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The Faith of God: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

Thursday, November 1, 2012, 21:59
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The Faith of God

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

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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Rock o’ my soul in de bosom of Abraham,
Rock o’ my soul in de bosom of Abraham,
Rock o’ my soul in de bosom of Abraham,
Oh, Rock o’ my soul! [1]

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Faith, Foolishness, and Weakness

On the surface of things, ascribing “faith” to Deity [2] is theologically disturbing if not scandalous. It seems to bring the omnipotent and omniscient [3] God down to the level of finite man. Yet it is no more scandalous [4] to speak of God’s “faith” than to speak of God’s “foolishness” and God’s “weakness”! [5] In each instance Paul was exposing men’s calculations which presumed to discredit the preaching of the cross. For the “foolishness of God,” as the unbelieving Greeks regarded the preaching of the cross, was “wiser then men”; and the “weakness of God,” as the unbelieving Jews regarded it, was “stronger than men.” [6]

Accordingly, in Romans 3:3 the apostle rhetorically affirmed that Jewish unbelief could not negate “the faith of God.” “Let God be true though every man a liar.” [7] When “the pistis of God” in Romans 3:3 is understood as one and the same with “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” or “faith in his blood,” [8] it is analogous to “the foolishness of God” and “the weakness of God,” as Paul used those expressions. [9] This was “the faith” that Paul “once sought to destroy” but which, following his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, he devoted the rest of his life proclaiming. [10] Such faith lies at the heart of the analogia in Romans 12:6– the new covenant touchstone or standard of prophetic utterance. The “faith of God” in Romans 3:3 is that “faith” which Paul stated in Galatians 3:25 “has come” in the person and work of Christ. [11]

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Neither an Abstraction, Nor an Absentee

If the eternal God, who is “Spirit,” [12] had not embraced “the likeness of sinful flesh” [13] by means of his gracious covenant, references to “the faith of God” would be unthinkable. But from Genesis onward, culminating in the new covenant, Scripture depicts God as One who stoops to human weakness and communicates with men who bear his image however distorted that image became through the Fall. [14] God is not an abstraction to be debated by philosophers, nor an absentee landlord who leaves poverty-stricken tenants to wallow in the mire of their own making. [15] And to speak of “the faith of God” does not diminish God’s transcendence in the least so long as we recognize the eternal majesty of the Son in the bosom of the Father before the creation of the world. For he is “before all things and in him all things consist” [16] –“Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” [17]

Since he is “the firstborn of all creation,” [18] he is the person of the Godhead most suited to mediate a covenant with those who have forfeited their dominion over the earth as viceregents of their Creator. [19] Conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, [20] born in “the likeness of sinful flesh” [21] “born under the law,” [22] tempted but without sin, [23] Jesus suffered and died on behalf of sinners for the glory of the Father, [24] was buried, and rose again on the third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures. [25] The “man Christ Jesus” is “the only Mediator between God and men.” [26]

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The Mutual Trust

Christ’s words from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” [27] did not convey an abstract idea on the one hand, nor did they, on the other hand, merely give vent to the worst psychological experience by which Jesus only imagined God the Father was abandoning him. Viewed from God’s perspective, these words announced the cutting off of the Son “from the land of the living,” a striking down of the Son “for the transgression of my people” that was at once personal, historical, punitive, and substitutionary. [28] The incarnate Son’s cry of anguish was not a reflexive response to what only seemed like actual abandonment. Rather it was an intelligible question concerning that which was in truth the actual abandonment by the Father for a moment of time in order that God’s “own blood” might be applied on behalf of sinful men to the mercy seat in the heavenly tabernacle [29] and whereby they might escape the coming judgment of God’s wrath. [30]

Dare we speak of the Son’s “faith” in that horrific moment, especially when we consider the testimony of at least ten “faith of Jesus” Greek genitives. [31] Though concealed in so many of the modern English versions beginning with the English Revised Version of 1881, these genitives surely reflect Jesus’ voluntary refusal to exercise his own divine prerogatives of omnipotence and omniscience. And was this not a mutual trust between the Father and the Son,
bound by the Holy Spirit, and recalling the faith of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah? [32] “For our sake” God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [33] In so becoming, Jesus became the “founder” and the “perfecter” of the faith. [34] What faith? “The faith of God once for all delivered to the saints” –that faith which comes to sinful men upon hearing the gospel! [35]

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So high you can’t get over it,
So low, you can’t get under it,
So wide, you can’t get around it,
You must go in thru’ the Door. [36]

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Endnotes

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[1]. “Rock O’ My Soul,” Afro-American Negro Spiritual, Author Unknown
[2]. Rom. 3:3
[3]. Heb. 11:1; 2 Cor. 5:7
[4]. 1 Cor. 1:25; Note the author’s play on words here. Our English word “scandal” comes from the Greek skandalon rendered “stumbling block” in 1 Corinthians 1:23 and also in Romans 9:32.
[5]. 1 Cor. 1:25
[6]. 1 Cor. 1:25
[7]. Rom. 3:3-4
[8]. Jude 3; Rom. 3:25
[9]. Rom. 3:25
[10]. Gal. 1:23
[11]. Gal. 3:25
[12]. John 4:24
[13]. Rom. 8:3
[14]. John 1:9-18; 3:13; Heb. 1:1-3; Gen. 2:16-17; 3:8-12, 16-24; 4:3-15
[15]. Ephes. 2:4-7; John 8:10-11; Mark 2:15-17
[16]. Col. 1:17
[17]. 1 Cor. 1:24
[18]. Col. 1:15
[19]. Gen. 1:26-28
[20]. Luke 1:30-31, 34-35
[21]. Rom. 8:3
[22]. Gal. 4:4
[23]. Heb. 4:15
[24]. John 12:28
[25]. 1 Cor. 15:3-4
[26]. 1 Tim. 2:5
[27]. Mark 15:34
[28]. Isaiah 53:8b
[29]. Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:11-14
[30]. Matt. 3:7; Rom. 1:18; 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 6:16
[31]. Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 2:16, 20; 3:22; Ephes. 3:12; Phil. 3:9; Rev. 2:13; 14:12 Note: Galatians 2:16 contains two of these “faith of Jesus” genitive expressions.
[32]. Gen. 22:1-14
[33]. 2 Cor. 5:21 Indeed the significance of Abraham’s name: “father of a multitude” points to the many sons being brought to glory through the sufferings of Christ. See Hebrews 2:10.
[34]. Heb. 12:2 ESV
[35]. Jude 3; Rom. 10:14-17
[36]. Refrain from “Rock O’ My Soul,” Afro-American Spiritual, Author Unknown

 

Works Cited

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Bruce, F. F. 1961. The English Bible: A history of translations. New York: Oxford University Press.
——–. 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews: the English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Geneva Bible. 1560. www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html

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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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