When Paul wrote that “Faith comes by hearing” and that a true hearing comes by “the word of Christ” he set forth a summary statement concerning the central issues of the Christian faith. Evangelicals see this as an epitomized conclusion to a massive and detailed theological argument. Each word, therefore, appears as the synthesis of a previous theological discussion.
The Necessity of Conversion
The fact that faith “comes” testifies to the necessity of conversion. Faith is a grace and is not naturally within us but “comes” as the antithesis to our spiritual deadness. It flows from life. It contradicts our propensities to live for personal pleasure here and now, for it derives its pleasure chiefly in contemplation of an incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven, a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:4, 5)
The Composition of Faith
In addition, “faith” is invested with Paul’s extended argument for justification by faith and includes in this word both the act of believing and the content of belief. By it he envisions one’s subjection to the righteousness of God (10:3), the transformation of affections to embrace divine truth (10:9, “believe in your heart”), and also the content of the message (10:8, “the word of faith which we are preaching”). He includes the idea that by faith we establish the Law (3:31), and in faith rests righteousness (4:4) because by it God imputes the completed work of Christ to our account for justification (4:20-25). Because faith is spoken of as singly, and thus exclusively, connected to these points of justification and is set in opposition to works, evangelicals affirm that the Reformers were right in arguing for “faith alone, sola fide” as the avenue of justification: “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (3:28); “To him that does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (4:5).
The Central Focus of Faith
The justifying element of faith, however, is not in itself but in its object. Faith, to be faith, must be “in Him who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5), that is, in “Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:24). Ev
Evangelicals are Christ-centered because Scripture is Christ-centered and the redemptive work of God is Christ-centered.
Faith, to be faith, must come “by the word of Christ.” Christ is central to faith because the content of Scripture finds its coherence in Christ and the redemptive purpose of God is located, not only conceptually, but in actual historic fact, in Christ (Romans 3:24-26).
Evangelicals are Christ-centered because Scripture is Christ-centered and the redemptive work of God is Christ-centered. Both these ideas come together in Jesus’ words on the Emmaus road, “O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:25-27). This was Paul’s method as we learn in Acts 28:23, “trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”
Christ-centeredness, we see, is not a pure abstraction imposed on the Scripture arbitrarily, but exactly what Jesus instructed his followers to expect from Moses to Malachi.
Faith and Essential Truths
The Humanity and Deity of Christ
Faith receives Jesus the Christ as fully human biologically descended from David and as eternally and fully divine as The Son of God (Romans 1:3, 4; 9:5). No faith is present where acceptance of this fact is absent.
In addition, true belief in Christ makes belief in the Trinity necessary. Although the truth of God as Trinity is present in the Old Testament, the New Testament presentation of the incarnation fully seals that doctrine.
God sent his Son (Hebrews 1:2, 5, 8 ) and will receive no worship that does include the same acknowledgement of the Son (1 John 2:22-24). His sonship, thus, is eternal and means that the distinction of Father and Son is eternal. The activity of the Spirit in effecting the conception of the human nature of Christ (Luke 1:35), his operations within the human nature of Jesus during his ministry vindicating him as Christ (1 Timothy 3:16), empowering him for service (Matthew 12:28), along with Jesus’ words that a sin against the Holy Spirit is an eternal sin (Mark 3:29), and Jesus’ promise that the Father would send the Spirit in the name of Jesus and as the true vicar of Christ (John 14:26) all indicate the deity of the Spirit and his distinctive operations in the divine purpose.
It is through Christ that the Triune God brings to pass the eternal covenant, or divine determination, to redeem sinners (Hebrews 13:20-21). No faith is present where reception of Christ in this way is absent.
This leads us to discuss the next essential of evangelicalism, cross-centeredness.
Tom J. Nettles