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Faith of a mustard seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Romans 1:16-17). The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh occurrences of ‘pistis/faith’ in Paul’s Letter, To The Romans.

When I consider the (mis)use of Paul’s theology and ministry throughout the history of the Christian world, I wonder if this book, his Letter To The Romans is given it’s just considerations. It is no small thing that it has the ‘first place’ of his writings— who knew? Not that I think of myself as an authentic commentator on Bible; it’s just that I refuse to view ‘The Gospel’ as a word from ‘the oppressor’. Again, it is Howard Thurman (a ‘fo real’ authentic commentator on Bible) who raised the question “what does Jesus say to the man with his back against the wall?” Even following a course of looking at the ‘pistis/faith’ word in New Testament, we are stuck in just the first chapter of this book. And yet, so many things have already come to light about who Paul really is as well as his true contribution to Christendom.

Light has been shed in this column on his place as The ‘OA’— The ‘Original Apostle’. It is also clear to me that he is the ‘OB’— The ‘Original Bishop’. In neither case of which is he given his just reward. (Radical? It’s what I’m talking ‘bout.) What then does Paul say to the man with his back against the wall? Do not be ashamed of the gospel: “it is the power of God for salvation…”

‘Soteriology’ then, the word of salvation, the study of salvation is one that dominates biblical history. In the Wisdom Literature, the Psalmist resonates the salvation theme: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”. And again, “he only is my rock and my salvation”. Still again, “let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high”. In the books of the Prophets, Isaiah is clear about the word of salvation: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid”. And again, “but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation”. Yet again, “but thy shall call thy walls salvation and thy gates praise”.

‘Soterian/salvation’ is a concept that has several levels of meaning. In it’s simplest application it has the sense of ‘to make safe’; ‘sound’; ‘to deliver from a direct threat’. Even in the Greek world it has religious context where it is seen as an acutely dynamic act of the gods in snatching men by force from peril and life threatening danger. It is ‘deliverance from condemnation’; it is ‘pardon’; it is ‘to keep alive’. For Jesus, ‘salvation’ is healing which comes by faith. No study of the word of salvation is complete without the nominative, ‘soter/savour’ — the title of which Jesus earns by his ‘hesed/steadfast’ obedience to the Father’s Will and plan of salvation. “For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”

Salvation in Pauline theology is of major import and our return to this discussion is inevitable. Here and now, Paul, THE Christologist, sees, hears and knows that this Gospel of Jesus Christ, which he has received by revelation has power ‘to make safe and sound’; this Gospel of Jesus Christ has power ‘to deliver from a direct threat’. Paul is not ashamed to preach this Gospel of Jesus Christ that in an acutely dynamic way, acts in snatching men by force from peril and life threatening danger. It is a clear word to ‘the oppressed’— ‘If he has to reach waaaaaaay down, Jesus will pick you up; Jesus will pick you up, if he has to reach way down!’

Follow me on Twitter @therevsquilts or email mustardseedfaith@bellsouth.net

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