Clinton church of Christ

One Faith…

September 16, 2013

John Allan

As we continue our discussion of Ephesians 4:5 we come to the expression “one faith.” Although the word “faith” is frequently used in reference to an individual’s personal belief and/or confidence, this is not what is under consideration in Ephesians 4:5. As we consider this expression in the next several minutes, we desire to observe what is meant by this term, where “the faith” comes from, and the impact it ought to have on us.

What is “The Faith?”

“The faith” of Ephesians 4:5 is reference to a certain body of information. Its usage in Scripture proves this to be an acceptable definition.

The definitions offered by Wayne Jackson, a well-respected Bible scholar, are consistent with the way Scripture uses the term “the faith.” Jackson wrote “The expression ‘the faith’ denotes that body of doctrine proclaimed by inspired teachers.” On another occasion he wrote that the term “the faith” is “…employed of the objective body of truth that undergirds the Christian system.” Two things are worth noting in that second definition: 1) The faith is a body of truth. 2) The faith is an objective body of truth. Christianity is not built on superstition or guesswork, as some would contend. Christianity is built on facts.

It is fair to reason that there is at least a sense in which the word “Gospel” can be used interchangeably with the term “the faith.” Both terms are referring to that body of truth revealed by Jesus Christ through his own teaching and that of inspired men, most notably the apostles. Furthermore, it is impossible to separate “the faith” from the one on whom the faith is built.

How Did We Get “the Faith”?

“The faith” came from Jesus Christ, who instructed the apostles to preach it. Notice concerning the work of the apostles that:

  1. They were given the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-19).
  2. They kept that Great Commission (Romans 10:17-18, Colossians 1:23).
  3. They taught others, who were then to teach others themselves (2 Timothy 2:2).

The New Testament shows us that the Holy Spirit was instrumental to the delivery and confirmation of “the faith.” Jesus, as he was near the time that he would ascend back to Heaven, said many things to comfort his apostles. He told them that he would send them a helper and comforter: the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 14:25-26, John 15:26, John 16:5-15). When you read those passages you will see that the Holy Spirit was going to teach the apostles all things, and he would bring to their remembrance all things that Jesus had said to them. To put it very simply: the Holy Spirit would equip the apostles to carry out the commission of taking the Gospel to every creature.

On that particular day of Pentecost when the Lord’s Church was established here on earth, the one we read about in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was present. He is the one who enabled the apostles to speak in tongues: that is, in human languages they had not studied. This enabled all of the people who had come to Jerusalem from so many different places to hear the Gospel proclaimed in their own language. Context makes it clear that the “tongues” of Acts 2 were human languages, not utterances or unintelligible speaking. In Acts 2:33, in explaining what was happening, Peter said that the Holy Spirit had been poured out by Jesus Christ (Acts 2:33). Jesus had promised the apostles that he would send them the Holy Spirit; he undoubtedly kept that promise!

It is also important to note that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were available and in use in the early days of the Lord’s Church, allowed for the revelation and confirmation of the Gospel message that was being preached. Since God chose preaching as the vehicle through which he would communicate his will, there was a usefulness for supernatural proof that the messenger was indeed speaking God’s word. Otherwise, anybody could say that what they spoke was from God and there would be virtually no way to verify. It would turn into a game of “He said, she said.” The apostles could do more than say that they were speaking for God: they could back up those claims with signs that were enabled by the Lord.

Today we have God’s word completely revealed and confirmed. It does not need any additional miraculous confirmation. Today when somebody says they are teaching a message from God, we look to the Bible to see if what that person has said is consistent with God’s word or not.

Let me say it again: the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit allowed for the revelation and confirmation of the Gospel message that was being preached. This is demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. It is consistent with the statement in Mark 16:20 that the Lord worked with the apostles and confirmed the word through the accompanying signs.

I hope that you can see and understand the usefulness of such miraculous spiritual gifts in the early days of the Lord’s Church. There is no doubt that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were impressive and made a powerful impact (consider Acts 8:13). We should also understand that those miraculous gifts were not intended to last forever. They had an intended purpose, and once that purpose was served the miraculous spiritual gifts ceased.

We have already talked about the main function of those miraculous spiritual gifts: they were for revealing and confirming the Gospel message. If that has been accomplished, then those gifts are no longer needed. Indeed, Scripture shows us that these miraculous gifts are not needed today.

For starters, as far as we can tell certainly in Scripture, the Lord’s apostles were the only ones who were able to impart the miraculous spiritual gifts on others through the laying on of hands. If this is so, that would mean that once the apostles died the means of transmitting these gifts was gone. At best, those who had received this laying on of hands from the apostles and outlived the apostles might have been able to continue with these miraculous spiritual gifts until their own deaths. Of course, all such men have died long ago.

Additionally, the Bible shows that there would come a time when those miraculous spiritual gifts would be set aside (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-16). The expressions “that which is perfect” (1 Corinthians 13:10) and “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13) are reference to the complete revelation and confirmation of the faith. Once God had revealed and confirmed his New Covenant, the need for those miraculous spiritual gifts would have vanished. Maturity would be reached, and those childish things, to borrow terminology from the apostle Paul, would be done away.

The Bible teaches us in the third verse of Jude that the faith has been “once for all delivered to the saints” (NKJV). This is clear teaching that the body of information we have been talking about, the objective truth that undergirds Christianity, has been fully revealed and confirmed. Since we have it, we do not need the miraculous spiritual gifts today.

What is our Response to “the Faith”?

In light of the fact that the faith has been revealed and confirmed, the question comes: how should we respond to that information? What should we do when we hear the truth presented, knowing that it is the word of God?

It is evident that the ideal response is that we be obedient to the faith. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant, and all mankind is accountable to the New Covenant. This being so, we should obey what the New Testament teaches. We should be obedient to the faith.

Some would like to turn us away from the faith (Acts 13:8). There are some people who leave the faith (1 Timothy 4:1, 5:12, 6:10, 6:21). God’s desire is that we obey (John 3:16, Romans 1:16).

Obeying the Gospel is done by hearing that Gospel message (Romans 10:17), believing it (Mark 16:16), repenting of our sins (Luke 13:3), confessing that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God (Matthew 10:32, Matthew 16:16) and by being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-4).

Once we have been obedient to the Lord so that we can receive that free gift of salvation that is available to us through Jesus Christ, we should also continue in the faith.

 

Conclusion:

  1. When Ephesians 4:5 speaks of “one faith” it is reference to that body of truth from Jesus that was preached by the apostles and given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:18-21).
  2. God has revealed that information “once for all”; it is foolish and sinful to look anywhere other than the Bible for what God has authorized and desires.
  3. In the world today there are many who claim to be following Jesus Christ, but they do things contrary to the doctrine that he delivered.
  4. Let us have the courage to be faithful to God’s word, and to reject all things that are contrary to it.

 

References:

1. Wayne Jackson’s writings appear on the web site Christian Courier www.christiancourier.com.

2. When the abbreviation “NKJV” was used in these notes it is to credit said Scripture quotation to the New King James Version. Such Scripture was taken from Holy Bible. New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 16th, 2013 at 11:01 am and is filed under Sermons.

Clinton church of Christ | 155 Broadway St. Clinton, MS 39056 | (601) 924-5300 | Admin