Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

The Man Who Walked by Faith

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jan• 16•14

AntinomianismThere’s a great section in Mark Jones’s book, Antinomianism, that is subtitled Christ’s Life of Faith. He begins talking about the two natures of Christ, his divine nature and his human nature. I appreciated this section because it’s easy to overlook what was going on in Christ’s humanity between the incarnation and his resurrection. Here is an excerpt from Jones:

Jesus of Nazareth was no ordinary man. He was the God-man, without spot, stain, or wrinkle in his human nature. But he still had a human nature, and because the finite cannot comprehend the infinite (finitum non capax infiniti), there was room for real advancement in his human nature. He knew no sin in his own experience, and the unity of his person—he is one person with two distinct natures—meant that he was unable to sin. Nevertheless, while he lived on earth during his state of humiliation, he lived by faith, not by sight. Because Christ is the holiest man ever to have lived, he is the greatest believer ever to have lived (Heb. 12:2). There has never been, nor will there ever be, a more perfect example of living by faith than Jesus. Reformed theologians have historically agreed—though, I fear, we have lost this precious truth today—that Christ had faith for justification (i.e. vindication, Isa. 50:8). Of course, unlike us, he did not have to go through a mediator to be justified by his Father, for he was not ungodly like us (cf. Rom. 4:5). But he still needed justification, which culminated at his resurrection (1 Tim. 3:16), because of his accursed death (Gal. 3:13). By faith, he believed the word and promises of God. Furthermore, Christ did not exercise faith merely for himself; he also exercised faith for all those for whom he died, so that they may receive from him that particular grace. For there is no grace we receive that was not first present in Christ himself, particularly the grace of faith. As Richard Sibbes notes, “We must know that all things are first in Christ, and then in us.”

The life of holiness therefore is the life of faith. The way we begin the Christian life is the way we continue in the Christian life until we get to heaven, where faith becomes sight. If that was required for the sinless Lamb of God, how much more so for us, who have remaining indwelling sin? (22-23)

I particularly appreciated this while still having Scott Oliphint’s book God With Us fresh in my head. God assumes covenantal attributes to condescend in a covenantal relationship with man. Jones just described how this relates to our life of faith. In Christ, God has communicated to us that which we will image. Jones stresses that Jesus lived a perfect life of faith and obedience to God’s Word. He points the reader to Heb. 10:38-39, where we see the connection of Christ’s faith and obedience with our own:

but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Jones reminds us that this verse applies to both Jesus and believers. He was the man who walked by faith without shrinking back, and those united to him also walk by faith in dependence on the Spirit. Because of this, we really can respond to the earlier exhortation to hold fast to our confession of hope without wavering, because he who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23). “In the life of the believer, then, faith is the instrumental cause of their sanctification” (24).

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8 Comments

  1. Persis says:

    I’m currently reading “Extravagant Grace”. Just wondering if you have any thoughts on how EG meshes with Jones’ book. I don’t think EG advocates antinomianism but I can see how it could be interpreted in that way. Thanks.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      You had to ask me the doozy, didn’t you Persis? There is some friction between the two books. I would love to hear Barb’s response to Jones’s book. Mark has written a review of Barb’s here:
      http://www.meetthepuritans.com/2014/01/08/reviews-of-byrd-duguid/
      (their site seems to be temporarily down, so you may have to try later)
      I am likely going to post a review of Mark’s book, which is a very good book–you will learn a lot. And I understand much of his criticisms of some of the lingo. But I’m not as critical of Barb.

    • Mark J. says:

      Persis,

      Legalism is awful, and should be combatted at every point. But the problem I have with Duguid’s book is that she does not really critique legalism. In fact, when trying to explain what “extravagant grace” is, she often ends up criticizing sound Reformed theology. You can’t deal with a problem that way, I’m afraid.

      The reviews are down (for now). Maybe Aimee wanted even more commendation, so she had her computer science techies at work to trash my site…

      Mark

      • Aimee Byrd says:

        Heh, heh.

      • Persis says:

        Thanks for responding, Aimee & Mark. I will check out the review of EG. I am trying to find biblical balance with this issue. It’s so easy to react emotionally and see things in the light of bad past experience rather than examining scripture.

        I have a personal book buying moratorium for 2014, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get “Antinomianism” for the church library. :)

  2. Tim says:

    I really appreciate the excerpt, Aimee, especially this line: “The life of holiness therefore is the life of faith.”

    Does this mean our faith, like our holiness, is a product of the work of Jesus on the cross and is completed in us now by the Spirit of Christ who dwells within us? Trying to think that one through and would really appreciate your thoughts on it!

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      You are right to emphasize that we are completely dependent on God for our holiness. Faith is a gift of God, based on the work of Christ, but Jones describes how that faith is exercised as we are being sanctified. Maybe it would be helpful for me to include an excerpt from his conclusion on that chapter:

      “The example of Christ has been highlighted in order to show that Christ’s own holiness, including the means by which he was made holy, is not unrelated to our own pattern of holiness. Our great act of faith brings us to focus on Christ’s mediatorial work for us. His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession are the grounds for the holiness of his people. For this reason, our holiness is simply the implanting of the gospel in our defiled souls. But our life of faith also focuses on Christ as our example of holiness…Just as Christ lived by faith and depended upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to work on his human nature, so we are likewise to live by faith and depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But our holiness is not the immediate acting of Christ’s Spirit, as though he were the only actor. We have not been deprived of our wills; rather, the Spirit makes our hearts and minds able to do God’s will (Phil. 2:13)” (29).

      The whole book elaborates on this. Hope that’s helpful.

What do you think?