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The Mystery Of The Faith

(Mystery, in the Scriptures, denotes that which is only known through revelation, to those taught by the Holy Spirit).

When God brought Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans and from the cults and practices of that idolatrous people, and established him in the land of Canaan He did not leave him to devise for himself a code by which to regulate his life. God gave Abraham instructions as to what he was to do. To Isaac the LORD could say concerning his father, "Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26.5). In how Abraham worshipped God, in how he lived his life, he was enlightened and commanded by his God.

Later in the history of God's dealings with men we read of His great work in bringing Abraham's seed, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt with its bondage and corruption, and leading them to the land which had been given to Abraham. To these people God gave His law. This law, ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator, was an impressive revelation of the character of God and of His claims upon His people. It was holy, and righteous, and good. By it were defined the responsibilities of the people in their worship and service. In it were clear instructions as to the relations of the people of God one towards another, the strong assertion of rights and the vigorous exposure and condemnation of wrongs. Through it the Israel nation learned what was proper to its contacts and associations with the nations around. In a word, the law was the instrument by which God ruled and regulated His holy nation.

In this present dispensation there is the purpose of God that those who by His grace experience deliverance from the power of Satan and from the tyranny of sin and darkness should be brought together in subjection and obedience to divine authority to be God's kingdom on earth. For in His kingdom there is that which answers to the law which was given to Israel. There is "the Faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 8).

When the message of the gospel was proclaimed at the beginning of this dispensation it was directed first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. The Jew had his strongly legal religion containing in part the law given through Moses, but adulterated and perverted by traditions which encouraged much hypocrisy and wickedness. The Jew gloried in the law, but through transgression of the law he dishonoured God. Paul was compelled to write the solemn censure, "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, even as it is written" (Romans 2.24). The Gentile, gripped in the tyranny of idolatry with all its corruption, had in the main sunk to depths of great depravity. Paul said to the Corinthians concerning their character and habits before the grace of God reached them, "And such were some of you; " he linked them with such as were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with men, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners (see 1 Corinthians 6.9, 10). Whether then they were Jews or Gentiles who were reached by the message of the gospel, there was the need that they should be instructed as to the character and claims of God and as to His will for them. Such instruction was embodied in what is called in Acts 2.42, "the apostles' teaching." In this the early disciples continued, as God through His servants revealed His purpose for His people and His commandments and requirements affecting their life and service. This instruction from the Lord was not given in totality on the day of Pentecost. It was not given all at once. There was development of unfolding. It was given orally and it was conveyed by divine directions in writings which were inspired. Thus there came into being that which was identifiable as "the Faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

If in the law we see the instrument by which God ruled His people in the past, in the Faith we see that by which God rules His people in this present dispensation. Here is something which sweeps into every sphere of our lives and service. It deals with our personal life, our family life, our business life, our assembly life, and also our attitude to the world of men and women around us. Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are under an obligation to ascertain what is contained in the Faith and to practise it. It was not possible for individuals, as such, to give effect to the law which God gave at Sinai. It is true that there was teaching in the law by which individuals could regulate their personal and their family life, but there were obligations which demanded the existence of a divinely constituted people domiciled in the land of God's own choice. Much in the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ can be appropriated to give light as to how we should order our personal lives before God, but we do well to bear in mind that giving effect to the Faith necessitates a people together of God and for God. The law was the constitution of God's holy nation, the Israel people. The Faith is the constitution of God's holy nation of this dispensation and that holy nation is the Fellowship of God's Son. (See 1 Peter 2.9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1.2, 9).

In one sense the Faith consists of words. By these words the will of God is communicated. Paul wrote to Timothy, "If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the Faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now" (1 Timothy 4.6). There is the good and sound (healthful) doctrine which is the will of God. Its words are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the words of the Faith. These words the Lord first gave in His oral teaching to His disciples. This teaching was amplified, expanded and developed in the teaching of the apostles and prophets as they were illuminated and used by the Holy Spirit to give to the saints the Faith. It is of utmost importance to observe the relation between the words of the Lord Jesus and the Faith. Timothy was exhorted, "Hold the pattern of sound words "(2 Timothy 1.13). Against the good doctrine of the Faiths there stands the challenging different heretical doctrines of men, doctrines proceeding from men who are puffed up, "knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth." (See 1 Timothy 6.3-5). There are the "profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called " which will cause men to err concerning the Faith. In these days, when divine truth is being torn to shreds by men and its very language is being rejected or debased, let us be stirred to "hold the pattern of sound words."

In another sense, the fact that there is one Faith (Ephesians 4.5) should be productive of unity among God's children. There should be one people expressive of and expressing the one Faith, a people who by means of service arranged and controlled by the Lord Himself are attaining unto the unity of the Faith (Ephesians 4. 12, 13), with one mind and heart and soul believing, teaching and practising the same thing. Against such a desirable objective is directed the activity of seducing spirits and "the doctrines of demons, through the hyprocrisy of men that speak lies" (1 Timothy 4.1, 2). By reason of this opposition many have fallen away from the Faith. It is impossible for anyone to fall away from the consequence of faith in Christ in the matter of salvation from hell. But from the Faith we may fall away. If we thrust from us faith and a good conscience there can be but one result. We shall make shipwreck concerning the Faith (1 Timothy 1. 19). What a solemn realization it will be at the judgement-seat of Christ, if there we have to confess that we fell away from the Faith or that we made shipwreck concerning the Faith.

There is a tendency in these days to use slogans. Such a tendency may affect children of God. Often the words of Jude are used, "contend earnestly for the Faith" (Jude 3). Again we have frequently read such an expression as, "sound in faith and godly in life," being used to establish a basis for the reception of believers in Christ to assembly privilege and service. Many of those who use these expressions deny, or weaken to an optional decision, the command of the Lord Jesus to baptize disciples. Can this be contending earnestly for the Faith? Is the unbaptized believer sound in the Faith? Have we any authority to whittle down the Faith and its claims to attract people and t6 gain numbers? Absolutely no authority whatever!

May we be enabled by the Lord in truth and sincerity to contend earnestly for the Faith and to see that its claims in every department of our lives, personal and public, are not rejected or denied.