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God's Absolute Faithfulness

Friday, March 01, 2013

 

God’s Absolute Faithfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

 
by Bobby L. Graham
 
 
“Faithful is he who calleth you, who will also do it.” In these wonderfully reassuring words, the Lord prompts Christians to a similar constancy. There can be no more inspiring example of such than that of the Lord. In the immediate context the apostle also was saying that his petition of verse 23 was not fruitless. Observe that the gospel call is God’s way of guaranteeing us that He will not abandon us or disregard His great purpose of redemption. He has not sent His Son to die for us and later called us by the gospel to follow Christ, only to forget His purpose. God’s absolute faithfulness was used by the Holy Spirit to motivate diligence in the task addressed in this section (Christian constancy, 5:14–24); we can do no better today than to fix our minds on the goodness of God continuing to act on our behalf.
 
 
Certifies effectiveness of prayer
 
The prayer of Paul was for the saints being completely sanctified and preserved blameless to the coming of the Lord. The immediate context clearly shows that such work on God’s part is conditioned on the Christian’s constancy. He must pursue that which is good, be joyous in life, continue in praying, yearn for God’s Spirit-given utterances, and reject all evil. In such a response, he yields to the purifying influences of the gospel. The combined thought of God’s work and our response stresses that God preserves as we persevere. The necessary implication is that sanctification is a growth, not a gift, and it depends on our desire to grow.
 
 
Based on the call of God in the gospel
 
The only call that God issues today is that of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Why would the God of our salvation, who spared not His own Son, grow weary in the great work of salvation? The call of the gospel involves God’s promise to accept us in Christ, to forgive us, and to sustain us spiritually. The spiritual growth involved in God’s sanctification and preservation demands our constancy. He will be sure to maintain His role in this great work. We can depend on His promise, for He is not loose with His words (2 Peter 3:9).
 
 
Justifies our confidence
 
While Paul’s purpose in verse 24 was to help the Thessalonians to trust God to sanctify and preserve them, the rest of the Bible recounts God’s trustworthiness in this regard. He did not fail to remember His people in the deliverance from Egypt. He did not forget the remnant in Babylonian captivity. In the coming of the Christ, all of the Messianic promises of the Old Testament were kept. Whenever God has made an unconditional promise, He has always carried it out. His conditional promises have also been kept, depending on the meeting of His conditions. It is clear that God’s promises do not delude. The reason for the dependability of God’s promises is His own nature and character. “Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:11–13).
 
 
Elicits favorable response
 
What understandings of God does this assurance evoke in your mind? What emotion-laden response does it elicit in your life? Surely there are some desirable ones that the Lord had in mind in giving such certitude to His children.
Trust. Because God can be relied upon to perform what He promises and to complete the work He began in calling us to salvation, we have a firm foundation for our faith. He will not leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Adoration. Do we not highly respect and honor those of earth who are eminently trustworthy? We willingly entrust to them our possessions, our children, and our minds. The One with whom we have to do in heaven far surpasses earth’s most honest and honorable citizen. The praise of our souls must find expression, for none is so worthy as He (Revelation 5:1–14).
Fidelity. Christ’s faithfulness to our lost cause out of sheer love certainly calls for the loving devotion of sincere hearts. His fidelity to us has never been in doubt. Even before the foundation of the world He volunteered to place Himself in the gap created by sin. Such fidelity as His has never been witnessed. “Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). God’s absolute faithfulness to us prepares our hearts for the same kind of faithful service to Him. Though our fidelity differs in degree, we have His model to remind us of our failings and to draw us back to the constancy pictured in this great section of the New Testament.
 

The Beginning of Righteousness by Faith

Friday, March 01, 2013

 

The Beginning of Righteousness by Faith

Bill Hall

Righteousness by faith: the character or quality of being right—in God’s sight—and that, not on the basis of our own merit or goodness, but, by faith.

A search for the beginning of such righteousness takes us back to the book of beginnings, the book of Genesis. Consider the following:

Abel. “By faith Abel … obtained witness that he was righteous” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel, righteous? Had not Abel sinned? How could Abel be viewed as righteous, even by the Lord Himself? The answer lies in the fact that Abel’s righteousness was not based on his own sinlessness or merit; his was a righteousness by faith.

Noah. “By faith … became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).

Abraham. “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). So significant is the fact that Abraham was accounted righteous by faith rather than by any merit of his own, that the statement is repeated in the book of James (2:23), in the book of Galatians (3:6), and several times in the book of Romans (4:3, 9, 22).

Righteousness by faith: a theme beginning in Genesis, but continuing throughout scripture. The theme reaches its climax in the book of Romans, where the “faith” by which one is proclaimed “righteous” is defined as faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22). This righteousness had been “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Romans 3:21); was manifested in the death of Jesus whose blood became the propitiation (Romans 3:25); and is now “revealed” in the gospel (Romans 1:16, 17). The Holy Spirit in Romans reveals clearly that this righteousness is not the result of perfect law keeping, but of Cod’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:7, 8). Accountable beings have lived in different dispensations and under different laws, but all who are saved eternally will have been (1) saved by the blood of Jesus and (2) proclaimed righteous on the basis of faith.

Not One’s Own Righteousness

One cannot be saved on the basis of his own righteousness. The reason is stated clearly in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All the righteous deeds one may practice cannot erase one sin. One is therefore dependent on Gods grace. He must come to a righteousness which is of God: “But when the kindness and the love of Cod our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4, 5). The Pharisees “trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” and in their self-righteousness, they “despised others” (Luke 18:9). Arrogance and contempt for others are inevitable outgrowths of self-righteousness. But when one comes in faith to be proclaimed righteous through God’s forgiveness he can only “glory … in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).

By Faith

What kind of faith is under consideration in the expression “righteousness by faith”? Clearly, it is an active, obedient faith.

Consider Abel’s faith: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous” (Hebrews 11:4).

Consider Noah’s faith: “By faith Noah … prepared an ark … and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).

Consider Abraham’s faith: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son on the altar … And the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’ ” (James 2:21–23). Abraham demonstrated a faith that not only could believe anything God said, but would do anything God told him to do. This is the faith that results in righteousness—the righteousness which is of God.

When one places his faith in Jesus Christ rather than in his own righteousness, and submits to His command to “repent and he baptized” (Acts 2:38), he finds in Him “remission of sins;” he has become righteous on the basis of faith. As he continues a life of submission and obedience to the Lord, humbly asking forgiveness for his failures, he still rejoices in righteousness by faith. Then when he reaches the end of life, he can rejoice with Paul in being “found in Him, not having my own righteousness … but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God be faith” (Philippians 3:9). This is “rejoicing in the Lord.” Herein lies man’s hope!

 

The Faithful God

Friday, March 01, 2013

 

The Faithful God

 
by Gary Henry
 
 
WHEN WE ARE tempted to worry about the uncertainties that are inherent in a changing world, it is reassuring to remember that the whole cosmos in which we live was created by a God who is eternal. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End … who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). The comforting thing about God’s eternal nature is not merely that He exists eternally, but that His character is eternal: God is changelessly faithful.
 
 
God Is Faithful: What It Means
 
Unlike the false gods of paganism, who were thought to be fickle and whose capricious anger was thought unpredictable, the God who really made us and revealed Himself to us can be counted on to be the same always. “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6), He has said. With God “there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). We do not have to worry that an alteration in God’s “mood” will result in a change in His personality or His principles.
But more than that, God’s eternal faithfulness also makes Him different from Satan, the liar (John 8:44). God’s word is unfailingly and infallibly true. God’s truthful character is immutable—“He cannot lie” (Titus 1:2; see Hebrews 6:17–18). Long ago, Isaiah prayed, “O Lord … Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isaiah 25:1). And when we say God’s word is always “true,” we do not just mean it is accurate. We mean also that, because it is true, it can be depended on. God is never treacherous. He never cheats. Every word He has ever spoken has been “a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance” (1 Timothy 1:15). God’s eternal truthfulness means that He is eternally trustworthy.
When He has spoken to mankind, God has often made promises. It is in regard to these promises that we see further what it means for God to be faithful. Faith has always meant taking God at His word when He promised something—and such faith has always proved to be well-founded. God has never failed to keep a promise. On the basis of that evidence, discerning people have long been willing to do as Sarah did, who “judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).
A final thing involved in God’s eternal faithfulness is that the fulfilling of His purposes is no less certain than the keeping of His promises. The glorious conclusion to which God intends to bring His creation is unstoppable because His character is unchangeable. The Psalmist’s statement is true of everything God has ever purposed: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). Through Isaiah, God declared, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ … Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:9–11). God has given us reason to be assured that though the world around us passes through change after troublesome change, He is still the Sovereign whose purpose for His creation will not fail to be accomplished.
 
 
How Understanding God’s Faithfulness Helps Us
 
Learning the eternally changeless character of God is a wonderfully practical exercise. At the very least, it drives worry and fear out of our lives. How can we doubt that we will be taken care of by a God who has always shown Himself to be so faithfully concerned about His children? The Christian (who has not only the usual cares of daily living, but also may face various kinds of suffering because he is a Christian) can endure whatever trials and tribulations may confront him. Knowing that God remains on His throne and that He is working toward a victorious consummation of all things imparts strength to the suffering saint—strength because the saint knows that the eternal Judge will ultimately vindicate justice and right. Peter wrote, “Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).
Moreover, a comprehension of God’s eternal nature helps the Christian deal with sin. Knowing that God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7–8), that He will not fail to do as He has said about punishing sin, surely ought to give us a more serious attitude about sin. On the positive side, knowing the steadfastness of God’s help is the very thing needed for us to resist temptation. As Paul put it, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Finally, an understanding of the unchangeableness and faithfulness of God is the thing that assures us of our salvation and motivates us to remain faithful to Him. The Hebrew writer appealed to his readers: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). In the long run, that person will be “faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10, NKJV) who sees clearly that God will always be faithful to us. Giving credence to God’s eternal truthfulness, we take on a confidence in God’s trustworthiness that imparts a constancy to our allegiance to Him. “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me!”
 

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