Author: Ron Graham
The Personal View of Faith
—Faith as a Process or Progress
This lesson looks at the expression "from faith to faith" in the personal view. We are thinking about how the baby faith of a person first obeying the gospel, develops into a mature and full grown faith by which that person lives completely.
When we say that faith develops, we are thinking of it as a process, or, if you like, a “Pilgrim’s Progress”.
1 The gospel and faith
Paul said to the Christians in Rome, "I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:15-17)
Paul shows us in the above text that we cannot develop our own individual faith without the gospel. Some think that "the gospel" serves only to help a person become saved, and once saved you need to leave the gospel and move on to something else in order to advance.
Paul, however, says that the gospel is for those he called "saints" (Romans 1:7-8) and he wanted to preach it to them so that, by the gospel, they could advance "from faith to faith".
Gospel Source of Faith
This message of the gospel is the source of our faith and the power by which faith grows and matures in each of us personally. One of the terms for the gospel is "the word of faith" (Romans 10:8). No other message in the world has that power to produce and develop saving faith, because only in the gospel is revealed the righteousness or justification of God.
Only the gospel can produce the faith by which the righteous or the just shall live (Romans 1:17), which, ultimately, means to "have eternal life" (Romans 6:23).
We find in Paul's statement (Romans 1:15-17) a system of connected things, a chain if you like: One cannot live forever unless one is justified (made right). One cannot be justified unless one has faith or belief in Christ. One cannot have that faith unless one hears the gospel through the scriptures. And of course, as we will touch on later, one would not have this gospel unless Jesus had died and rose again.
2 Faith as a process
Now let's think for a moment about what the expression "from faith to faith" means from a personal point of view.
Paul certainly does not mean that there are different faiths, and that God leads you from one faith to another, or that from time to time you should discard one faith and embrace another as if different faiths are stepping stones through life. No, Paul means that the one faith which justifies a person develops from stage to stage.
Some people have the fanciful idea that God leads them to the Baptist faith one year, then perchance to the Presbyterian or Anglican faith, then later to the Pentecostal faith, and so forth. Actually, to call denominational creeds "faiths" is to lend them a dignity they don't really deserve.
If you want to develop your faith, don't get involved in denominational "faiths" for they are a hindrance to the development of true faith, and they have no part in the process.
To summarise:- Paul knows only one faith. But he perceives that faith developing from an embryo into a mature and full grown form. When Paul says, "from faith to faith", he speaks of one and the same faith in a process (or progress) of development.
The Protestant tradition has come, in some quarters, to take a view of faith as a single event rather than as a process. In that view, faith is something that happens to you, rather than something you do. Paul sees faith as a process involving obedience, as something you work at to develop.
Believing in Christ and obeying the gospel is not just a one-time event, but a walk along a certain way. It is like marriage. The marriage relationship is not just a wedding. The wedding is just the beginning of an on-going process.
3 Faith, Grace, and Works
God surely empowers and encourages faith, but faith is not wholly and solely about God's work upon you. It is also a matter of your response to God. Without you working at developing your faith, you cannot rightly count yourself as one of the just who live by faith.
Faith is a gift from God, but not a gift to be left wrapped up on the shelf.
If you gave me a gift of a camera, you would expect me to unwrap the gift and to use it. When you saw the lovely photo albums I had filled with pictures, you would feel I had made your gift worthy and glorified it. God gives us faith to work at and to grow in, so that we might glorify him, not only that he might glorify us.
The correct view of saving faith, is that the gospel is the "power for salvation" but it is up to you personally to use that power to develop your faith, so that you will be saved and remain saved.
Paul did not believe in faith alone but in what he called "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5, 16:26).
Faith Relying On Grace
The idea of working at our faith has its own dangers of course, and we must avoid these. We might start to think that our salvation is a result of our works rather than of God's grace through Christ in whom we have faith.
We must realise that, underlying all, and making salvation by faith possible, is the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. "God presented (his Son) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood... to be the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:21-26).
Without that atoning sacrifice, faith would not be possible. Nevertheless, we must develop "from faith to faith" through the gospel message.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses at least seven interchangeable terms to describe the message he was preaching. Note that one of them is"the word of faith" —or "the faith" for short.
- The gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16)
- That form of doctrine (Romans 6:17)
- The law of the Spirit (Romans 8:2)
- The word of faith (Rom10:8, Romans 1:5)
- God's covenant (Romans 11:27)
- The perfect will of God (Romans 12:2)
- The revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25)