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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

 “…  the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;”  (Romans 1:1-6).  Again, the first occurrence of ‘Christ Faith’ in Paul’s Letter, To The Romans.

Easy to be lost in Romans.  Four columns already spent on this first occurrence of ‘Christ Faith’ and still not reached the faith statement.  If this study were of Romans as a Book, I could not pass on without at least a word on ‘the Spirit of holiness’; ‘resurrection from the dead’; Paul’s understanding of ‘grace’;— but, the task at hand is ‘Christ Faith’.  On to “the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations…”

What is translated by most all English versions of this text as ‘obedience’ is the word ‘upakoen’ which is also a word that should be seen in it’s original language for in it, at it’s root, is ‘akouo/to hear’.  The significance of ‘hearing’ in the Biblical Faiths could never be underestimated.  To be sure, at the very heart of the Old Testament faith is the ‘Shema’ most known in it’s Deuteronomy 6 Torah text which leads by saying— “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love The Lord…”  O, but that’s not all, ‘Hear this’— ‘teach it to your children’; ‘talk about it in your house’; ‘ when you lie down (sleeping)’ and when you get up (waking)’.  You think that’s all?  ‘Hear this’— ‘bind it on your hands’; ‘frontlets for you eyes’; ‘write it on the doorposts of your house AND gates’!  Did I mention Paul’s knowledge of ‘Torah=The Law’?  So as not to get ahead of ourselves, it is also in this book that he writes, “Faith comes by hearing, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ”.

It is no small thing to recognize the Biblical Faiths as ‘religions of The Word’.  “In the beginning was The Word”.  The Word IS the Genesis.  For the ‘New faith’— the Word became flesh and dwells among us.  ‘Obedience of faith’, then, is clearly a hearing (studying, receiving, imparting) of the Word.  I find it amazing that so many of the persons who are in leadership positions in the Church could never be found in a Sunday School class or Bible Study group.  Chaos.  Chaos.  Chaos.    ‘Obedience of faith’, is HOW hearing the WORD acts upon the hearer (transforming, redeeming, saving, conversion, repentance).

When the dialogue of the ‘Post COVID Church’ turns to what must be NEW in a world that is living without Divine Justice, what with death being issued across the planet with no reservations concerning life, the WORD of ‘Eternal Life’ must be administered by the Church in order that the People of God can see beyond the Greed, so much Greed… everywhere… turning the world towards ‘Deadly Sin’; but towards the ‘Gift of God —eternal life.

In my consciousness of length and time when delivering the  sermonic word, I have grown to by-pass preliminary rhetoric that the hearers of modern church have grown so accustomed to.  I just love the way Paul in this letter comes ‘straight out the box’; ‘straight from the hip’; and in just six verses, delivers ‘The Gospel of God’ so that “those who have ears to hear— hear!  “… for the sake of his name among the nations, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;”

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