The Apostle Paul’s Mystical Perspective, Part II

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Paul’s principle of “faith alone” is decidedly mystical. Citing the faith of Abraham, who believed God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations in spite of his advanced age and Sarah’s barrenness, Paul demonstrates how faith is the “substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not:  Abraham believed God’s promises that he would be the father of many nations because God “calleth those things that are not, as those that are” (Rom. 4:16-17). Since God is able even to call into existence the things that do not exist, Abraham believed in spite of the evidence of his senses and his natural experiences in the world:

 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.  ( Rom. 4:18-21)

Paul uses a remarkable phrase in describing Abraham’s faith.   Abraham believed that God “calleth those things which be not as though they were” (KJV), or “calls into being that which does not exist” (NASB).  Therefore, Abraham looked forward to the future expectantly, even when his experience showed him the impossibility of God’s promises.

If believers exercise the same kind of faith, Paul writes, they too may be justified before God by believing the promises of God, in spite of their impossibility according to natural human intellect or experience.   And since a true believer has been “translated” out of the darkness, into the light, he must understand that believers in Christ are new creatures, and “the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Paul concludes that believers must not place their confidence in the flesh but “walk in the spirit.” We must by faith put to death our old nature, or “old man,” and put on the new, “him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him.” By seeking the things that are above rather than minding the things of the earth, the veil is torn away, the believer sees Christ, and is transformed into Christ’s own image (2 Cor. 3:18). This transformation, or metamorphosis, is effected mystically by looking to things unseen rather than to the things seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).

P.S.  I haven’t forgotten about the “mirror”!

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