FAITHFULNESS WITH GOD AND WITH HIS PEOPLE FIRST PART GOD IS FAITHFUL. (1) God s Faithfulness Expressed in His Thoughts for us

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1 FAITHFULNESS WITH GOD AND WITH HIS PEOPLE God s faithfulness is particularly demonstrated in the Book of Acts. In His faithfulness to His chosen people, He showed them grace, even though they had rejected His Son, their Messiah. This quality that God displays in different settings is something that He likes to see demonstrated in and by His own people. We see this faithfulness in a special way in relation to Paul s calling and ministry. In this article, we limit the scope of our study to Paul s epistles to the Corinthians. FIRST PART GOD IS FAITHFUL There are things that the omnipotent God cannot do! For instance, He cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18) for He is faithful to Himself (2 Tim. 2:13) and to what He has promised (Rom. 11:29; Dt. 7:9). Great is Thy faithfulness (Lam. 3:23 KJV). However, sometimes we read in the Bible that God repented. This does not mean that one cannot rely on Him, but that He may change His ways, depending on His people s behaviour (Gen. 6:6-7; Ex. 32:12, 14; 1 Sam. 15:11, 29). The faithfulness of God and of Christ, as seen especially in 1 and2 Corinthians, will be the first part of our investigation. The second part will be closely related to it, as we consider God s desire that His moral qualities be reflected in His children. 1 For that purpose, He has given us a new, divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4; Jn. 3:7) enabling us to respond to Him, as well as to represent Him in this scene. In Paul s ministry, there is great emphasis on faith. 2 (1) God s Faithfulness Expressed in His Thoughts for us God is faithful, by whom y o u were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9). From Romans 8:28-30 we know that our calling by God is linked with His eternal purpose for us. In this call (1 Cor. 1:2) we may recognize that He is faithful to Himself in carrying out the plans He made in eternity, before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Furthermore, the purpose of this call reflects God s faithfulness as He links us in marvellous ways with His beloved Son, the Centre and Object of His counsel. The fellowship of God s Son (1 Cor. 1:9) presupposes faithfulness also on the part of the Lord Jesus (as well as on our side, which we will consider later). This fellowship implies having part in a company a fellowship, a partnership completely characterized by His wonderful Person: God s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. These four qualifications imply that He is (1) the Eternal Son, God blessed 1 As children of God, we represent Him in this world (Phil. 2:15; Eph. 5:1; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Jn. 3:1; 5:2), just as Israel was called to represent Him in the past and as they will in the world to come. 2 If we include Hebrews, Paul uses the noun faith (Gr. pístis) 174 times, whereas it occurs only 69 times in all the rest of the New Testament. He also uses the verb to believe (Gr. pisteúō) 56 times (in the rest of the NT 195 times) and the adjective pistós (faithful, trustworthy, dependable) 35 times while in the rest of the NT this occurs 22 times. Counted together, these words occur 265 times in Paul s writings and 286 times in the rest of the NT, besides some compound forms. In this study we will focus on the adjective pistós that is used 7 times in 1-2 Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:9; 4:2, 17; 7:25; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; 6:15). 1

2 over all; (2) the God-Man. Jesus or Yeshua (i.e. Yahweh is salvation); (3) the Anointed Man in glory; and (4) our Lord ; while being in this world but not of it, acknowledging His lordship, we are linked together as we submit to Him. (2) God s Faithfulness in His Ways with us No temptation has overtaken y o u except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow y o u to be tempted beyond what y o u are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that y o u may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). Having summarized five privileges God s earthly people had in their wilderness journey (vv.1-4), Paul reminds us of their failures and unfaithfulness, manifested in five specific sins (vv.5-10). God s chosen people were to be a testimony for Him in this world and this summary of Israel s history provides important object lessons for Christians (1 Cor. 10:11). Paul therefore exhorts his readers not to rely on themselves, but on God who is faithful. This God who is faithful uses temptations trials, tests, hardships to show what we are in ourselves and what and who He is, and so we learn to rely on Him and not on ourselves. First Corinthians 10:12 effectively challenges any form of pride, whereas verse 13 draws us to our faithful God and to His resources. He will give the right solution in view of our needs, on condition that we rely on Him. The verse also explains that nothing will be allowed above what we can take, showing that He is really in control while maintaining our responsibility. Our sovereign and faithful God who called us is also faithful in His continued dealings with us. Thus, He forms us as disciples and to be overcomers in this world, exhibiting the features of Christ as well as the features of our faithful God and Father. In all this He shows how we may rely on Him... because He is faithful. (3) God s Faithfulness in His Dealings with Paul But as God is faithful, our word to y o u is not yes and no (2 Cor. 1:18 NAS). Reading Second Corinthians, we learn how Paul was forced to defend his apostleship and the ministry that God had entrusted to him. Being God s servant, he needed to completely rely on Him. And Paul did this, as he explains in the beginning of chapter 1, in which he speaks of the tremendous upheaval that took place at Ephesus (Acts 19). God used this turmoil, among other reasons, so that Paul would put his trust in the God who raises the dead (thus putting us on a new foundation, 2 Cor. 1:8-9). God had delivered His servant from this tumult and continued to deliver him from the onslaughts of the enemy. Paul had confidence in God that He would do this again (v.10). Identifying himself with this almighty and faithful God, he could explain to his readers why he had to change his plans (vv.15-18). This circumstance was used by Paul s opponents to say that one could not rely on such a servant as Paul. But the apostle, completely relying on his faithful Master, had learned from Him to be true (v.18), that is, to be totally dependable, reliable and faithful. Although his ministry might give an appearance of being unreliable, the reality was different, as his ministry together with Silvanus and Timothy was really the manifestation of faithfulness as linked with the Faithful One, the Amen, who is always true to Himself and His promises (vv.18-20). Engaged in this God-given service, Paul was willing to be humble and take a low place, being a helper to the believers (v.24). May we follow his example (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1)! 2

3 SECOND PART FAITHFULNESS WITH HIS PEOPLE The Lord Jesus told His audience in the Sermon on the Mount, Therefore y o u shall be perfect, just as y o u r Father in heaven is perfect (Mt. 5:48). God s faithfulness should be reflected in His own. We can see this in three more examples in 1 and 2 Corinthians. (1) Faithfulness, Seen in Paul Being a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries God had entrusted to him, Paul needed to be faithful in the ministry that came along with those mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1-2). In this service, Paul identifies with Silvanus and Timothy who had worked with him on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-18:18). This is why Paul used the words servant and steward in the plural. In 1 Corinthians 4, after having challenged his readers about their carnal condition, Paul addressed their tendency to judge him, 3 his ministry and those working with him. However, he wanted his readers to be true disciples of Christ, so that they might learn (v.6) of Paul and Apollos, instead of judging him and his co-workers. In this chapter we also see how Paul had gone through tremendous trouble and distress in his service for the Corinthians, being their lesson-book in faithfulness (vv.9-16). As a father he exhorted them to be his followers. We should understand how these lessons also apply to us in order to learn to be faithful and follow Paul as our spiritual father. (2) Faithfulness, Seen in Timothy Then Paul refers to another object lesson his faithful son in the faith, Timothy, who had followed Paul as his spiritual father. Paul also was a father to the believers at Corinth (v.15), and they needed to learn specific lessons which Paul taught them in his Epistle. To help them further learn and apply these lessons, Paul had decided to send Timothy to them, of whom Paul wrote that he was his beloved child in the Lord, just like the Corinthians were his beloved children. However, Paul also calls Timothy his faithful child, a term that could not yet be said of the Christians at Corinth as long as they would not put into practice the teachings Paul presented to them in his Epistle. In Timothy, who had been among them, they would see what faithfulness means practically. The intent was that pride, self-will and other features of the flesh would be judged and the features of Christ (as displayed in Timothy) might work in love and meekness in and among them. The change that needed to take place implied a work of God and of His power (in grace). May we be vessels fit for the Master s use, so that His wonderful features may be displayed in our words, actions and behaviour! (3) Faithfulness, Seen in Paul s Actions in Mercy Paul had received a number of questions from Corinth, including those about delicate issues related to marriage and sexual relationships (1 Cor. 7). Besides having authority as an apostle, who could therefore command, Paul functioned in many ways as an illustration (model) to the believers and this provides the link to faithfulness that they might learn from him. He was a helper to them, having received mercy. Mercy is given by God in view of the circumstances of His people (example: Phil. 2:27). In this way Paul could be a blessing for his readers as an example of mercy. If they would truly see that he himself was an object of God s mercy 3 For details on judging or not judging see my article To Judge or not to Judge. 3

4 (1 Tim. 1:13, 16; 2 Cor. 4:1), even as they were, they might be willing to accept what he had to say (cf. Mt. 5:7). (4) Faithfulness, Seen in the Believers From 2 Corinthians we learn what God is for us in grace, in compassion to equip us for His service. We also learn what we are for Him! These two sides are presented in Paul s dealings with the believers at Corinth (in 2 Cor. 3-4; 5:14-7:1; where these two aspects are also called the ministries of the new covenant and of reconciliation). Having received such a marvellous grace (2 Cor. 5:21), we are exhorted to be workers together with Paul (2 Cor. 6:1), responding to God s grace in the many details of our lives. Paul s credentials include 27 points (2 Cor. 6:3-10) and prove that, from a moral perspective, he could give exhortations, not just as a school teacher, but as one who had been proven faithful in many adverse circumstances. Again, Paul addresses the believers as beloved children (1 Cor. 4:14; 2 Cor. 6:11-13), after which he presents to them a challenge, a test of faithfulness, a test that we all need to pass. How can we be an instrument for God s glory? Paul describes this challenge in five different ways, including a five-fold exhortation to be different from this world. If we are for God, we need to be separate from this world although living in it. The fact that we are ambassadors for Christ must be seen in those five areas where we should always show our true colours as opposed to this world s features and not being unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14-18), as summarized in the next table. Table Five Contrasts between God s Standards and Satan s Counterfeits Aspects of Believers God s Standards Satan s System No Links between them! Moral behaviour: Righteousness Lawlessness No share! Insight into things about God: Submits to authority: Light Darkness No fellowship! Christ Belial (Satan) The realm of faith: Believer Unbeliever No part! No agreement; no symphony! Worship: Temple of God Idols No harmony/union! Thus, a believer is faced with important decisions in five different matters that really include all areas of his life. The number five in Scripture stands for human responsibility towards God. Can God rely on me to be an instrument for His glory; can the Lord trust me to be His faithful servant? In those five test areas, believers need to show that they are Christians, that they are, in this context, reliable, dependable persons, whom God can trust. If so, we will be following Abram s example of being separate and having come out from this world s system. It is then that we can enjoy fellowship with Him (in the five different ways). The resources of God (the Almighty) will be made available to us while we submit to His authority (the Lord). All this is in the context of what we are for God (v.18). And so the two ministries mentioned earlier are blended together as in that one verse (God as a Father for us while we are living a life for Him). 4

5 This article may be freely distributed in its original form. For another copy of this study or for other materials like tracts and words of encouragement, please write to: THE HOLY SCRIPTURES PO Box 677 Hawkesbury (Ontario) K6A 3C8 CANADA OR Alfred E. Bouter 2004 (Printed/Updated September 6, 2007) For free downloads: 5

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