How often have we heard, “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” Let’s begin to honestly ask, “Which came first: faith or law?”
One Word –
Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31
Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 14, 15, 16; Luke 15
Big Idea –
Often we only think of the Old Testament as being the Law; if people were going to come to the LORD and be accepted it had to be according to the Law – right? That’s I was taught growing up and what we are inclined to think, but if that’s true, then we too must come to God in the same way because He said, “I the LORD do not change“ (Mal. 3:6). James gives the same testimony saying, “there is no variation or shadow due to change” with God our Father (Jm. 1:17).
So if God remains the same, and if we believe that we come to God and are accepted by faith, then shouldn’t we find the same pattern in the Old Testament too? This may surprise you, but that exactly what we find if we set aside our bias and look for faith in the pages of the Old Testament.
Israel had just passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. They watched as the Egyptian chariot men that pursued them were drowned in the sea. With the LORD’S great power they saw God work deliverance on their behalf. As a result the fear of the LORD was upon the people, but that’s not all. Seeing the LORD work salvation on their behalf the people also “believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.”
The Hebrew word ‘aman translated here as believed, literally means to stand firm. Such belief then is and assurance, trust or faith that is unmovable and confident. Likewise ‘aman is the word used when it says Abram “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Likewise, when God first met with Moses at the burning bush calling him to return to Egypt so the people could be delivered, the LORD gave Moses signs that the people would believe or have faith (‘aman – see Ex. 4:5, 8). When they saw the signs “the people believed,” and bowed to worship the LORD who had heard their cries in the midst of their affliction (Ex. 4:31). Therefore, people were coming to God and being accepted (i.e. delivered or saved), not on the basis of the Law, but by faith.
And if you remember the rest of the story, it was no easy thing for Israel to continue to believe that the LORD had sent Moses to deliver them from bondage. When their labor was made harder they started grumbling and complaining against Moses and Aaron. Thus the plagues were not only to turn Pharaoh’s hardened heart, but also as a sign to build or strengthen Israel’s faith. Only after they have passed through the waters does it say again say “they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses” (‘aman).
Paul describes the miracle crossing at the Red Sea Israel’s baptism saying, “our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea“ (1 Cor. 10:1-2). This explains why the people believed in both the LORD and in Moses His servant; Moses was the mediator or intermediary who stood before God on their behalf.
Similarly, we are baptized into Christ Jesus because we had faith unto salvation, or you could say we believed in the LORD and in His servant Jesus. Our intermediary is Jesus, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5 – in the Greek ‘intermediary’ and ‘mediator’ is the same word mesitēs). So we are all saved by faith in God through an appointed mediator because without an intermediary we cannot come before the LORD.
Now what came first for the nation of Israel; faith or the Law? Faith or belief came first. What happened after Israel passed through the Red Sea with Moses? They made the journey from the sea to Mt. Sinai. Their faith preceded the Law, so their deliverance was by faith and not works of the Law. This is because God first accepted them into a relationship and then established the terms of the covenant or Law.
Why is it important that faith came first? Because with out a relationship law only bring about rebellion. God saved Israel and welcomed them into a relationship first so they might then accept God’s covenant. Parents who have little or no relationship with their teenagers learn the hard way that more rules only cause more rebellion.
We should take note of this Old Testament picture. We have come to God and are saved by faith – faith first and then comes law.
Today we enjoy our ‘personal relationship’ with God through faith Jesus. However, God brought us into relationship through the love of Christ so we might accept His law. Jesus actually came to instruct us in God’s expectations of our relationship with Him through, yes the Law. And Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).
Why is it important that our relationship with God grow to include obedience to His Law? Because relationship without law leads to lawlessness, and let’s not forget “sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn 3:4).
I understand that salvation is by faith alone; however, my faith needs to be willing to take the steps from baptism (the Red Sea) to Mt. Sinai receiving God’s Law – the terms of His covenant relationship established by faith.
Yes to Yield –
LORD Jesus, thank You for Your salvation; it is not a wage I’ve earned by works, but a gift received by faith. My faith is first, continue Holy Spirit to build my faith because without faith I know it is impossible to please the LORD. But help me to take the journey of faith with steps of obedience; Holy Spirit teach me to abide in Your word living in spirit and truth according to the terms of Your covenant established in Your unchanging Law.
You might wonder if I and putting myself ‘under the law,’ or if I’m encouraging others to be ‘under the law.” Let me say again, we are saved by grace through faith; it is God’s gift and not by works. Obedience to the law should follow, not to earn our salvation (this is impossible). Rather being saved by faith we live as those who are sanctified, holy or set apart through our growing obedience to God’s Law; the law teaches or instructs us in God’s expectations of holiness (see Eph. 2:4-10).
Being under the law refers to the judgment or penalty of the law, which is death. We are NOT relying on the law for salvation for salvation is by faith. However, we are encouraged like Israel to make a choice: blessings or curses, life or death. Jesus became a curse for us dying in our place; God’s righteous judgment and the penalty of our sin was upon Him. Thus we can choose blessing and life (eternal life at that) through faith in Jesus who has brought us out from under the law and it’s penalty (see Gal. 3:10-14).