6@Faith in Christ@and@Faith in Christianity
We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.
These are Paul's words to Peter in the congregation at Antioch when Peter drew back and separated himself from the table fellowship with gentile believers. "Before certain men came from James, he ate with Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party"(Gal.2:12). In Judaism the Jews were prohibited to dine together with the gentiles to avoid being defiled. But in Antioch, where Paul was one of the leading members of the congregation(Act 13:1), the Jewish believers and the heathen believers dined at the same table and worshipped God together. When some members of Jerusalem community that was under the leadership of James came to Antioch, Peter feared their criticism of breaking the law of Judaism and withdrew from the fellowship table. Many Jewish members, including even Barnabas, followed Peter. The law of Judaism separated the Jewish believers and the heathen believers. Here we have a typical example of the separation caused by the practice of the religious regulations.
In these words of Paul's reproach two phrases, 'works of the law' and 'faith in Christ,' are strictly contrasted and repeated. Here the truth or the reality of the gospel, 'a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,' is emphasized by Paul and Peter was reproached for being 'not straightforward about the truth of the gospel' (Gal.2:14). Paul, a born Jew and strictly trained to observe all the regulations of Judaism, realized suddenly when he met the risen or resurrected Christ on the way to Damascus that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth or the reality of the gospel.
Here I would like to point out that 'law' is the translation of Greek word 'nomos,' and the Greek word 'nomos,' when used by the Greek-speaking Jews, usually indicates 'Torah,' the Jewish holy religion Judaism itself. The Jews at that time said 'Torah' to indicate their religion Judaism. So here 'works of the law' means the observant practices of Judaism, for example, receiving the rite of the circumcision, observing the Sabbath law, the food regulations, and other ritual and ethical regulations. At the first stage of the gospel some Jewish believers earnestly proclaimed that the heathen believers had to receive the circumcision rite and convert to Judaism. They were confident that the salvation would be given only to the covenant people, the Jews. Against them Paul fervently opposed through all his life.
Paul, as a Jew, uses the expression 'to be justified'. 'Justification' is often understood as being recognized or sentenced 'not guilty' in the court, but 'to be justified' means much more than that in Judaism. It indicates the acceptance into the fellowship with God and sharing the glory with God. It means the eternal life, the life in the coming age. It is the aim of Jews' religious efforts. But Paul proclaims that any man can not be justified or attain to that fellowship with God by works of Torah, the holy religion Judaism. It means that Torah, the holy religion of Judaism, is denied as the way to that goal. It is a very shocking statement for the Jews. The fellowship with God is attained only 'through the faith of Christ', Paul proclaims here. What is 'the faith of Christ' then?
The expression 'the faith in Christ' is an English translation for Greek 'pistis Christou,' literally 'faith of Christ.' Here two phrases 'the works of Torah' and 'the faith of Christ' are strictly contrasted. One is denied and the other is affirmed. The observant practices of Torah are denied as the way to attain the acceptance and the fellowship with God. Only one way, the faith of Christ, leads us to the goal. This phrase 'the faith of Christ' is usually interpreted as 'the faith in Christ,' the faith that has Christ as the object of believing. But in Paul 'the faith of Christ' means not only believing Christ as the revelation from God, but also it means committing oneself, the whole being of one's self, into Christ and living in the communion with the risen Christ. We may call it 'Christ-faith.' It is the faith in the fellowship or union with the risen and living Christ.
Paul often uses the phrase 'en Christo' in his epistles. This Greek phrase means 'in the fellowship or union with Christ.' If you use the phrase 'in Christ' in this meaning, you can say "We are saved through the faith in Christ." But here I have to emphasize the difference between 'the Christ-faith' and 'the faith in Christianity.' Christianity is a religion. It is one of many religions that all the communities of the human race have practiced. Christianity is certainly the most precious religion among all the religions because it points to and testifies to Jesus Christ, the savior of all the peoples. Christianity is a religion that has the creeds, the rites and the clergy who execute the rites effectively. Christianity demands people to observe its regulations, and promises the salvation to those who obey them.
Christianity proclaims that it is the only one true religion by which man can be saved. So the missionaries of Christian churches preach Christianity to the heathen people and try to convert them to Christianity by baptizing them with water, for the water baptism is the only gate into Christianity. Only those who believe in Christianity and belong to the Christian religion are qualified to be saved. However 'the Christ-faith' is not a religion. It does not have any rites and the clergy nor have any creeds. The gospel points to and testifies to Jesus as Christ, more exactly to say, God's redeeming or saving work in Christ Jesus. Those who believe the gospel and commit themselves into Christ will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and led into the fellowship with God in Christ.
The Christ-faith is a living communion with Christ, into which we have been led by God's Holy Spirit. John the Baptist, who baptized the Jewish people with water, testified that Christ, the coming one later than him, would baptize people with the the Holy Spirit. All the four Gospels in the New Testament testify that as I told in the preceding message (No.3). A revolutionary change happens in us by the Spirit of God in Christ Jesus(1 Cor.6:11). This fundamental transformation of humanity or the revolution of mankind occurs by the saving work of God's Spirit in Christ. Paul calls this transformation 'metamorphorsis' (2 Cor.3:18, Rom.12:2). Without this transformation a man and humanity can not be saved.
Paul said, "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do"(Rom.8:3). Remember that 'nomos' (law) is the Greek word for 'Torah' which means the whole of Judaism, the holy religion of the Jews. Paul means here that God has done what religion could not do. The Jews could not fulfill the demands of Torah. Why? Paul explains simply 'weakened by the flesh.' It means 'by the weakness of human nature.' We know or acknowledge that religions are holy and respectable. But human nature is weak and does not have the power to fulfill the demands or the goals of religions. Therefore God has done what religions could not accomplish in the human race. How has God done this?
God has done it in Christ Jesus through His grace. God gave His Holy Spirit to those who came to Christ and worked out the revolutionary changes in them by the Holy Spirit. As far as Christianity is a religion, the faith in Christianity, that is, the observant practices of Christianity, receiving the water baptism and keeping the rite of the Lord's Supper and holding the creeds of the churches, does not give us the power to achieve the goal of Christianity. The works of Christianity do not give us the power to achieve the goal or aim of Christianity, the fellowship with God or attaining the glory of God. It is just the same as the works of Judaism could not justify the Jews.
The difference between Christianity and the other religions of the world consists in the fact that Christianity keeps the gospel of Christ in it while the other religions do not have the gospel of Jesus Christ in them. Therefore those who have converted to Christianity have the opportunity to find the gospel of Christ and to live in the Christ-faith, I mean, to live in the reality of the grace of God in the Last Days in Christ. In this sense Christianity is a unique and very precious religion. Some people in it found that reality by the working of the Holy Spirit in them, but many did not. The Christ-faith is different from the faith in Christianity. To live in the fellowship with the risen Christ in the Holy Spirit is a different reality from belonging to Christianity.
The true Christ-faith is certainly found in Christianity. But there can be the Christ-faith outside Christianity. Paul said, "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it" (Rom.3:21). Remember that in Paul 'the law' meant the religion of Judaism here. Paul was claiming, "the saving work of God has been manifested apart from Judaism, or outside Judaism." According to this conviction Paul preached the gospel to the heathen and denied their circumcision which meant their conversion to Judaism. Paul himself and other apostles were Jews and Paul understood the merits of being a Jew. Judaism (the law and the prophets) bore the various witnesses to the gospel. For the Jews, Judaism is the only true religion. But now God has manifested His saving work in the gospel outside Judaism.
In the present situation or in the historical context we have to say, "the saving work of God has been manifested through the gospel apart from or outside Christianity." This statement must be very shocking to the Christian churches, for the Christian churches have been making every effort to convert the heathen to Christianity by baptising them with water. But now since God has manifested His saving work outside Christianity, the conversion to Christianity by water baptism is not the necessary condition for a heathen to be saved. Christianity is not the absolute or universal religion now. Peoples of any nation or any religion can be saved outside Christianity and accepted into the people of God. This understanding of religion in the cases of Judaism and Christianity is applied to any other religion. All human religions are relative. It means that any religion can not be the necessary condition for a man to be saved and accepted into the fellowship with God to share the glory of God. The only way to that goal is the Christ-faith, committing ourselves into the unconditional grace of God in Christ Jesus to have the Spirit of God work in us.
In English 'the Christian faith' can mean both of the faith in Christ(Christ-faith) and the faith in Christianity. Therefore Paul's statement is often misunderstood. It is usually interpreted, "A man is not justified by works of moral law, but through faith in Christianity." This misunderstanding is caused by the wrong interpretation of Paul's word 'law.' When he said 'law', he meant Judaism. When he said "A man is not justified by works of law," he meant that a man is not saved by the observant practices of any religions. A man is saved by his Christ-faith regardless of his religion. Even if you were baptized with water and became a Christian, the Christian religion would not save you.
Christianity points to Christ. But unless you are baptized with the Holy Spirit into the gracious work of God in Christ and the living fellowship with the risen Christ, you will not taste the reality of God's salvation in the Last Days (See the Message No.2). This confusion between Christ-faith and the faith in Christianity can be seen widely in the theologies of the European countries. We have to make it clear that the faith in Christ (the Christ-faith) and the faith in Christianity are two different things, and thus we have to establish the truth of Paul's statement, "A man is not saved by works of a religion but through faith of Christ (Christ-faith)."