Our Faith and God’s Faithfulness

The Descent of the Holy Spirit in a 15th centu...
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I’m reading Jurgen Moltmann’s The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life slowly, which is the best way for me to read Moltmann. In his chapter, “Born Again to a Living Hope” he asks the question, “Can the faith which is grounded in a birth to new life ever be lost or not? Is the assurance of faith also an assurance that we will remain and endure to the end, in spite of all the obstacles?”

Here is Moltmann’s answer:

This question was often discussed in times of Christian persecution, for torture often forced Christians to abjure their faith. Who is free of the fear of becoming weak and falling in such circumstances?  The answer given by Reformed theology is that true faith can never be lost.  Because the birth to new life comes from the Holy Spirit, it is held fast in the faithfulness of God, and never forsakes believers. If it is the new birth to eternal life, then this birth itself is eternal and indestructible. As the power of the resurrection, the Holy Spirit is stronger than death and the terrors and fears of death. The certainty of remaining in faith and not falling is not based on the steadfastness of believers’ souls. It is grounded on God’s faithfulness to those he has called. ‘He will sustain you to the end’ (I Cor 1.8,9).

Luke’s Gospel tells how Peter, ‘the rock of the church’, denied Jesus three times after he had been arrested, and yet did not lost his faith, for the Lord said; ‘Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail’ (22.31f.). Faith is kept safe in Christ’s intercession, even if believers become weak and fall, like other people. To know this is a great consolation. Finally, the Holy Spirit as the beginning of eternal life remains eternally with those who are his, whether they know it and feel it or not. The Holy Spirit ‘seals’ God’s children for the day of redemption. These three statements are not descriptions of the steadfastness of believers. They are declarations about God’s faithfulness and his reliability. They are not a reason for self-assurance, but they are a reason for trust in God: even if I am lost to myself, I am never lost to the faithful God. Even if I give myself up, God never gives me up.                                                                                                                                                   Moltmann, The Source of Life, (32-33)

This is very, very good news.

In times when our faith wears thin and is frayed around the edges, even in times when our faith cannot hold and tears we can trust in God’s faithfulness to us- whether we know it or not. We can trust that things are all right, that we are all right, even when it does not seem possible.

Faith isn’t something we “do”.  Worship, prayer, Bible reading, acts of mercy; these are  things that we “do” and they are all good things. These are things that can nurture faith. We should intentionally nurture our faith (and help others nurture their faith). But sometimes, sometimes, we simply can’t “do” anything.

In those times it is good to know that God keeps our faith safe for us. Through Christ’s intercession and the intercession and care of our brothers and sisters in the faith, when our faith is threadbare and frayed, even when our faith tears and does not hold, God is still present.

“[E]ven if I am lost to myself, I am never lost to the faithful God, Even if I give myself up, God never gives me up”

Good news!  Hallelujah!

2 thoughts on “Our Faith and God’s Faithfulness

  1. Great point for many of us. But I was thinking to the contrary … the negative side. We have a lot of free will, and even the most faithful can not only go astray as faith lessens, but they finally lose their faith = thus don’t return. So in those people, is faith never lost?

    1. As you can imagine, there is a lot that can be said about this. I’ll limit myself to three brief (?) responses.
      1. Romans 8:31-32, 34-35, 38-39. What then are we to day about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?… Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? …For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
      2. The whole story of the Bible is that God does not abandon us nor give up on us. God keeps God’s promises, even if we do not keep ours.
      3. We have free will, but I don’t think our free will is limitless. God’s sovereign love sets the boundaries around our free will.

      Thanks for reading and your ‘contrary’ thinking!

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