Gal. 5. 22-23
This article is the seventh part of a series of studies on the fruit of the Spirit.
Faith is not used here in its theological sense of belief in God. Rather it is fidelity, or trustworthiness. It might mean trustfulness in one’s dealings with others, the quality of trustworthiness in a man’s dealings with others, which makes a person someone on whom we can utterly rely, and whose word we can absolutely accept. So, in Paul’s day, servants were exhorted to be ‘entirely trustworthy and good’, Titus 2. 10 NLT. Christians will be a testimony in their place of employment by following the same standard today.
It is this quality of trustworthiness that the Lord Jesus commended to His servants in His parables. He drew the connection between a faithful stewardship of material things and being entrusted with responsibility in the spiritual realm. Remarkably, He states this in a parable that tells of a shrewd, but dishonest rascal, whose shrewdness his master admired, but whose dishonesty had robbed him. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?’ Luke 16. 10, 11 NLT. He promises a reward on His return to the trustworthy servant who manages His affairs well, and sees that his fellow servants are well fed, Matt. 24. 45; Luke 12. 42. Paul tells the Corinthians, also, that ‘it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful’, 1 Cor. 4. 2. It is upon the faithful servant that the Lord Jesus pronounces the commendation, ‘Well done’, Matt. 25. 21, 23; Luke 19. 17.
One of the accolades that the apostles give some of their fellow servants is that they are faithful. So Paul sends Timothy to Corinth with this testimony, ‘he is my beloved and trustworthy child in the Lord.’ 1 Cor. 4. 17 NLT. He has every confidence in Timothy’s faithfulness to the word he has heard. Another of Paul’s close associates, Tychicus, is sent to Ephesus to update them on how the apostle is faring, and Paul describes him as, ‘a much loved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work’, Eph. 6. 21 NLT. Another of Paul’s much loved co-workers was Epaphras, who, says Paul, ‘is Christ’s faithful servant,’ Col. 1. 7 NLT. He had been faithful first of all in bringing the gospel to the Colossians, and ever since he had agonized in prayer for them, Col. 4. 12, 13. Tychicus appears again in the same letter, ‘a faithful helper who serves the Lord with me’, Col. 4. 7 NLT. This church met in the house of Philemon, Philem. 2. What a surprise Philemon must have had when he heard another man being spoken of in the same terms as Epaphras and Tychicus – even his own servant Onesimus, ‘a faithful and much loved brother,’ Col. 4. 9 NLT. He had been Philemon’s slave, but having robbed him ran away to Rome. There he had met Paul, in the prison, and had been led to Christ by the apostle, Philem. 10. Paul now sends him back, a ‘profitable’ servant. Grace changes a man. That same grace had changed Paul too for how could he forget his former life in which he had scoffed at and persecuted Christians? The wonder of it to him was that God had, he says, ‘considered me faithful, appointing me to his service’, 1 Tim. 1. 12 NIV. What was a constant source of amazement to Paul was that God had taken the ‘blasphemer and persecutor’ and considering him trustworthy, had appointed him to His service.
Paul is also concerned, we learn in the letters to Timothy, about the continuity of the teaching of the faith. He enjoins his faithful Timothy to teach ‘faithful men’ who will then pass on that teaching to others, 2 Tim. 2. 2. Peter, too, has his ‘faithful’ coworkers, one of whom, Silas, helped him in the writing of his first epistle. He describes him as, ‘a faithful brother,’ 1 Pet. 5. 12. John too, rejoices on hearing from brethren who had met his friend Gaius commending him on account of his faithfulness, 3 John 5, 6. May we too be counted as those that are considered faithful and anticipate the Master’s ‘Well done’ in a coming day.
to be continued