THE FAITH OF CHRIST
A PRECIOUS BLESSING
TOO FEW BELIEVERS APPRECIATE
PASTOR CORNELIUS R. STAM
It is amazing that so few of God's people understand the simple significance of one of the most precious phrases in the Pauline epistles: "The Faith of Christ".
The apostle uses this phrase no less than seven times in his letters to the saints, yet the vast majority of believers today fail utterly to understand, yea, een misunderstand its wonderful meaning.
As the emphasis in evangelism today is placed upon man rather than upon God, so has the truth about faith in Christ been gien the precedence over the truth about "the faith of Christ", until it has all but crowded it out.
TWO ASPECTS OF FAITH
The Scriptures speak of faith in two ways: objectiely and subjectively. Objectively faith is simply trust in another, or in what another had said or done. It moves toward an object. But subjectively faith is the character which constitutes one worthy of trust. Objectively faith is associated with what one does; he believes in another. Subjectively it is a quality one possessess: fidelity, dependability, worthiness to be believed in. Tus, if I have faith in you, you had better keep faith with me or I can no longer trust you. Any complete English dictionary will give these definitions of the word "faith"and the same is true of its Greek equialent, pistis.
The Scriptures also speak of "the faith": that which is to be believed ( I Corinthians 16:13) but for the present we confine our discussion to faith in its two-fold significance as shown above.
The adjective "faithful"in both English and Greek, is also used in these two ways.
Abraham is called "faithful"because he believed God implicitly ( Galatians 3:6,9). He was faithful, abounding in faith toward God.
But on the other hand, God is called faithful, not because He believes in others, but because He is true to His Word. Thus we may believe what He says, because "He is faithful that promised"( Hebrews 10:23). Abraham is called faithful in the objective sense; God is called faithful in the subjective sense. Abraham was "faithful" toward God and God proved "faithful" to him.
The Scriptures have mucht to say about objective faith. For example, in Romans 4 we read that ".....Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (verse 3)
"'............TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH ON HIM THAT JUSTIFIETH THE UNGODLY, HIS FAITH IS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS"( verse 5).
This is the objective aspect of faith; trust in another or in what another has said or done.
But the Scriptures, expecially Paul's epistles also have much to say about subjectie faith. For example, we read in Romans 3:3 the following verse:
"What if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make THE FAITH OF GOD without effect?"
Here "the faith of God"is clearly His fidelity. His worthiness to be believed. The apostle says, in effect: "Waht if some refused to trust Him, doe that affect His perfect trustworthiness?" This same truth is stated in II Timothy 2:13, though in somewhat different phraseology: "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful"; i.e., though we fail to trust Him, yet He remains infinitely worthy of our trust.
A good example of subjective faith, or the lack of it is found in II Thessalonians 3:2, where Paul asks for prayer
"-------that we may be DELIVERED from UNREASONABLE and WICKED MEN; for ALL MEN HAVE NOT FAITH"
The apostle surely does not refer here to those who did not believe in Christ, but to those who themselves were not to be trusted; ünreasonable"and "wicked"men, from whom he needed to be "delivered".
THE FAITH OF CHRIST
As we have pointed out, the "faith of Christ"is referred to seven times in the Pauline epistles. let us now examine these passages and see how our (objective) "faith". It would be foolish of us to "exercise faith"in one who did not "keep faith"; to be "faith-full" toward one who was not faithfull. Conversely, we believe that were the "faith of Christ"given greater emphasis in our preaching, more people would exercise "faith in Christ", both for salvation and spiritual blessing.
"But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise,
by FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST, might be given to them that believe
It should be carefully noted that this passage does not refer to the historical act of God in concluding all in
unbelief, as does Romans 11:32, but rather to the fact that the Scriptures had long ago concluded all under
sin ( e.g. Psalm 53:2-3).
Thus also the "promise"in Galatians 3:22, evidently refers to the centrl promise of redemption, for as the mystereis of
Paul's epistles revolve around a central "mystery", so the promises of the Old Testament Scriptures revolve around a
central promise; that of redemption.
The point here is that since man could not accomplish his own redemption, the Scriptures concluded all under sin so that the thing promised might be given to believers by the "faith of Christ", i.e., His perfect fidelity.
That this phrase does not refer to man's faith in Christ is evident from the fact that man's fiath in Him is referred to in a
separate clause at the end of the verse: "them that believe". Those who "believe"receive redemption by, or on the basis of, His "faith", or fidelity.
Perhaps "His promise, in Ephesians 3:6, refers to the promise God made to Himself with regard to believers
before the world began ( Titus 1:2) but be that as it may, this passage also teaches that Gentile believers, are
made "joint heirs"with Jewish believers, in a "joint body", and "partakers fo His promise IN CHRIST by the Gospel"
This is another way of saying that our salvation is based on what Christ has done and what He is.
Thus our faith in Christ, necessary as it is to salvation, must always be secondary to "the faith of Christ.
We can place our trust in HIm only because He is so infinitely trustworthy.
With regard to the righteousness which believers possess in the sight of God, Paul places great emphasis on the fact that this is conferred upon us because of the fidelity of Christ, not because we proved true to God.
After demonstrating the impotence of the law to save the sinner, the apostle goes on to say, in Romans 3:21-22.
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested....even the righteousness of God WHICH IS BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST..."
And to emphasize the fact that he does not here refer to faith in Christ, but to Christ's fidelity, he then adds: "unto all and upon all them that believe." Thus Christ's "faith"(fidelity) and man's faith are complementary. Those who "believe"are
......"Justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Verse 24)
So too the apostle himself counted all his "gain"as "loss", that he might win Christ,
"And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but THAT WHICH IS THROUGH THE FAITH OF CHRIST...."(Philippians 3:9).
And once again he then adds: "the righteousness which is of God by faith, " i.e. by believing Him.
Here indeed man's failure and Christ's faithfulness are set in vivid and striking contrast.
Who could have been more zealous of the law than Paul? Who could have lived more blameless in its sight? Yet it probed beneath the surface and condemned him to death as a vile sinner. He saw that he could not stand before God in his own false righteousness, but only in that true righteousness offered to the sinner by the faith, the fidelity, of Christ and appropriated by faith in Christ.
In Galatians 2:15-61 the Holy Spirit emphasizes these truths in the strongest way in the record of Paul's rebuke of Peter at Antioch, where Peter had shown anything but fidelity to his Lord. Says Paul to Peter:
"We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,
but by the FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by THE FAITH OF CHRIST, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
In this intense, though controlled, outburst by the Apostle Paul he emphasizes and re-emphasizes not only the fact that man cannot be justified by the law, but that even his faith is but the response and complement to "the faith of Christ", who made the sinner's justification possible.
Access to God logically follows justification. It is sin that separates from God, and there is no reason
why those are justified should be barred from His presence.
Some who see in the great Pauline revelation little besides a heavenly postion and spiritual blessings,
question whether believers today actually do have access into the presence of God. These argue that
according to the Ephesian Epistle we already have a position in the heavenlies at God's right hand and
have already been blessed with "all spiritual blessings" there. Why, then, need they; indeed, how
can they, enter God's presence?
The fact is, however, that this is positional truth which, in this life, is experienced only by faith. We
occupy our heavenly position only by faith. We appropriate our spiritual blessings only by faith. If this
were not so the apostle would not need to exhort us to "seek"and "set our affection"on "those things
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1-2)
In the light of all this we would now ask the reader: How have you done lately? Have you been living
in the heavenlies experientially? Have you been experiencing and enjoying the "all spiritual blessings
which are yours in Christ? How far we all come short here! How often we need to "seek"again
"those things which are above"by fellowship with God at the throne of grace and in His Word, which is
"forever settled in heaven!"
Thus it is that this same Ephesian Epistle, which tells us of our hight position and our great blessings
in Christ, also tells us that we have access to God. Adn how is it that free access can still offered to
those who have failed so grossly to appreciate and appropriate their heavenly position and blessings?
The answer is: the faith of Christ. It is only because of His fidelity, because He is so true to His pledge
at Calvary that we are bidden to enter unashamed before His holy presence.
The passage in Ephesians which tells us this is, of course, Chapter 3 and verse 12:
"In whom we have bodlness and access with confidence BY THE FAITH OF HIM"
As we say, we may enter into His presence because He is true to the pledge made at Calvary. We
have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19). But His "faith
extends even further than this. Comparing our Lord with the calloused high priests of Old
Testament times, the writer says, in Hebrews 4:15-16:
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities"
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy,
and find grace to help in time of need."
The feeble faith, then, with which we enter the presence of God is but a response to "the
faith of Christ", in meting out to us that which He purchased for us at Calvary. It is "by Him"
that "we have access by faith into this Grace wherein we stand" (Romans 5:2)
THE BELIEVERS LIFE
Finally, in Galatians 2:20 the apostle Paul declares:
".....the life which I now live in the flesh I live by THE FAITH OF THE
SON OF GOD, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me"
How believers need to learn this blessed truth! We are kept, while in the flesh, not
by "our faith"but by His faithfulness. Our God given faith is but the channel through
which we appreciate and enjoy His never-failing faithfulness.
Our "faith"would be vain were it not for "the faith ( fidelity) of the Son of God" The best
of us would utterly fail were it not that "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25)
and "now appears in the presence of God for us" ( Hebrews 9:24)
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, MUCH
MORE, BEING RECONCILED, WE SHALL BE SAVED BY HIS LIFE" (Romans 5:10)