Exactly what is this fruit of the Spirit. Once we understand what it is, we can consider how it is developed.
We all know that faith is frequently spoken of in the holy Scriptures. As such it is a knowing and a trusting; knowing God from His Word and a trusting confidence that He has given to me for Jesus’ sake all the blessings of salvation.
Sometimes the knowing is emphasized and at other times the trusting confidence is on the foreground. Here the latter is obviously the case because of the context. Coming in the list of the fruit of the Spirit where it does, tells us this. It is listed after longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness and it is just before meekness. These are Christian virtues, which describe the saint’s relationship to his neighbor. Then, faith is a faithfulness: a loving trust and confidence. The emphasis is not on our faithfulness to God, but our faithfulness toward our neighbor. (Note well: faithfulness toward our neighbor is firmly grounded upon our faithfulness toward God. In turn. this faithfulness toward God cannot be separated from a knowing of God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.) Look at the word “faith” in this list of the various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, and read it as “faithfulness”.
What is this faithfulness?
It is being trustworthy and dependable. It is being reliable and loyal. It is honesty and dependability.
Faithfulness toward our neighbor is based upon our faithfulness to God. Faithfulness to God is the steady pursuit and search for God’s will in the Scriptures. It is believing, holding God’s Word to be true and His promises to be sure.
Faithfulness to our neighbor is trustworthiness and dependableness. It emphasizes that love does not forsake its object in time of difficulty, but remains constant and true, even in the hour of deepest need and in the greatest difficulty. It is a faith which believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and covers a multitude of sins.
How is faithfulness developed?
It almost goes without saying that it is the fruit of the Spirit. (It is impossible for anyone to exhibit this fruit apart from the working of the Holy Spirit.) He applies to the elect of God the blessings of salvation as merited by Jesus Christ on the cross. As He works salvation within us, fruit is produced. This fruit includes faith or faithfulness.
How does the Holy Spirit produce this fruit?
First, He deposits the seed of faithfulness within the elected child of God. He does this in regeneration. Secondly, He causes this ability to be faithful to develop, which development is usually within the sphere of the Word and Gospel. They are the external means the Spirit uses to arouse these Christian virtues.
This development is in connection with the Word and Gospel because they show to us God’s faithfulness. It is the knowledge of God’s faithfulness to us which brings the consciousness of our responsibility to be faithful and which gives the ability to be faithful. As creatures, the Creator demands that we show fidelity and faithfulness toward Himself and toward our neighbor. Man’s fall into sin and resultant depravity deprive man of the ability to begin to obey this admonition. This ability is restored in God’s vessels of honor by the Lord Jesus Christ. He forgave all unfaithfulness and His righteousness earns the virtue of faithfulness. These chosen vessels can be faithful, but it is a constant struggle to be so, because of the remains of flesh present with us. What inspires the believer in Christ unto the exercising of this virtue is the knowledge of God’s abiding faithfulness.
Consider these passages which speak of God’s faithfulness. “God is faithful” (I Cor. 1:9). “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9; 9:5). ‘ ‘Thy mercy, 0 Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds” (Psalm 36:5; 89: 1). “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (I1 Thess. 3:3). “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (I1 Tim. 2:13). Jesus is called “the faithful witness” and “Faithful and True” (Rev. 1:5; 19:ll).
An example of those who are faithful to God are those “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands” (Rev. 20:4). “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:l0).
The Scriptures are filled with examples of saints, who, under the most trying of circumstances and in the greatest of difficulties, believed that God would not forget them, but would faithfully remember, care for. and establish them. Their faithfulness to God was inspired by faith in His faithfulness to them. To these same saints is often attributed faithfulness to their neighbor. They could be faithful, even if it meant loss, because they were confident of God’s faithful care of them. Knowing how God is faithful to us, we are moved by the Spirit to be faithful to our neighbor, even to those whom we deem to be undeserving (as undeserving as we are to God).
What role do we play in the development of this virtue of faithfulness?
We must place ourselves in the sphere of the means which the Holy Spirit usually uses to arouse and inspire the exercise of this virtue. That sphere is the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ.
God appointed the cities of refuge, but the manslayer had to flee to them or he would not be safe. If the manslayer (even if it was involuntary and he was later judged as not being worthy of death) would fail to flee to a city of refuge and was slain by the avenger of blood, then his blood was upon his own head. He was required to exert himself in order to benefit from the city of refuge.
So must we exert ourselves to increase in the knowledge of the beautiful and consistent faithfulness of God. A faithfulness which never wavers, even when we depart into sin. A faithfulness which is most highly manifested in the unspeakable gift of His Son.
This thought moves the true believer to a deep sense of gratitude; to the knowledge of the great debt of gratitude he owes to God. With the joy and praise for His faithful God upon his lips and in his life, the believer strives to be faithful to God and to his neighbor.
This thought also moves the true believer to prayer. For he is deeply conscious of his own inability to produce this virtue of faithfulness. He prays because God gives His Spirit and grace to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them.