Faith: Genuine, Persevering Trust in the Gospel

Paul frequently exhorts Timothy concerning matters of faith, a term he often uses to describe a persevering trust and an enduring confidence in the promises of God for salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Tim 1:4, 14). Since this faith unites believers to Christ in the Gospel, it is by no means insignificant, but carries with it eternal consequences. Thus, knowing this precious gift and function of faith, Paul urges young Timothy twice to “fight the good fight” of faith, that he might lay hold of eternal life (1:18-19; 6:12). Without fighting, he will be like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith, two men whom Paul himself handed over to Satan, so that they would be taught not to blaspheme (1:19-20).

Paul’s portrayal of faith in 1 Timothy is also far from the faith so often preached in some contemporary circles, a mere mental assent to some facts or even a kind of one-time decision. Instead, he pictures genuine faith as that act by which one persistently casts themselves upon Jesus and continuously lays hold of him in the Gospel. This sincere faith cultivates love (1:5). This enduring faith sets a good example for other believers (4:12) and characterizes the man of God, who is not diverted by the love of money (6:11).

In addition, Paul uses the term “faith” in another sense in 1 Timothy, namely, when he sums up the whole of Christianity in the phrase, “the faith.” The expression is seen primarily in the Pastoral Epistles, most likely because of the rise of false teaching (e.g. 1 Tim 4:1; 6:21; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Tit 3:9). Thus, “the faith” drew the implications of being something unique and set apart from what others believed (1 Tim 3:9; cf. 2 Cor 13:5; 2 Thess 3:2). Thus, Timothy is Paul’s true child in “the faith” (1 Tim 1:2). Furthermore, it is always directly identified with those who are in Christ, for he is what makes the faith “the faith” (1 Tim 3:13). Prior to his conversion, Paul made it his aim to destroy “the faith” (Gal 1:23); however, he who once tried to destroy it now exhorts the brethren to protect and guard it (1 Tim 5:8; cf. Tit 1:13). Knowing firsthand the sufferings and opposition one might encounter because of “the faith,” Paul encourages Timothy to stand firm in its “sound words” (1 Tim 6:12).

Since through faith people become united to Christ, and by it they persevere in the Gospel of his grace, it is no wonder Paul takes up his pen to address Timothy’s and the church’s. His earnest plea is for their faith to be genuine and persevering in the Gospel that they might not walk away from “the faith” (cf. 6:10). Overall, therefore, Paul’s Gospel-centered ministry demands of Timothy that he earnestly concern himself not only with the doctrine that defines and explains the Gospel (as seen in the previous post), but also the faith that embraces and treasures the Gospel in all of its content.

Bridging the Gap

In light of Paul’s emphasis on faith, I recalled a statement a close brother shared with me while at work. In a word, he said that he found it strange that Christians would be so diligent to concern themselves with the initial faith of unbelievers by urgently preaching the Gospel to them, but often times could care less about restoring the waning faith of a Christian brother/sister with that same Gospel. In other words, many Christians would rather save the lost than keep a true brother from forsaking the faith. Surely, according to Paul’s words here (and elsewhere), we ought concern ourselves with both winning the lost and preserving the church. For the sake of “the faith,” therefore, let us be diligent to encourage each other’s faith.

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5 Responses to “Faith: Genuine, Persevering Trust in the Gospel”

  1. Billy Marsh Says:

    I think we often view Christian encouragement as mainly moral support rather than as an instrument of perseverance and sanctification. Once we realize that “he who endures until the end will be saved,” we will be more intentional in our Christian relationships, never taking for granted the assurance of salvation of our loved ones. I do not say this to cultivate skepticism in our hearts always of our Christian brothers’ and sisters’ salvation, but instead to say that in the “fight of faith,” we should never willingly or ignorantly leave our Christian family members alone on the battlefield to wage war against sin and Satan on their own.

  2. Ched Says:

    he who once tried to destroy it now exhorts the brethren to protect and guard it

    Paul’s conversion is so stunning. A complete reversal of will. A New Creation!

    For the sake of “the faith,” therefore, let us be diligent to encourage each other’s faith.

    And you’ve done that for at least one reader today.

  3. Brandon Says:

    So…

    Your coolness has just been declared on my blog. You’re #4.

  4. Right Doctrine, Persevering Faith, Godly Conduct, and Gospel-Centered Ministry « Straight out of the SWBTS Blogosphere Says:

    […] Persevering Faith […]

  5. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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