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03.11.12 Fruit of the Spirit Faithfulness, Colossians 1:3-14 Sermon Summary

by on March 12, 2012

The relationship between faith and faithfulness is that you can have the latter without the former, but not vice-versa.

Summary Points

  • The two aspects of faithfulness: passive and active
  • How covenants demonstrate and facilitate faithfulness
  • Practical results of faithfulness
  • How to cultivate faithfulness in our lives
  • The role of the Lord’s Supper in cultivating faithfulness
  • Questions for Reflection or Discussion

The Spiritual fruit of faithfulness has passive and active aspects. Passive aspects include things like commitment, loyalty, steadfastness, endurance, and patience. Active aspects include service, charity, obedience, and walking the talk.

Faithfulness in our lives is a fruit of the Spirit, because faithfulness is a characteristic of God. The Bible reveals a God who is abiding—no matter how far God’s people stray, God remains with them. This is the passive aspect of faithfulness. God is also faithful in the active sense—no matter how far God’s people stray, God orchestrates their return.

God’s faithfulness is the concrete expression of God’s love. It is the proof of God’s love, and the necessary demonstration of God’s love. God is love, and by definition, love acts in faithful ways.

The Bible’s word for this kind of relationship is “covenant.” God enters a covenant relationship with God’s people, and the terms of this relationship are that God will be our God, and we will be God’s people. The story of the Bible is one of two partners in covenant relationship—God and God’s people.

Covenant relationships are designed to be safe places for partners to change and evolve. This is true for both partners, including God and God’s people. In the Bible, God first appears as our creator (Genesis 1-2). After humanity gains “knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 3), God naturally appears as a judge. Since we need assistance in discerning the difference between good and evil, God becomes a lawgiver (Exodus, etc.). Later God takes the roles of king, shepherd, and redeemer—all within the covenant relationship between God and God’s people.

We change also. Initially children of creation, blissfully ignorant, we become students of right and wrong. Eventually we are found by and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Then we spend the rest of our lives living out the discovery that we are children of God by adoption.

Consider these words to the great hymn O Worship the King: Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail; Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, Our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend.

Our covenant relationship with God invites us to other life-transforming covenants. In his book Life on the Vine: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in Christian Community, Philip D. Kenneson writes, “Christians are free to bind ourselves to each other in Christian friendship and marriage for our mutual good, as crucibles in which our transformation might be aided. By so binding ourselves to each other, we make possible further acts of faithfulness.” Two examples are church membership and marriage. Within the safety of these covenant relationships, the Spirit cultivates the fruit of faithfulness, passive and active, as we grow vis-à-vis our covenant partners.

Even outside such formally and publically recognized covenant relationships, the fruit of faithfulness has practical implications. Consider Colossians 1:3-14, especially verses 4-6, and 11-14. Here we learn that through the Spiritual fruit of faithfulness we will be able to endure trials more patiently, even coming to the point of having joy and giving thanks through them. Patience and joy are other fruits of the Spirit.

This passage pairs “faith and love,” which is another way of saying “belief and action,” or finally, “faith and faithfulness.” The Spirit can, I believe, bear the fruit of faithfulness outside of someone’s having faith. But the Spirit can NOT inspire faith without also bearing faithfulness. If we say we have faith, we will love, we will act, we will be faithful. James 2:14-26 argues this point best.

How can we cultivate the fruit of faithfulness, beyond entering covenant relationships of church membership and marriage? Colossians models various kinds of prayers: of thanksgiving, for increased faith (which leads inevitably to faithfulness), for discernment of God’s will, and for wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians also reminds us of our hope. The Bible’s testimony of our faithful God is the ground of our hope that God will remain faithful in the future. If so, then the covenant partnership between us and God is secure by God’s faithfulness, and so we can grow in faithfulness also. Colossians grounds our future hope on God’s past faithfulness—specifically God’s rescuing us, redeeming us, and forgiving us—calling us to present faithfulness on our part.

The Lord’s Supper is the reminder of these truths. At the Table we remember God’s faithfulness to us. We rehearse the new covenant sealed in Christ’s blood that is the concrete expression of God’s love for us. We recognize God’s presence—the passive aspect of God’s faithfulness; and we hope in God’s ultimate deliverance—the active aspect of God’s faithfulness. And with the bread and the cup we are transformed into the Body of Christ that we may manifest God’s faithfulness to a new generation.

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

  • Think of the ways God has changed roles as your faithful covenant partner. Think of the ways you have changed roles. What brought on these changes? What have you learned? How does your personal testimony confirm and add to Bible’s testimony of God’s faithfulness to God’s covenant partners?
  • How can you become a person more characterized by both “faith and love,” belief and action, faith and faithfulness? Beyond worship in the church on Sunday, how can you live as the church throughout the week?
  • If it’s overwhelming to think about being faithful, remember the law of stewardship. We become faithful in big things by being faithful in little things. Think of some small ways you can be faithful, do those, and as you make a habit of it, you will become faithful.
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