Weightier Matters of the Law: Faith
Our Savior Jesus Christ shows in Matthew 23 that the scribes and Pharisees had perverted judgment and were terribly unmerciful to anyone "beneath them," as viewed from their own exalted position. This self-exaltation reached the point where they placed themselves above God. Matthew 23:18-19 explains that they honored their gift on the altar as more important than the altar itself. God's altar sanctifies or sets apart other things as holy. A person's "goodness" placed on the altar for all to admire is worth nothing!
This form of idolatry destroys faith in God. The Pharisees reckoned their salvation automatic because they paid such attention to minute details of the law—even adding more restrictive rules to it. Their over-carefulness bred an attitude of deserving salvation. They saw no need for a savior, for was not their obedience a guarantee? Surely God could not deny salvation to any so righteous as they!
Contrast the publican who "would not so much as raise his eyes" to God (Luke 18:9-14). He knew he was a sinner and needed help. Though he was not clothed in righteousness and thus not an immediate candidate for salvation, Christ could see in him a recognition of sin. His shame and humility would make it far easier for him to learn and repent than the pompous, self-satisfied scribes and Pharisees.
Christ instructs us to pray in private and do our good deeds quietly (Matthew 6:1-8). We should not even let one hand know what the other is doing.
The Greek word for "faith" can also be translated "fidelity," as it is in Titus 2:10. Fidelity, as defined by Webster, is "the quality of being faithful, accuracy in details, exactness." The dictionary adds an interesting modern analogy to explain fidelity: "the degree to which an electronic device (as a record player, radio or television) accurately reproduces its effect (as sound or picture)."
We know we are to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:5) and to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). John tells us "to walk just as He (Christ) walked" (I John 2:6). Peter advises, "Christ . . . [left] us an example, that you should follow His steps" (I Peter 2:21).
Spiritually, fidelity is to reproduce faithfully and exactly the thoughts, attitudes, steps and paths of Jesus Christ.
This is where the Pharisees missed the whole point of the law. They were not like God at all! They were so busy with their little "additions to make it better," they forgot how to treat each other. Christ went about doing good (Acts 10:38). He showed compassion, healed, helped and set a righteous example in all His activities. He never once gossiped, slandered or verbally abused anyone. While correct teaching is of extreme importance (II John 10), living it is of even greater importance because doers will be justified, not hearers only (Romans 2:13; James 1:22-25).
The "sounds" the scribes and Pharisees produced were low fidelity, unrecognizable to God in the intent of His law. When God hears our voices, does it sound to Him just like Christ did? We still have the opportunity to learn to think and act like Christ, to work on reacting to wrongs and persecution—deserved or undeserved—just as He would. We have time to grow in saying just the right thing at the right time to help, encourage, inspire or guide others.
Fidelity, then, is the kind of faith mentioned in James 2:14-26. Just "believing" or blindly trusting that we are qualified to enter God's Kingdom is not sufficient. Christ must see Himself in us. Faith without works is dead, so we show real faith by our actions (verses 17-18). Even the demons "believe" God exists—and they tremble in fear (verse 19), but they are unwilling to think like Him, talk like Him, live like Him. Theirs is a dead faith. We are to show our faith by our works, by walking exactly as He walked, by our "fidelity."
This understanding does not exclude the more traditional definition of faith as Paul explains in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Christ "calls those things which do not exist as though they did" (Romans 4:17)!
Often, once we see the standard of righteousness and holiness that God requires of us, we become discouraged, recognizing our sins and weaknesses. We feel so unworthy, so sinful, that we feel unable to leave the past behind and make the effort required to grow in holy character.
Faith—belief in what we cannot yet see but act upon it, knowing it will truly happen—becomes a very weighty matter! In Hebrews 10:35-36, Paul encourages us to have confidence, believing that if we do God's will, He will reward us. Verse 38 instructs us to live by faith, not drawing back, for if we doubt or disbelieve, God will not be pleased with us. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith is increased by hearing the Word of God, for we gain confidence by hearing of the faithfulness of God:
» God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (I Corinthians 1:9)
» He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:24)
» Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)
» If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Christ gave the answer. If people would render proper judgment, without partiality, emphasis on self would diminish. Their mercy would allow people to make mistakes and have space to repent rather than fear being destroyed financially or otherwise. Finally, with true fidelity, they would treat everyone as Christ did, their faith would increase.
Had the Pharisees’ properly applied these three qualities—judgment, mercy and faith—their attitudes would have turned from selfish carnal goals to outgoing concern for others. They would have begun displaying the real love of God. If we apply them, we will have the confidence and boldness of which Paul spoke—the kind of faith required for salvation.
When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:1-8).
For more information on this topic visit the following web site: www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/324/The-Weightier-Matters