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Jonathan Master (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of theology and dean of the School of Divinity at Cairn University. He is also director of Cairn’s Center for University Studies. Dr. Master serves as executive editor of Place for Truth and is co-chair of the Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology.

by Michael Dewalt

A Faithful Life

June 15, 2015 •

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 

Every thinking man is a man of faith, but the question must be asked: faith in what? Today, men place their faith in a number of different objects that may easily lead to false hope; faith in the security of their job, faith in the numbers of their bank account, or faith in a favorite player to bring about a national title are just a few examples. John Bunyan linked faith and hope when he wrote, “As your faith is, such your hope will be. Hope is never ill when faith is well, nor strong if faith be weak.” That in which man places his faith and trust is that which he hopes will come to pass. This is seen in Israel’s deliverance from their eight-thousand plus enemies in the Old Testament; the Egyptians, Amalekites, Syrians, and Babylonians, to name a few show us that Israel’s continual repentance and faith brought about hope after exiles that led to the building of the tabernacle, the conquering of the promise land, the building of a nation, and the construction of the temple and walls of Jerusalem. Likewise, the same relationship between faith and hope lies within the believer’s deliverance from sin and Satan. Faith is a saving grace, whereby the believer rests in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered to them in the gospel.

There is a richness of faith that brings about hope for believers in Christ so that they might enjoy their relationship to God, their own life, theology, salvation, and its benefits. First, faith is at the heart of one’s relationship to God. Since the believer has been justified through faith, he has peace with God through Jesus Christ. This is found in the classic Protestant text that brought Martin Luther into spiritual liberty: “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Later in the text we see that “they [Israel] were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith” (Rom. 11:20). Paul is saying that the Christian regains and remains in access to God by faith. Faith involves knowing, believing, loving and trusting. It emanates from what we call the heart, the root, and the focal point of human existence. It is the heart in each believer that regulates his thoughts, feelings, and actions. Solomon speaks of this well-spring of life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). In one sense everyone has faith because faith is the orientation of the heart of every man, either towards the true God or a false god. Saving faith is centered in the living God of Scripture through Jesus Christ.

Secondly, faith is the heart of life itself. It is as embracive and comprehensive as all of life. It is a constant abiding characteristic of the regenerate person; the believer lives by faith on a daily basis. No theological language can get around the concept of faith. It is the activity of our entire being, as broad as it is deep. It embraces the matters of personal salvation as well as the details of daily living. One cannot eat, says Paul, to the glory of God without faith (1 Cor. 10:31). Without faith the individual is always sinning, and it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). William Perkins asserted that the circle of faith has arrows pointing to every step of salvation. Faith connects the believer to Christ every step of the way. It is inseparable from every aspect of the Christian life, from peace, hope, love, repentance, and self-denial. This is why John Calvin taught his church so powerfully that faith must address all the hard probes of life, of despair, of cross providences, of heart-stopping trails, and of sickness at every point. Faith is also involved in our outreach to others; it is at the heart of missions and evangelism and serves as a presupposition to the Christian worldview of life.  Lastly, it directs the Christian to God and everything that he is. As Paul writes, “to whom, and of whom be all glory forever.” The believer cannot live in such a way without faith; therefore faith is the heart of the Christian life.

Thirdly, faith is at the heart of theology. Faith is the pith and marrow of Christian theology. It was B.B. Warfield who taught that theology is the science of God in his relationship to man and the world. There is a kind of scientific side to theology. Like all scientific pursuits, theology follows a reliable method; it is research that finds data, forms hypotheses, tests them, and then applies the body of knowledge to life. Theology also deals with a product, an integrated body of reliable information in a particular field. The Christian church has historically regarded theology as the queen of the sciences, firstly because of the supreme value of its subject matter and secondly because it is a discipline which rightly claims to operate in the realm of accurate information based on reliable means, which is then based on the authoritative Word of God. Theology does not stand alone as a science, but the Christian faith has faith in the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word of God. The point is that this Word demands faith on every front; even its scientific nature may never be divorced from faith, for faith must not only enter into the presupposition, but it must also permeate one’s hermeneutic and filter through the content of every theological field of study. All of this comes to a head within systematic theology. The very task of systematics is to construct a coherent explication of the Christian faith that has normative significance and to construct it from all that which Scripture has to say about a certain subject from all the areas of theology. God gives the truth in single threads which the Christian must weave into a finished textile. What brings coherence to all these threads is the faith operating in them all.  Faith does not penetrate just one loci of theology, but all of them. When that faith is missing, no theology can be rightly understood. The natural man cannot know the things of God because they are spirituality discerned (1 Cor. 2). One can only rightfully title his systematic theology “The Christian Faith,” as many Dutch theologians have done, none more recent than Dr. Michael Horton.

Fourthly, faith is the heart of the ordo salutis (order of salvation). Faith is central to this order in a pervasive way. It is rich because it is the heart of the ordo salutis. Without faith man cannot do anything in salvation; he cannot break from sin, he cannot understand the Law, he cannot know the joy of walking with God, he cannot understand the gospel, he cannot have an awareness of his justification, he cannot be sanctified, he cannot go on rejoicing in the indwelling Spirit, he cannot feel the seal of the Spirit in his being, and he cannot, never once, do any good works. Faith works through love and by grace. Faith is never completed without love and grace. As the Protestant Reformation noticed, the concepts sola fide (faith alone) and sola gratia (grace alone) that walk hand in hand through the pastures of God’s Word, worshipping, adoring, and glorifying God. The whole field of the ordo salutis is a field of faith.

Lastly, faith is what brings believers all of the benefits of their salvation. The Christian has on hand one of the doctrines which is most important and also most abused by people who make faith inaccessible to human beings. Therefore we have those that think they cannot be converted. It is also abused by those who make faith so ordinary that it becomes a mechanical matter and stays at a very shallow level. At the heart of all the benefits of salvation lies the Christian’s acceptance as a child of God is through faith (John 1:12). Jesus Christ indwelling the Christian’s heart (Eph. 3:17) is received by faith (Gal. 3:14 & 22). The Christian inheritance of the promises is a gift of faith and the achieving of eternal rest through that faith (Heb. 4:3). Everything that comes to the Christian with salvation is through faith.

Christians continue to ask theological questions pertaining to faith like “What is faith?” “How does it function?” and “What are its elements?” Looking at just a few of its characteristics, its richness, its relationship, its theology, its order, and its benefits bring about two consoling thoughts. First, they are a warning to unbelievers about the wickedness and danger of not believing in Jesus Christ. It is important for pastors to tell their congregants and others that when one does not believe he is making God a lair (1 John 5:10). He is rejecting the friendly invitation and stepping on the blood of Christ that was shed, counting it unclean. Pastors need to tell those who are lost that if they continue in such unbelieving they will be cast out into outer darkness. Then secondly, faith is an encouragement to believers. Pastors encourage their members with the riches of their faith, encourage them to increase their faith, and encourage them to use the promises in Christ that they might consistently and continually come to the wounds and intercession of Jesus Christ for all manner of consolation. May they remember, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). 

Michael Dewalt serves as Director of Admissions and Assistant Professor of Theology at Faith Theological Seminary, Digital Content Manager and Rhetoric and Logic Tutor at Granite Classical Tutorials, and Adjunct Professor in the Bible and Theology Department at Lancaster Bible College.  He and his wife Emily have been blessed with one son, Wyatt Cash.


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