The Back Page – Faith

The Back Page

Faith

Faith is the first and foundational of the three cardinal Christian virtues of “faith, hope, and love.”
But since this is The Back Page, we have been considering them in backwards order.
“Faith” is sometimes used in the sense of “the faith”—i.e., that body of essential truths that
summarizes Christianity (e.g. Jude 3 “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”).
But more frequently “faith” is the word that describes what our response to the gospel should be. We
should have faith in it; we should believe it.
To be biblically accurate, we are not saved by faith. We could have all the faith in the world, but if
our faith were in ourselves or in the wrong gospel, or if God were unwilling to save, all the faith in the
world could not help us. We are saved by grace. Only God’s grace saves us. How do we get that grace?
Through faith. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8).
What then is the nature of faith—that human response that opens the door to the saving grace we
need? Biblical faith has three parts—1) data to be believed, 2) mental agreement with the data, 3)
personally entrusting ourselves to the data. Faith is not complete until it has all three. We don’t just
believe, we believe something (i.e., the data). Not only do we know the data, but we agree with it. Then
we entrust ourselves to it.
You have heard about Abraham Lincoln. Probably you agree with the data you have heard—he was
our sixteenth president, his face is on the penny, he led us through the Civil War. But Lincoln is dead and
gone, so you don’t trust him to do anything for you. Many people who consider themselves Christians
exercise only an Abraham Lincoln type of “faith” in Jesus. They have heard certain facts about Jesus, and
more or less agree with those facts (at least they do not argue against them). But they have not trusted him
to save them. Theirs is not biblical faith, since it lacks the third component. Finally, if we entrust
ourselves to Jesus, we will act on that decision, because “faith without works is dead.”
Is your faith in Jesus an “Abraham Lincoln” type of faith that only agrees with the facts, or is it
something deeper and more?

The Back Page – Hope

The Back Page

Hope

There are two kinds of hope. The first is where we long for something, but are unsure whether or not
what we hope for will happen: “I hope I win the lottery.” “I hope I get accepted into XYZ university.” “I
hope the doctor says my sickness is curable.” “I hope she says ‘Yes’ when I ask her to marry me.” All of
us entertain hopes of this variety.
But there is a second kind of hope, one especially dear to Christians. It also is where we long for
something, but this time we know for sure that we will get what we want. It is just a matter of time; the
future event or object is guaranteed. Though we don’t see it yet, we know what we hope for is coming.
This is the hope described throughout the New Testament. Hebrews 6 says that because it is
impossible for God to lie “we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly
encouraged” and “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Since God has promised
eternal life in Jesus, we who are his can hope for the day when he calls us home. Not with an “iffy” kind
of hope, uncertain of fulfillment, but with certainty. Since God has promised, he will do it.
Hope is our heritage as Christians! “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been
poured out into our hearts (Rom 5:5).” “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently
(Rom 8:25).” “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may
overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).” “We wait for the blessed hope—the
glorious appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Tit 2:13).” “Let us hold
unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23).”
Because God has promised, believers rest in the sure hope of heaven.

The Back Page – Love

The Back Page

Love

“Love is a many-splendored thing.” Because it is, the Greeks had four words for it:
1. erōs (ε»ρως). Erōs was used mostly for sexual passion. Capitalized, it is the name of the god of love.
Erōs has come into the English language in such words as “erotic.” God designed sex, so there is
nothing wrong with erotic love (read Song of Solomon if you doubt this). The problems are that for many
people, eroticism is the only love they practice, or they engage in erotic love with other than their
(heterosexual) spouses. Such a limited view of love impoverishes the one who holds it. 2. storgē
(στοργη’ ). Storgē is love or affection especially between parents and children. It is family affection, or
“blood is thicker than water” love. This also has its proper place in our lives. Paul complained that
godless people are often α»στοργοι—not having storgē, or as the KJV translated it, “without natural
affection.” 3. philia (φιλι’α). This is the word for “affectionate regard” or “friendship.” It is love for things or
people that we like, usually between equals. Philia is fondness for special friends and activities, love for
what is beautiful. We find it in English words such as “philosophy” (love of wisdom) or “Philadelphia” (love
of brothers; brotherly love). It is a great blessing when God gives us friends we truly like. 4. agapē (α γα’
πη). The New Testament uses agapē and the related verb agapaō and adjective agapētos (“beloved”)
more than 300 times. This is the word used when we are commanded to love God and others. So, even
though it should include warm feelings, agapē at heart is an act of the will. It is the love of John 3:16, in
which God chose to do what was necessary, even at great personal cost, to seek the good of those he
loved, whether they responded or not. We are told to do the same.

The Back Page – The New Testament

The Back Page

The New Testament

Our New Testament consists of 27 books:
Gospels (4): Matthew–John
History (1): Acts
Letters (21): Romans–Jude
Prophecy (1): Revelation

These books were written during the second half of the first century CE by eight or nine authors (we don’t
know who wrote Hebrews). The New Testament was composed in Greek, though some people think that
Matthew had an Aramaic original. The ancient scripts look different from the modern, but here is what
modern Greek looks like:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
This is John 1:1. Greek reads from left to right, the same as English, and unlike Hebrew.
Christians were composing literature other than our New Testament during those decades, and it
took the church a couple of centuries to settle on which writings were scripture and which were not. Some
of the non-scriptural writings can help us understand what the church was thinking at that time, as well as
details of the Greek language itself, even though they are not considered the word of God and therefore
authoritative.
The first four books, though relating historical facts, are not generally classified as “history” (as is
Acts) but as “gospels,” because their goal is not to simply dispassionately chronicle events but to
persuade readers of the truth and importance of those facts. Luke, for example, was written so that
Theophilus “may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (1:4). John was written “so
that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His
name” (20:31). Historical facts … but edited and arranged for clear evangelistic and confirmatory
purposes.