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Faith Dynamics

Peter's Epistles #24

by Dr. Robert D. Luginbill

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How narrow is the gate and how constrained is the road which leads
to [eternal] life, and few are those who find it!
Matthew 7:14

Translation of 1st Peter 1:8-9:

[. . . at the glorious return of Jesus Christ.] Though you have never laid eyes on Him, yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize – the deliverance of your lives – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
 

Introduction: We are about to complete our study of Peter's introductory eulogy, that is, his heartfelt expression of praise to God the Father for His manifold blessings to each of us. As we do so, the issue which commands our attention at the conclusion of verse nine is that of the perseverance of the believer's faith amidst the trials of life. Peter's discussion of the "living hope", the anticipation of the resurrection of our bodies and the ineffable blessings of eternity to come, is set amid a realistic appraisal of life as we know it here and now: in time, the believer's life is one of tribulation. In fact, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are destined to encounter such furious opposition from Satan that the achievement of our final victory – completing life with our faith still intact – is described by Peter in dramatic terms: salvation is a prize "to be won" (Greek komizo: to carry off as a prize, get what is due through effort; cf. Peter's use at 1Pet.5:4, and Paul's at 2Cor.5:10; Eph.6:8). This final deliverance is, moreover, the ultimate "objective" of our faith, because in achieving it, we are safe, "saved" in an ultimate, unchangeable way. Until that final victory, however, we are and shall continue to find ourselves in the middle of an intense struggle that concerns our very [eternal] lives.

The Faith Struggle: Great in every way is the reward for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ despite all satanic opposition to the contrary. We look forward with confidence to a new life, a new body, and all the blessings of the new heavens and the new earth to come. This is our hope! But without our continued personal faith in Jesus Christ, this hope would be entirely vain.

The contention, often heard in contemporary evangelical circles, that the preservation and perseverance of personal faith is "automatic" is tragically wrong. The traditional Calvinist position that, to oversimplify, those who fail to persevere in their faith were never genuine believers in the first place is equally misguided. Previously, we had occasion to study in some detail the parable of the sower (see 1st Peter lessons #12-13, 16, 18; Matt.13:1-23; Mk.4:1-20; Lk.8:4-15). In that discussion, it will be remembered, the seed of the Word of God fell on four types of soil: hard-packed, rocky, thorny and good ground. It is the case of the rocky soil that particularly attracts our attention here, for this type represents those who initially do express faith, but then fall away under pressure. Such faith does not suffice to save, because the person in question did not "endure until the end" (Matt.24:13); that is, although such individuals once did believe in Christ, at some point this faith dissolved – and they reverted to their unbelieving state.

No other issue of the Christian life should command greater attention from us than this. For without our faith in Christ, we are truly lost, and the proverb comes true, "the end is worse than the beginning" (2Pet.2:20-22). Before examining in detail the question of loss of faith in Christ, we need first to be clear about what it means to trust Christ for salvation.


Becoming a Believer:
Everyone comes face to face with the reality and power of God at some point in their lives (Rom.1:18-23; Eccl.3:11). The realization of our individual sinfulness and consequent guilt before this all-powerful God is likewise a universal constant (Rom.2:14-16; Heb.9:27). That is why one of the remarkable things about the free gift of God, salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, is that so many are unwilling to accept it. One would think that if the sure certainty of physical death were not enough motivation to convince of the need for a Savior, at least the hope of deliverance from the hands of a God demanding justice would be:

For if we continue to sin willfully (i.e., arrogantly) after having received full knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice applicable to [such] sins, but [only] the terrifying expectation of judgment and fiery retribution waiting to devour those who oppose [the Lord].
Hebrews 10:26-27

Included in the promise of the gospel is the good news that we have been freed from our sins by Christ's death on our behalf, and so, by relying on His work instead of our own, will therefore escape the future condemnation of God which is otherwise the destiny of Adam's seed. Thus, the expectation of divine judgment and the blessed relief from this prospect is a legitimate part of any appeal to unbelievers to accept Christ as their savior (cf. Acts 24:15; 24:25).

It was certainly this terror of impending judgment in the form of a divinely caused earthquake that so powerfully motivated the Philippian jailor. "Sirs," he anxiously asked Paul and his companions as the temblor bursting open his prison's cells brought home to him the reality of God's power, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul's reply was immediate and unambiguous:

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."

Acts 16:31

This is the salvation appeal in its most succinct form. You are saved by believing in Christ, pure and simple. You become a Christian by putting your faith in Christ. The Bible makes this clear "at many different times and in many different ways" as the writer of Hebrews reminds us (Heb.1:1). Charles Ryrie, in his Survey of Bible Doctrine, counts over two hundred New Testament passages alone where salvation is said to be dependent upon faith alone. How do you become a believer in Christ, a Christian and a follower of Christ? You simply put your faith in Him, and at that moment you enter the family of God, becoming a part of the body of Christ, His Church. The amount of detailed information a person must have at the point of accepting the Lord is minimal, like a grain of mustard seed, compared to the wonderful body of truth available to him once saved. The issue is simply "Christ": to accept God's gracious offer of eternal life, we must first accept His Son, Christ's person and work:

No one comes to the Father, except through me.

John 14:6


God's Free Gift: Salvation is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ. Eternal life, deliverance from death and condemnation, cannot be purchased for any earthly sum, but it is ours for the taking, completely free of any charge. This is because Jesus Christ has already paid for all of us, by His death on the cross in our place. By His sacrifice, He ransomed us, paying the price for all the sins we would ever commit, and thus opening up the door to paradise. If you have not already done so, the water of life is available to you, free for the drinking right now without any cost. Simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. As ambassadors of Christ, as though God were urging you through us, we beg you, be reconciled to God! (2nd Corinthians 5:20).

Let your heart not be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.

If it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:1-3


For God loved the world so much, that he gave His only beloved Son,
in order that whoever believes in Him might not perish,
but have eternal life.

John 3:16


For you have been saved by (God's) grace through faith (in Christ);
and this did not come from you – it is God's gift.
Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9


For there is no deliverance through any other person,
nor has any other name on earth been given by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

 

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."

Acts 16:31

The testimony of scripture is abundantly clear. All that is needed is for you to accept the gracious offer of a loving God, who has already done everything for you. What more could He do than to send His precious Son to die in your place, so that you could live forever with Him? All that is needed is for you to accept, to place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to believe in Him, and eternal life will be yours. All God asks is that you not reject this His ineffable gift.

And the Spirit and the bride say "Come!"
And let the one who hears say, "Come!"
And let the one who is thirsty come;
let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Revelation 22:17



Principles of Faith in Christ:

 



The Christian Life

hearing (by faith)> THE WORD BELIEVED <(by works) doing
 

For this is the victory that has overcome the world : our faith!

1st John 5:4

Conclusion: No matter how difficult the life that has fallen to our lot, no matter how steep the road or straight the gate, our perseverance in faith in Jesus Christ is not vain (1Cor.15:58; Gal.6:8). For on the other side of that gate lies eternity, with blessing and comfort beyond our mortal capacity to comprehend:

For in yet a little while – how short, how short [a time]! – He who is coming shall [indeed] come, and will not delay. And My righteous one will live by (i.e., on account of) his faith – and if he shrinks back, My heart will take no pleasure in him."

Hebrews 10:38

 

[Go to: Peter #25: Personal Tribulation]

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