among evangelicals today to the gospel of Christ delivered to us by His apostles in the New Testament because:

  1. Truth is not subject to our experience of it, nor to our culture's assumptions. Because the truth is external to us, how we feel about the it does not affect it. Changing the gospel in any way to make it relevant to us is a corruption of it, to our own eternal peril.
  2. We must avoid offering false hope to others, both through personal evangelism and through conversation with those who are part of the community of faith.
  3. We want to avoid perpetuating false ideas and a weak form of the gospel to our children and grandchildren. We should seek to build the community of faith generation by generation as well as through personal evangelism.

Background Summary

  • The Roman Jews and proselytes assumed these fundamental principles as found throughout the Scriptures: God created the world. He created mankind as moral agents. He is holy.
  • Paul made the following assertions in Romans 1-3: All mankind is thoroughly corrupted, sinful in nature and in deeds. By our own efforts, we can do only evil deeds. God will judge our deeds righteously, pouring out His wrath on our sin. Good deeds, even if we could do them, cannot make up for evil deeds.
  • The Romans understood through the Law that sin must be atoned for through the sacrifice of an acceptable substitute.

Saving Faith

Is Is Not
On-going - Greek pistis, translated "faith" and "believe," is in a form indicating continuing action, or associated with a verb that is One-time (i.e., merely a one-time event)
Trust - Rom 4:3 (Gen 15:6)
Belief, Rest, Reliance, Dependence, Laying hold of, Object is solid and real
Decision (for Christ), Commitment (to Christ), Asking, Agreeing (mere intellectual assent), An act, Saying certain words such as the "sinner's prayer" (superstition/magic), The "Christ-mind"
In God's - Rom 4:3 (Gen 15:6)
In Jesus Christ (Anointed Savior)
In your relationship with Christ, In your choice, In your prayer, In a creed or doctrine, Merely in God - Jas 2:19
Promise to you - Rom 4:20-22, Gal 3:13-14
Word, Divine testimony
About Christ's - John 3:14 (Num 21:6-9)
Pertaining to the saving work of God incarnate
Vicarious - Rom 5:6-8, II Cor 5:14
Substitutionary, In my place
Sacrifice - Rom 3:25, I Cor 15:3
Atonement, Payment of a debt or penalty, Redemption, Propitiation, Reconciliation

Many of the items on the Is Not side of the table above are good things when in their proper place with respect to the gospel. For example, one may pray the "sinner's prayer," or "ask Jesus into his heart," and also exercise saving faith, and be genuinely born again. That is the way it happened for me when I was a toddler. If, however, a person's faith is placed in the saying of the prayer or in his asking--that is, if he believes that saying the right words or asking sincerely is the basis or cause of his salvation--then his faith is misplaced, and he may be fooled into thinking he is safe from God's wrath when he is really not. For another example, one who is granted saving faith in Christ will make a decision in favor of Christ, but one could alternatively make any of several kinds of "decisions for Christ" without exercising saving faith. A genuine decision for Christ is a fruit of saving faith, not its cause. Therefore, we must ascertain that we, and those we care about, are daily trusting in God's promise to rescue us from His wrath through Christ's atoning sacrifice. Anything less is insufficient, and anything more would add unwarranted baggage to the gospel.

It may be easily noted that some of the terminology disparaged above is frequently used from the platform of our own church. This lesson is not a call to criticize our pastors, teachers, evangelists, and other brothers and sisters in Christ who use that kind of terminology euphemistically of salvation. We have an obligation to study the scriptures and believe what we find there, and to teach and admonish one another. But we must also recognize that it is not our place to correct our God-given shepherds. We are under their care; they are not under ours.

Reference: Faith defined

Drawn from the entry on faith, written by J. I. Packer, in Elwell's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984 Baker Book House, pp. 399-401

  • General
    • Self-renouncing, trustful reliance upon God
    • Knowing, believing, and obeying the truth
    • Hoping in the LORD, cleaving to him, waiting for him, making him our shield and tower, taking refuge in him
    • Unwavering trust in God to save his servants from their foes and fulfill his declared purpose of blessing them
  • Saving
    • Trust in God through Christ
    • An appropriating instrument, an empty hand outstretched to receive the free gift of righteousness in Christ
    • Unqualified acceptance of, and exclusive dependence on, the mediation of the Son as alone securing the mercy of the Father
    • Involves acknowledging God incarnate (John 20:28), whose atoning death is the sole means of salvation

Recommended reading:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL