The legitimacy of the Christian faith rests on the finished work of Christ on our behalf. His conquest over sin is authenticated by His rising from the dead; therefore, the resurrection is the crux of Christianity. In contrast to other major religions of the world—all of which are works-based, soteriological systems—it follows that without the resurrection an individual remains in his or her sin, unacceptable to a holy, righteous God. This week in our study I want to concentrate on this biblical understanding of faith—which Scripture refers to as the faith. Specifically, I want to examine the biblical passages that relate to the faith and the fact that believers have been entrusted as His ambassadors with the faith.
What are the implications of the faith in your life?
Many are those who hold to some kind of religious “faith.” However, we must all ask this discerning question: “Is my faith saving faith?” The Bible says directly that not all faith is saving faith (cf. Matthew 7:21–22). Therefore, the basis of our faith is vital. For that reason I do not like the phrase that is often bandied about in politeness: “He or she is a person of faith.” That statement is far too broad and doesn’t really mean anything in terms of accurately telegraphing a person’s eternal destiny. You can be a person of faith but not saved! Faith is an indefinite term. The Bible says the proper object of our faith must be what is repeatedly referred to as the faith, adding the definite article the.
II. UNDERSTANDING THE TERM: THE FAITH
If Scripture refers to true and saving faith in Jesus Christ as the faith, what then does God expect of His followers in terms of their responsibility regarding the faith? This study will attempt to answer that question.
Notice in this regard Jude 3 in the NT:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
Jude’s epistle is best summarized as “The Acts of the Apostates.” Jude was Jesus’ half-brother and converted after the resurrection of Christ (contra. John 7:1–9; Acts 1:14). In his one-chapter NT epistle, he outlines the characteristics of false faith (which eventually defects) and calls all believers, even those in the capital community, to fight for the faith—the one and only true faith.
This important word combination the faith is hugely pregnant with this special meaning as it is used repeatedly throughout the NT. The faith means “the whole body of revealed salvation truth contained in the Scriptures.”
Again, faith is used in Scripture with a definite article (the), not an indefinite one, in order to emphasize the biblical singularity of true saving faith.
Scripture knows nothing of a religious philosophy that says, “All roads lead to heaven.”
The Greek construction of the last clause of Jude 3 literally reads, the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints, emphasizing the finality of God’s revelation of true saving faith. The Scriptures reveal the way of true salvation and are not to be added to or deleted from (cf. Revelation 22:18–19). That is to say, the faith is inalterable! In contrast, cults always have three common alterations: an additional, supposedly authoritative “revelation” which in turn redefines two inalterable aspects of true saving faith: the person and work of Christ.
The term the faith appears in the following NT passages:
A. GALATIANS 1:23
But only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”
This verse refers to Paul, who after his conversion, resided in Arabia where he received three years of instruction from the Lord. When he returned, the above passage was the response of the churches. Notice they called “belief in Christ” the faith.
B. EPHESIANS 4:5
There is … one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
This emphatic statement by Paul to the Ephesian Church declares there is only one legitimate saving faith.
C. EPHESIANS 4:11–13
And He gave some … as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man….
Notice the contextual use of the faith. The word and idea of unity precedes it. Without doctrinal homogeneity, i.e., a common understanding of what the faith consists of, there cannot be visceral unity in the body of Christ. True biblical unity stems from a common belief in the faith,(or as we will see, the synonym “sound doctrine”). Further notice from this passage that unity in the faith stems from the under shepherds God has given to His Church…i.e., pastor-teachers. As they teach God’s Word, the followers of Christ are grounded in the faith, resulting in a unified body of believers. A failure to teach the emphatic singularity of genuine, saving faith only leads to doctrinal confusion and division and subsequent disunity of the body.
D. PHILIPPIANS 1:27
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
In this passage the faith and the gospel are synonymous terms with a singular, definite article and understanding. Note what precedes these synonymous terms in the passage: striving together (sunathleo), which means, “to labor.” The word connotes a team’s struggling for victory against a common foe. Jude puts this same emphasis with the faith in Jude 3b (as previously mentioned). Again, note what it states here:
I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
One Greek word (epagonizomai) used in this passage is translated into two English words: contend earnestly, which means “an intense contest.” The recurring application is that the believer is to strive and contend with others who are misleading in order to accurately preserve and convey the faith to believers and unbelievers alike. Jude, likened to Paul at the conclusion of 2 Timothy, is writing to refute the false teachers who were misleading many who needed to know the way of true salvation. Accordingly, believers are to wage spiritual war against apostates, i.e., those who preach a counterfeit gospel, which deceives and leads others astray. To cower from this task is to be less than spiritually mature in Christ and to play into the hands of Satan, who is the father of lies, (cf. Revelation 20:1–3).
It is therefore critical for ministries among public servants to be careful to teach sound doctrine. Not only are individual spiritual destinies at stake, but so are national policies.
E. 1 TIMOTHY 4:1–2
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, by means of the hypocrisy of liars.…
Paul’s instruction to Timothy, who is pastoring those “recovering from false teachers” in Ephesus, presents a clear contrast between true saving faith— the faith—and the prevalence and reality of the existence of unsaving, false faith…i.e., the deceiving false doctrines of salvation propagated by lying, hypocritical “spiritual” leaders. The later times refers to the period between the first and Second Coming of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16–17; Hebrews 1:1–2; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:18). Therefore, this passage is descriptive of the prevalence and realities of false faith and that such will be common in the age in which we live, which is known as the Church Age.
III. THE BELIEVER’S RESPONSIBILITY TO THE FAITH
First John 2:12–13 is a wonderful passage relative to our self-evaluation of spiritual maturity in regard to ascertaining true saving faith—the faith— from false faith that deceives and does not save. Notice that such discernment is a determining factor relative to a person’s level of spiritual maturity.
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men because you have overcome the evil one.…
From the above passage, what does John say are the three biblical levels of spiritual maturity and what characterizes each? Note the answer in the sidebar.
The little child in Christ knows his sins are forgiven and that Jesus loves him. However, false doctrine easily deceives him because he has little spiritual discernment. He knows neither the Scriptures nor the singularity of saving faith—nor that the Evil One is out to deceive him.
In fact, this discernment is what differentiates the young man from the child. The young man no longer falls prey to Satan’s trickery of false doctrine! He is spiritually perceptive to sound doctrine! Lastly, the father is more mature than the child and the young man because the father in the faith has both a biblical and experiential understanding of God in his life. My point is that young men and fathers can discern truth from error; they are wise to Satan’s schemes. Babes are not. Accordingly, how do you score your spiritual maturity?
Again, Ephesians 4:5 states there is one Lord, and one faith.… Is not Paul declaring this to the “recovering from false doctrine Church at Ephesus” in large part to set straight and defend the purity of the faith from erroneous faith? That is precisely the same purpose in Jude’s epistle wherein he calls the Church to build yourselves up on your most holy faith… (v. 20). Build (epoikodomeo) literally means, “to build a house.”
Could you compete in a congressional or a senatorial election if you hadn’t first prepared?
How can you succeed as a believer if you do not prepare yourself with Scriptural truth? Peter adds perspective as he underscores this same idea in his epistle to believers, charging them to always being ready to make a defense… (1 Peter 3:15b). Defense (apologia) can be translated as “answer.” The English word “apologetics” comes from this Greek word, which means “the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity.” Combined, Jude and Peter charge believers to build themselves up with answers in order to maintain the message of the gospel that is biblically accurate and salvific to the souls of individuals!
These aforementioned passages—and their sheer volume regarding the importance of sound doctrine—serve to illustrate the necessity of ministries and ministers in the capital being about the same!
False worship brought a curse on Israel in the Old Testament. How important then is it that ministers and ministries on the Hill be characterized by sound doctrine?
It follows that God hates false doctrine and that false teachers who teach a false saving faith actually serve to harm not only the spiritual life of individuals but also the health of a nation. It is essential to God blessing our nation! What then are the implications of the faith relative to a teacher’s efficacious ministry on the Hill? I see at least three significant points:
A. THE PUBLIC SERVANT MUST KNOW SOUND DOCTRINE
Ephesians 4:14–15 says: As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.
One commentator states well the intent of this passage:
Spiritually immature believers who are not grounded in the knowledge of Christ through God’s Word are inclined to uncritically accept every sort of beguiling doctrinal error and fallacious interpretation of Scripture promulgated by deceitful, false teachers in the Church. They must learn discernment.
What a really good, powerful quote! 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 echoes this warning to know sound doctrine from false doctrine, i.e., examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Similar to the public servant’s scrupulous analysis of every new bill presented in committee, the believer in the capital must examine the veracity of every proffered philosophy. How? Colossians 3:16 states:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another…
The mature-in-Christ public servant is characterized by his or her motive and discipline for studying the Word of God. No longer is he or she dominated by a “what’s-in-this-book-for-me?” idea of God’s Word, or “What devotional thought might it have for me today?” That is all fine and good, but a personal quest for Scripture must go way beyond that mindset. In order to best do the job of serving our nation, the public servant must possess an attitude of, “How can I learn the Word in order to ascertain truth from error?” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:2). There must be more to our pursuit of Bible study than self-help; we pursue Bible study in order to gain and maintain sound doctrine.
B. HE MUST BE ABLE TO DISCERN TRUTH FROM ERROR
Here is second implication of the faith to a believer on the Hill. First John 4:1 says:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
This attitude characterized the Christians residing in Berea. Luke cites their craving and discernment regarding God’s truth saying:
They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11b).
The word test (dokimazo) in 1 John 4:1 stems from the world of metallurgy, signifying the discipline of assaying the purity and value of metals. Similarly, believers need to test all doctrinal teachings against the Word of God, possessing a critical eye of approval or rejection in a spirit of love, not self-righteousness. Quickly I might add, critical judgment when based in a genuine love for people is not a negative characteristic. We assay nearly everything in life—from donut shops to marriage partners. What then is wrong with judging Bible teachers and their teachings according to the Scripture? After all, spiritual teachings harbor eternal destinies!
Matthew 24:5 and 11 add still more to our understanding of this matter:
For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many … many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.
The very nature of being misled or deceived is one’s failure to realize it, which stems from an underlying ignorance or naiveté of and concerning the Word of God.
In Acts 20:29 Luke records Paul as having said to the Ephesian elders before their failing encounter with false teachers:
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Even though Paul warned the Church leaders to be on the alert (v. 31a), and even though he had spent three years building them up in the faith (v. 31b), years later they were still deceived by false doctrine! Subsequent to the takeover by the false teachers, Paul handed Timothy the keys to the Ephesian Church. In 1 Timothy 1:20, we find that Paul did not tolerate this and threw them out! To possess the personal and theological ability to ascertain spiritual truth from error is, therefore, a very important matter! Remember:
To the degree that Satan is clever and beguiling is the degree believers need to be wise and discerning.
C. HE MUST BE ABLE TO CONFRONT ERROR
The third implication of the faith to the believer in the capital means not only does he know sound doctrine and is able to discern truth from error, but that he is not passive. He is courageous in his confronting of false doctrine. 2 Corinthians 10:5 states in this regard:
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Here again this verse reveals the aggressive character that is biblically appropriate in the war against false doctrine. In Hosea 4:6, God said of the spiritual leaders of Israel:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.…
This passage also applies to believers today. God expects His followers to be loyal to Him! He does not look kindly upon believers who take an apathetic or passive view relative to defending the faith! Mature followers of Christ are not to be ignorant nor cowardly, sitting passively by in the locker room while Satan’s false teachers run the field! In 1 Timothy 1:18 Paul says to Timothy:
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophesies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight.
Paul is charging Timothy to remember he is called of God to be a fighter for the faith. Every believer is called to protect the purity of true saving faith, which is this: for each of us to put our trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin.
In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul echoes the same directive: Fight the good fight of faith. The word fight (agonizomai) is the root from which the English word agonize is derived, which means “to contend perseveringly against opposition and temptation.” It refers to the concentration, discipline and extreme effort needed to win. In a larger sense, the good fight of faith refers to the spiritual conflict with darkness—a fight in which all mature believers are engaged.
Finally, Paul provides Timothy with capstone insights into successfully entering and winning the battle for the faith. 2 Timothy 1:13–14 states:
Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
These are two of my favorite verses, and I think they sum up one of the most poignant aspects of leadership in God’s work. Guard (phulax) means “to protect.” Paul refers to the faith as a trust of which Timothy is to be a protector. The word entrusted is comprised of two roots, para “with” and tithemi “to put.” Combined they mean “to put with” or a “deposit.”
He calls the faith the treasure. God has placed with us, i.e., put with us a treasure, and we are to guard it! Herein is a beautiful picture portraying a tremendously serious responsibility. Properly understood this trust means every believer—especially one who is a leader—has a sacred responsibility to be a “protector of the deposit.” That responsibility implies warding off those who attempt to steal the treasure.
Knowing our biblically mandated responsibilities, may we meditate on the gravity and sobering importance of every believer having been entrusted with the faith! Like all believers, we should crave sound doctrine and possess antennas for error; we must steadfastly guard and protect the purity of the faith. Remember it was our Lord who said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father but through me” ( John 14:6). Make no mistake here; every believer has been entrusted to protect and convey the singularity of true saving faith!
We cannot expect there to be healthy Christians in the capital community if we do not first insist on biblically accurate ministers and ministries!
Failing at this point means those who are charged with civil government leadership will be less than spiritually healthy and therefore less than effective in leading our great nation. Let us not compromise but insist on only the best in terms of Bible teachers and Bible teaching in our midst—if for no other reason than the health of the nation! Amen.