Faith versus Works

In reading the Orthodox study bible, I came across the commentary on Romans 5.  It states, “In Western Europe during the sixteenth century and before, justifiable concern arose among the Reformers over a prevailing understanding that salvation depended on human works of merit, and not on the grace and mercy of God.  Their rediscovery of Romans 5 lead to the slogan sola fides:  justification by faith alone.  This Reformation debate in the West raised the questions for the Orthodox East:  Why this new polarization of faith and works?  It had been settled since the apostolic era that salvation was granted by the mercy of God to righteous men and woman.  Those baptized into Christ were called to believe in Him and do good works.  An opposition of faith versus works was unprecedented in Orthodox thought…..Rather than justification as a legal acquittal before God, Orthodox believers see justification by faith as a covenant relationship with Him centered in union with Christ.”  And, if I may springboard of that, works will then automatically follow.  It must.  Works are the natural outgoing of a covenental relationship with God that is based on love, faith, and hope.  God’s role in that is justification of our sin and our role in that is to believe it because we didn’t earn it.  Works comes when these two points connect in covenant.  I think this is James’ point (James 2:18).  This also seems to reflect first century Jewish/Christian thought on the covenental relationship between God and His people.

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The Prophetic Picture of Habakkuk 2:3-4

For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it, Because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, the proud, his soul is not upright in him, But the just shall live by his faith.”(Habakkuk 2:3-4 NKJV)

A friend of mine emailed me these verses along with a commentarial note from the Jewish Publication Societies Study Bible or Tanach. Here is the commentary on this passage. In reference to verse 3, it states, “This verse is associated in Jewish tradition with the coming of the Messiah and is reflected in the language of the twelfth principle of the thirteen principles of faith of Maimonides.” (1) Neither of us had ever heard of this verse, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry” as referring to the coming of Messiah. And this reference is not from just some ordinary everyday rabbi. This is from Maimonides, or Ramban as he is sometimes referred to, is generally regarded as one of the greatest rabbinical minds in history. This really peaked my interest. Hence, I began to delve into the Hebrew of this passage.

The first word of the verse, in Hebrew, refers to “the vision.” It is the word from which “seer” is derived in the Old Testament (Strong’s # 2377); hence, vision is an appropriate translation. The next word blew me away when I read it. It is the word “moed” (Strong’s #4150) and has the meaning of “an appointed time.” Its use in Scripture gives us a clearer picture of what this “vision” is about. When God would visit Israel above the mercy seat and talk with Moses face to face, that was said to be a “moed.” An appointed time where God will meet with mankind. I’m beginning to see inside the mind of Ramban here. The essence of what we are reading thus far is this, “the prophetic vision of the appointed time when God will meet with mankind face to face.” This is exactly what Maimonides had in mind when he labeled this passage as Messianic. He was correct. Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of this passage. The appointed time when God would put on flesh and meet mankind face to face on their turf, was an appointed time which had been prophesied about for years prior. The final word in the first part of that verse is also interesting. It means literally, “to blow.” (Strong’s 6315) A possible translation for what we have thus far could be, “The prophetic vision of the appointed time when God will meet with mankind face to face will blow, even if it tarries, wait for it, because it will surely come to pass.” The Keil and Delitzsch commentary writes, “The prophecy is for the appointed time; it relates to the period fixed by God for its realization, which was then still far off. The vision had a direction towards a point, which, when looked at from the present, was still in the future. The goal was the end, the Messianic times, in which the judgment would fall upon the power of the world.” (2) This sets the stage for the next verse.

“Behold, the proud, his soul is not upright in him, But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) The obvious point being made here is a juxtaposition of the unrighteous versus the righteous. One position of selfishness and one position of selflessness. Even in the dire circumstances presented in the book of Habakkuk, the lifestyle of the righteous doesn’t change. They continue to live a live of dependency upon God. The JPS commentary catches this point as well. It writes, “According to one of the Rabbis in b. Mak. 23b, this saying encapsulates all the commandments…In its original context the saing is clearly interwoven with the first part of the verse. The saying there focuses on a person whose life is swollen and crooked. Then the verse moves to the opposite pole, a pious person who keeps his or her trust in the LORD under the dire circumstances described in the book, ie, when the righteous are asked to wait while those who do not deserve worldly power wield it over them.” (3) I thought the first part of this commentary was interesting. Mainly, the Rabbinical thought recognized that faith fulfilled the law. That the righteous will live by faith and the external evidence of this faith is to love the Lord and to love all others regardless of their behavior. Of course, the verse “the just shall live by faith” is rich within Christian history. It was the battle cry of the Protestant reformation. A closer look at the Hebrew will reveal a little more than how the verse is translated.

The first word in the verse is the Hebrew word, “zaddikim.” (Strong’s 6662) In modern Hebrew, if one is considered pious, the are referred to as a “Zadik.” (the im ending on the Hebrew noun makes it plural) this man is the embodiment of piety, holiness, and love. The next word is one that is also very familiar, it is “emunah” (Strong’s 530) It is the word from which “amen” is derived. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes it as, “it is used to refer to those whose lives God establishes.” (4) So far, the meaning of verse reads, “The righteous, holy, pius person, God will establish them because of their trust in Him.” The last word is the most transforming of all the words in the verse. It is a derivative of the verb, “haya” (Strong’s 2421) It is the word from which “YHWH” is derived. “The verb involves the ability to have life somewhere on the scale between the fullest enjoyment of all the powers of one’s being, with health and prosperity on the one hand and descent into trouble, sickness, and death on the other.” (5) Additionally, the longer that one lives this lifestyle, the more transformed into the image of YHWH they will become. So, let’s put all this together. The full meaning of the Hebrew here reads, “The righteous/pious/holy person is established by God’s because of their dependency upon Him as they love Him and all others, fulfilling the law, and as they continue in this lifestyle, they will become more like Him.” It is my opinion that it is of no coincidence that the verse follows something so strongly Messianic. No wonder Luther was quickened to it. This also matches Paul’s understanding of the verse when he writes, “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is reveal from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17) Paul has this same understanding. Mainly, that a person quickened to life by faith in God, will begin a transformation of becoming more like God as they move from faith to faith. The longer a person lives in faith, the more they love God, love others, they will become more like God.

 

Endnotes

1. Berlin, Adele, Brettler, Marc Zvi, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, page 1229.

2. Keil, C.F., Delitzsch, F., Commentary on the Old Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., 2004, volume “The Minor Prophets”, page 400.

3. Ibid, Berlin, page 1229.

4. Harris, R. Laird, Archer, Gleason, L., Waltke, Bruce K., Theological ?Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, 1980, page 522.

5. Ibid, 279-280.

The Kingdom: Sanctification and Faith

“He who began a good work I you will complete it…”(Phil 1:6)

The Holy Spirit comes inside the believer at the point of salvation.  He then begins a work of making us holy, this is sanctification.  It’s a process that is filled with events. (These events we will describe later as the need for reconciliation, the process of sanctification, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the anointing, on the other blog where the book is being written)   Oftentimes, this process of sanctification comes over time.  As the Holy Spirit leads us into holiness, we become conformed to the image of God.  This is our identity, the image of Christ.  Faith, once it is inside the soul, has a transforming effect.  This is a kingdom principle and Jesus gave us a series of parables to explain.  He states:

“Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and ti grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)

According to this parable, man and God are co-laboring to produce the Kingdom.  First, the man places one of the smallest seeds in the plant family and plants it in his garden.  The Garden is symbolic of the man’s soul.  The mustard seed is symbolic of faith.  By faith, the man waits for the seed to grow.   When faith is birthed in our hearts it begins to change things in the inner man.  It may not be apparent, but eventually everything is going to change.  Faith grows until it becomes the largest tree in the garden of the soul.  This is like the Kingdom.  A certain measure of faith is always present within us.  This faith begins a process of growth within our inner man.  It is a slow process of change but it yields huge results.  Rapid growth in the kingdom can be dangerous.  Growing in the Kingdom is a process, but if we continue in faith, we will become a tree.  A tree is symbolic of an anointed and gifted leader. (Psalm 52:8, psalm 92:12)  An live tree is one that produces the anointing in lives of others.

Jesus continues,”  And again He said, ‘To what shall I liken the Kingdom of God?  It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal til lit was all leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21)

The woman takes the leaven. (Generally in scripture, leaven is symbolic of sin, but in this parable it is symbolic of faith)  Faith has a similar action as leaven.  It is placed inside the lump of the soul and it is undetectable to the naked eye.  When left alone, it causes everything around it to grow to twice its size.  The woman takes the leaven (faith) and implant it into the bread (soul) .  Then, the leaven (faith) changes the entire make-up of the bread (soul and life) and causes a transformation over time.  This is how faith and the Kingdom work and how growth in the Kingdom is achieved.

History of the Red River Revival

The Red River Revival began in July of 1800 at a communion service officiated by Reverend James MacGready.  The Red River is located in Logan County, Kentucky, and in the years preceding this revival, conditions were really bad.   “Logan County attracted so many murderers, horse thieves, highway robbers, and counterfeiters that it was nicknamed ‘Rogues Harbor’ by the outlaws who fled there to escape justice back east.” (1) It was on the cutting edge of the frontier in the late 1700’s.  There was no real police force, per se, and locals often attempted to administer justice themselves.  “ So many desperadoes and ungodly people had settled there, that when an attempt was made by vigilantes to run these outlaws out, the outlaws burned the homes of some of the vigilantes, killed others, and forced still others and their families to flee the area. (2)  Reverend MacGready began praying for revival long before he moved to Logan County.  He pastored a congregation in North Carolina and developed intercessory prayer groups who signed the ‘Carolina Covenant’, in which, they agreed to prayer specifically for revival in Logan County (more on this in a moment).

Reverend James MacGready  rode into Rogues Harbor in 1798.  He wore buckskins, like the local frontiersmen, and was a Presbyterian minister.  He oversaw three congregations in the County along three different rivers, the Muddy, the Gasper and the Red.  MacGready was a man given to prayer and a pastor who encouraged parishioners to pray for revival.  He encouraged them to join him in covenant to pray for revival in Logan County.  He wrote on the covenant:  “When we consider the Word and promises of a compassionate God to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith–to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow-men.  None ever went to Christ when on the earth, with the case of their friends, that were denied, and , although His people, He has left it on record, that were two or three agree upon earth to ask in prayer, believing, it shall be done…With these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unit our supplications to a prayer-hearing God for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children , and sinners generally, may be converted.” (3)  Those who joined him in covenant agreed to pray every Saturday night and Sunday morning for revival. Furthermore, they devoted the third Saturday of each month for fasting.  They continued in prayer despite the worsening of conditions, they remained faithful.  God always honors covenant , commitment, and humility expressed through prayer and fasting.  Those who remained faithful would not be disappointed.

The first instance of revival began at a quarterly communion service in the summer of 1799.  At the end of the three-day event. God moved upon the congregation,   MacGready described it as, “some of the boldest, most daring sinners in the county covered their faces and wept bitterly.” (4) MacGready knew prophetically that this was not the end of the outpouring but the beginning.   He described the event as “a few scattering drops before a mighty rain-the overflowing floods of salvation that would commence the following summer.” (5)

In June of 1800, another communion service was scheduled.  The “buzz” from last years event had drawn a crowed of over 500 people surprising even MacGready.  The event was scheduled for three days with not much happening till the last service on the last day.  In fact, many of the ministers MacGready had invited to participate had already gone home.  At the end of the last service, which was preached by William Hodge, “a solemn weeping fell over the house” (8).  John McGee, a Methodist minister who was attending the meetings, composed himself for a final appeal to the lost.  McGee explains, “I exhorted them to let the Lord Omnipotent reign in their hearts and submit to Him, and their souls should live.  Many broke silence.  The woman in the east end of the house shouted tremendously.  I left the pulpit to go to her…Several spoke to me:  ‘You know these people.  Presbyterians are much for order, they will not bear this confusion, go back and be quiet.’  I turned to go back, and was near falling, the power of God was strong upon me.  I turned again and losing sight of the fear of man, I went through the house exhorting with all possible ecstasy and energy.” (9)  When McGee turned around to look over the church, he states that, “the floor was covered with the slain; their screams for mercy pierced the heavens.” (10)  God had poured out His Spirit and MacGready described the effect on the lost as, “As multitudes were stuck down under the awful conviction the cries of the distressed filled the whole house.  There you might see profane swearers, and Sabbath breakers pricked to the heart, and crying out, ‘what shall we do to be saved.’  There frolickers and dancers crying for mercy.  There you might see little children of 10,11, and 12 years of age praying and crying for redemption, in the blood of Jesus, in agonies of distress.  During this sacrament, and until the Tuesday following, 10 persons we believe were savingly brought home to Christ.” (11)  This was the beginning, a year later, another meeting was scheduled at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and the response was overwhelming.  To put this into perspective, the closest city to Cane Ridge was Lexington and it was 100 miles away.  Its population in 1801 was around 800 people.  At the Cane Ridge revival, it was estimated that 10,000 people came with God pouring out His Spirit similarly to what happened at Red River.  This was the beginning of the camp meetings and the beginning of the Second Great Awakening.

It is important to note that the frontiers people were not schooled in theology.  They placed great value in demonstrations of power.  God would meet them where they were at and they would not be disappointed.  Some powerful manifestations of the revival have been recorded.  A Reverend Stone writes, “ There, on the edge of a prairie in Logan County, Kentucky, the multitudes came together and continued a number of days and nights encamped on the ground, during which time the worship was carried on in some part of the encampment.  The scene was new to me and passing strange.  It baffled description.  Many, very many, fell down as men slain in battle, and continued for hours together in an apparently breathless and motionless state, sometimes for a few minutes reviving and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep grown or a piercing shriek, or by a prayer for mercy fervently uttered.  After lying there for hours, they obtained deliverance.  The gloomy cloud that had covered their faces seemed gradually and visibly to disappear, and hope in smiles brightened into joy.  They would rise, shouting deliverance and then would address the surrounding multitude in language truly eloquent and impressive.  With astonishment did I hear men, woman, and children declaring the wonderful works of God, and the glorious mysteries of the Gospel. (12)  The power of God would come over people so tremendously that it would appear that they were having some seizure-like activity.  It became known as “the jerks.”  Peter Cartwright, the well-known Methodist circuit rider, and himself converted at Red River writes, “To see proud young gentlemen and young ladies dressed in their silks, jewelry, and prunella, form top to toe take the jerks would often excite e my risibilities.  The first jerk or so you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly and so sudden would be the jerking of the head their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a waggoner’s whip.” (13)  It baffled the theology of the time.  They called it experimental religion, but today, we would call it experiential religion.  An encounter with the living God who displays the gospel of power.

The revival was not without opposition.  MacGready was never immune to persecution throughout his ministry and even at Red River.  In North Carolina he had his pulpit burned and received death threats written in blood.  AT one point, the opposition at Red River, chained and locked the door to the revivalist.  MacGready, not to be deterred, continued top preach on the steps of the meeting house.  While preaching and gesticulating backwards violently, the power of God upon him broke the lock.  The door was never locked again.  MacGready own denomination denounced him and sent a man from the seminary to debunk and renounce the revival.  Dr, George Baxter of the Presbyterian denomination came to Kentucky to discredit the revival and became, himself, a revivalist.  He writes, “The power with which this revival has spread, and it influence in moralizing the people, are difficult for you to conceive, and more so for me to describe…I found Kentucky,  to appearance, the most moral place I had ever seen.  A profane expression was hardly ever heard.  A religious awe seemed to pervade the country…Never in my life have I seen more genuine marks of that humility which…looks to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only way of acceptance with God.  I was indeed highly pleased to find that Christ as all and in all in their religion…and it was truly affecting to hear with what agonizing anxiety awakened sinners inquired for Christ, as the only physician who could give them any help.  Those who call these things ‘enthusiasm’ ought to tell us what they understand by the Spirit of Christianity…Upon the whole, sir, I think the revival in Kentucky among the most extraordinary that have ever visited the Church of Christ, and all things considered, peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of that country… Something of an extraordinary nature seemed necessary to arrest the attention of a giddy people, who were ready to conclude that Christianity was a fable, and futurity, a dream.  This revival has done it; it has confounded infidelity, awed vice to silence, and brought numbers beyond calculation under serious impressions. (14)  God, by an outpouring of His Spirit, had changed Rogues Harbor into one of the most moral places in the country.  This is the gospel.  Describing the events of the summer, MacGready would write, “The present summer has been the most glorious time that our guilty eyes have ever beheld.  All the blessed displays of Almighty power and grace, all the sweet gales of divine Spirit and soul-reviving showers of the blessings of heaven which we enjoyed before, and which we considered wonderful beyond conception, were but like a few scattering drops before the mighty rain which Jehovah has poured out like a might river upon this, our guilty, unworthy country.  The Lord has indeed shoed himself a prayer-hearing God; He has given His People a praying sprit and a lively faith, and then he has answered their prayers far beyond their highest expectations,  This wilderness and solitary place has been made glad, this dreary desert now rejoices and blossoms abundantly, and rejoices even with joy and singing.”  (15)

This is the spiritual heritage that God has left for us to obtain.  The Spirit breathes prayer through
God’s People and He answers their prayers with miracles, signs, and wonders.  This is the Gospel of power and how genuine revival is hallmarked.  Let us join those who have gone on before us, joyfully expecting and praying for the mighty river to be again, poured out upon us.

Endnotes

1.  Marshall, Peter, Manual, David, From Sea to Shining Sea, Revell Cp, Old Tappan New Jersey, 1986, page 60.

2.  Anzac Prophetic List, The Red River Revival, associate.com/groups/anzac/0::17read.html – 16k

3.  Jarboe, Frank, The Red River Revival, http://www.goodshepherdfarm.us/1800/redtext.htm.

4.   Marshall, page 61.

5.  Ibid.

6.  Ibid, page 62.

7.  Ibid.

8.  Ibid.

9.  Ibid.

10.  Marshall and Manual, page 63.

11.  Grider, J.S.  The Red River Meeting House, http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/churches/RedRivKY.htm.

12.  Marshall, page 63.

13.  Grider, page 2.

14.  Marshall, page 69.

15.  Marshall, page 64.