The Faithfulness of God


The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

The prophets are generally known for either the passages read during the Christmas season regarding the birth of Christ or their fiery pronouncements of judgment. And neither is unwarranted. The LORD gave his prophets frightening messages to stir His people to fear Him. Declarations such as God’s pledge in Jeremiah 4:23 to destroy so thoroughly that creation is returned to a state of being “without form and void” are purposely meant to lodge themselves within the reader’s mind.

Yet for all the doom and gloom that the prophets rightfully brought against an idolatrous people, they also were messengers of hope. In spite of Israel’s persistent worship of worthless idols, the LORD sent the prophets to bring judgment with one hand and love with other. For instance, in the book of Hosea, God continuously compares Israel’s idolatry to marital adultery, but in the midst of His people’s unfaithfulness, the LORD powerfully laments:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

Hosea 11:8–9

Or we read from Jeremiah, who first prophesied and then witnessed firsthand the desolation of Jerusalem by the hands of the Babylonians, in the midst of his lament for the city of David:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS

Each attribute of God ought to be sweet as honey and refreshing as water to our souls, and that is certainly true of God’s faithfulness. It is repeatedly and explicitly affirmed by Scripture for our benefit and comfort. Here are a few examples:

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.

Deuteronomy 7:9

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

1 Corinthians 1:9

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 Corinthians 10:13

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Stephen Um helpfully defines the faithfulness of God as being “his attribute that displays his trustworthiness based on his unwavering commitment to his people through his promises and covenants that find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.”[1]

The other attributes, glorious as they are, would be of no comfort to us personally if God were not faithful. How could rejoice in His immutability if He were unchangingly against us? Or in His omnipotence if His power was ever against us in wrath? Indeed, because He is faithful and altogether trustworthy, His glory and might are our highest joy and delight.

Yet in order to understand the faithfulness of God (and the whole message of Scripture), we must, as Um noted, have a proper understanding of God’s covenants with His people. It is through these pledges of commitment that God establishes relationships with His followers. By most considerations that are seven major covenants present within the Bible: Adamic, Edenic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New covenants. Within each of these covenants, God creates principles, conditions, and guidelines for His people. When looking at each covenant, it is important to ask a few questions. To whom is this covenant being made? What blessings are being promised? What are the conditions of the covenant? What is the external sign of the covenant? 

It has often been noted that covenants in the ancient world were similar to legal contracts, and while there certainly is an element of legality to these divine covenants, they are much more promises sealed with the very character of the Most High God. Thus, while most covenants between people involved the active work of both parties, God often takes unilateral responsibility for maintaining the promise. This is good news for us. If God is the one who initiates the covenant, He will also be faithful to uphold it. The focus then is upon the work of God, not our works. This means that our covenantal God is firmly resolved in His faithful love toward us. He actively seeks our greatest good (though that may not always come in the manner that we desire).

Of course, through the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, we are given an even greater display of the love and faithfulness of God. Biblically, every covenant within the Old Testament points toward the New Covenant established through Jesus. In fact, the word testament is another word for covenant. New Testament, therefore, gives us a description of this New Covenant. By it, through the sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted as children of God. The benefits of this covenant continue to flow. The followers of Christ has absolute forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, a righteous standing before God, and the blessed hope of resurrection and life everlasting, to only name a few of our blessings. And again, the great beauty is that this covenant is sealed by the work of Christ, not our own, and it is contingent upon His faithfulness rather than ours. For as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”

I BELIEVE; HELP MY UNBELIEF

Although when speaking of God’s faithfulness, we could grab any of the verses listed above and discuss an application, such as how it strengths us in our fight against temptation and Satan. However, I would like to make a broader application by addressing how God’s faithfulness shapes relates to our own faith in Him.

Faith, after all, is a much discussed yet little understood concept, but it is especially abused by a very large sect of Christianity known as the Word of Faith movement. Often blending into the “prosperity gospel,” the Word of Faith movement teaches that God is moved by and made to act by our faith. From over-readings and misreadings of passages such as Jesus’ marveling at the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) or His rejection at Nazareth (Matthew 13:53-58), they conclude that if our faith is sufficient then God has compelled Himself to act in our favor. The problems with this view are manifold, but most fundamentally it misunderstands the natures of both God and faith, for a proper understanding of God’s faithfulness soundly refutes the heretical teachings of the Word of Faith movement.

First, we must understand that Paul pointedly declared that faith is the vehicle by which we are saved: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Yet notice that even this saving faith is still entirely dependent upon God. It is His gift to us, not our own doing, so that boasting is entirely excluded from us. Our faith, therefore, is not some external force by which we move the hand of God; it is a gift pouring forth from God’s own faithfulness to us.

Jesus teaches us likewise. In Luke 17:5-6, we are given this interaction between Jesus and His apostles:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Although the disciples desired an increase in their faith, Jesus pointed out to them the sufficiency of even very small faith. But how can faith as small as a mustard seed still be mighty? The amount of our faith is far less important than the object of our faith. Great faith is no value if the object of that faith is impotent and unreal. For example, faith is often compared to using a parachute. Although you may cognitively believe in the ability of the parachute to save you from falling to your death, that faith is truly seen by jumping out of an airplane and pulling the cord. Yet your deliverance from death is still reliant upon the parachute itself. Thus, a person may have the greatest faith in the world that an ordinary umbrella would likewise perform the role of parachute whenever they jump from a plane. Yet the sincerity of their faith adds nothing to the umbrella’s inability to serve as a parachute. Similarly, the strength and sincerity of a person’s faith is of no avail if it is not faith in the one, true and living God.

Conversely, if our faith is in the everlasting God of the Scriptures, the size or amount of our faith is of no great concern. Simply having faith in this faithful God is sufficient. To use another common example, how much faith in a chair is required to sit upon it? Only enough to sit down. It does not matter how great your fear is that the chair will not support your weight; you only need enough confidence to actually sit on it. Likewise, the weakest of faith in Him who is Faithful and True is of more value than the mightiest faith in a mere illusion.

Let us not, therefore, buy the lie that faith is a mystical force by which we force God to act on our behalf; instead, it is our confidence in knowing that God has acted on our behalf. Even the smallest faith cast upon the faithful God who does not abandon us in our sin but instead gave His own Son to rescue us, is saving faith. Cast your faith, therefore, upon the faithfulness of the LORD.


[1] Stephen Um, The Faithfulness of God, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-faithfulness-of-god/

Leave a Reply

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s