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Ethics: The Faithfulness of God & Man

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This is the 3rd of a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.

 

The Bible teaches that God “is the faithful God” (Deuteronomy 7:9), who always acts faithfully toward those whom he loves. The most important trait of God’s faithfulness is that he alwaysdoes what he says (Numbers 23:19). When God speaks and says he will do something, whether it is to save or to condemn, we can be sure that he will always carry out what he says without fail (II Peter 3:9). Man, however, is not like God. He does not always keep his word. 

 

Because we are first motivated by our own selfish desires and want to control our own lives instead of letting the faithful God control our lives, God counts us as unfaithful to his original purpose for creating us.

 

Thankfully, God’s faithfulness is more than just his acts to keep his word. God’s faithfulness is deeply connected to his goodness and truth. It is impossible to be faithful without also being true and good. God is true. God is good. God is faithful.

 

God has truthfully revealed himself to us. He has shown himself to be good in sending his son, Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. And he has acted faithfully in that he promises from ages past to make a way for us to be saved from our sin—which he did through Jesus Christ.

 

In this study we will see that faithfulness is more than doing what we say (though that is of first importance). God’s faithfulness is an expression of his grace and mercy, and he can give us the same character trait of faithfulness that he possesses.

 

Step #1 – The Faithfulness of God

 

God’s faithfulness is the dependability, loyalty, and stability of his thoughts, feelings, words, and actions toward himself and toward man.

 

"The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6).

 

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations" (Deuteronomy 7:9).

 

"For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord" (Psalm 33:4-5).

 

"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you" (Psalm 89:14).

 

"The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jeremiah 31:3).

 

"I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God" (Ezekiel 24:14).

 

"If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14).

 

God’s faithfulness is closely related to his attributes of truth and goodness. In fact, it is impossible to be faithful without the attribute of truth. Faithfulness means that God’s always does what he says without fail.

 

God’s thoughts, feelings, words, and actions toward us are first expressed from his love, mercy, and grace for his creation. What would God’s faithfulness be like if he was always angry toward us?

 

God’s faithfulness is forgiving and redemptive in nature.

 

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:10).

 

"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Corinthians 1:9).

 

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

 

While God is just and right to take his wrath upon sin, the Bible also declares that the heart of faithfulness is first forgiving and redemptive. God always seeks to redeem the sinner from his sin, therefore, God’s faithfulness is also first expressed through his mercy.

 

God is “the faithful God” (Deuteronomy 7:9) who cannot become unfaithful. Of all of the so-called gods and spirits of the world, how is the One True Living God different?

 

God always thinks and acts in faithfulness even when we think and act unfaithfully.

 

"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19).

 

"What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged" (Romans 3:3-4).

 

"The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself" (II Timothy 2:11-13).

 

The true Christian has a relationship with God that pardons and removes God’s wrath from him. God’s faithful expressions of forgiveness and love will never change toward the Christian. It is God’s faithfulness to us that guarantees our salvation even when we act in an unfaithful way.

 

Since God always thinks and acts toward us in faithfulness, how should we respond to him when we are unfaithful and commit sin?

 

Step #2 – The Faithlessness of Man

 

Man is faithful to his own sinful character, but not always faithful to others.

 

"If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near" (I Kings 8:46).

 

"For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs" (II Chronicles 29:6).

 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

 

"But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice" (James 3:14-16).

 

Man has the ability to do good things including showing kindness and faithfulness to those we love (Luke 6:33). But we are also sinners—people who have rebelled against God’s faithfulness by rejecting God’s Son, Jesus.

 

Is your life characterized by faithfulness or unfaithfulness? Would others say you are faithful to your word, unfaithful, or somewhere in between?

 

Man’s faithfulness is self-centered in nature.

 

"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).

 

In contrast to God’s forgiving and redemptive faithfulness that is directed at us, our faithfulness is first dedicated to our own will and desires. We are faithful to what we want, instead of putting God’s will, or others needs, first.

 

Read the following passage: Philippians 2:4-7, "Let each of you  look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." What are some ways that you can imitate these traits of humble faithfulness by Jesus Christ?

 

Though man often acts unfaithfully, he is the constant recipient of God’s faithfulness.

 

"The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7).

 

"…before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness" (Psalm 96:13).

 

"He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).

 

"The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself" (II Timothy 2:11-13).

 

Until our dying breath God patiently performs faithful acts for the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). But his patient faithfulness is limited. He always acts faithfully to His character traits of love, mercy, and grace. But God is also a God who promises to one day punish those who have rejected his faithful demonstrates of mercy. Some day mercy will give way to judgment, and God says he will also be faithful to judge those who have rejected him.

 

We can be on one of two sides of God’s demonstrations of faithfulness. We can receive his faithful display of wrath, or his faithful display of forgiveness and love. Which side are you on now?

 

Step #3 – Becoming Faithful People

 

When we recognize God’s faithfulness, we recognize our own failures.

 

By examining our character traits in comparison to God’s character traits we see our own failings, both those we commit from honest error as well as our stubborn and rebellious nature.

 

Recognizing that God’s faithfulness is first expressed in mercy, and recognizing that our faithfulness is imperfect and usually selfish, how should we respond to God’s offer of mercy?

 

Godly faithfulness is Christ- and others-centered.

 

"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (I Corinthians 1:9).

 

"In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Corinthians 5:19-21).

 

"Let each of you  look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:4-7).

 

For God to demonstrate his character of faithfulness he had to send his son, Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus, demonstrating God’s faithfulness, took our punishment for the sins we have committed. In turn, God requires us to imitate his example in Christ by becoming people of faithfulness—true to our word and the attributes of mercy and grace.

 

Make a list of some of the areas of your life where you ascertain yourself to be an unfaithful person. Marriage? Family? Work? Community? Speech? How can you exercise more faithfulness in these areas?

 

Becoming a faithful person first requires faith in God, and trust in his Word that lead us to acts of faithfulness.

 

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:23-25).

 

"Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

 

The essence of faithfulness is “trust.” When we trust something is true, we behave in a manner that is faithful to the trust we place in that truth. In other words, we become faithful. The first step to becoming faithful is to put faith and trust in Jesus Christ by believing in him, repenting of our sin, and receiving him as our Lord and Savior.

 

Do you believe that Jesus Christ can make you a person of faithfulness? Our sin keeps us separated from God and faithless. Do you want to confess your sin to God and let him redeem you from unfaithfulness?