The Faithfulness Of God

Adapted From A Sermon By

George Burder

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

(1 Corinthians 1:9)

This morning we come to the last of the attributes of God which we have been considering all relating to the importance of the knowledge of God.

First Corinthians 1:9 states: God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Each of the Perfections is necessary to the complete happiness of a Christian; not one of them can be dispensed with. That God is Almighty, and Wise, and Holy, and Just, and Good, is the joy of every believer's heart; but there is another perfection, in which the Christian seems to be (if possible) still more interested—that is, his Truth, or Faithfulness: for the life of every real Christian, while in this world, is a life of faith; and as faith has respect to the word of God, his faithfulness to that word must be the principal ground of his faith and hope, and consequently of his joy, for his joy and peace are “in believing.” There is nothing, therefore, which respects the divine character, that is more immediately connected with our Christian walk, than the veracity or faithfulness of God. The assertion of the apostle Paul in the text, furnishes us with a short, clear, and full proposition, which it will be our present business scripturally to illustrate, and practically to improve.

God Is Faithful.

Truth is essential to the very existence of God.—It is as impossible to conceive of a God without truth, as of a God without power. Truth is therefore inseparable from his nature. The true God is truth itself. He is the first, chief, and greatest truth, and the source of all truth; so that all things are true or false, as they agree or disagree with their original patterns in the mind of God.

The value of truth is acknowledged by mankind in general. Fallen and corrupt as men are, they have not altogether lost sight of the value of truth: if destitute of it themselves, still they prize it in others. If they do not possess it, they wish to be thought to possess it. Therefore no insult is considered so great as being called a liar; it is deemed disgraceful, and so it ought to be deemed, for this is the character of the Devil himself: “He is a liar, and the father of it.”(John 8:44) Most awfully do they resemble him, who speak lies; they “are of their father the devil, and their will is to do their father's desires.”(John 8:44) But the blessed God is infinitely true, and it is absolutely impossible for him to lie. The heathens themselves (in civilized countries) were sensible of the value of truth. One of their wise men said, that “if God should render himself visible to men, he would choose light for his body, and truth for his soul.” The Romans built a temple which they dedicated to Truth, whom they called the Sister of Justice; and the most solemn oaths were taken in her name. Indeed, an oath was a kind of sacrifice offered to Truth.

What reason thus approves, Revelation abundantly confirms and ascribes Truth to God as an essential perfection of his nature. Even Balaam, that wicked prophet, was constrained to say, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) He is called in Scripture “The God of Truth” (Psalm 31:5 NKJV)—“The Lord God, abounding in Truth.” (Exodus 34:6 NKJV) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is also called “He who is true” (Revelation 3:7)—“faithful and true:” (Revelation 19:11) and the Holy Spirit is called “The Spirit of Truth.” (John 16:13) The extent and glory of this perfection is expressed in these lofty terms, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (or skies.) (Psalm 36:5)—‘I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” “O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you?” (Psalms 89:1, 2, 8) We look in awe at the heavens and the heavenly bodies; we see, but cannot comprehend their vastness; they are above our reach, and too large for our grasp: but they are emblems of the power, the mercy, and the truth of God: we see, we admire, we adore these divine perfections; but finite minds can never comprehend them.

The excellency of the divine faithfulness will more fully appear, when we perceive that it results from, or stands connected with, all his other perfections.

1. It is connected with his Power. He “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever.” (Psalms 146:6) His almighty power enables him, without the possibility of failure, to accomplish all his promises and threatenings. Honest men, however eager to keep their word, may be prevented by the unexpected occurrences of insurmountable difficulties; but the designs of the Almighty cannot be frustrated. “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) said the reproving angel to the wife of Abraham, when her faith once staggered at the promise. Abraham himself was “strong in faith, giving glory to God”—the glory of his power and his fidelity combined, for he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:21) In like manner, the apostle of the Gentiles feels perfect composure in the prospect of martyrdom, well knowing “whom he had believed,” and being “convinced that he was able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to him.” (2 Timothy 1:12) If Noah is to be preserved amidst a drowning world, if Israel is to be delivered from the Egyptian yoke, or to be sustained in a barren wilderness, or to subdue the warlike nations of Canaan, no obstacles will prevent the promised events; infinite power and infinite faithfulness make them perfectly certain; wisdom prescribes the means; omnipotence makes them effectual; and God is faithful.

2. The faithfulness of God is connected with his holiness; indeed it is a branch of it,—without which he could not be holy. “There is no unrighteousness in him.” (Psalm 92:15) He never lies;(Titus 1:2) “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18) “He is not a man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23:19) Lies are the wretched fruit of man’s apostasy—his loss of the divine image, the corruption of his once holy nature: but God is unalterably holy; therefore it is said, “Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me.” (Psalm 89:35-36) Well, therefore, might the Psalmist say, “God has spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice;” (Psalm 60:6 NKJV)” for so the holiness of God is a pledge of his faithfulness.

3. The faithfulness of God is necessary from his unchangeableness. He is the only being absolutely and necessarily unchangeable. Angels have changed, and become devils; Man is changed, and become a rebel! but “I am the Lord,” said he, “I do not change;” (Malachi 3:6) and it follows, as the blessed effect of his unchangeableness, “therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”(Malachi 3:6) Men frequently change their mind, sometimes from good to evil, at other times from evil to good: their second thoughts are often their best; but God’s thoughts can neither be improved nor depraved; they are originally, perfectly, unalterably good. It was the pride of the Medes and Persians that they would not alter their laws; it was on the proud presumption that they were so wisely framed as to leave no room for improvement; but such, indeed, are the laws and the promises of God; with him is “no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) The promises and vows of men (like Jephthah’s(Judges 11) and Herod's(Matthew 14:6-11)) are sometimes unlawful in themselves, or incautiously made, so that “there may be more honor in the breach, than in the observance of them.” Not so the engagements of Heaven; they are all the product of that holy and wise mind which cannot err, and need not change. “He is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me.” (Job 23:13-14)

4. The faithfulness of God is the result of his wisdom. Among men, the nonperformance of promises is frequently caused by circumstances which human prudence could not foresee, nor provide against; and therefore good men should not make promises hastily, and never without (at least a mental) reference to the apostle James's caution,—“You ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”(James 4:15) But no reservations are necessary when God makes a promise; he has a perfect foreknowledge of every future event, however distant; he knows the end from the beginning, and perceives the connection of all things, though apparently superficial and casual, all which, instead of defeating his purpose, will conspire to accomplish it. No difficulties, no disappointments, can occur to him; his instruments are always at hand, and willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or ignorantly, they will all contribute to his holy designs. This is great encouragement to rely on his faithfulness.

5. The faithfulness of God may be contemplated, as connected with his mercy, his love, and his goodness. The royal Psalmist puts them together, I “give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” (Psalm 138:2) His love inclines him to make the promise, and his truthfulness induces him to fulfill it: and it would be dishonorable to God to admit for a moment, the unjust supposition that he would disappoint the hope which his promise had excited: and so it is pleaded, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.” (Psalm 119:49) The word of promise is the ground of hope; and it is by the grace of God a believer is enabled to make it such, to depend upon it, and expect its fulfillment: and will he who kindled the holy desire, and filled the soul with hope of the promised blessing, disappoint that hope! It is impossible. The Christian may humbly, yet boldly, say with David, when he pleaded a divine promise, “And now, O Lord, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as you have spoken.” (1 Chronicles 17:23) Mercy and truth have met together, and they will never part. Mercy invites, and Truth receives the sinner. Mercy makes the promise, and Truth stands ready to fulfill it: and the union of both will prompt the Psalmist's song, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” (Psalms 108:3)

6. Another consideration may confirm our confidence in the faithfulness of God. —The promises are made in, and to Christ, as the head of his church; and faithfulness to him, as well as to us, insures their fulfillment. The apostle Paul declares, “all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Jesus Christ is the Surety of the new covenant, and he is deeply concerned in the fulfillment of the promises, for they are made to him, and to his people, in and through him. The persons who will finally be saved, are those of whom he says to the Father, “Yours they were, and you gave them to me;”(John 17:6) and again, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one;”(John 17:23) he also says, “all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”(John 6:37) We also read of the “hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.”(Titus 1:2) Was not this promise made to the eternal Son of God, and to and for believers in him, their covenant head, before time began, and of which he gave a specimen in the first promise immediately after the fall of man? All the promises then being made to Christ, the Mediator, respecting both himself and his people, will be duly fulfilled, “to the praise of his glorious grace.”(Ephesians 1:6)

7. If anything more is needed to establish our faith in the faithfulness of God, let it be that wonderful condescension of his grace, whereby he is pleased to confirm his promise by an Oath. In this way he was pleased to stoop down to confirm the faith of Abraham when the promise of a great posterity, so contrary to human appearances, was made to him. So the apostle Paul relates the matter to the Hebrews, “for when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, surely I will bless you and multiply you.”(Hebrews 6:13) In the book of Genesis it is, “by myself I have sworn, declares the Lord,”(Genesis 22:16) and in like manner he is pleased to deal with Christian believers: “when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us”(Hebrews 6:17)—that is, upon Christ. In this most wonderful way the God of Truth condescends to calm our fears, and banish our unbelief; by this double security he encourages our hope, and constrains us to say, as in our text, “God is faithful.”

8. In the last place, and, if possible, still further to satisfy the most skeptical mind, let us contemplate the experience of the people of God in all ages. And here, what a cloud of witnesses might be called upon to give their evidence in support of, what ought never to have been questioned—the faithfulness of Jehovah!

The first promise that God was pleased to make to his apostate creature, related to the Savior, who, under the title of “the seed of the woman,” was to “bruise the serpent’s head,”(Genesis 3:15) or, in other words, to “destroy the works of the devil.”(1 John 3:8) The fulfillment of this promise was deferred for the long space of four thousand years; and then, “when the fullness of time had come”—the proper, the appointed time, neither sooner nor later, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman,”(Galatians 4:4) to be a Redeemer. With eager longings of holy desire, many successive generations looked forward to this grand event; and when the moment arrived, fixed in the divine decree, the Savior appeared. Let us remember that there is nothing like distance of time in the mind of God, between the promise and its fulfillment; “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day;”(2 Peter 3:8) and therefore some events are spoken of in the prophets as present, or even past, which are yet to come; for God knows nothing of past or future, all is one eternal now; and if he speak, it is done.

Was the universal flood threatened, and was Noah with his family to be secured? The event corresponded with the threatening, though it was 120 years later; and when that period of reprieve expired, “On the very same day Noah entered the ark.”(Genesis 7:13) The world perished; Noah was preserved; and the word of the Lord, which cannot fail, was accomplished.

Was Abraham, when a hundred years old, and childless, perhaps for fifty years after his marriage, to have one son, and descending from him, a vast posterity like the stars of heaven in number? Every probability was against such an event; but Abraham had the fullest confidence in the power and faithfulness of Jehovah, and the promise was fulfilled;

Was Israel, long enslaved and depressed, to be freed from the Egyptian yoke? What though Pharaoh was proud and obstinate—what though, after a reluctant consent, he pursued the fugitives with a mighty army—what though rocks and mountains were on either hand, and the raging sea before them,—the promise could not fail! the sea parts at God’s command; it forms a wall on each side of them, and they pass through its dry channel in perfect safety; immediately after which, the waves, obedient to their Maker, resume their place, and overwhelm, with tremendous destruction, the terrified Egyptian army. In this way Israel was taught that “God is faithful.”

Pass on with these distinguished people into the deserts of Arabia, and rather than the promise of God shall fail, behold them sustained for the greater part of forty years, with food daily rained down from Heaven, and their thirst satisfied with water flowing from the flinty rock! But how are they to dispossess seven mighty and warlike nations, whose fortified cities were “fortified up to heaven,”(Deuteronomy 1:28) and in whose eyes they thought “themselves like grasshoppers?”(Numbers 13:33) The terror of God fell upon these bold warriors; the walls of Jericho fell flat before the Israelites; and the land of milk and honey became an easy conquest. The overflowing Jordan recedes, and opens a easy passage into the heart of the country, and then the faithfulness of God is proclaimed by his honored servant Joshua: “you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed”(Joshua 23:14) Surely all the people would say, “God is faithful.”

It would be easy to follow the Scripture history, and present a multitude of instances to the same effect, but our in our limited time these may serve as sufficient examples. And now for some closing thoughts and encouragements:

1. From this we may learn the unreasonableness and sinfulness of unbelief.

Is the blessed God uniformly faithful to his word, whether of promise or threatening! What then is the crime of unbelief, but the denial of this—the denial of his trustworthiness and truth—the charging him with falsehood? The apostle John, therefore, expressly says, “Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar;”(1 John 5:10)—he who rejects the testimony of God in the Gospel, who denies that “God gave us (believers) eternal life, and this life is in his Son,”(1 John 5:11) charges the truth of God with a falsehood; and can any blasphemy be worse than this? Let the example of the ancient Israelites be a warning to the world; for “good news came to ...them”(Hebrews 4:2)—the promise of the earthly Canaan; but not giving credit to the promise, God was offended, and “swore in his wrath, They shall not enter his rest;”(Hebrews 3:11) “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”(Hebrews 3:19) Our wisdom, therefore, is to profit by their punishment, and to hear, with faith, the voice of God in his Gospel, “as long as it is called today;”(Hebrews 3:13) for this is the solemn declaration of the God of truth: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”(John 3:36)

2. Let God be honored in his faithfulness, by a suitable confidence in it.

The life of a Christian is a life of faith. God’s faithfulness, and our faith, are related terms. His promises are the ground of our faith. Faith has a constant regard to them; and our expectation of their fulfillment rests upon the faithfulness of God in performing them, and will generally be proportioned to our belief of that faithfulness. It is said of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, in reference to the long-promised heir, that “she considered him faithful who had promised;”(Hebrews 11:11) that is, she did so habitually, though her faith, like that of most believers, sometimes fluctuated. “She considered him faithful,” and therefore expected the promised blessing. This, then, is the point. Do we, or do we not, judge a promising God to be a faithful God? If we do, we will experience some degree of “joy and peace in believing:”(Romans 15:13) if we do not, doubts and fears will burden our minds, and cloud our outlook.

By believing that God is faithful, we will obtain peace, and in no other way. “Did I not tell you,” (that is, to Martha, at the grave of her brother Lazarus) “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”(John 11:40) And so the Lord speaks to us—If you can believe my testimony, rely on my promises, and trust my faithfulness to make them good to you, you will see my glory; you will have my peace, which passes understanding, to keep your heart and mind, while in this valley of tears; and you will hereafter be with me where I am, behold my glory, and share in it forever. Does each of us not have reason to say, “I believe; help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24)

3. Finally, Let us, in our humble measure, try to imitate the blessed God in this his glorious attribute; let us be “imitators of God, as beloved children;”(Ephesians 5:1) let us imitate him in faithfulness.

Even a heathen philosopher (Pythagoras,) when asked, “What makes men like God?” is said to have answered, “Their speaking the truth.” Let not Christians be worse than heathens. Many, alas! called Christians are so! ‘The wicked are in the constant habit of lying; “they go astray from birth, speaking lies,”(Psalms 58:3) and in this practice they resemble him who is “the father of lies;”(John 8:44) and without repentance and pardon, the portion of all liars “will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”(Revelation 21:8)

But from this vain and wicked conversation every true believer is redeemed. God’s children are described as lovers of truth:—“Surely they are my people, children who will not lie.”(Isaiah 63:8 NKJV) Let this be our character. Let us, as directed by the apostle, “each one ... speak the truth with his neighbor.”(Ephesians 4:25)

Above all, let the faithfulness of God to us, constrain us to be faithful to him. We are engaged by baptism, profession, and self-dedication, to be the Lord’s; “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”(Hebrews 10:23)