Previous article in this series: December 1, 2010, p. 103.
Because Christ is faithful to His church, His saints also share in that blessed virtue, faithfulness, by His Spirit of sanctification. Some of the saints noted for their faithfulness in the Bible include Abraham (Num. 9:8); Moses (Num. 12:7, Heb. 3:5); Daniel (Dan. 6:4); Hanani (Neh. 7:2); Shelamiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, Pedaiah, and Hanan (Neh. 13:13); the Colossian saints in general (Col. 1:9), and Onesimus of the Colossian church in particular (Col. 4:9).
The Lord gives special attention to the need for this virtue among officebearers in His church. Ministers to whom are entrusted the faithful doctrines of God’s Word must be faithful (II Tim. 2:2). They must be faithful so that at the end of their ministry in a particular congregation or mission field, or at the end of their life when ready to meet their righteous and merciful Judge, they may confess their faithfulness to Christ, His truth, and His places of labor for them. Like the apostle Paul, they may confess: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).
That virtue of faithfulness to God, Christ, His truth, and a godly walk of life is not required exclusively for the ministry of the Word. It is also a necessary virtue for the offices of elder and of deacon. Upon installation into office, every elder and deacon must answer this question: “Whether ye promise, agreeably to said doctrine, faithfully, according to your ability, to discharge your respective offices…?” By their “Yes” in response, and by their signature to the Formula of Subscription, they have promised before Christ and His church, and, consequently, over against the enemies of Christ and His church, that they will “diligently teach and faithfully defend the aforesaid doctrine…” (cf. The Formula of Subscription). They have pledged to be faithful to Christ and His church in their work for the duration of their term in office. Faithfulness in an officebearer towards Christ and His Word, faithfulness in their behaving orderly and decently in the church institute, is necessary for the spiritual welfare and continuation of faithful churches.
Lest we overlook the wives of officebearers, the Lord reminds them of the need to be faithful. “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things” (I Tim. 3:11). Just as important as it is for a man to have the necessary qualifications for being a deacon or an elder, so also it is important that their wives be “faithful in all things”—to their husband, to their home, to their Lord, in all aspects of their station and calling in life. Their faithfulness will assist their husbands not to be weary in the well doing of faithful labors in the churches.
Children must be faithful to their parents in all good and lawful things. In the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 39, children are taught to show all honor, love, and fidelity to their parents. That fidelity is the same thing as faithfulness. Children must be faithful to submit to their parents and to obey them in all good and lawful things for the Lord’s sake. Children are in duty bound to be faithful to the covenant instruction of their parents, so that when they are old they will in faithfulness not depart from the good instruction of their believing parents.
Workers must be faithful to their masters or employers (Eph. 6:5-8). They may not steal from their employers by wasting their time or abilities on company time, but be faithful. What is the purpose of that? The purpose is that the godly employee may adorn the doctrine of God in all things (Tit. 2:9-10). That word to servants or workers reminds us that, if one confesses the doctrines that are faithful to God’s Word, but then does not adorn that doctrine with godliness, his confession and Reformed Christianity is vain and hollow. Faithfulness in our daily life in the station and calling to employers, or others in a position of authority over us in the work place, shows our inner, heartfelt faithfulness to Christ and our heavenly Father out of the motive of thankfulness.
The Scriptures teach that faithfulness is a virtue that we must desire for ourselves in ever richer measure. By way of contrast, we must detest the shamefulness of unfaithfulness. We are taught in Psalm 78 to set our hope in God, our faithful God, and not be as the fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, who set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God (Ps. 78:7-8). Later on in Psalm 78, the Lord shows how Israel was not steadfast with God and was unfaithful. Israel “tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow” (Ps. 78:56-57). For that unfaithfulness, God severely judged Israel in the wilderness with 40 years of chastisement in their wanderings. In the land of Canaan, during the days of the judges, when every man did that which was right according to his own understanding and, as a result, became unfaithful to Jehovah, He sent severe judgments upon Israel’s chronic unfaithfulness (Ps. 78:58-64).
Since God by His judgments upon Israel showed His hatred against her unfaithfulness, so must we hate unfaithfulness to Christ, hate disloyalty to God’s truth, and hate quitting the way of laboring in our stations and callings in life by a true and living faith. Instead, marveling in the faithfulness of our God towards us in Christ Jesus and for His sake alone, let us be steadfast to Him in cheerful contentment and in humble submission to His commandments and His wise way for our life.
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” Christ commands and promises (Rev. 2:10). Living out of God’s truth daily, praying on the basis of God’s promises and His mercies, new every morning, and laboring daily through faith in Christ alone is the way of our faithfulness. In that way, we hear and delight in blessed promises of the crown of life and much more. He that is faithful shall not be hurt by the second death, which is hell (Rev. 2:11). Instead, in heaven he shall eat of the hidden manna, and he will receive a white stone with a new name written upon it (Rev. 2:17). He shall receive power over the nations and shall receive the morning star (Rev. 2:27-28). He shall be clothed in white raiment. He shall know that his name is written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 3:4-5). He shall have the expectation of becoming a permanent pillar in the house of God and of receiving a new name (Rev. 3:12). Finally, he shall have the blessed expectation that he will sit with Christ in glory in His throne.
How sweet is this fruit of the Spirit and its results! The faithful labors and covenant instruction of God-fearing parents yields, by the grace of God alone, the fruit of children who walk with us in the truth. The faithful labors of church officebearers yield the fruit, by the grace of God, of congregations who are built up and strengthened in the life and confession of the Reformed faith. The faithfulness of husband and wife to each other, until God by death separates them, yields the fruit of a stable, peaceful, Christ-centered, and God-glorifying home. The faithfulness of a believer to Jesus Christ throughout his life in his station and calling, even unto his last fleeting breath, yields the fruit of a crown of life. Upon wearing that crown of life, we may then in eternal faithfulness praise our covenant God for His everlasting and never-failing mercies in Christ Jesus towards us, and in the perfection of that faithfulness know fully that Jehovah’s faithfulness is incomparably great!