Grow Your Faith
Most of us require proof before we believe anything. We are sceptics by nature. Disbelief comes easy in this modern society where truth is so often obscured by smoke and mirrors, lies and deception. So it seems completely contrary to our nature when we ‘dyed in the wool’ sceptics are so ready to believe and trust in a God whom we have neither seen, nor heard. Where did we get the faith to do this?
The Bible says that our faith is not of ourselves - it is a gift from God, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The faith through which we are saved is not something that comes from within ourselves. It has to be given to us! How does that work?
It is important to understand what sort of faith we are talking about here. Essentially faith is belief. The creation itself proclaims the existence of God for all to see (Romans 1:20). Anyone can believe He exists. And statistics show that more than two billion people in this world do believe that the God of the Bible does exist. Even the fallen angels or demons believe He exists, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19). So we are not talking about the mere belief in God’s existence. No! The sort of faith we are discussing is something more. It is the faith through which we are saved.
The faith that saves is the belief in what God says. It is the faith that our first parents lacked. Adam and Eve obviously knew God existed, but what they lacked was the faith to believe and do what He told them (Genesis 3:1-6). Instead they believed what Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) said to them.
Through their actions sin entered the world and the effect was catastrophic. Because of them human nature became a mixture of good and evil, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:” (Genesis 3:22). In fact all that had initially been created ‘good’ by God became a mixture of ‘good and evil’. And the entire creation has suffered as a result (Genesis 3:17 see also Romans 8:19-22).
That Human nature which became a mixture of good and evil has been passed on to us all, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12). Because our first parents lacked faith in what God told them we have all been subjected to sin and its penalty, “For the wages of sin is death;” (Romans 6:23). Unless God intervenes to save us the death we are subject to is permanent.
It was a very subtle plot by Satan to subvert God’s plan and prevent mankind receiving the inheritance God has reserved for them (I Peter 1:3-5). But God knew from the beginning that humanity would concede to Satan’s influence and had planned our salvation, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18). He will save us from the penalty of death and give us eternal life if we believe and do what He tells us.
He wants us to believe what He says, but because human nature has been corrupted it does not come naturally for us to do this, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14). Our corrupted human nature is at odds with God, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7). That is why we are so naturally sceptical and disbelieving.
If we are to be saved from death we must believe and do what God says. And the only way we can believe Him is if He gives us the faith which is ‘not of yourselves’ (Ephesians 2:8). He must give us the faith, or ability to believe through the power of His Spirit.
In this day and age God deals with humanity through His son Jesus Christ, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” (Hebrews 1:1-2). He brings us to Christ to hear what He has to say through Him. This is something we cannot initiate ourselves, “No man can come to me (Jesus Christ), except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44).
Through the power of His Spirit He give us the faith, or ability to believe the words He given to Christ for us to hear, “For I (Christ) have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:8-10).
To ensure we in this age received those same words intact He had them recorded by eyewitnesses for us to read. Christ personally trained those witnesses to teach the same words that His Father had given Him, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16).
When we are called by God to Christ we are given the faith, or ability to believe the words that have been recorded for us through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:12-13).
The Apostle Paul called it the Spirit of faith, “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;” (II Corinthians 4:13). It was the same Spirit that gave him the faith to believe so he could preach the words that Christ brought from His Father.
We are called by God, given the faith to believe and the very words we are to believe. All these things we have been given are ‘not of ourselves’. They are given to prepare us, but cannot of themselves save us. Salvation requires some responding action on our part, “…though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?... … faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone… …Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:14, 17 and 24).
The Greek word translated as ‘works’ means an act, or effort. In other words we must undertake some action to justify what God is prepared to do for us. We must show Him that we are willing to believe and do what He says.
What is Required
When the New Testament Church was established on the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s ascension people were called in great numbers to hear the Apostles teach what God had to say to them.
They had just witnessed the Holy Spirit being given to those who had followed Christ before his ascension (Acts 1:15 and 2:1-4). These people who had come from ‘every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5) miraculously heard the Apostles preaching to them in their own language. Typically they were sceptical at first, “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.” (Acts 2:12-13). But then Peter preached about Jesus Christ and the words He had brought from his Father (Act 2:14-36).
On that day many were given the faith, or ability to believe what was preached and when their consciences were pricked they asked what they should do? “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Then Peter explained what was required of them. He said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV).
He went on to tell them about their calling and salvation, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." (Acts 2:39-40).
As a result about three thousand people repented and were baptised, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship…” (Acts 2:41-42).
Repentance does not just mean feeling remorse for sins, it means making the necessary changes to put sin out of our lives altogether. Repentance is to be followed by baptism which is a formal ceremony to confirm that we believe what God has said and to show Him that we are committed to do what He says. Making the changes to overcome sin in our lives are the ‘works’ that justify our salvation.
We are to be transformed from what we are to what is acceptable to God, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2).
These people who repented on that Day of Pentecost and were baptised had at first been sceptical, but when given the faith, or ability to believe, they believed what the Apostles taught. After their repentance and commitment they continued to live according to the doctrines the Father had given Christ for the Apostles to teach.
Growing Our Faith
It is exactly the same when we are called. We receive that Spirit of faith that enables us to believe and when our consciences are pricked we are brought to repentance. At our baptism we confirm to God that we are prepared to do what He says and undertake to live by the doctrines taught by Christ and His Apostles.
By doing this we are adding to the faith we have been given, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (II Peter 1:5-7).
Add to Your Faith Virtue.
Virtue means moral excellence. God is morally pure and His divine nature is established on the principles of righteousness, goodness and truth, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Ephesians 5:9). Everything He says and does is based on these principles. The Holy Spirit which is the essence, mind and divine nature of God is His virtue.
When we are baptised the Spirit of God that provided us with the abilty to believe, is given to us, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV). That Spirit is the virtue of God and by receiving it we are adding virtue to our faith. God’s virtue in the form of the Holy Spirit becomes part of us. It is also given to us as an assurance that we will receive the inheritance that God said is reserved for us, “…Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14).
Through this Spirit we are given everything we need to attain the promise of eternal life, “…to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Peter 1:1-4).
It reveals the deep and wonderful things that God wants us to believe, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-12).
Because human nature has been corrupted with sin our thoughts are not the same as God’s, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
God wants to bring us out from under the influence of Satan, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:2-3).
His Holy Spirit can be likened to DNA which passes on the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of the parent to the offspring. It is a spiritual DNA from God the Father which will produce the virtuous characteristics and qualities in us so that we can be like Him, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” (Colossians 3:10).
It is like a seed that will grow within us to produce the same mind and nature that is in both the Father and Christ, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5). We are being created in their righteousness, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
With this new man, or nature in us we can overcome our human nature and bring all our thoughts and imaginations into ‘the obedience of Christ’ (II Corinthians 10:5). When we respond to what God says and make a commitment His virtue is added to the faith He has given us.
And to Virtue Add Knowledge
To God’s virtue we must now add knowledge. Primarily there are two sources of knowledge: that which comes from the human experience and that which comes from God.
All God created was good (Genesis 1:33). When Adam and Eve were newly created they did not know evil. They were told not to eat of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 3:3) because the knowledge of evil would result in death. But instead of believing what God said they put their belief and trust in what Satan who lied to them and ate of the forbidden tree. By eating of the forbidden tree they in effect took to themselves the right to determine good from evil and in doing so their human nature was corrupted to become a mixture of both good and evil.
Unfortunately that corrupt human nature is now inherent in all of us, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23). David was aware of this, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5).
Because of that mixture of good and evil human nature cannot be relied on to make sound judgments when determining right from wrong. Human reasoning is not to be trusted, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” (James 3:15). Evil is too easily justified by minds that are naturally opposed to God. That is why we are told not to trust our own understanding, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5).
The knowledge that we are to add to the faith is not from unreliable human sources. It comes from God Himself – spoken by Jesus Christ and recorded by His Apostles.
Peter said that we are to, “…grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18). The use of the word ‘of’ in the King James Version often denotes source and in this particular verse Strongs defines the meaning as of (or from) Jesus Christ.
Peter was not saying we should grow in knowledge from human sources about Jesus Christ but in the knowledge received from Jesus Christ Himself. The knowledge we receive from Christ comes directly from the Father, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me;” (John 17:8 see also John 7:16, 8:28).
Because Jesus spoke the words given to Him by the Father, He was by definition a prophet (Mark 6:4) and what He said was prophetic. He spoke about man’s salvation and the future Kingdom of God.
Because the Apostles were witnesses to Christ’s prophetic testimony that came from the Father they are deemed to be reliable sources of what God said. And what they recorded is not open to any private interpretation by man! “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (Spirit).” (II Peter 1:19-21).
Peter warned about those among God’s people who will insist on teaching their own interpretations, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” (II Peter 2:1-2). We are to beware of these people because what they teach has been subject to human reasoning which is unreliable. Through them the truth will be ‘evil spoken of’.
We have been clearly instructed not to add to, nor take away from what Christ has said, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:18-20).
Yet sadly we only have to look around us today to see how much division has been caused by the human interpretation of the Word of God.
The knowledge we are to add to our faith comes from the Father through Jesus Christ as recorded by the Apostles and not from men. We are not to interpret it to our own understanding, nor are we to add to, or subtract from it.
Add to Knowledge Temperance
Temperance simply means self-control. It is through self-control that we put the virtue and knowledge we have been given into action in our lives. We add temperance to our faith by striving to bring every thought into alignment with the principles of righteousness, goodness and truth and to act in accordance with knowledge we have been given.
We are to walk in the way Christ has taught, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7). And behave as he would, “He that saith he abideth in him (Christ) ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (I John 2:6). At all times exercising the moral purity that we have been given, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ:” (Philippians 1:27).
We are to reject our former thoughts that were immoral, violent or perverted and replace them with new thoughts that are virtuous, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).
We are to resistany sort of mind-set that is not of God, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8). Reject anything that is contrary to the knowledge of God, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (II Corinthians 10:5).
These actions will inevitably bring us into conflict with the one who had formerly ruled over us and blinded our minds toward Christ, “…the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (II Corinthians 4:4). And we will be faced with a spiritual battle as we try to bring our thoughts and imaginations out from under Satan’s control into the obedience of Christ, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
We have to use the spiritual weapons of prayer, meditation, study and fasting. The natural unbelieving mind may consider these weapons to be foolish, but to a mind that has the Spirit of faith they are very powerful tools indeed, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16).
We are to study the Word of God, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15). We are to think about how to apply these things in our daily lives, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” (I Timothy 4:15). And fast if necessary to bring our minds under control, “And he (Christ) said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29).
Through the use of these weapons we can wrest control of our thoughts from the clutches of Satan. Through self-control we can filter out the sort of knowledge ‘that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God’ (II Corinthians 10:5) and bring our thoughts and actions into the obedience of Christ.
Add to Temperance Patience
Wresting control of our minds from Satan and putting into practice the virtue and knowledge we have gained can be a long, arduous process. It requires patience. The word patience as used in the Bible means to endure and persist consistently over time even under difficult conditions.
Satan is not pleased that we have turned to God and will try to bring us down through the many trials and tribulations he throws at us, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12). By enduring these trials and relying on God we grow with patience, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3). And it is through patience that our virtue is perfected, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4).
Some sins can be hard to overcome and even though we may fail, in some cases many times, God does not want us to ever give up! Every time we pick ourselves up from the frustration and shame of failure and continue we are developing endurance with patience, “…he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22).
Having called us to virtue and glory, He is not going to give up on us, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6).
He wants us to examine ourselves continually to see the progress we are making and to make changes that we see necessary, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (II Corinthians 13:5). We are also reminded in this passage that without the work that Christ is doing in us through the Spirit we have been given we are no better than the rest of the world.
It is with patience and self-control that we apply the knowledge and virtue to the faith we have been given.
Add to Patience Godliness
According to Strongs the Greek word translated as ‘Godliness’ is ‘eusebeia’ which means piety - a word originally used to describe the reverence and respect people have toward God but now has now come to mean self-righteousness. Many in this world see God as a distant figure to be worshipped from a distance. But what God wants is a more personal relationship. He wants us to become like Him – to be of the same mind and nature.
We are to be part of the God family! “…I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17-18). His love for us is that of a father for his children, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:” (1 John 3:1). And as a parent He wants us to love Him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37).
As a parent He wants us to be like him. And as we come to know Him we cannot help but love and admire His character, purpose and plan. His outstanding moral purity is beyond reproach. Everything He does, or says, is established in righteousness goodness and truth. And as that truth is revealed, our admiration and love for Him and His way of life increases and we have to stand in awe of who He is and what He is doing for us. So much so that we should want to be like Him.
He has given us His own divine nature in the form of His Spirit to establish us in righteousness, goodness and truth so we can develop its fruits, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
As we grow spiritually He wants us to think and act like He does, “…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). He wants us to be like His son Jesus Christ, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5). Christ said, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
We show our love of Him by doing what He says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3). And as a result of this love the bond between us is strengthened, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).
The Godliness we add to our faith is the love we have for God and the desire to be like Him.
Add to Godliness Brotherly Kindness
Not only does God give us the ability to love Him and all that He stands for, He also wants us to love His family in the same way that He loves us.
Those to whom God has given the Spirit of love are His family, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26). The Spirit itself bears witness of this, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16). They are our brothers and sisters - our brethren, “…and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17-18).
We are to love our brethren, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:11). We must respect and honour each other as family members, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Romans 12:10). Esteeming one another with greater respect than we have for ourselves, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3).
Jesus Christ said we are His brethren, “And he (Christ) stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:49-50). He selflessly sacrificed His life for us as we ought to make sacrifices for each other, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16).
He is the older brother who is also our saviour and King to whom we pledged allegiance at baptism, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Revelation 1:5). And He commands that we love one another, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15:12-17).
Our love for each other is to be a witness to the world, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35).
We are to not to speak evil of our brethren, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren.” (James 4:11). We are not to judge, or hinder their spiritual growth in any way, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. (Romans 14:13). Nor are we to defraud one another, “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter:” (I Thessalonians 4:6).
We should not dare to do any of these things to any member of God’s family. Not to anyone who has been called and given the God’s Spirit. If we can’t respect, love and honour His family, how can we respect, love and honour God, “…for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4:20).
The term ‘brotherly kindness’ is translated from the Greek word ‘philadelphia’. It means fraternal affection, or in a religious sense, a love for the brethren. It is with a special affection for those who are in the family of God regardless of their corporate church affiliations. How can we have the love of God if we close our hearts to our brethren, “But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17 RSV). But if we love one another, God’s love is perfected in us, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12).
That love for the brethren must be added to our faith.
Add to Brotherly Kindness Charity
Christ not only sacrificed His life for those who have been called in this age, He also died for those who are yet to be called in ages to come. Our love for God and His family must also extend to those who are yet to be called into His family - to the rest of humanity, who are our ‘neighbours’. Yes even to the sceptics, scoffers and unbelievers who may persecute us.
The Greek words translated ‘love’ and ‘charity’ are not used much in the Classical Greek writing but are commonly used in the New Testament writings and are often described as ‘Christian’ love which implies something unique. But it is more than ‘Christian’ love – it is God’s love. It is unique to those who have received His Spirit, “…because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Spirit) which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5). It is not present in human nature which is naturally at enmity with God. The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God’s mind and nature dwelling in us, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16).
Jesus Christ said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31). By loving our neighbour we fulfil that law, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14 see also Romans 13:9).
When asked, “…who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus answered with the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) which is our guide as to who our neighbour is and how we are to react.
Paul defines the kind of love that we are to have toward both brethren and neighbours, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:” (I Corinthians 13:4-8).
Loving neighbours is not some fanciful notion - it is the law. Christ re-iterated God’s words when He said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 19:19). And He is the judge of how we do what God says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17). Sometimes it is not easy to do this especially in the face of hostility and persecution, but this is what we signed up for when we accepted Christ as our saviour.
We are to obey from the heart with sincerity which is what Paul meant when he said, “Let love be without dissimulation.” (Romans 12:9). And if we don’t have this sort of charity, or love then we are nothing! “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:2).
If we are to have the faith that saves then we must add the love for our neighbours to perfect that faith.
So Much Has Been Given to Us
So much has been freely given to us, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (I Corinthians 2:12).
We were called to Christ and given the ability, or faith, to believe the words and apply the knowledge He brought from His Father. God has also given us His virtue in the form of His Holy Spirit and His love through that Spirit. If we believe and diligently apply these things we have been given we cannot fail to also be given the inheritance God has reserved for us, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… …Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:8-11).
We came to know who and what God really is and we realised that what He is doing is far more spectacular than we could ever have imagined possible. He has not only given us the ability to believe, He has also given us a portion of His very own essence, mind and nature so that we can be like Him. He is love (I John 4:8, 16) and the Spirit He has given us has the seeds of that love which is perfected in us. It is a love for God our Father, His son Jesus Christ and what they are doing. It is a love that extends to all whom He has called into His family and to all humanity who have the potential to become part of that family in the future.
He is giving us eternal life in His Kingdom as His sons and daughters. But this is only the beginning. He intends to give us a great deal more in the future, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-10).
There is a great and wonderful inheritance reserved for those who are kept by the power of God through the faith He has given us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (I Peter 1:3-5).
But when God gave us the faith to believe what He says and we grow that faith by adding to it things changed, “…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (II Peter 1:5-7).
It is hard to imagine that all these things were foolishness to us who were once sceptics and demanded proof before believing in God. But thanks to the love of God whom we can neither see nor hear, our eyes have been opened and we have heard and believed the incredible things He has planned for us.
The initial faith He gave us to which we are adding the things Peter mention is now the evidence of these things unseen, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).
It is the evidence of God and the incredible inheritance that is ours for all eternity!