The Fruit of the Spirit (9): Faithfulness (1)

Previous article in this series: September 15, 2010, p 494.

It is important to understand what we are examining here in the seventh part of the fruit of the Spirit. The seventh part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 is “faith.” We may be inclined to think that this means saving faith, which, according to Lord’s Day 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism, is the spiritual bond by which we are joined by God to Christ, the conscious activity of believing, and the catholic, apostolic, undoubted Christian truth of Scripture that is necessary for every Christian to believe.

However, that is not exactly what the word “faith” in Galatians 5:22 means as a fruit of the Spirit. There is no denying the fact that the bond of faith, the activity of believing, and the doctrines of the faith are essential to and very involved with this virtue of “faith” in the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, one cannot separate the blessing of saving faith and the virtue of “faith” as a part of the fruit of the Spirit. Nevertheless, so that it is clear in our minds what we are discussing here, it is better that we understand that the virtue of “faith” in Galatians 5:22 means “faithfulness.”

Faithfulness is a spiritual virtue of the saint by which he is loyal towards the Father and Christ with the result that the saint is also loyal, reliable, and dependable towards others whom the Father providentially brings upon his pathway in life and whom he must serve in some way in his place and calling in life. When one is faithful to the Father and Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word, he will be a faithful, trustworthy, and reliable Christian, member of his church, officebearer, spouse, friend, employer, employee, parent, school teacher, student, or child.

We see this virtue of faithfulness in all its perfection in Christ. In all of His labors Christ was faithful to the Father. Although Jesus did not call Himself faithful in John 17:4, yet what He says reflects the fact that He is the Faithful Servant of Jehovah. Jesus said, “I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Implied in that statement is the faithful obedience of Christ in all of His labors in spite of the constant temptations of His adversary, the devil, and His enemies to forsake the way of obedience to our Father. When the hour of His work of redemption, by His atoning death on the cross, had come, Jesus was indeed faithful. He had never disobeyed His Father. He had always done the Father’s will, not His own will. He maintained a voracious appetite for the Father’s commandments for His life and work so that He could say to His disciples, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).

Of course, Jesus’ faithfulness is clearly revealed at the cross. He loved His own to the very end. He laid down His life for us without complaint. He descended into the depths of hell for us on the cross without retaliation against us. The clear revelation of His faithfulness in His own mind was heard in the confident cry of Jesus, “Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit.” Had Jesus been unfaithful even to the slightest degree, He could never have uttered that confident request with the sure expectation that the Father would receive Him. If He had disobeyed His Father’s will, then He could not have said, “It is finished,” nor have expected that the Father would and could receive Him into His hands upon death. Nevertheless, Jesus knew that the Scriptures had been fulfilled by Him and that He had finished the Father’s will. In that confidence of His own righteousness, He could expect the glory afterward. Faithful, Jesus was, right to the very end of His earthly life. Upon the basis of that faithfulness of Christ rests firmly our blessed atonement, redemption, and reconciliation to the Father!

This faithfulness continues to be one of the outstanding virtues of our exalted Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is called in Revelation 1:5 “the faithful witness.” When He speaks to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14, Christ refers to Himself as “the faithful and true witness.” In Revelation 19:11, we see the exalted Christ sitting upon the white horse, and His name is “Faithful and True.”

Why is it so important that we know that our exalted Lord is faithful? First, because He did the will of the Father for our redemption in His death and resurrection in all faithfulness, we may be doubly sure that He continues at God’s right hand to execute God’s counsel for the establishment and fulfillment of His covenant in the same faithfulness. The gathering of His elect from the nations of the earth until His coming again shall surely come to pass. Of all that the Father has given to Christ from eternity, He shall lose not one. As many as God has ordained to eternal life shall believe, because Christ shall see to it that by His Spirit they will believe His gospel through the preaching of the gospel that He sovereignly directs and controls. All those that should be saved according to God’s good pleasure shall be added to the church according to His timing and good wisdom.

Second, Christ has also revealed that as our heavenly High Priest, who prays for us, He will pray that our faith fail not. He is our faithful High Priest, who intercedes for us continuously so that our faith fails not. That faithfulness of Christ is necessary lest we perish in our sin and unbelief, and not believe and learn the faithful life of daily conversion and repentance at the foot of the cross of Christ, and a faithful life of godliness and honorable virtue. Without that prayer of Christ, by which we receive the grace and mercy for our salvation daily, we could not have the beginning of the life of faithfulness to God. Christ’s faithfulness makes the virtue of faithfulness for us, in us, and through us possible.

Christ’s loyalty to His church is encouraging. Because He is faithful, He promised that He will be with His church even unto the end. He will not forsake His people. He will not leave His sheep and lambs so that they are destroyed by the devil, by the world, or by themselves. He is our good Shepherd, who provides His church with the necessary gifts and means to be preserved unto the end. All of the promises that Christ declares to His church are true, and He is faithful to them and to all those in whom those promises must be realized.

… to be concluded.