Faith and Faithfulness
by Joseph Franks
Saving faith leads to sanctified faithfulness, and this is the patten of all who are members of the household of faith.
These two aspects — saving faith and sanctified faithfulness — ought not be combined as many do in certain religious communities. One is not gradually converted by faithfulness. The declaration of righteousness given by God is not slowly infused. To the contrary, those who are converted are instantaneous and fully declared righteous, and this is by faith alone. One does not do faithful works in order to become justified. (i.e. Roman Catholicism) One does not do faithful works in order to keep themselves justified. (I.e. Protestant Arminianism) No, saving faith is not to be confused with sanctified faithfulness. These two are not to be separated, but neither are they to be mixed. Saving faith results in an immediate, total, and permanent declaration or righteousness made by the Heavenly Judge. Sanctified faithfulness is progressive work accomplished by God and man as they journey through life together.
However, these two aspects of the Christian’s journey — saving faith and sanctified faithfulness — cannot be divorced. All who are converted by the Holy Spirit are changed by him as well. The change may be slow or sudden. Believers may pursue holiness by taking one step forward and then two steps back. Backsliding followed by recognition and repentance seem to be the norm for most — at least for me. Yet, one may not divorce sanctification from justification. (I.e. Antinomianism) All who really have saving faith really show forth sanctified faithfulness.
And such is the testimony of Hebrews 11. Here one sees a catalog of sanctified faithfulness flowing from those saved by faith:
- Able worshiped acceptable; he offered sacrifices according to God’s regulations.
- Enoch walked with God.
- Noah preached to his neighbors and constructed an ark for his family and pets.
- Abraham relocated according to the revelation of God.
- Sarah presented her aged body to her God and her husband seeking to bear a promised son.
- Abraham prepared his heart and hand to sacrifice his beloved son.
- Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, amidst many failures, passed along the sacred covenant and holy religion to their sons.
- Moses’ parents aided him by obeying God and disobeying pagan leadership.
- Moses chose God and his church of Pharaoh and his court.
- Moses and the Israelites worshiped acceptably; they offered acceptable sacrifices and kept the required rituals.
- Moses and the Israelites walked confidently; straight into the parted sea and around the walls of Jericho they marched.
- Rahab, who was declared righteous, forsook her sin and her city in order to worship with the people of God.
- Gideon went to war according to the odd commands of the Commander.
- Barak trusted in God and relied on God’s prophetess.
- Samson and Jephthah, two other inconsistent saints, went to war for the maligned children of God.
- David sought to shepherd well those placed under his care.
- Samuel and the prophets, without flenching, preached faithfully the unaltered word of God.
- Etc … Etc … There are many who “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:33-38)
So, how should we respond to this? I think the sacred Scripture says it clearly enough:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so hat was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Let us acknowledge true heroes and heroines. In Scripture, in heaven, on the throne above, and around us on this earth, we are surrounded by men and women who are saved by faith and proving it by sanctified faithfulness. Let us praise the Lord for their example. Let us pray for an encourage them. And let us seek to be found on their list of commendation.
Let us so long for faithfulness that we are willing to get rid of that which encourages faithlessness. Let us separate from wrong relationships. Let us pluck out eyes and sever appendages. Let us flee from sin and pray that we might not be further tempted. There are “weights” that we ought not carry. Let us trim down for Christ.
Let us not quit. Perseverance is a mark of a Christian. So, though Satan may be crafty, our world may be tempting, our flesh may be susceptible, and our track-record spotty, let us keep going and make more progress. Faith and Faithfulness were marks of men like Joseph, Samuel, and Daniel. They seemed to be so consistent and solid. May we seek to walk in such a manner. But faith and faithfulness were also marks of men like Lot, Samson, and David as well. They fell hard. They disappointed their Savior. They brought shame upon the church. But they recognized, repented, and marched on. Let us not quit but pursue faithful holiness with a renewed passion this coming year.