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Faith Of Our Fathers: Unity Produced By Christian Doctrine

Friday, April 15th, 2011


Originally published in Uplook magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2011.

Western nations celebrate different belief systems in order to accommodate the disparate races, cultures, and people-types that coexist within their borders. In everyday life, politically correct speech and philosophical relativism combine to make people studiously avoid discussing subjects that are the most important to them, thereby averting controversy. Likewise, conventional wisdom advises one to steer clear of discussions on politics, religion, or worldviews, for they almost certainly result in unpleasantness. By abstaining from discussions of strongly held views, the tenuous admixture of divergent groups mostly holds, at least providing the veneer of peace.

Christianity, on the other hand, demands confrontation and engagement in the rough and tumble issues of life. To become a Christian one must deal with the most depressing reality about oneself: one’s personal sin and guilt in the eyes of a holy God. Unity is achieved by leveling the field of human distinction. That is, all have sinned, all need the Saviour (Rom. 3:23.) People of every kindred, tribe, and tongue are redeemed by the same blood. They place their confidence in the same Lord. Unity comes not by looking to oneself and one’s personal characteristics; rather it stems from adherence to the same body of teachings, known in the New Testament as “the faith” (Eph. 4:5; for other usages of “faith” in this sense see Acts 6:7; 1 Tim. 1:2; 4:1, etc.) These doctrines are the substance of Christian belief, linking the saints to Christ their Head, as well as to one another (Eph. 4:13-15.)

Defining Faith

Of course, faith is a common word, occurring 244 times in the Greek New Testament.[i] Often it refers to belief, such as in God the Father or the Lord Jesus (e.g. Mt. 8:10; Rom. 3:28.) Other times it is used of “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness” (e.g. Rom. 3:3, NKJV.) While some expositors hold that it refers to the first type of faith, in the context of Ephesians 4 it makes more sense to take it in the second sense.[ii] As Ironside puts it: “This is not the faith by which we are saved, but the faith of the Christian Church, the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is the one standard of truth that God has given to be proclaimed in the world, it is that which the apostle calls the faith. Faith in Christ is confidence in Jesus, but the faith is the body of the Christian doctrine.”[iii] It is used in the New Testament approximately 28 times in this manner (some of the references are debatable as to which of the meanings of “faith” are in view.)

The Content Of The Faith

The teaching that comprises “the faith” is multifaceted and covers every aspect of life for time and eternity. Its doctrines begin with the truth that there is one God (1 Tim. 2:5), existing in three co-equally divine persons (Jn. 14-17, etc.) He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Mt. 22:32), who inspired the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the New Testament writings (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21; 3:15-16; Jn. 14:25; 16:12-14.) Jesus is God the Son, as well as the only impeccable and perfect man (1 Tim. 3:16.) The Father and the Spirit are also God (Jn. 14:16-17, 23; Mt. 28:19.)

The triune God works in complete harmony to work out His purposes in this age and in the one to come (Eph. 1:1-14.) For example, each member of the Trinity played an integral role in the saving work of the cross: the Father sent (Rom. 8:31-32), the Son shed His blood (Eph. 1:7), and was offered up by “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14.) The Father and the Spirit marked out Jesus as the Son at His baptism (Mt. 3:16-17.) Similarly, each member of the Trinity is associated with the resurrection of Christ (Jn. 10:18; Acts 2:32; Rom. 1:4.)

In Christ Alone

The faith also includes the message of salvation by faith in Christ alone (Jn. 3:16; 5:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 15:1-10; Rom 3; Eph. 2:8-9, etc.) This saving work includes justification (being declared right by God), sanctification (being made holy by God, positionally and practically), and glorification with Christ in resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-57; Rom. 8:11, 17-25.) It frees the believer from the tyranny of sin and the doom of future eternal punishment in the lake of fire. It also assures him of the return of Christ to receive His own people unto Himself (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Thes. 4) and eventually, to inaugurate His thousand year reign on earth (Rev. 19.) Finally, the faith teaches the ultimate triumph and manifestation of God in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Rev. 21-22.)

The faith assures the saints that they are part of the Church, the one body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23.) He is their head, and they are members together, having received spiritual gifts for the edification of the body and the glory of God (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Eph. 4.) The church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and a lampstand (Rev. 2-3) for testimony; “a spiritual temple” for worship (Eph. 2:21-22), “a vine” (Jn. 15) for bearing fruit unto God. In short, the church is designed by God to function for His glory primarily and the saints’ good secondarily.

On an individual level, Christians are saved for the purpose of knowing, serving, and pleasing God (Jn. 17:3; Php. 2:13-14.) They are to be witnesses to the lost (Mk. 16:15; 1 Pet. 3:15.) They are also taught to be diligent and trustworthy workers (Eph. 6:5-6.) What is more, believers are instructed to live by a holy ethic (e.g. Col. 3:5-21.) In the Christian life, God’s approval is what is sought above all else (2 Tim. 2:15.) The truths revealed in the faith demand that saints become living sacrifices for the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2.)

Unity Based On Truth

The unity of God’s people is centered in the Almighty’s person and will as revealed in the faith. It gives many practical instructions for believers in this age. The substance of the doctrines of the faith is perfectly revealed in the Old and New Testaments; therefore, the saints are to be “people of the Book.” Their sole manual for belief and practice must be the Bible. To add human traditions as authoritative is to jeopardize the practical cohesion of the Lord’s people.

Because the faith is constantly under attack by the world, the flesh, and the devil, Jude 3 exhorts Christians to “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” It is only as the church defends, loves, and obeys God’s truth that they will maintain true unity. False doctrine is a rapid highway to disunity (e.g. 1 Cor. 1.) The world has long sought a way to unite different races, cultures, and nations. However, only the unadulterated word of God will bind people with different histories and demographics together. As they are transformed by God’s powerful Word, individuals of varying backgrounds find oneness in their mutual identity in Christ.






[i]Maurice Robinson, Elzevir Textus Receptus (1624): With Morphology. Electronic ed. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002.

[ii] It is true that there is only one type of faith that saves: confidence in God’s provision in Christ alone; that is a subjective usage of faith. The objective sense seems to fit better with the “one Lord” and “one baptism.” Many commentators, such as William Kelly agree; see Kelly, Lectures On The Epistle Of Paul, The Apostle, To The Ephesians; pp. 155-156; electronic ed. Galaxie Software, 2004 (Logos.)

[iii] H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies : Practical Expository Addresses on the Epistle to the Ephesians. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1937, p. 178; electronic ed. (Logos.)

Book Recommendation

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I recommend this new book by my friend & brother in Christ, Joe-Paul Swinski. It is available here:  -KRK

From GFP’s website:

The Battleground of Rational Fear
By: Joe-Paul Swinski

“And yet we are saved…”

This refrain plays through my mind as I encounter struggles in my own life and see them in the life of so many Christians who are near and dear to me. We all took that step of faith where we proclaimed we were helplessly dead in our sins and could do nothing but call out to the God of Heaven and Earth to save us and bring us into an eternal relationship with Him. We took that step of faith and maybe we thought that everything else would fall into place. The growing pains I experienced when I realized that God would neither remove me from the battle that is life, nor give me the victory over every struggle I faced the first day I was saved is still fresh in my mind. Listening to a respected leader in our church who I go to for advice and encouragement, I was sternly reminded that the road of faith and dependence on God does not end with salvation. “How were you saved,” he asked. “By faith,” I replied. “And do you think we no longer live by faith now that we are saved?” “No, I guess not.” This book is a collection of the lessons I learned as I came to realize this most basic truth.  — from the Preface

Each chapter in this book will start off with a corresponding key verse. Appropriately, the key verse for the whole book is Proverbs 3:5. As you read through the pages that follow, I want you to ask yourself: “How would I act if I truly obeyed this verse?”

Faith & Love That Cling

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” Ruth 1:14
The verse above presents a beautiful picture of devoted faith and love. After the tragedy of losing her husband and two sons Naomi desperately abandoned Moab for her homeland in Bethlehem, where there were stories of renewed prosperity. Years before, hardship drove her family from the land of Israel, the place of God’s provision and blessing – beloved Eretz Israel, as a Hebrew would habitually call it, thereby indicating that no other land was like the one given to them by the Lord. In spite of his pious-sounding name, when famine stalked the land Elimelechi decamped for Gentile territory in search of a fruitful way of life. Of course the adverse agricultural situation reflected the spiritual departure within the nation itself. These were the days of the Judges, when “…there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25.) God had forewarned the Israelites of the dire discipline that would befall them if they departed from serving Him and turned to idols. Conversely, He promised to bless their land and give them the early and latter rains which were essential for fecundity (Deut. 11:13-17.) If they did turn from the Lord, the remedy would be found in heartfelt repentance, rather than in fleeing to greener pastures in neighboring nations. (Abraham’s woeful experience during a famine in Genesis 12:10-20 demonstrated the folly of going elsewhere during hard times.) Sadly, Elimelech led his family to nearby Moab to their cost.

God’s Unfailing Mercy Confronts Human Failure
Despite the human failure evidenced in what befell Elimelech’s family, God was working to bless the widows Naomi and Ruth. Through this destitute pair He would also bring about unlikely benefits to Israel extending to David’s time and beyond to the line of the Messiah, Christ Jesus Himself. Although Moabites were ordinarily prohibited from reception into the congregation unto the tenth generation, the Lord graciously received Ruth into Israel and used her as an ancestress of the Christ (Deut. 23:3; Matt. 1:5.) At the time of Ruth chapter 1, however, things looked much bleaker to the three grieving widows.
Thinking practically, Naomi strongly urged her two daughters-in-law to return to their parents’ homes, where they would have better prospects of finding new husbands. Conventional wisdom would say this was sound strategy for there were few other economic possibilities for widows in those days; they were among society’s most vulnerable members. The New English Translation graphically depicts the women’s response: “Again they wept loudly. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung tightly to her” (Ruth 1:14, emphasis mine.) As one of the translator’s remarks in a study note: “Orpah is a commendable and devoted person (see v. 8); after all she is willing to follow Naomi back to Judah. However, when Naomi bombards her with good reasons why she should return, she relents. But Ruth is special. Despite Naomi’s bitter
tirade, she insists on staying. Orpah is a good person, but Ruth is beyond good – she possesses an extra measure of devotion and sacrificial love that is uncommon.”ii Putting it succinctly, Ruth possessed the love and faith that cling.
Holding On For Dear, Eternal Life
The faith that is of eternal value is confidence in the true and living God. As Hebrews 11:6 expresses it: “…he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”iii Trust in Him is never misplaced, for He is true and faithful (Deut. 7:9.) Ruth looked beyond self-effort and human aid to the Lord, who is merciful and able to save. Accordingly she clung to her mother-in-law, her only link to Israel’s God.
Those who are born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have an enduring type of faith, which is illustrated by Ruth’s actions. It clings to the Lord in life’s storms, forsaking the easy pathway for a life of trust in the Lord. Believers from ancient times to the present day endure persecution, illness, humiliation, material privation, and all manner of tribulations. Nevertheless, they bear it with God’s help, and cling to the Lord who will faithfully complete the new creation He has begun in them (Phil. 1:6; 2 Cor. 5:17.) They love Him who first loved them, and walk through the valley of the shadow of death by His gentle leading (1 Jn. 4:9-10; Psa. 23:4.) Sometimes in hard circumstances all they can do is cling – just hang on to the Lord as the clouds pass overhead. In clinging to Him, the Christian has an unmovable rock. What is more, He will never let go of His people (Jn. 10:27-30.)
i Elimelech literally means “My God is king” in Hebrew – an ironic name under the circumstances, seeing that he ignored God’s word & fled to enemy territory in troubled times.
iiThe NET Bible First Edition (Biblical Studies Press, 2006.) ; emphasis mine.

iii Verses appear in the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.