Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Faith and faithfulness
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
...from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:15
These scriptures all highlight the role of faith. Faith is the means by which we are saved. In fact, to say that a person has faith is the same thing as saying that a person is saved. Faith in Jesus Christ equals salvation.
Where does faith come from? Faith comes from God. Faith is what was lost at the the Fall in Genesis 3, and it is what we regain in Christ when we are reunited in a relationship with God.
Apart from God, our spirits are dead within us. When He reaches down and touches our spirits with His Spirit, the life of His Spirit vitalizes our spirits, sparks faith, and brings spiritual life where none existed. This is a supernatural miracle.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Grace is God's favor towards us. The term that is commonly applied here is unmerited favor, which basically means undeserved favor. God did not favor us with salvation because we deserved it. He does not choose the good people, the smart people, the strong people or the rich people. He chooses whomever He wants to choose, and upon those undeserving people, by grace, He bestows the gift of faith, which we have seen is tantamount to the gift of salvation.
How do you get faith if you want it? There is only one source of faith: God. There is only one way to get it from Him, and that is to humbly ask Him for it. Ironically, you won't even want to ask for faith unless He has already touched your spirit and breathed into it. It takes faith to desire faith. Only God can break into the cycle of a dead spirit and bring out life.
Faith is the essence of salvation. It is believing that God exists, and it is believing His promises. It is the kind of belief that translates into action; it affects what you do because it permeates and shapes your entire mind. That is what faith is. It's a wonderful thing to think about.
Faithfulness is something different.
You might think that faithfulness is the quality of being full of faith. After all, it is "faith" plus "full," two words put together. When the Bible speaks of "the faithful" as a group of people (for example, in Psalm 31:23), then it does mean that we are talking about a group of people who are full of faith.
However, even here, we need to draw a line. "The faithful" is not the same term as "faithfulness."
So what is faithfulness? To begin to understand it, we need to look at it first as an attribute of God Himself. When we say that God is faithful we mean something quite different from when we call people "the faithful." The simplest way to understand is to break it down into two simple sentences:
1. Faithful followers of God exhibit faith in God by trusting and obeying Him.
2. Our faithful God always keeps His promises and is completely trustworthy.
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.
So when Galatians 5:22 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is... faithfulness..." it is not talking about basic faith. Basic faith is what brings salvation, which brings the indwelling of God's Spirit in the first place. Faith, salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are all the same thing, or aspects of the same thing. This is the root from whence all the fruits of the Spirit are able to grow.
So when Galatians 5:22 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is... faithfulness..." it is talking about how the Spirit of God in us enables us to reflect God's quality of faithfulness. This means that we keep our promises. We are true to our word. We are completely trustworthy, even to the point where God can trust us to keep our covenant with Him, not because of what we are like, but because of what He has done in us... He can trust His own work.
A faithful husband stands by his wife through good and bad, and keeps his marriage vows.
A faithful friend is there when you need her.
A faithful dog camps out by your bedside when you are sick.
These are everyday examples of faithfulness, not hard to understand.
Faithfulness has less to do with the faith of the person who is faithful, and more to do with the fact that others can be safe putting their faith in such a person.
When the Bible says that the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness, it means that we are learning to keep our promises as God keeps His.
I just felt the need to explain this difference, and I hope I have been more clarifying than confusing.