As we continue our series on the fruit of the Spirit, God wants us to think about faithfulness. He wants us to remember His faithfulness and be challenged to bear the fruit of faithfulness as we walk in the Spirit.
Faithfulness Is an Attribute of God
When we are tempted and tested, God is faithful to provide a way to avoid sinning.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13).
God’s continued forgiveness of our sins, as believers in Christ, is a result of His faithfulness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
God will sustain us, guiltless in Christ, unto the end.
[Christ] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:9).
And, finally, the most well-known statement of God’s faithfulness has to do with his daily mercies. In his affliction and grief, Jeremiah calls this truth to mind, which gives him hope.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23).
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, we find essential truth concerning faithfulness. Most importantly, we see that though we all have different ideas of what faithfulness looks like, God is ultimately the judge of our faithfulness.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
Think about the Context
In these verses, the apostle Paul was addressing a problem in the church at Corinth. He and the other leaders were being judged faithful or unfaithful based upon people’s personal preferences, which was causing divisions in the church.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, we see that the congregation was being divided by allegiance to personal preference, rather than centralized focus on Christ. So, for the next two chapters, Paul exposes worldly wisdom by lifting up the superior wisdom of Christ and the message of the cross. He concludes his argument at the end of chapter three with these words:
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Cor. 3:19-23)
“You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” This is the key! We belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. In Christ, we are God’s possession. We are not our own. We belong to another (See also 1 Cor. 6:18-20).
As such, each and every one of them were servants of God. As such, God will be the one to judge and reward faithfulness. That’s why verse 1 begins this way: “This is how one should regard us…”
Paul and his companions were servants of God. They were not to be placed in competition with one another, or looked down upon for standing on the authority of God’s revelation over and above man’s wisdom. Because man looks on the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart, only God can judge the extent of a person’s faithfulness.
Years ago, Richard DeHaan of the Radio Bible Class, shared this humorous example of the problem the apostle Paul faced, but in the context of a typical church in our day. He writes,
Sorry to say, in many churches it seems that the pastor [or other leaders] just cannot do anything right. No matter how sincere he may be or how hard he tries, there are always some who stand ready to find fault and criticize. Someone has described it this way:
- If the pastor is young, he lacks experience; if his hair is gray, he’s too old for the young people.
- If he has five or six children, he has too many; if he has none, he’s setting a bad example.
- If he preaches from notes, he has canned sermons and is dry; if his messages are extemporaneous, he isn’t deep enough.
- If he caters to the poor in the church, he’s playing to the grandstand; if he pays attention to the wealthy, he’s trying to be an aristocrat.
- If he uses too many illustrations, he’s neglecting the Bible; if he doesn’t include stories, he isn’t clear.
- If he condemns wrong, he’s cranky; if he doesn’t preach against sin, they claim he’s a compromiser.
- If he preaches the truth, he’s too offensive; if he doesn’t present the ‘whole counsel of God,’ he’s a hypocrite.
- If he fails to please everybody, he’s hurting the church and should leave; if he does make them all happy, he has no convictions.
- If he drives an old car, he shames his congregation; if he buys a new one, he’s setting his affection on earthly things.
- If he preaches all the time, the congregation gets tired of hearing just one man; if he invites guest ministers, he’s shirking his responsibility.
- If he receives a large salary, he’s mercenary; if he gets a small one, they say it proves he isn’t worth much anyway.
We laugh, but his illustration proves a point: We often judge one another’s faithfulness based upon our established criteria, rather than God’s.
Faithfulness is such a rich concept that it will be helpful to consider a 3-part definition.
- Faithfulness is the steady quality of being trustworthy, loyal, and dependable.
- It flows from personal integrity, and is governed by personal faith in Christ.
- A faithful person endures hardship and can be counted on as true and reliable.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at two important truths about faithfulness found in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.
Listen to the podcast on the fruit of faithfulness.
 Richard W. DeHaan, Your Pastor & You (Grand Rapids: Radio Bible Class, 1992), 2-4.