CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CX)

Aquinas goes on to say that such faith allows us to believe in a Trinity we cannot see. We can also believe that the Lord Jesus suffered, was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will come at the Judgment to render to every one according to what they deserve. Bruno, the Carthusian, shares this same concept as representing our trust in God.[1] However, that does not shut the door for our belief that God keeps His promises in faithfulness. Even Thomas Aquinas noted that graces and fruit are distinct from virtues. Since no one is justified except by faith; therefore, faith is a virtue.[2] However, the word “faithfulness” here better qualifies as fruit, not virtue or grace.

Martin Luther, the Reformer, had an interesting way of putting it. He points out that in listing faith among the fruit of the reborn spirit, Paul does not mean faith in the Anointed, but faith in people. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally, the possessor of such faith can end up being sorely disappointed. They are ready to believe in what people say, although they will not trust everything people tell them.

Where this virtue exists between some people, there is most often suspicion, noncommitment, wavering, believe nothing, nor yielding to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if it doesn’t humor them, no one can ever please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people, therefore, is still quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?[3] Remember, this is Luther’s view, but there are other ways of interpreting “faith” here as a fruit of the reborn spirit.

A fellow Reformer, John Calvin, gives his concept of faith as used here, and for him, faith means truth and is contrasted with cunning, deceit, and falsehood, just as peace is with quarrels and contentions.[4] Taken in that sense, we can see where Calvin sees faith as reliability. It means that a Christian’s word can be taken as truth; that they will do what they say they will do, and not do what they say they will not do. So, in that case, we see faithfulness as characteristic of one’s personality.

Alexander Maclaren gives this same sense of the word used here by Paul. He prefers the rendering of the Revised Version rather than the King James Version, for it is not faith in its theological sense to which the Apostle is here referring. Possibly, however, the meaning may be trustfulness just as Paul told the Corinthians it is listed as a characteristic of love that it “believes all things.” [5] More probably, however, the meaning is faithfulness, and Paul’s thought is that the Christian life is to manifest itself in the faithful discharge of all duties and the honest handling of all things committed to it.[6]  Theologian Gundry applies this virtuous trait of character to faithfulness one to another in the Christian community.[7]

British theologian Adam Clarke, notes that they translate pistis in some places as fidelity. It defines punctuality in performing promises. Also, conscientiously preserving what is committed to one’s trust, in restoring it to its proper owner. Furthermore, in transacting confidential business, neither betraying the secret of our friends nor disappointing the confidence of our employer.[8] One of the highest compliments a superior can pay to a subordinate is when some other executive questions whether or not that subordinate can be trusted to carry out an assignment. When the boss says: “You can count on _____________!” (Enter your name here). That is a major compliment.

Director of Member Care, Florida Evangelistic Association Ministries, Hobe Sound, Florida, Rev. Steve Stetler, says that faithfulness is a multifaceted word with a wide range of specific or implied meanings. We cannot scrutinize each thread, but we must recognize God’s faithfulness to us, reciprocate the same, and allow the Holy Spirit to reproduce faithfulness in our lives as we interact with our broken world. For the Christian, God’s faithfulness is the standard by which we measure other examples of commitment and devotion. It is not just an adjective that describes God. Rather, it is a noun declaring the essence of His character and being. God is faithful. Every word thought, act, interaction, punishment, limitation, command, all radiate faithfulness because it is who He is.[9] He cannot be less than faithful in anything.[10]

Caslyn Rice shares that making commitments is a common part of our everyday lives. When we change our mind, or it’s more convenient to back out. Do we find an easy way out, or are we faithful? Becoming a person of loyalty and faithfulness to our word, even when it’s inconvenient, is a crucial step in producing the fruit of faithfulness.[11]

In answer to the question: what is faithfulness, I read this: The Scripture often speaks about God’s faithfulness. Over and over, we learn that when God says He will do something, He does it (even when it seems impossible). When He says something will happen, it happens. It is valid for the past, present, and future. If this were not the case – if God proved unfaithful even once – He would not be God, and we could not rely on any of His promises. But as it is, “Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave.” [12] God is eternally reliable, steadfast, and unwavering because faithfulness is one of His inherent attributes. God does not have to work at being faithful; He is faithful. Faithfulness is an essential part of who He is.[13] In His faithfulness, God protects us from evil,[14]sets limits on our temptations,[15] forgives our sins,[16] and sanctifies us.[17] You cannot find a father or friend more faithful than God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. And since they are living in us, that becomes the source of our faithfulness.

[1] Bruno the Carthusian: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, op. cit., Vol. 3, The First Part of the Second Part, Part (2b), Question (4), Article (5), Objection (4), p. 66

[3] Luther, Martin: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Calvin, John: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:7

[6] Maclaren, Alexander: Expositions of Holy Scripture, Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Gundry, Robert H.: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Clarke, Adam: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] See 2 Timothy 2:13

[10] Stetler, Steve: Revivalist Magazine, October 2019, pp. 5-7

[11] Rice, Caslyn, op. cit.

[12] 1 Kings 8:56

[13] Psalm 89:8; Hebrews 13:8

[14] 2 Thessalonians 3:3

[15] 1 Corinthians 10:13

[16] 1 John 1:9

[17] 1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 1:6

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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