Ever notice that Christians have these fancy terms that few if any other people use? And some of the words may have a different meaning in scripture than how the average Joe would use it (like faith). Some of these terms are critical to the gospel message. I tried to make sense of it all and I hope I can explain in a way that is easy for all of us to understand. As I studied these, it was quite interesting to see how these words are used in the Greek and throughout the scriptures. I don’t know Greek, but googling the Strong’s definitions of the Greek/Hebrew terms and looking at the context in the Bible has helped quite a bit. We will discuss some of these terms in the next few posts. Let’s begin with the scripture that is the heart of the gospel message and incorporates most of these terms. I hope you read on and that God blesses you and gives you and me more insight.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This is the key to the gospel message. Simply put, we are all sinners and need a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ. We cannot do anything, no works of righteousness, to gain salvation. Our salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. He paid the price and offers salvation as a free gift. It is up to us to accept it and believe. God gives us the faith that we need to believe.
Let’s start with faith and grace. We are saved by grace through faith. What does that mean? What do we have to do? What is God’s role in all of this? What is our role? What does it mean to believe?
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Grace is a free gift. It is undeserved favor. Grace and mercy are very similar; grace is receiving something we do not deserve (such as faith to believe and salvation through Jesus Christ) and mercy is not receiving something that we do deserve (we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death. But because of God’s righteousness, Jesus took our sins upon his shoulders, took our place and paid the price for our sins. Nothing we do ourselves, no amount of good works, nothing we do can earn salvation or favor with God).
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
So what is faith? What does it mean that we are saved by grace through faith? How do we obtain faith? Does that make the gift (grace) conditional?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Greek word for faith is “pistis,” which is literally, “God’s divine persuasion.” The term is also used to refer to a guarantee. Our faith, given by God, is a guarantee; it is assurance of our salvation. He gives, we decide whether to accept it or not.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Back to the question of what does it mean to believe? The Greek word for believe is basically the same word for faith or trust. To believe in Jesus is putting your faith in Him. It is accepting the gift God has given you and using that gift (faith) to trust in Jesus. Trust Him that His grace saves you. Trust Him that He died for you and His blood takes away your sin. Trust Him to give you the Holy Spirit to guide you in your walk with Him. Trust Him to give you eternal life.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
May God bless you and give you the faith to believe (He will!). My desire is that you accept that gift, His grace. You will have joy beyond belief.
In the next post we will discuss more terms from Romans 3 central to the gospel.