Monday, February 20, 2017

Faith Works

Faith Works

Faith works!  These are two simple words with profound significance.  Real saving faith changes the way we live our lives including the focus and priorities of our lives.  The fact that real saving faith changes the way we see life in our relationship to God is the evident reality of the four examples of continuing faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. 

Abel – saving faith continues in the purity of worship of God
Enoch – saving faith continues in the purity of walk with God
Noah – saving faith continues in diligent work for God
Abraham – saving faith continues in consistent witness for God

Real saving faith will be evidenced by continuing in these four areas of faithfulness.  Real faith understands that we live and exist before the omnipotent and omniscient presence of God.  He knows all that we are, sees all that we do, and hears all that we say.  There is nothing about us that is hidden from God.  There are no secret sins of which God does not know intimately.  There is no place we might harbor our secret hatred or the wickedness of unforgiveness.  God knows the “thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  God has saved us through faith, recreated us “in Christ,” and miraculously given to us all that we need for a living faith.  Peter, Paul, and James write explicitly regarding the supernatural inward transformation of life and priorities in the transition from real saving faith to real working or living faith. 

1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ {the impartation of the righteousness of God and Christ in the Person of the indwelling Holy Spirit}: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge {intimate, full, personal, practical, relational knowledge; not just intellectual knowledge} of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power {now dwelling within us in the Person of the Holy Spirit} hath given {once for all; perfect tense, passive voice; participle} unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him {intimate, full, personal, practical, relational knowledge; not just intellectual knowledge} that hath called us to {dia – denoting the channel of an act through which something flows; therefore through or by God’s} glory {to live with godly dignity in constant praise and worship of God} and virtue {the significance here is the believers works with God as partners and is not merely commanded to do what God says to do apart from God’s help}: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be {potentially dependent upon choice} partakers {partners} of the divine nature {the God-life has been breathed into the believer}, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:1-4).

Salvation of the soul through saving faith is merely a new beginning of a life of faith – faith that works.  We must be careful to distinguish between the corruption of salvation through faith in “the works of the Law” (Galatians 2:16) and between the “works” that come forth from a regenerated life enabled by the indwelling Spirit.  Confusing these issues has corrupted the doctrine of salvation “by grace” (Ephesians 2:8) and the doctrine of grace enabling (Galatians 3:1-5) in more ways than we could possibly explain except in a general way.  Trusting in the “works of the Law” is to corrupt salvation “by grace” creating thousands upon thousands of false testimonies of salvation and false Christians.  Trusting in the “works of the Law” to be sanctified before God apart from a grace enabled life is to corrupt the operations of the Spirit of God in more way than we can imagine.  This is the substance of Ephesians 2:4-10. 

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) {perfect, passive, participle} 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages {the Kingdom Age and the New Heaven/Earth} to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved {perfect, passive, participle} through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is {salvation} the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

          Ephesians chapter two begins with the word “and” revealing that this is a continuation of chapter one.  However, the emphasis changes from what is available to the believer-priest from God’s blessings to the responsibilities of the believer priest in his vocational calling (Ephesians 1:18 and 4:4).  We are immediately confronted with a syntactical inconsistency (anacoluthon).  Ephesians 2:1 begins with “you” and then shifts in the syntax from singular to the plural (“ye”), or to the collective of believers, through the rest of the text down through verse ten.  This is critically important to our understanding of Ephesians 2:4-10.  The syntax of Ephesians 2:1 shows that salvation is viewed individually.  However, once a person is saved, a believer moves into a family relationship with God and is viewed within a collective perspective from that point forward in his life.  This collective perspective is specific to the vocational ministry (Ephesians 4:1) of the priesthood of all believers under our High Priest Jesus Christ.  This is critically important to all believers as we see our vocational moral responsibilities in the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) from God’s perspective united together as a spiritual family unit in a local church.  The local church is the medium (green-house) in which saving faith is intended to grow into a vibrant living faith, which is the substance of Ephesians chapter four.  

          God’s whole ministry of redemption is an outworking of His love that provides His loving and enabling grace first works in the salvation and regeneration of sinners “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  Therefore, the priesthood of every believer demands that all work of the ministry be a continuum of that loving grace as the believer proclaims the love of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every believer-priest is a walking miracle of New Creation.  Every believer-priest has been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”  The “good works” of Ephesians 2:10 must be the supernatural overflow of the filling of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18) manifesting the overflow in the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) – “22b love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted {implying the necessity of stability} and grounded {having foundations} in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

          There is no stability in any relationship that is not “rooted and grounded in love.”  This is certainly true of our intimate and personal working relationship with God.  Without the grace of love, the first conflict that comes along dissolves the relationship with the acid of bitterness and resentment.  God-kind love, or self-sacrificing love, understands the constant potential for failure because we are by nature fallen and corrupted beings.  Therefore, God-kind love understands the absolute necessity of giving forgiveness.  The very nature of forgiveness is the loving gift of a new beginning to someone that deserves it no more than you deserve God’s grace.  This is why God describes “the love of Christ” as an act of grace that “passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).  The love Christ gives is incomprehensible because we cannot possibly understand the holiness of God.  Therefore, it should be much easier for us to understand the gift of love in giving forgiveness because we need God’s forgiveness so often.  How dare we not give forgiveness to others as freely as God gives it to us? 

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-7).

          There is no excuse for being unloving or unforgiving.  “Every one of us is given grace” (Ephesians 4:7).  Every one of us has God’s indwelling Spirit and His supernatural enabling to be as loving and forgiving as is God.  Every one of us is to forbear “one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).  The word “forbearing” is from the Greek word anechomai (an-ekh'-om-ahee).  It simply means to put up with.  However, the qualifying term is that we are to love while we are putting up with that brother or sister “in Christ” that gets to our flesh.  Certainly, this does not merely mean to tolerate someone.  Loving someone speaks to the issues that annoy us or cause the tension, which leads us to the next good work in the admonition in Ephesians chapter four –we are to speak “the truth in love.”

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith {doctrine, purpose, and practice}, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

          Love without truth is like sugared medicine without the medicine.  Truth without love is like the sickening taste of the chemicals in medicine without the sweeteners that make it palatable.  Granted, truth has value apart from love, but it is often rejected because of the way it is presented.  If I were lovingly convinced that I was dying, I would gladly take a medicine that would save my life regardless of how bad it tasted.
A person can be told that he is acting like a stupid jerk.  In doing so, the probability is that such a person would just act more like a stupid jerk.  Or, a person could privately be told that he is being very offensive and that people will reject him if he does not change his mannerisms.  Even how he is informed of that is important.  There is a difference between a head-to-head confrontation and a come alongside confrontation.  There is a difference between a finger-in-your-face confrontation and a gentle, reasoning appeal to consider your admonition.  True biblical love is ALWAYS a “fruit of the Spirit,” – produced through the filling of the Spirit.  We are not talking about man-kind love.  We are talking about God-kind love.  This is a major part of a working or living faith.  

          Secondly, according to Ephesians 4:10, the connecting spiritual dynamic to local church unity, and local church growth is God-kind love.  “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure {individual provision} of every part {individual Christian}, maketh increase of the body {the local church} unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).  The word “edifying” is from the Greek word oikodome (oy-kod-om-ay').  It refers to a domed or crowned temple referring more to the architecture or structure of something.  This term is used to describe local churches made up of living stones of “born again” believers (and ultimately to the Church in prospect, which is the Church of the Kingdom Age).  The “increase of the body” is the building up of the spiritual temple of God with living stones through evangelism and discipleship (shaping of the stones).  This “work of the ministry” MUST be done “in love.”  Only through the spiritual dynamic of supernatural God-kind love produced as fruit of the filling of the Holy Spirit can individual Christians be used of God to build God’s oikodome (oy-kod-om-ay' – living Temple.

          In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul introduces the all-encompassing commandment recording biblical love.  1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”  The word “walk” is from the Greek word peripateo (per-ee-pat-eh'-o).  The word is present tense, active voice, and imperative mood.  It might be translated as you are walking around doing your stuff, maintain an attitude of self-sacrifice.  The imperative mood means it is a command from God.  To fail to maintain an attitude of self-sacrifice is to be living in disobedience.  God is concerned with our hearts – what motivates us in our obedience.

The book of James was probably one of the first epistles written.  It defines and answers the basic question of Christianity - what is faith?  Real faith is always a faith that acts upon what it believes.  In this sense, it can be said that real faith works.  The right kind of “works” reveal true faith.  For instance, real saving faith acts upon the Gospel it believes through five verbs – repentance, believe, confess, call, and receive.  Faith that does not act upon the Gospel through these five action verbs is not saving faith.  Saving faith is the faith that justifies.  These five action verbs are the substance (Hebrews 11:1) of saving faith. 
However, James 2:14-20 is teaching about working faith once a person is “born again” as an expectation of the reality of salvation.  Saving faith is a living faith and a living faith manifests itself through works; ministry in truth and through sacrificial love!  There is a transformation of the will and the priorities of life that accompanies real saving faith.  In other words, there must be the same types of definitive substance to living or working faith as there is with saving faith. 
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-20)?

The fact that real saving faith works is equally true of sanctifying faith.  In Hebrews chapter eleven, Abel is the example of saving faith.  Enoch is the example of sanctifying faith.  The action verbs of sanctifying faith are reckon and yield (Romans 6:11-13).  Sanctifying faith is a life lived in cooperative synergism with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The Bible word for this synergism, or partnership in holiness, is “fellowship.”  Without these two verbs of sanctifying faith, the Christian life is reduced to a legalistic form of will-power sanctification produced through the power of the “flesh.  This is the opposite of a life of grace through faith.  Therefore, reckoning the “old man” to be “crucified with Christ” is necessary before a believer can yield to the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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