08 May 2009

Barrett: Paul and Faith

Our brother Nick Nowalk recently made me aware of the following penetrating statement from Barrett on what Paul's gospel repudiates.

It has frequently been asked why Paul speaks often of faith, seldom of repentance. It cannot be said that he did not know the meaning of repentance. . . . But for Paul faith is not essentially a matter of turning away from a bad way of life; it is equally, and at a deeper level, a turning away from a good life in which one depends on one's own achievement, one's own works done in obedience to the moral law. . . . In order to believe man repudiates not only his bad morals but his good morals. Repentance is a term that would not adequately cover this.

--C. K. Barrett, Paul: An Introduction to His Thought (Westminster John Knox 1994), 102


Anonymous said...


Repentance could be misunderstood as self-improvement, binding us more firmly to ourselves.

Faith positions us with nothing but need, opening us to Christ.

Paul Alexander said...

This is such a biblical understanding of faith, and a practically helpful reminder, particularly for those who think they have a "boring" testimony because they've never committed any culturally sensational sin. It reveals how radical every person's conversion truly is. We have been saved not only from what we see externally as our sins, but also from our deeply-rooted trust in our own righteousness, which was just as offensive to God and perilous for us, yet in many ways far more deceiving and permeating. This understanding of faith also demonstrates that faith must be a gift from God, because He must in the first place reveal to us how natural yet wrong it is for us to trust in our own righteousness, and in the second place motivate and empower us to actually repudiate our self-confidence. Praise God for his indescribable gift!