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Faith, Old English, and the Carpenter’s Apprentice: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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Faith, Old English, and the Carpenter’s Apprentice:.

“Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

 

“And thereto I plight thee my troth.”

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The “Troth” Within Betrothal

Assigning “faith,” as distinct from “faithfulness,” as the primary meaning of the pistis of God in Romans 3:3 is justifiable and preferable, especially in the sense of the old English “troth”–a term used in classic marriage vows: “And thereto I plight thee my troth.” Considering the prominent role of the covenant and the marriage motif in both Old and New Testaments,[1]the faith of God” in Romans 3:3 is none other than “the faith” which Paul stated “has come.” The full self-disclosure of God in the incarnation of the Son has come. Historical redemption through the shedding of the Son’s blood has come. The application of that redemption by the Holy Spirit has come creating trust in God where none previously existed.[2] The advent of Christ represented the troth of God, that true marriage which transcends,[3] tests,[4] and transforms [5] earthly betrothals beginning with that of Joseph and Mary [6]–even establishing a heavenly betrothal where no earthly betrothal exists.[7]

Sovereignly originating in the triune God, this troth, expressing itself through love,[8] is freely reciprocated by the elect, as exemplified in the words of the virgin Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”[9].

The Good Faith of God

Jonathan Edwards, Jr., son and namesake of the distinguished eighteenth-century New England pastor, preached a series of thee sermons on The Necessity of the Atonement at New Haven in 1859, the same year of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Edwards argued that it was unthinkable that God’s conditional pardon under the Old Testament would have been granted on any other basis than through the Mediator Jesus Christ.

If a real and acknowledged Substitute was necessary to actual pardon, it was equally necessary to the grant of conditional pardon, if the grant was made in good faith.[10]

“Good faith” approximates “troth” perfectly matching the context of Romans 3:1-3. For it was Israel’s failure to reciprocate good faith in the face of God’s entrustment [11] of his “oracles” which prompted Paul’s question: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?[12] In this rhetorical question (and immediately subsequent to it) the apostle affirmed that God’s “faith” remained unshaken and undeterred by Israel’s open defiance of the blood troth publicly instituted at Mt. Sinai:[13] “Let God be true though every man a liar.”[14].

Faith’s Opposite

To be sure, treachery rather than troth penultimately [15] characterized the nation of Israel, and, with the exception of the remnant, that is understating the matter.

Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband: so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.[16]

A kiss of betrayal identified Jesus to the unruly crowd armed with swords and clubs and accompanied by the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders.[17] In spite of such treachery (the very antithesis of troth or good faith), and making full use of it for his own ends, God established the new covenant in Christ’s blood, exactly as Isaiah had prophesied more than 700 years beforehand.[18] Yet the Jews themselves acknowledged their own culpability in the matter.[19] What’s more, “through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”[20] “Let God be true though every man a liar!” Whatever it means to pledge one’s trust to another in holy matrimony, that is the essence and the very heartbeat of the New Testament.[21]

This writer is reminded of the commitment of a certain carpenter who stood by his foolhardy, mistake-prone, and, at times, treacherous apprentice. Every time the apprentice fouled up the project, the carpenter simply applied his knowledge of the trade to the apprentice’s mistakes eventually freeing the apprentice from the fear of failure. May his tribe increase!.

Endnotes

[1]. Gen. 17:7; Exod. 24:3-8; Deut. 29:10-15; Ruth 1:16-17; Song of Solomon 4:9-12; Isaiah 54:6; Jer. 3:6-8; 31:31-34; Hosea 1:2; 2:2-20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; 11:2; Eph. 5:23; Rev. 21:9

[2]. Gal. 3:25; 4:4-5

[3]. Ephes. 5:31-32

[4]. Matt. 1:19-20; 1 Cor. 7:26-31

[5]. 1 Pet. 3:1-8; 1 Cor. 7:14

[6]. Matt. 1:18-25

[7]. Isaiah 54:1, 56:3-5; Matt. 19:12f; 1 Cor. 7:32; Compare the imagery of holy betrothal in Song of Solomon 4:12.

[8]. Gal. 5:6; John 13:1; 14:1-3; Ephes. 5:25-30; 1 John 4:7-12, 16-21

[9]. Luke 1:38

[10]. Jonathan Edwards, Jr. The Necessity of the Atonement, Discourses and Treatises, p. 391 emphasis mine

[11]. The Greek pisteuo is represented by the English “entrust” (ESV) or “commit” (KJV) in Romans 3:2. Pisteuo is the verbal cognate of the noun pistis in Romans 3:3.

[12]. Rom. 3:3a

[13]. Exod. 32:7-9

[14]. Rom. 3:4

[15]. Israel’s apostasy was only penultimate, not ultimate, for her restoration is assured (Rom. 11:25-29).

[16]. Jer. 3:20

[17]. Luke 22:47-53

[18]. Isaiah 53; Note: Oswald T. Allis, in The Unity of Isaiah, thoroughly addressed and rebutted the critical arguments for post-dating the prophecies of Isaiah. As for Jesus’ establishment of the new covenant in fulfillment of the Old Testament, see also Jeremiah 31:31-34; Acts 2:23; and 1 Corinthians 11:25.

[19]. Matt. 27:25; Acts 2:37; Isaiah 53:6; Acts 17:30-31

[20]. Rom. 11:11

[21]. Ephes. 5:22-33

Works Cited

Allis, Oswald. T. 1950. The Unity of Isaiah: A Study in Prophecy. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

Analytical Greek Lexicon, The: Consisting of An alphabetical Arrangement of Every Occurring Inflexion of Every word Contained in the Greek New Testament Scriptures, with a Grammatical Analysis of Each word, and Lexicographical Illustration of the Meanings. A complete Series of Paradigms, with Grammatical Remarks and Explanations. n.d. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

Brand, David C. 1991. Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards, Self-Love, and the Dawn of the Beatific. American Academy of Religion Academy Series, edited by Susan Thistlewaite. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Bruce, F. F. 1961. The English Bible: A history of translations. New York: Oxford University Press.

Edwards, Jonathan, Jr., D.D. 1859. The Necessity Of Atonement And The Consistency Between That And Free Grace In Forgiveness: Three Sermons: Delivered At New Haven, Ad. 1786 by Jonathan Edwards, D.D., President Of Union College as part of The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises by Edwards, Smalley, Maxcy, Emmons, Griffin, Burge, and Weeks with an Introductory Essay by Edwards Amasa Park, Abbot Professor of Theology, Andover, Mass. Edwards A. Park, ed. Boston: Congregational Board of Publication.

Geneva Bible. 1560. www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html

Holy Bible (English Standard Version). 2001. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Kittel, Gerhard, ed. 1964. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Tenth Edition. 1994. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

The Holy Bible. 1611 Edition. King James Version. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers..

About the Writer
David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona. He and his wife reside in Ohio. They have
four grown children and six grandchildren. With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing. One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

 

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