The word for today is “faith.” Our currency announces, “In God We Trust.” Do “we”? And what is “our” conception of God who is the object of our trust? Today we emphasize that the One who has earned our trust is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our study will suggest that if we put our faith in anything else (the Mosaic Law, our cultural or ethnic background, our education, our abilities, even our fate), then the Cross will be meaningless to us.
Today’s reading from Romans doubles back to Romans 3:19-26. In this passage, we hear that in Christ, the righteousness of God is manifest “apart from the Law” (Romans 3:21). This is the righteousness that is freely given “by faith to those who “believe” (Galatians 3:22).
Belief and Faith Have Different Meanings
Note that in Greek, the word “to believe” is the verb form of the noun, faith. In English, the term denotes the affirmation that something or someone is true. But in Greek, the word faith is best translated as “trust in” something or someone. This means that faith must have an object in which faith is placed.
This understanding clarifies the issue that St. Paul raises in this passage. What or who is worthy of our “trust”? In Paul’s day for Paul’s Jewish Christ opponents, the answer was circumcision. That meant Paul’s adversaries believed that we should trust in our efforts to keep the Mosaic Law.
Trusting in the Law or the Cross?
But Paul insisted that we are justified “apart from the Law” (Romans 3:28). Therefore, salvation is by the grace of God. Accordingly, in Paul’s way of thinking, we must trust in Christ and His saving work.
St. Paul is adamant that boasting in our ability to keep the Law of God only proves that we are guilty before God. The more we brag about keeping the law, the more it exposes our sinfulness.
St. Paul said, “I do not set aside the grace of God for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21). If we do not trust completely in the Passion of Christ for our salvation, then there is no Gospel, no grounds for the forgiveness of sins, and no significance of the Cross.
Our thoughts bring us a question for reflection: if we, as Gentiles, do not rely on keeping the Mosaic Law to earn God’s favor, in what are we putting our trust for spiritual blessings and/or material good fortunes?