Faith is Not Merely Cognitive
Our trusting only in Jesus and not trusting in other things is deeper than our mental calculations. John Piper is very helpful on this point. Faith is so intertwined with the affections. Believing is treasuring and delighting in an object, both for the pleasure the object possesses and for the pleasure the object brings (and these are not so neatly divided).
Faith in the Gospel
Piper construction in God is the Gospel articulates an important point. The gospel would not be good if it were not for God. God is the gospel. Forgiveness of sins, escape from wrath, eternity in the new cosmos—all these things are good benefits that would be empty if it were not GOD himself whom we “get” in the gospel.
How Do We Think About Idolatry?
Now, how does Piper’s construction add up with the idolatry construction within the gospel-centered movement (GCM)? The idolatry construction does not make the idol and the pseudo-savior the same thing (because it never is).
If my idol were the approval of man then the savior that accomplishes that idol is something different, such as, the refusal to disagree with people (i.e., spineless compromise). I would put my faith in compromise because of the pleasure it brings in procuring man’s approval.
Saving Faith Is Different . . .
The Savior in whom I put my faith is also the God to whom I am saved. Jesus, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, is both the means and the end. I trust in Jesus for the pleasure he possesses and for the benefits he brings. The pleasure that he possesses is not different from the pleasure he brings. For what he brings is fellowship with his person all in all—the triune God.
Still thinking . . .
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal. 5:4)
Whoever seeks justification by anything other than or in addition to Christ has severed themselves from him. Those in Galatia who are seeking their salvation in circumcision are not depending on circumcision alone, but circumcision as an additional requisite. Jesus will have no sharing. Faith does not work that way. If justification comes through the law (or anything else), even if it’s partially through it, then Christ died for no purpose (Gal. 2:21).
I think that many of us get this, or at least we’ve heard it before. We “know” that we are saved (reconciled to God) only by faith in Jesus. And therefore we put our faith in Jesus alone, or at least we do cognitively. But this “putting our faith in”—believing, trusting, etc.—it is not a merely cognitive exercise.
Our trusting only in Jesus and not trusting in other things is deeper than our mental calculations. John Piper is very helpful on this point. Faith is so intertwined with the affections. Believing is treasuring and delighting in an object.
Although we may not cognitively be believing something other than Jesus, what do our affections suggest?
This can get complicated. Simply, we should understand that faith in Jesus means something more than cognitive comprehension. It must mean loving and treasuring and delighting. And since faith must mean those things then we should think in those terms concerning our war against idolatry.
I am thinking through how to understand Piper’s construction of faith and the categories of idolatry explained in the gospel-centered movement. Saving faith in God is different than our idolatrous faith. More rambling on that soon…
The Apostle Paul’s dialogue with the Apostle Peter in Galatians 2:11-21 is climatic in the Book of Galatians. It stands as one of the most important expositions of the gospel’s centrality in the entire Bible.
The passage comes as the apex to the book’s introduction that emphasizes the theme of gospel preservation. If gospel preservation is the theme, then an important ingredient to that is Paul’s insistence against the approval of man. This insistence is repeated enough to be considered a sub-theme that serves Paul’s jealously to preserve the truth of the gospel (1:10).
Paul’s apostleship is not man-referential, man-concerned, nor man-approved. This is seen instantly in verse 1 when Paul declares that he is an apostle “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ.” This “not and nor” disposition towards man is in contrast to Peter’s behavior in 2:12 before “certain men.” All of this is an undercurrent to the integrity of the gospel. Paul’s calling to preach the gospel is not from man and therefore his preaching is not inhibited by man’s approval. This understanding sets up a radical orientation in Paul for how he views all of his activity.
The reader gets a glimpse in 2:5 of how Paul considers his activity to be as didactic as his proclamation. Paul’s refusal to yield to the “false brothers” was “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” The phrase “truth of the gospel” is repeated in 2:14 and serves as segue into Paul’s confrontation that is linked back to the theme of gospel preservation. I think that the continuity of the phrase and the context of this dialogue make it the climax of chapters 1-2 and central to the book. Moreover, the nature of narrative in which we find this gospel exposition and the theme of preservation in its context make this passage vital to the message of the entire Bible.
Galatians 5:1-2 – these two verses share an important relationship. Verse 2 is basically a restatement of what Paul has said in v. 1. The corresponding elements of the verses look like this:
- do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (v. 1)
- accepting circumcision (v. 2)
- Christ has set us free (v. 1)
- the “advantage of Christ” (v. 2, but stated negatively)
The basis of the negative imperative in v. 1 (“do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”) is that Christ has set us free. Because Christ has set us free, do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Verse 2 explains the basis and imperative of v. 1 by a conditional situation:
“If you accept circumcision (think: submit to a yoke of slavery) then Christ will be of no advantage to you (think: you forfeit the freedom that he has accomplished for you).”
Now circumcision is probably not our problem. But we all have some type of “yoke of slavery.” What is mine? Yours? What it is that tempts us to make Christ be of “no advantage” to us? What are we looking to for salvation that undermines the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
May Christ be all…
Identity precedes instruction.
This is the context of ethical commands in the Bible. It is seen explicitly in the book of Ephesians. Paul discusses the wonder of Christ’s work in creating the church. The picture is glorious. Then he gives the divine command for us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (4-6). Reminiscent of Galatians 2:14, the whole idea of walking in step with the truth of the gospel. Ethics are not shackles, some mere list of do’s and don’ts. The commands of God are not burdensome. They are good. They are the walking in the reality of what is–of what Christ has done.
Before we are told what to do, we are told who we are. Moreover, we are told who God is and what He has done by grace through Jesus Christ to make His enemies become His children. He calls me, a sinner, His own. The object of His mercy, a recipient of His immeasurable grace.
And may everything we do in life testify to that glorious truth. He has made me His.
“his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:23).
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13)
I am a free man–the blessed recipient of God’s victory in Jesus Christ. My Redeemer is a raised conqueror and He reigns over His coming kingdom. But let me not bypass the glory of my King in battle to view Him seated on His throne. There is a proper order. Let me see Him in the midst of the fight, during the rage. My Savior is not a shiny prince of upmost nobility, dressed in finest fabrics, adorned in decorations. He is a blood-soaked carpenter, a radical rabbi who taught with authority, not like the scribes and Pharisees. He is a man mocked and hated, despised and ridiculed. He was cursed. He was a crucified man, hanged on a tree. He was cursed. Yes, cursed for me. And He is my God.