Tuesday, April 13, 2010

By Faith Alone - Part IV

If you have been following this series, you will know by now that Sola fide is a Latin phrase, meaning "by faith alone". The early reformers used it to describe the fact that our salvation is by faith alone.

Perhaps the reason why there is such controversy over the matter of salvation by faith alone is semantics. Maybe some people think that when we say you are saved by faith, they assume it is a moment in time. Well, it truly begins at a moment in time, as we have seen in the preceding parts of this series.

Paul did teach that there is a time when we are first introduced to the faith. He wrote: “Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:2). But it must continue throughout our lives.

In this last part of the series, we'll look at the Scriptures that teach us to continue in the faith. We'll see the importance of ongoing faithfulness in the life of a believer. And we'll find out what the source of our faith is.

Continue in the Faith
Paul taught that we must continue in the faith. “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” (Col 1:23)

“But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” (1Ti 2:15)

Paul was “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." (Act 14:22)

Faith is something we must stand firm in. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1Co 16:13)

Paul himself had kept the faith throughout his life and to the end. As an old man, he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2Ti 4:7)

Faith must be kept. It’s our responsibility to keep it in order to avoid being shipwrecked. “Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” (1Ti 1:19). This is how we keep from falling away from the faith. “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1Ti 4:1)

The Importance of Faithfulness
The Greek word for faith is often translated into the English word faithfulness, depending on the context. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” (Gal 5:22). This describes the ongoing aspect of our faith.

Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Mat 23:23). Do you see how he told them that they should not have neglected faithfulness? Jesus considered this a weighty provision of the Scriptures.

We are called to continue to have faith, even in the midst of persecutions. “Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.” (2Th 1:4)

So we see that Paul always taught that saving faith must continue throughout our lives to the end.

Source of Faith
Finally, there is a source of all our faith. It doesn’t come from within us. So it’s important that we know who the author of our faith is and who can make it perfect. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2). Jesus authors our faith and He is the one who will perfect it, so focus on Him.

We actually get faith from hearing the Word of Christ. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

Putting it All Together
We begin our walk with Jesus the moment we put our complete confidence and trust like this in Him. It's at that moment that we are given the gift of God's righteousness. We are justified. It happens instantly, and we are completely forgiven. We are saved by faith in Christ alone. But then we must continue in our faithfulness to Him throughout our lives. We need to keep the faith.

In this series, I mentioned that having faith in God is similar to when we have complete confidence in an elevator to take us to the top of a tall building, or when we trust an airplane to take us across the ocean to another continent. You wouldn't do that without being persuaded that you will be safe.

If faith in God is like that, then we could say that faithfulness is like continuing to travel by plane on a daily basis throughout your entire lifetime. Faithfulness would be like continuing to trust the aircraft day after day, even though there are times when there's very bad turbulence on your flight. Faithfulness is like continuing to travel by air, even though you hear news reports of other planes crashing. Faithfulness is like staying on the elevator all way up to the top of the skyscraper, and not getting off at the third floor out of fear that you won't be safe. Faithfulness is like taking a job on an upper floor of a skyscraper, and trusting the elevator not just once but on a daily basis.

But every analogy falls short at some point. And these analogies are no different. You see, unfortunately planes do sometimes crash and elevators do sometimes fail. But Jesus never fails. He is worthy of your complete trust, not just for a moment or a day, but forever. It's essential that we remain faithful to Jesus Christ unto the end. Don't stop trusting Him when times get difficult or other things distract you.

Therefore, since faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ, we should spend time reading the Bible, talking about what it says, and listening to others speak God's Word. This will increase our faith. And of course, we should be doing what it says. We need to be doers of the Words of Christ, not merely hearers.

If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, I want to encourage you to keep the faith with a sincere heart and a good conscience. I want to encourage you to remain faithful to the Lord to the very end.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you have not yet read the other parts to this series, you can find them at these links:

By Faith Alone - Part I
By Faith Alone - Part II
By Faith Alone - Part III

You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

If you have not yet put your faith in Christ, I urge you to do that today. He loves you and wants you to know Him personally.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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