The Apostle Paul preached justification by faith in Christ Jesus to Christians in Galatia, implicitly assuring them of the wisdom of faith, in contrast to what he saw as the folly of Jewish Christian reliance on compliance with Jewish Torah (Gal 2:16). He described his profound disagreement and later uneasy agreement with the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, James the brother of Jesus, Simon Peter and John (Gal 1:18-2:14). Crucified with Christ to all but Christ in the midst, Paul bears witness that it is no longer he who lives at centre, but Christ who lives in him, because he lives by faith in Christ, who indwells him (Gal 2:20). The wisdom of faith in Christ is the wisdom of the Cross which crucifies in him all trust in external religious regulation to save him. In the desert of Arabia, following his illumination on the Damascus road, Paul gives himself to Christ who gave himself for him, saving him in Christ by the grace of his Name. The wisdom of such faith is not opposed either to wisdom or to faith but reveals the glory of the Name by trusting in its grace, rather than forsaking it or nullifying it. Truly to believe in Christ, who inspires his trust, shows forth the wisdom of faith, in contrast to the folly of trying to save oneself by struggling to live up to the rules and regulations of religion. The Apostle is not advocating an empty, self-centred faith in one’s own faith but a profound, unselfish trust in Christ who saves. Paul points emphatically to Abraham’s faith, a faith which trusts the grace of God with an enduring, right-relating integrity, trusting God’s promise to save all through his Name, a promise imparted as his Covenant Oath to all nations, tribes, cultures and peoples. The wisdom of Abraham’s faith is grounded in God’s grace of right-relating presence, inspiring trust in his all-encompassing Covenant Oath, the promise of his Name, a wisdom which embraces all who turn and see God in the midst.
Wisdom inspires faith that trusts in God’s Name to save. Since God promises to be present in his Name and swears by his own Name to keep his promise, it is God who is being trusted for his Name’s sake. It is not trust in our faith but trust in God who promises to save, because without trust in his Name, God’s Name, though intrinsically saving, cannot in fact actually save. Wisdom discerns that God’s Name enshrines a promise, God’s solemn Covenant Oath that he will save all who turn and see, which guarantees God’s faithful trustability inherent in the very Name itself (Gal 4:1-7). True faith is therefore trust in God’s utterly trustworthy trustability; moreover, the wisdom of faith beholds the glory that fulfils his hallowing Oath, his promise to save, by Name, all who trust in his Name. Vainglory compulsively struggles, strains and stresses to keep the external rules and regulations of conventional religion, whereas faith humbly trusts the Name’s promise to save all who trust in it. The Apostle says Torah may guide the blind before the eyes of the heart open to wisdom and glory, indicating that faith before illumination is blind. Such faith is not yet wisdom but may help guide faith to awaken to wisdom (Gal 3:23-25). The Spirit abides in the hearts of all who turn and see, unceasingly praying, ‘Abba, Father’ as the Name is hallowed. Sons and daughters of God by grace gradually become aware that the Spirit’s unceasing prayer in their midst is always praying ‘Abba,’ at the very moment that the Name is hallowed, awakening wisdom to glory in the midst (Gal 4:1-7; Rom 8:15-17). It is the Spirit who transforms, by unceasing prayer, blind faith into in-seeing, insightful faith, faith that is actually already a profound wisdom, wisely hallowing God’s Holy Name.
The Apostle recognises that to know God by faith is to live in hope of an illumined state of being known by God in wisdom, once turning awakens seeing and wisdom beholds glory in the Name (Gal 4:9). Conventional religion is forever under pressure to turn back, reversing metanoia in perverse ways that keep the blind safe from seeing instead of being saved, ensuring that the blind remain well and truly subservient and blind. Fear lies at the root of this, including clerical fear of losing control. Jewish Christianity in Jerusalem was by no means alone in trying to preserve religion in circumstances where it was perceived to be severely threatened. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 scattered Jewish Christianity in all directions, refining its wisdom in the fires of persecution and eventually purifying it of its addiction to legal conventions. It gradually became the Temple wisdom that it always really was beneath its broken exteriors. Suffering purifies as it illumines and glorifies the saints. The Spirit’s unceasing intercession, praying ‘Abba’ in the midst, frees hearts from the constrictions of conventional religion. The Spirit’s awakening to truth liberates hearts from straining and stressing. The Spirit’s unceasing yet ineffable prayers of intercession, sighing ‘Abba’ in the midst, breathe in mysteries of glory that release religion from blind sclerosis, awakening prayer of the heart that transforms religion into transfiguring wisdom. Love loves to bear another’s burdens because glory loves to glory in another’s joy, preferring their joy in God’s God-centred glorification of God in his Name to self-centred self-obsession with vainglorious vanities. Faith is essentially wisdom that has not yet awoken to herself, evidence that mature faith is wisdom that truly knows herself. Faith trusts wisdom because wisdom is faith that sees as it is seen, knows as it is known. Trust holds true beyond the regulations of conventional religion, beyond even religion itself, beyond God conceived in separation, being God’s trustworthy faithfulness enshrined in his Covenant Oath of steadfast presence, promising eternal life to every nation, tribe, culture and people through his Name.