Thrust statement: Faithfulness in Christ involves both belief and obedience.

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:1-3

 

 

Paul immediately calls alertness to the position and description of God’s children in Ephesus.  He refers to them as “saints,” “faithful,” and “in Christ Jesus.”  He starts this letter by calling attention to his personal call to serve God as an act from God’s will. He then concludes this verse with “grace and peace” from God.  Paul is very concise concerning the Ephesians as to their state of affairs and location in God’s kingdom: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1).[1]  This message is designed to call attention to one’s lifestyle and to one’s belief in Jesus as the Son of God. If one has faith in God and Jesus, then one’s behavior will drastically change.

 

 

STEADFASTNESS AS ONE’S WAY OF LIFE:

EXERCISING FAITH

 

The word faithful is, to some extent, “unfortunate,” writes Lloyd Jones.[2]  He translates the Greek word for faithful as “exercising faith.” Perhaps the best way to explain this word faithful is to say that the word faithful involves active believing. Our English word faithful carries the following meanings:  true, realistic, authentic, true to life, truthful, believable, and so on.  One cannot separate belief from faithfulness. One cannot be faithful in his/her walk with God unless one actively believes that Jesus is the Savior of the world. When one believes that Jesus is the savior of the world, then this belief will result in an “exercising faith.”

 

One must combine the fruit of the Spirit with an active faith in the Lord Jesus.  Paul writes to the Galatians concerning “exercising faith”:

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:22-26).

 

True faith in God and Jesus demands ethical behavior that glorifies God. Ethical behavior follows faith and salvation. Salvation begins and ends with faith. One cannot approach God or Jesus without faith.  Paul, in his letter to Rome, stresses the nature of salvation: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17).    Do you believe in Jesus? Jesus informed the religious leaders: “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:23).  

 

It is in this same vein of faith that the Hebrew writer says: “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). This kind of faith results in good deeds. Thus, Paul could address the Christians in Ephesus as: “faithful in Christ Jesus.” Are you living a life worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1)? True faith calls for holiness—“without holiness no one will see the Lord” (12:14).  Jesus, too, emphasizes the necessity of adherence to His teachings: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

 

Following the list of worthies in Hebrews 11, the author reminds his readers about this “great cloud of witnesses” as examples of belief and obedience (12:1).  Because of their faith in God, he instructs them to live out their faith in active obedience (faithfulness):

 

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (12:1-3).

 

Have you discarded everything that holds you back in your daily walk with God?  Have you laid aside every sin that ensnares you in your Christian march?  When you think of sin, what comes to your mind? When you think of “acts of the sinful nature,” what comes to your mind? Is your concept of sin the same as that of Paul in his letter to the Christians in the province of Galatia? Paul enumerates a list of ungodly acts that could jeopardize one’s salvation:

 

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;   idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

 

In crucifying the “acts of the sinful nature,” you need to “fix your eyes on Jesus.”  This Hebrew letter was addressed to saints in Christ; they were encouraged to faithfulness in their day after day walk with God. Every believer must possess an active obedience—faithfulness—in one’s worship of God.  It is this concept—belief and obedience—that Paul is writing about to the Ephesians: “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Are you “faithful in Christ Jesus”? How does your life measure up to the teachings of Jesus?

 

Faithfulness is one of the means whereby Christians demonstrate that they worship God with awe and reverence. True worship is not going through five ritualistic acts—singing, praying, preaching, communion, and giving—on Sunday morning, but rather, true worship has to do with the way individuals live.  Listen to the Hebrew author as he encourages holiness in the life of God’s people as genuine worship: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).  Immediately, the author enumerates various activities of godly behavior and then describes these actions as sacrifices pleasing to God:

 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (13:15-16).

 

One’s “spiritual act of worship” is not going through rituals on Sunday morning, but rather it is in presenting one’s body as “a living sacrifice.”  Paul describes this kind of worship in his epistle to the Romans:

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

                       

Are you presenting your bodies as “living sacrifices”?  Are you “faithful in Christ Jesus”? Belief in Jesus as the Son of God results in faithfulness. Conceivably, one cannot say with absolute certainty the exact meaning of the word faithful as intended by Paul—perhaps both meanings are involved. But this exposition of “faithful in Christ Jesus” approaches both aspects: (1) belief in Jesus, and (2) active obedience to the teachings of Jesus’ Sermon (Matthew 5—7).  The word faithful includes belief in Christ Jesus as well as firmness and loyalty to the teachings of Jesus. Every believer that is “faithful in Christ Jesus” exercises faith in Him as his or her way of life.

 

 

FAITHFULNESS:

 BELIEVERS IN CHRIST

 

Scholarship is not agreed upon the exact meeting of the adjective employed by Paul in this verse. Some biblical commentators and translators interpret this word faithful as a noun rather than as an adjective. For instance, the following translation translates the Greek word as ‘“believers’ in Christ Jesus” (1:1—NCV);[3] on the other hand, The Living Bible paraphrases this word as “ever loyal to the Lord.”[4] Paul appears to employ the word faithful in the sense of “exercising faith,” but this definition would not exclude belief.  The word faithful does carry the idea of believing in Christ Jesus. The picture is that of trust. This concept is also set forth in the celebration of the salvation passages in this same chapter (1:12-14). Listen to Paul as he captures the essence of his earlier word faithful:

 

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (1:13-14).

 

Again, Paul expresses the blessings open to those who believe:

 

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (1:18-21).

 

If you are  “saints in Christ Jesus,” then you are also “believers in Christ Jesus.” If you are saints in Christ Jesus, then you are also faithful in the sense of adhering to the teachings of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. But what does it really mean to “exercise faith”? Exercising faith includes trust in Jesus, even in the absence of seeing Christ in the flesh;  you still believe that He is alive.  An example of this kind of faith is found in the Gospel of John.  John tells us that following the resurrection of Jesus that He appeared to ten of His disciples (John 20:19-23). On this occasion, Thomas was absent. Shortly thereafter, the disciples informed Thomas about the appearance of the Lord Jesus, but he refused to believe.  John gives the readers Thomas’ reaction to the conversation with the other disciples:

 

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.   So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (20:24-25).  

 

A week later, Jesus provided an opportunity for Thomas in his conquest of faith.  John relates this incident by sayings,

 

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you! Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:26-29).

 

What kind of faith do you exercise toward the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you put your trust in Jesus as Savior? Are you bringing your life into harmony with His teachings? Do you look to Him for eternal life? If so, then you must believe that He is Son of God, and you must walk in light, not in darkness. Jesus tells Nicodemus:

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God (John 3:16-21).

 

 

CONCLUSION:

BELIEF AND OBEDIENCE

 

BELIEF. Faith in the Lord Jesus requires one to believe in Jesus as the One and only unique Son of God. The one who “exercises faith” believes in the incarnation. The one who works out his faith is one who clings to the words: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). The one who puts his faith into action is one who affirms the vocabulary of John as he opens the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning” (1:1-2). Every believer accepts as true that Christ came into this world to taste death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). All saints believe in the efficacy of the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:11-14).

 

OBEDIENCE. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ requires one to crucify the flesh with its sinful lust. Paul stresses this point of crucifixion in his letter to the churches in the province of Galatia: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Since every saint has been redeemed by the grace of God, then this salvation calls for a radical change in one’s way of Life.  Paul reminds Titus of this truth:

 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you (Titus 2:11-15).

 

When you reflect upon the words “faithful in Christ Jesus,” do you recall the words of Paul as he brings this letter to a close? For Paul, in order for one to be “faithful” in Jesus, then one must walk in light as a child of light, not as a child of darkness. Listen to Paul as he spells out Christian behavior:

 

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.  Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:17-32).

 

Are you walking in light or darkness? Are you imitators of God in your behavior? How does one imitate God in his or her walk with God? Again, one should reflect upon the words of Paul as he reflects upon good performance that is indicative of every Christian:

 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret (5:1-12).

 

Written by:

Dallas Burdette

PO Box 20274

Montgomery, AL 36120

Phone: 334-288-3186

Email: burdettes@mindspring.com

Web site: www.freedominchrist.net



[1] All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[2] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, God’s Ultimate Purpose: An Exposition of Ephesians 1:1 to 23 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 28. I am also indebted to Lloyd-Jones for the genesis of my thoughts for this message. See also Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Rich: Ephesians (Illinois: Victor Books, 1976), 10, where he says, “The word faithful carries the meaning of ‘believers in Christ Jesus.’” See also R. C. H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians, (1937; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998),  346 (page reference is to reprint edition), where he writes, “When it is used as an adjective it may mean ‘faithful’ or ‘trustworthy.’ Here it means ‘believers.’”

[3] The New Century Version, (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing) 1987, 1988, 1991.

[4] The Living Bible, (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1997.