Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Is Faith? Definition Three - Faithfulness

Faith is faithfulness, the working out of the first two definitions.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18

An important distinction must be made here between faith and faithfulness. No one is saved by works, the believer is saved by saving faith and it is the gift of God. Saving faith is the combination of the first two definitions. Faith is always alien to the believer, it comes from the outside. There is nothing we can do to get it, it is a gift of God’s grace -

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-9

Paul gives a similar teaching to the young pastor Titus -
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,... Titus 3:4-5

In these passages and in numerous others Paul gave many reminders that saving faith is not of us and is all of God. However, James points out that true saving faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit must bear fruit. Though good works do nothing to gain us salvation, good works is the clear evidence that God has done a saving work inside us. Paul refers to this connection in his letter to the Philippians.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

Great confusion can and has occurred when verse 12 is read without verse 13. We are able to perform the good works of the Spirit because and only because God first works IN us. It is important to understand that the unbeliever may appear to be doing good works but it is only appearance. Because God has not worked in them first the works of the flesh are really works apart from Christ (faith as a vital connection) and whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23b

Therefore, the third definition of faith that we find in scripture is actually the working out of faith, or faithfulness. What does this working out of faith look like? Paul gives a wonderful list in his writing to the Galatians, we call this list ‘the fruit of the Spirit’.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24

(Go To Part Four)

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