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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Faith

"Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12)

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course. I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7)

"Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3)

"I know where thou dwellest, even where satan's throne is; and thou holdest fast My name, and didst not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where satan dwelleth" (Revelation 2:13)

These are four passages out of a considerable number in the New Testament which contain the same phrase. I have jotted down some twenty-seven or twenty-eight of such passages, and there are probably more. The phrase that occurs in them all is this phrase - "the faith." "Fight the good fight of the faith": "have kept the faith": "Contend earnestly for the faith."

Now, wherever that phrase occurs, you will not have to look far for the element of conflict. You will find that conflict is almost invariably associated with that phrase - "the faith." That is to say, the two things always go together in the New  Testament, and in true spiritual experience - the fight and the faith, or the faith and the fight. "Fight the good fight of the faith": "Contend earnestly for the faith": "I have fought ... I have kept the faith." Thus, although it will not always be as precisely stated as that, I repeat, that you will not have to look far in the context for the element of conflict when "the faith" is in view.

Of course, that may not be very surprising. It is the sort of thing you would naturally expect to find when anything like a new faith which might be a rival faith to other faiths was being introduced.

The Faith Not a System of Teaching

But if you look carefully at the matter here in the New Testament, you will find that it is something more than that. The conflict is not occasioned just because another faith which is a rival to existing faiths has been introduced. It is rather in the very nature and essence of this thing that is called "the faith" that the element exists which sets up this terrific conflict. It is something more than just a new religion coming in to challenge and attempt to oust other religions. There is something about this faith which is far more than that, and to grasp and understand what that something more is should be of tremendous help to the Lord's people.

The fact is that the very presence in this world of those who do truly, in a real New Testament way, stand in the faith and have the faith in them - apart from all their framework and form of religion - even without their saying anything about it - constitutes a conflicting factor in the world, and they become centers of spiritual warfare. What I mean is, that you need not announce that you are a Christian, and you certainly need not state your Christian beliefs, in order to be the focal point of antagonism. If you are really in the good of what is meant by "the faith," you are a center of antagonism. You cannot help it. To try to avoid it is to destroy that essential of the faith.

Thus, in the beginning, the faith was not a system of doctrine or teaching. It was not a number of tenets and truths, but it was a single, though all-inclusive, truth which carried with it a spiritual impact, altogether apart from the defining of that truth.

The New Testament has a wonderful way of summing up everything in very short sentences. We have several of these. For instance, everything at the beginning was gathered into two words - "the way." They were said to be people of "the way." It became a name for them. Or again - "the Name"; everything is gathered into that. Again and again it was the Name. They were commanded "not to teach in this name" (Act 5:28). They went forth "for the sake of name" (3 John 7). On many occasions we have it all summarized in that way. It is the Name; very terse, but tremendously significant, boundlessly full: but just two words - "the Name." Or again, on many occasions it is called "the testimony." "Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you" (1 Corinthians 1:6); or, as we are so familiar with it in the Book of Revelation - "the testimony of Jesus."

Let me repeat. That was not a systematized doctrine in the first place, a form of teaching, an interpretation of truth. It was something very much more than that, gathered all into very simple, very brief phrases - the Way, the Name, the Testimony, or the Faith. You would be interested and helped if you just went and turned up each of these passages in which this phrase "the faith" occurs and looked at the context.

Well, our point for the moment is this, that there at the beginning the faith was not a doctrine, not something which began and ended with an assent to a statement of truth, even about the Lord Jesus. It was not an embracing of Christianity, an embracing of Christian truth, an embracing of the Christian position. Such phrases have come to mean no more than becoming associated with Christianity and Christians, and subscribing to what they believe.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "The Faith A Spiritual Reality In Terms of Experience" )

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