Before the coming of this faith. NIV This is the opening of the reading of Galatians. We need to back up to find out what this faith means. In Galatians 2:20-21, we read; I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. ESV
Paul writes of the Faith of Abraham and the purpose of the Law, all the while making clear that faith alone will save us.
So, Before the coming of this faith, faith in Yeshua the Messiah, when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for. MSG
For Paul, the Law was fine in its day. Think about being a second-grader in school. The teacher says, “All right children, line up and let’s walk, not run, to the music room. No talking in the hall and keep your hands to yourselves.” Those are still some good rules to follow, but as adults, we should not need to be told how to behave.
Clarence Jordan translated the closing verses of chapter three in the context of the 1960s. But now that the faith has come, we no longer need the disciplinarian. For all of you are sons of God by virtue of the Christian faith. You who were initiated into the Christian fellowship are Christian allies. No more is one a white man and another a Negro; no more is one a slave and the other a free man; no longer is one a male and the other a female. For you all are as one in Christ Jesus. Cotton Patch Version
In November, I published a post called Are You Pistis or Pistos? At the time, I wrote, Pistis means conviction of religion, a system of religion. Pistos means believing, true. Paul was writing his second letter to Thessalonica, in which he distinguished true followers of Christ and fair-weather followers.
In today’s scripture, Paul is using pistis to mean faithful. In fact, David H. Stern translates verse 23 this way. Now before the time for this trusting faithfulness came, we were imprisoned in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism, kept under guard until this yet-to-come trusting faithfulness would be revealed. CJB The word pistis has been translated into the two words underlined above.
Stern argues that in verses 21-22, Jesus is spoken of as being faithful to God. Does this mean that the legal part of the Torah stands in opposition to God’s promises? Heaven forbid! For if the legal part of the Torah which God gave had had in itself the power to give life, then righteousness really would have come by legalistically following such a Torah. But instead, the Tanakh shuts up everything under sin; so that what had been promised might be given, on the basis of Yeshua the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness, to those who continue to be trustingly faithful. CJB
As Stern has it, we are saved by the faithfulness of Yeshua/Jesus, not by our faithfulness. We shadow his faithfulness—we put our weak faithfulness in Yeshua/Jesus’ faithfulness, depending on him to carry us to life with God.
I must confess that I may have done a disservice to the Greek pistis in that earlier posting. I have a book called The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, which I use to look up the meanings of Hebrew and Greek words. James Strong first published Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible in 1890, and it has been reworked many times since then. Despite the name, there are a hundred or so words left out of the volume. You should also know that Strong’s is based on the KJV. The book that I use gives brief definitions. There are some better on-line sources.
One of the best things to come out of Strong’s work is that most Hebrew and Greek words have a number assigned, so we can look up 4102 in the Greek and find our friend, pistis. Here is part of the complete definition.
4102 pístis (from 3982/peithô, “persuade, be persuaded”) – properly, persuasion (be persuaded, come to trust); faith.
Faith (4102/pistis) is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. In short, 4102/pistis (“faith”) for the believer is “God’s divine persuasion” – and therefore distinct from human belief (confidence), yet involving it. The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers, i.e. the persuasion of His will (1 Jn 5:4).
[4102 (pistis) in secular antiquity referred to a guarantee (warranty). In Scripture, faith is God’s warranty, certifying that the revelation He inbirthed will come to pass (His way).
Number 4103 is pistos. Here is part of the definition.
of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties
one who kept his plighted faith, worthy of trust
that can be relied on
believing, confiding, trusting
in the NT one who trusts in God’s promises
one who is convinced that Jesus has been raised from the dead
one who has become convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and author of salvation
Bottom line? We are saved by Jesus, not by our faith in Jesus.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.
Be righteous and do good.