Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I'm sure everyone knows this already, but it never ceases to amaze me.

When a friend you trust pays you back money he owes you, you do not need to count it in order to know that it is paid back. Your friend is trustworthy, so you know that all of the money is there. You have faith in your friend because he is faithful; you trust your friend because he is trustworthy. Your faith in him, or trust, is a response to your friend’s character.

The Bible does not focus on people who have great faith constantly and therefore who receive life and blessing because of that faith. Indeed, the Bible catalogues human faithlessness from Adam, through Israel (including acts of faithlessness by Abraham, Moses and David), up through Peter and beyond.

If we don't catch the point, then we can come away from the Bible thinking that it's little more than a compilation of what miserable creatures we are (which is all true enough). But that's not the overarching point. The big point is that, in spite of all this, God remains faithful to his promise; he remains faithful despite our faithlessness. In fact, God is so faithful -- so righteous and trustworthy -- that, in order to keep the promise he made to (faithless) humans, he sacrifices himself on the Cross.

The Bible focuses on God’s character – on his faithfulness in spite of human faithlessness – and thereby invites our faith as a reflection of his faithfulness and righteousness. Indeed, his faithfulness is all the more pointed precisely because he continues to be entirely faithful to us and to his promise in the very teeth of our faithlessness.

The Psalmist says that a righteous man “swears to his own hurt and does not change his mind” (Ps 15.4).

God swore to Abraham that he would bless the world through him (Gal 3.8). God swore to his own hurt, and he kept his promise at the cost of his own life (Acts 20.28).

God’s righteousness -- the length to which he will go to keep his promise -- is displayed par excellence in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. And so because of the cross we know we can trust him (Ro 1.16-17, 3.24-26, 1 Jn 1.8-9). Because God did not spare his own son, despite our abysmal faithlessness, then we do not need to doubt that he desires to save us. That he gave up his own life to save the lives of his enemies - namely us - means that he is a faithful God. A person who keeps a costly promise to his enemy his indeed trustworthy.

It focuses on the wrong person to admonish people who are weak in faith to make their faith stronger by an exercise of their own wills. Rather, direct them to the Cross to see God's righteous character displayed there. And in seeing God's trustworthiness manifested on the Cross, in seeing the extreme lengths to which God goes to to keep his promises, faith is evoked.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of his righteousness at the present time, that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Ro 3.23-6).

Jesus endured the shame of the Cross to demonstrate the righteousness of God. We trust God because he has proven himself superlatively trustworthy in circumstances under which no one else would have kept his promise.


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