Monday, December 07, 2009

The Collateral Effects of Faith

While it is true that every individual must personally place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, it is equally true that we are profoundly affected by the faith of others. In Matthew 9, Jesus saw the faith of four friends who bore their paralyzed friend to the feet of Jesus, and pronounced forgiveness to the paralytic on the basis of "their" faith.

In community, those who are strong in their faith bear those who are weak in their faith through their various trials and temptations. In evangelism the faithful trust in God's promise to save the lost long before the lost even recognize their need for such. In other words, there are potent collateral effects of faith. John Calvin says this in his commentary on Matthew 9:

“Now, as Christ granted to their faith the favor which he bestowed on the paralytic, a question is usually raised on this passage how far do men derive advantage from the faith of others? And, first, it is certain, that the faith of Abraham was of advantage to his posterity, when he embraced the free covenant offered to him and to his seed. We must hold a similar belief with regard to all believers, that, by their faith, the grace of God is extended to their children and their children’s children even before they are born. The same thing takes place in infants, who are not yet of such an age as to be capable of faith. With regard to adults, on the other hand, who have no faith of their own, (whether they be strangers, or allied by blood,) the faith of others can have nothing more than an indirect influence in promoting the eternal salvation of their souls. As the prayers, by which we ask that God will turn unbelievers to repentance, are not without advantage, our faith is evidently of such advantage to them, that they do not arrive at salvation, till they have been made partakers of the same faith with us in answer to our prayers. But where there is a mutual agreement in faith, it is well known that they promote the salvation of each other. It is also beyond all question, that earthly blessings are often, for the sake of the godly, bestowed on unbelievers.”

All this is good news indeed. But all these lesser collateral effects of faith should point us to the ultimate collateral effect of faith: The Faith of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote to the Galatians:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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