Faith and Faithfulness Are Not the Same Thing

The Necessity of Distinguishing Faith from Faithfulness

In every age, the same old heresies can be spotted in one form or another. Most recently, there have been two very popular heresies that have been built upon the conflation of two sets of theological truths, viz. (1.)Law and Gospel and (2.)Faith and Faithfulness (Works). These two heresies are (1.)the Federal Vision heresy[1] and (2.)the New Perspectives on Paul heresies.[2] These heresies are not truly novel; however, their popularity warrants a rebuttal of its central confusions. This will be a very brief rebuttal of the conflation of Faith and Faithfulness.

I. Faith and Faithfulness Differentiated in Hebrews 11

Those who advocate the heretical idea that faith is synonymous with faithfulness typically point to Hebrews 11:4-40 in order to justify their heresy. The problem they face, however, is that the first three verses of that chapter militate against such understanding of faith, as they describe in no uncertain terms the essence of faith. The apostle tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for,” i.e. the firm assurance that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He has promised to do. In the second place, the apostle tells us that faith is “the conviction of things not seen,” i.e. the conviction that God’s Word is true. This definition already completely debunks the idea that faith and faithfulness are synonymous, but we can go even further than this and state that faith is defined as “understanding.” The apostle writes: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God…” This should close all further misinterpretation of what follows in vv.4-40, seeing as “faith” is not presented in acts per se, but is defined as understanding, and this understanding is only given by God.[3]

Faith and faithfulness are not the same thing; the one has respect to one’s assent to the divinely revealed propositions of Scripture, the other has respect to how one behaves in light of that revealed truth. The two are not opposed to one another, but they are not the same thing, and the conflation of faith and faithfulness is deadly heresy that will damn all who believe it to Hell. If we go on in this chapter, we might ask the faith = faithfulness heretics why verse 6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. You see, if faith is equivalent to faithfulness, then how can one attempt to please God without faith? The text tells us that Cain attempted to do so by offering a sacrifice, i.e. by an external act of obedience. One can be faithful and lack faith, in other words, and yet the faith = faithfulness heretics don’t seem to realize that the very text they attempt to utilize in favor of their heresy completely undermines any such notion. Faith, of course, is evidenced in one’s responses to God’s Word and this is exactly what follows in the remainder of this chapter.

Those who believed God are those who obeyed Him. Abel’s sacrifice was more excellent because it was made in faith. Abel believed the promise of Genesis 3:15, the protoevangelium, and accordingly offered up a blood sacrifice, the typological substitute that was promised by our Lord Himself to our first parents. The second example given by the apostle is that of Enoch. There are two reasons why the heretic cannot use this passage to justify his heresy: (1.)the apostle states that Enoch was “taken up” by faith and (2.)he shows us that faith is antecedent to one’s works. Regarding (1.), we may boldly ask the heretic: If faith and faithfulness are equivalent, then how is Enoch “taken up” by faith? Genesis 5:24 tells us that “God took him.” So, again, I ask: How was Enoch taken up by his faithfulness? This is just absurd. Enoch’s faith was evidenced in the fact that he pleased God, the apostle explains, because pleasing God consists in acting in faith. And what is this faith? It is assent to the propositional truths revealed in Holy Scripture. In the apostle’s words: “…whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Note that coming to God is conditioned upon faith; therefore, faith and faithfulness are not equivalent.

The apostle continues by pointing us to Noah who is said to have built the ark by faith. Again, faith precedes Noah’s building and is, therefore, distinct from his building of the ark. Moreover, the text of Genesis 6 tells us very clearly “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”[4] Why did Noah find favor in God’s eyes? Was it because he was faithful? Or was it, rather, because God had chosen him specifically for the task of building the ark, replenishing the earth, and executing justice by the sword? According to Genesis 5:28-29: Lamech had a son and “called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Was Lamech accidentally correct about what Noah would do? Or was Lamech prophesying about his son? I find it very difficult to believe that Lamech was simply guessing that Noah would bring relief from the curse. It should be plain that Lamech was prophesying, foretelling what Noah would do as God’s agent of redemption and replenishing. Therefore, Noah’s entire life of faith and obedience were not only foreknown, they were predestined according to God’s plan.

Noah’s faith is distinct from his obedience, moreover, in the very text of Hebrews 11. We read that Noah “being warned by God” constructed the ark in reverent fear. There is a clear distinction between Noah’s reception of the Word of God as true and his response to that truth. His response to the truth of God’s warning resulted in his faithfulness to the command of God to build and ark and to gather the animals, etc. How the heretics conflate faith and faithfulness in this passage is just evidence of their blindness which hinders them from seeing the obvious distinction between faith and faithfulness that the Spirit of God has revealed.

The next person in the list of the great cloud of witnesses is Abraham who obeyed God in faith. The heretics point to this example and shout: “There! Faith is faithfulness!” They don’t realize that they are missing something very obvious yet again. Yes, Abraham obeyed in faith; however, the apostle goes on to say that: “These all died in faith…”[5] Does this mean that they died in faithfulness? Was their dying somehow an act of faithfulness? Were these people existentialists who attempted to make a spiritual art out of their deaths? Or is the heretic missing the point here? How does one die in faithfulness? How is one’s death an act of faithfulness? Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is not confused as to His own meaning and He explains that they all died in faith “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”[6] Again, the emphasis is on the understanding, the acceptance of propositional truths revealed by God; the obedience of these people follows, as it is the inevitable fruit of having believed God’s Word. And this is what we read throughout the remainder of the chapter: Faith is evidenced in one’s faithfulness.

II. Peter Differentiates Faith from Faithfulness

The second point I want to make here is that faith and faithfulness are shown to be related yet different in 2 Peter 1:5-8. In this passage, Peter exhorts us to “supplement” our faith with (i)virtue, (ii.)knowledge, (iii.)self-control, (iv.)steadfastness, (v.)godliness, (vi.)brotherly affection, and (vii.)love. The distinction between faith and actions that fall under the general category of faithfulness to God, exhibited in one’s obedience to God in loving Him and loving one’s neighbor as oneself, is detrimental to the legalist heretic who falsely states that faith and faithfulness are equivalent. Peter, speaking by the Holy Spirit, destroys that satanic notion. This is why we are commanded to define terms on the basis of God’s Word and not on the shifting sands of empirical research (which never yields certainty). If the heretics who promote the lie that faith = faithfulness would just read their Bibles, they would have a lot less blood on their hands. As it stands, however, they are guilty of denying the sufficiency of the Substitutionary Work of our Lord Jesus Christ and, thereby, condemn themselves along with their hearers. They want to be religious without honoring Christ for who He is: God the Just and Perfect Substitutionary Sacrifice for the sins of His elect people, chosen in Him from before the foundations of the Earth, justified by grace alone through faith alone.

Amen!


[1] The Federal Vision heresy conflates Law and Gospel in its belief in (i.)conditional election, (ii.)baptismal regeneration, (iii.)conditional security, and (iv.)dual stage justification (i.e. an initial form of justification whereby the individual is accepted into the  visible body of believers and a later justification based on works on the Day of Judgment).

[2] The New Perspectives on Paul heresies conflate Faith and Faithfulness by (i.)redefining Law to mean the national governing Law of Israel as a theocratic nation (i.e. the Law as nothing but divinely prescribed ceremonial rites by which Israel could be identified as God’s special Covenant people in contrast to their surrounding Gentile neighbors; (2.)redefining Gospel to mean the good news that Christ has conquered over the world powers and is now uniting Jews and Gentiles together under His political authority (i.e. the Gospel as the declaration that God is calling Jew and Gentile into fellowship with one another in the New Covenant, in contrast to the Gospel as the declaration of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as that which procures for God’s elect the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God); and (3.)redefining faith as covenantal faithfulness (i.e. faith as indiscernible from works of love toward God and love toward one’s neighbor, in contrast to the Scriptural presentation of faith as logically antecedent to faithfulness, the latter being supervenient upon the former, and the former only truly being present where the latter is evidenced).

[3] Cf. Colossians 1:9, for instance, where Paul clearly states that God is the One who causes individuals to have an understanding of the truth of His Word; this also very clearly stated, perhaps even more so, in 1 Corinthians 2:11-16.

[4] Cf. Gen 6:8

[5] Cf. Heb 11:13

[6] Ibid.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Faith and Faithfulness Are Not the Same Thing

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “the conflation of faith and faithfulness is deadly heresy that will damn all who believe it to Hell.”

    I hope that those who accidentally conflate or who conflate out of confusion or misunderstanding will receive Grace and not go to Hell.

    Like

  2. Billy says:

    It’s funny to me that somehow those who believe that it is incorrect to interpret Paul and Peter to be promoting a work-less salvation are satanic and will be damned to hell. If reading the Bible is the cure to these so-called heresies, please show me an example in Scripture of someone who is saved based only on what they believe in their head without any works to accompany it. You are missing Peter’s point if you think he is saying that faith is enough to save you even if you don’t add to it virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,brotherly affection, and love. Makes it very clear in 2 Peter 2:9 that it is the godly whom God will save and the unrighteous whom he will punish on the day of judgement.

    Logically and grammatically, it must be conceded that faith and faithfulness are different things. But there is never one without the other. So-called good works, if not done through faith, are not faithful. Likewise, belief in God that does not produce a godly life is not true faith. None of the New Testament writers ever come close to defending a view of salvation that allows for believers who do not have works. In fact, it is those who “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4) who are the heretics. Be careful before you rush to throw out the importance and necessity of a faithful response to Jesus, who is Sovereign Lord of our lives in addition to being the Perfect Substitutionary Sacrifice for our sins.

    Let me know what you think, brother. Peace be with you in the name of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.

    Like

  3. Hiram says:

    Thanks for coming by, Billy. Here is my reply to you :)

    “It’s funny to me that somehow those who believe that it is incorrect to interpret Paul and Peter to be promoting a work-less salvation are satanic and will be damned to hell.”

    I don’t think it’s funny. I think it is terrifying to think that there are many who believe themselves to be Christians and yet are adding their own works to the finished work of Christ. When Jesus proclaimed “It is finished” He didn’t add “kinda” at the end of it. Forgive the sarcasm, Billy. It’s just that Galatians 1:8-9 clearly identifies those who add works to faith, who consider their own righteousness as somehow justifying them are lost. They are anathema, i.e. eternally damned to hell. I’m just restating what Paul, under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us.

    “If reading the Bible is the cure to these so-called heresies, please show me an example in Scripture of someone who is saved based only on what they believe in their head without any works to accompany it.”

    Reading the Bible is the cure, but this Bible reading must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit. The natural man doesn’t understand the things of God; only the Holy Spirit can reveal God’s truth to God’s people (cf. 1 Cor 2:11-16). Romans 5 tells us that we are sinners from birth, guilty and sentenced to death on the basis of our natural union with Adam. Romans 3 tells us that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3 also tells us that the Law, i.e. God’s commands and our obedience to them, justifies No One. Paul repeats this in Galatians 2:16. If you want narrative examples of individuals who are saved apart from works –
    which, incidentally, Paul’s point in Romans and the entire book of Titus (but more specifically, Romans 4:1-8 and Titus 2:14 [notice that Paul differentiates between “Christ who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (this is redemption, salvation, justification by grace alone through faith alone) and “to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”], Titus 3:4-8 [notice again that Paul differentiates between our works as inevitably following our salvation and Christ’s work of fully redeeming us. Verse 8, again, makes a distinction between believing on Christ for salvation and good works which follow.) – then there are multitudes of examples. Genesis 3 is the first instance of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Adam and Eve fail to obey God’s Law and are cursed. However, God gives them the promise of the Savior in Genesis 3:15. Then God kills an animal in their place and covers their nakedness with the skin of the animal. This is a foreshadowing of the Substitutionary work of Christ. There is no work that is done by Adam or Eve. They receive the promise, and they receive the coverings that God (i.)made for them and (ii.)placed upon them. Consider Noah, a man whose service to God was prophesied of by his father.
    Note that when Noah is mentioned next, the text says that (i.)he found favor/grace in the eyes of the Lord, (ii.)he was a righteous man, and (iii.)he was blameless in his generations. Unconditional and irresistible grace precedes justification; justification is followed by sanctification. This is the pattern we find in Abraham as well: God calls him, Abraham believes the Gospel (cf. Gal 3:7-9), Abraham is saved by grace alone through faith alone, and he is declared righteous by his deeds much later on (cf. Gen 22:1-19 & James 2:21-23). The list goes on….

    “You are missing Peter’s point if you think he is saying that faith is enough to save you even if you don’t add to it virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,brotherly affection, and love. Makes it very clear in 2 Peter 2:9 that it is the godly whom God will save and the unrighteous whom he will punish on the day of judgement.”

    I’m not missing Peter’s point, Billy. I think you’re confused about what I’m saying, but also about what Peter is saying. Peter’s point is not that we need to add works to faith in order to be saved. He is saying that works, which are what believers were saved for (cf. Eph 2:1-10), and are the mark of one’s election unto faith in Christ. Hence, he says:

    “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Pet 1:10)

    Salvation is not of works in any sense other than this: We are saved by the perfect works of Jesus Christ. If you or I or anyone else tries to add our own obedience to His, it shows that we are damned, enemies of God, and haters of the Lord Jesus Christ (again, cf. Gal 1:8-9).

    “Logically and grammatically, it must be conceded that faith and faithfulness are different things. But there is never one without the other.”

    I never said that they were alien to one another. My point is this: they are not identical, even in practice. Faith is simply believing God’s truth, trusting God, taking Him at His Word. The person who truly rests in Christ is justified freely by His grace and is called to do good works thereafter.

    “So-called good works, if not done through faith, are not faithful. Likewise, belief in God that does not produce a godly life is not true faith.”

    Yes. Works without faith is dead; Faith without works is dead. However, the exercise of faith and the performance of good works are two different things. Scripture always differentiates the one from the other, without opposing the one to the other.

    “None of the New Testament writers ever come close to defending a view of salvation that allows for believers who do not have works.”

    If you mean that the Bible does not teach that a saved man can go on sinning unrepentantly and still consider himself a Christian, then I agree. If you mean, however, that salvation includes the good works of the believer, then you are very wrong. The Word of God teaches very clearly that salvation is by grace Alone through faith Alone. And it teaches just as clearly that those who are justified have been so called unto salvation for the sake of producing good works (cf. John 15:16, James 1:18, 1 Peter 2:9-10, etc). Salvation is completely free gift of God.

    “In fact, it is those who “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4) who are the heretics.”

    That’s not what I’m doing, Billy. I’m presenting what the Word of God teaches: By the works of the Law, no flesh shall be justified (i.e. declared righteous). It is by faith, and by faith alone, that a man is justified.

    “Be careful before you rush to throw out the importance and necessity of a faithful response to Jesus, who is Sovereign Lord of our lives in addition to being the Perfect Substitutionary Sacrifice for our sins.”

    If you are talking about the necessity of a faithful response to Jesus in order to be saved, then you are in serious error. If you are talking about the need for believers to obey the Lord Jesus, then I don’t know how you could have gleaned from my article that I’ve thrown away the importance of sanctification. We are saved by God through the instrument of faith. God doesn’t reward our faith with eternal life, He gives us faith to believe the Gospel, and thereupon justifies us.

    To mix Law and Grace together is to deny the very Substitutionary role that Christ the Lord fulfilled. Christ is the Substitute not only in His sacrifice, but also in His perfectly lived life. This is the Biblical doctrine called the active and passive obedience of Christ. The active obedience of Christ refers to His perfect keeping of the Law in the place of His elect people; the passive obedience of Christ refers to His perfect satisfaction of the wrath of God in the place of His elect people. If makes salvation conditioned on man in any way, shape, or form, he is denying the Substitutionary life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and is denying the Gospel.

    Do you think a person is justified by faith AND works?

    Like

  4. Vincent says:

    Wow! thanks for the article. Surely faith is from within one’s heart and is synonymous to trust, while on the other hand, faithfulness is like an act of obedience!

    Like

    • Hiram says:

      That doesn’t follow. See if one has faith, he has faith in the teaching of the Scriptures. The teaching of the Scriptures includes statements about the life of one who truly believes the Scriptures.

      What do they say?

      They tell us that if a man is born again, he will live in accordance with God’s law. They tell us that a person of faith will seek to obey God’s commandments and glorify him by living a life of godliness.

      If one truly has faith, saving faith, then he will be faithful. This is the Scriptural teaching that a person of faith will believe if he truly has saving faith.

      It is simply not the case that one can truly possess saving faith and not live in accordance with God’s commands, i.e. in faithfulness to God.

      -h.

      Like

    • Hiram says:

      Hey Jay, the words faith and faithfulness are not interchangeable so I have to modify it:

      Whose faithfulness gets me into heaven?

      God’s faithfulness to his own promises has purchased heaven for me with the blood of his Son, given me his Holy Spirit as the guarantee that I will be with him forever, and has and will continue to sanctify me.

      My faith is a gift from God.
      My faithfulness is a gift from God, too.

      Neither my faith nor my faithfulness get me to heaven. God alone does that.

      Like

involve yourself

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s