Monday, November 16, 2009

The Manna of Faith

Grace is the joyful kindness which fills the heart of God. It is his pleasure to redeem the estranged and to rescue the lost. It should be noted, however, that if he were a just a big fluffy pushover, we wouldn't have been estranged in the first place! God hates sin, fundamentally, that will never change and never cease to be true of him. It means his reaction to sin will always be thorough and inescapable. Certainly, that's something to think about!

Faith is the means that this kind and severe God has established by which his grace is brought to bear upon the condition of the estranged. We are saved by grace through faith.  Humans who express such faith get saved, those who won't, don't. A statement like that is likely to bend some Calvinists into a pretzel, probably a salty one, but it reflects the Bible on the subject, what can be wrong with that? Faith has always been, and always will be the issue with human beings in regard to their relationship with God.

Faith is not a static thing, however, it has a shelf life, a relatively short one, it seems to me. To envision faith as if it was like a switch--once turned on it stays on, without thought-- is a mistake in my view. Faith is a dynamic conviction,  a motivating understading that has power while its active, but diminishes when its not. Faith has ebb and flow, it does not exist in the static universe, but only in the realm of action. Try to put it on a shelf, like oil in a lamp, unused, untended, and inactive, it evaporates and won't be there to bear light when needed. It not only has to be engaged to function, it has to function to exist.

Can we learn a lesson from the traveling Israelites, whose sustenance, like ours, was dependent upon God's grace?  Faith is like manna, it's good for today, but does not project to tomorrow. Even the pot collected to serve as a communal memorial has long since turned to dust and blown away. Faith is a working thing, and a present thing. Manna could never serve as a knick-knack, neither can faith.


Peter Smythe said...

When you get the chance, I'd like to hear your thoughts on "the faith" in Galatians 3.14.

Anonymous said...

Hello SLW

I hope you find this interesting, given the topic of this post. I was planning on sending it to you anyway. It's a sermon from our church by a lad called Sean, preaching for the first time -- on his 18th birthday. I just find it encouraging that he did not preach a cosy message.

See what you think.


SLW said...

Hello Peter, nice to hear from you.

That instance is an interesting use of the phrase since the definite article is elided in all widely published English translations. Generally, when "the faith" is used like this in Koine the thought is the body of what is believed rather than belief itself. In other cases of the phrase the translations pass along that feel to the English reader, not so in this instance. I'm not sure of the reason why. I think it was Robertson (I don't remember for certain) who said it was an article of renewal, or some such like. I can't say that made sense to me, but I'm not a linguist and defer to those who are.

If the definite article should be translated here, then the text refers to the gospel rather than the individual's faith. If it should not be, then it is the individual's faith upon which the reception of the promise of the Spirit is conditioned. I think a good case can be made for either approach, but since the referent context is Christ's redemption, I think it is better to see that (the gospel) as the source of the promise rather belief. That is not to say that faith is not necessary to receive the promise, just that that is not what's being said in this instance.

Unknown said...

Great post. Faith is specific to both an individual and a situation, so it does have a 'shelf live.' You use it or lose it.


SLW said...

Welcome to the Sound. Another metaphor that has some potential is the concept of "half-life." Perhaps I'll explore that some time, or you could and let me know what you come up with. ;-)

Merry Christmas!