Monday, 11 November 2013

The Faithfulness of God (1)

The attribute of faithfulness is one by which God describes himself. Just as some Bible verses say that God is love or God is light (holy), so other verses say that God is faithful. They include 1 Corinthians 1:9: ‘God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,’ and 1 Corinthians 10:13: ‘No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.’ In order to understand his faithfulness, we should consider it in connection to who he is (his character) and what he does (his covenant).

As far as his character is concerned, we have to relate his faithfulness to his other attributes. For example, there is a close connection between God’s truth and his faithfulness. Both mean that God cannot lie. Because he must always be truthful, it means that God is always consistent. Since he was faithful to his people in the past, he will be faithful to them in the present and the future because he is constant. This means that God is reliable.

Further, this attribute of faithfulness points to his uniqueness because there is no other person of whom this unchanging outlook can be said. Even the best of believers can fail, yet as Paul comments in 2 Timothy 2:13: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself.’

Having made those comments we also need to recognise that God’s faithfulness is one of his communicable attributes. He has some attributes that only he can possess, such as omnipresence and omniscience. But his faithfulness can be duplicated in our Christian lives and he requires us to live in a faithful manner.

If we were asked to describe faithfulness, we would use words such as steadfastness, loyalty, permanent commitment, trustworthy. All these features are true of God. We can see them in the various ways that God has revealed himself. He reveals his faithfulness in creation, in the regularity of the seasons and in the provision of food. He reveals his faithfulness in his covenant, made in eternity in which he promised to bless a vast number of Christians and bring them to heaven. He reveals his faithfulness in the church, in maintaining its existence and providing its sustenance. He reveals his faithfulness to every Christian in giving salvation, in the senses of salvation from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin and from the presence of sin.

So we can sum up God’s faithfulness as his commitment to his own person, his people, his purpose and his promises. Arthur Pink wrote regarding the faithfulness of God: ‘Far above all finite comprehension is the unchanging faithfulness of God. Everything about God is great, vast, incomparable. He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His word. To every declaration of promise or prophecy the Lord has exactly adhered, every engagement of covenant or threatening He will make good, for “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). Therefore does the believer exclaim, “His compassions fail not, they are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22, 23).’

Some of the images used of God in the Bible highlight his faithfulness. For example, he is likened to a shepherd who is committed to finding, guarding and providing for each of his sheep until he brings them all to heaven. He is the gardener who continually works in the soil of his people’s hearts, producing fruit and getting rid of the weeds. He is the metalworker who continues to purify each believer of dross, and keeps at it until he accomplishes his purpose. As Paul says in Philippians 1:6: ‘I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’

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