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The Ultimate Interlocking Puzzle: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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The Ultimate Interlocking Puzzle

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

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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“Faith is the regalia of the Godhead.”
-spoken to his son by the father of Friedrich Schleiermacher

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An Equation–“Not too Hard for Thee”

Paul’s rhetorical question in Romans 3:3 was tantamount to Jesus’ declaration in John 10:35: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” Like an interlocking puzzle we give to our children, the “oracles” which God entrusted to the Jews [1] were an internally consistent whole designed to promote and encourage faith through their disclosure of God. [2] The New Testament is the unfolding and fulfillment of those Hebrew oracles. [3]

Yet for those of the Jewish power structure, the Kingdom of God remained an unresolvable mystery–either that or it required a commitment they were unwilling to make. [4] Paul explained this Jewish default in terms of God’s elective purpose in Romans 9:6-8:

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

But even the chosen were not immune from struggle with unbelief. Jesus’ personal appearance to his own hand-picked disciples following his resurrection, and his explanation of the fulfillment of those Old Testament “oracles” in terms of his own suffering and glorification, effectively resolved the puzzle. Fortified by his appearance and instruction, they remained in the city until they were “endued with power from on high.” [5] Jesus’ personal confrontation of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road and commissioning him an apostle to the Gentiles [6] was an effective antidote to Peter’s subsequent vacillation at Antioch [7] and enabled the Christian movement successfully to advance beyond that of a mere Jewish sect.

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The Law of Faith

Affirming “the faith of God” in Romans 3:3, the apostle to the Gentiles laid the theological groundwork for the “the law of faith” mentioned in Romans 3:27. The “law of faith” originated in the Godhead. In fact, the theme of Romans chapter 3, and which Paul defended against every objection throughout the entire Roman epistle, [8] was “The Establishment of the Law of Faith.” Friedrich Schleiermacher’s father perceived as much when he reminded his skeptical son that “faith” was “the regalia of the Godhead.” [9] As a Prussian military chaplain, he knew full well that the term “regalia” pointed, beyond the external emblems of royalty or office, to the prerogatives signified by the emblems. [10]

By both New Testament and Reformation standards, the 1881 English Revised Version committee compromised its own credibility by inviting the Unitarian G. Vance Smith to participate in its work. [11] For Smith’s avowed anti-Trinitarianism mirrored the Jewish unbelief of Jesus’ day, [12] as well as Miguel Servetus’ Socinianism of John Calvin’s day. While Servetus’ anti-Trinitarian stance would undoubtedly have disqualified him from participation in the work of the Geneva Bible translation, had he lived that long, [13] G. Vance Smith’s heretical views met with less resistance in the “progressive” era of the 1880s. The 1881 substitution of “faithfulness” for “faith” immediately became the precedent in the English rendering of Romans 3:3 thereby obscuring for English readers the foundation of Paul’s argument establishing “the law of faith.”

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No More Waiting

The “law of faith” was most certainly that “law” which the prophets Isaiah and Micah declared would “go forth from Zion” [14] and which the coastlands awaited. [15] “Now that the faith had come” in the person and work of Christ (Gal. 3:25)–that “faith” of which Jesus was both “pioneer” and perfecter,” [16] there would be no more waiting.

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout it brightly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! [17]

The “faith of God,” as a matter of divine necessity, [18] was not nullified by the unbelief of Jewish chief priests who exclaimed before Pilate: “We have no king but Caesar!” [19] Earlier that week, within the hearing of those same chief priests, Jesus had stated,

Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation producing the fruits thereof. [20]

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Endnotes

[1] Rom. 3:2

[2] Rom. 9:30-10:11

[3] Matt. 5:17-20; Acts 26:22-23; Rom. 3:21

[4] Mark 4:11-12; John 5:39-40

[5] Luke 24:25-27, 44-49

[6] Acts 9:15; 1 Cor. 15:8-11; Gal. 2:7-14; Ephes. 3:8

[7] Gal. 2:11-14

[8] Rom. 1:5, 16-18; 2:25-29; 3:5-8, 26, 29-31; 4:2, 15-16; 5:1; 6:1-2, 15; 7:1,4; 8:3-4, 12-13; 9:6-7, 14-15, 19-20, 30-31; 10:5-10; 11:1, 11, 28-32; 12:1-3; 9-21; 13:1-8; 14:22; 15:18, 27; 16:25-27

[9] B. A. Gerrish, A Prince of the Church: Scheiermacher and the Beginnings of Modern Theology. p. 25

[10] Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, p. 984

[11] F. F. Bruce, The English Bible, p. 136

[12] John 8:19

[13] Williston Walker notes that in 1531 Miguel Servetus published his De Trinitatis Erroribus. He was executed by
the Geneva city government in 1553 after escaping from Roman ecclesiastical authorities in Lyons and fleeing to
Geneva.

[14] Isaiah 2:3b; Micah 4:2

[15] Isaiah 42:4

[16] F. F. Bruce notes, that (1) the presence of the definite Greek article rather than a possessive pronoun preceding “faith” [Greek pistis] in Hebrews 12:2 means that “the faith” rather than “our faith” is the best translation; and (2) the Greek arkegos in Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2, as well as Acts 3:15, connotes the concept of a trailblazer. It is in that sense that Christ is the “Author of the faith” (Heb. 12:2), “Author of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10), and the Author of life” (Acts 3:15). He did what Adam failed to do on our behalf–he won the prize of eternal life by his obedience unto death on our behalf. Christ, like a military hero, has conquered–the “first in a series” thereby bringing in his coattail “many sons to glory.” His leadership offers great example and encouragement for Christians to run the race set before them. See also Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

[17] The Cyber Hymnal. Priscilla J. Owens wrote this hymn entitled Jesus Saves for the Union Square Methodist Church Sunday School in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1882.

[18] Isaiah 42:4; Luke 24:26; Acts 2:23-24

[19] John 19:15

[20] Matt. 21:42-43 KJV; Psalm 118:22-23

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Works Cited

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

Gerrish, B. A. 1984. A Prince of the Church: Scheiermacher and the Beginnings of Modern Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press cited from online article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Schleiermacher#cite_note-A._Gerrish_1984-1

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 Cyber Hymnal – www.hymntime.com

Walker, Williston. [1918] 1952. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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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.
Series Navigation<p></br /></p><< Onward to the Obvious: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva BibleAugustine’s Six Day “Denial” (Part I): “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible >>


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