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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:Bear Fruit and Be Faithful
Text:Galatians 5:22b (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faithfulness rewarded
 
Preached:2009-01-18
Added:2009-04-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:

Psalm 89: 1, 2
Psalm 85: 1, 3, 4
Psalm 89: 4, 6, 14
Psalm 40: 4, 7
Hymn 39: 1, 2, 3

Read: Romans 2:17 - 3:8; 11: 1-10; 17-21

Text: Galatians 5:22b
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

 

Once again we're dealing with the fruit of the Spirit. Paul pictures the recipients of his letter, and therefore also us, as branches on a fruit tree that must produce fruit year in, year out. And it must be good fruit, fruit that is appealing to others in every sense. It must look good, and taste good, and be nutritious.

 

Paul uses the singular "fruit." Yet he mentions nine virtues. That is because for a fruit to be as delicious as possible it has to fulfill many requirements. Sometimes a fruit looks good from the outside, but it is rotten inside. Or it has a worm inside of it. I remember once when I was a little boy that that happened to me. I bit into an apple with a worm in it. I did not eat an apple for quite some time after that. And so, fruit, in order to be good for consumption, must have all the right qualities.

 

That's also the way it is with the fruit of the Spirit. Paul mentions nine qualities. He could have mentioned more. But these nine are enough. They are the main ones.

 

Today we deal with the quality of faithfulness. If you are not a faithful person then you lack one of the most important qualities of the fruit of the Spirit. If you lack faithfulness, then that's like having a worm inside the apple. Without faithfulness the fruit of the Spirit is spoiled. That is why the Lord God commands us to be faithful. The theme for this sermon is:

Bear Fruit and be Faithful.

1. God's Faithfulness to man;

2. Man's Faithfulness to God;

3. Man's Faithfulness to others.

 

1.   What is faithfulness? The dictionary defines faithfulness as "firmness in adherence to promises, oaths or undertakings." Another definition of faithfulness is "following through with a commitment regardless of difficulty." In the Bible, faithfulness is often connected to love. That is also what we sang about when we sang from Psalm 89:6: "Thy steadfast love goes with Thy faithfulness before Thee." Time and again throughout Scripture you will find those two terms mentioned together. When the Bible speaks about God's steadfast love, it refers to God's covenant love. The word "faithfulness" also has to do with the covenant.

 

But now the word "faithfulness" adds another dimension to the covenant relationship the Lord God has with his children. He is faithful to his covenant. That is what he tells us in Deuteronomy 7:9: "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." The Old Testament word that is translated here as "faithful" comes from a root in the Hebrew language which originally was used for a woman with child. It had to do with a woman carrying a child in her womb, and also with caring for the child. So this term refers to the incredible bond of love that exists between a mother and her child.

 

A good mother will love her child no matter what. She will love her child so much that she is even willing to give her life for her child if necessary. That is also the way it is with the Lord God. In his covenant love he is faithful no matter what. It is an unconditional love. In other words, it does not depend on any qualities that we may or may not possess, but it totally depends on God himself. He hangs on to his people in spite of the many sins and shortcomings. He will not quit loving you.

 

That is the kind of relationship God has with his people. God makes himself known as a faithful God. As a matter of fact, God is faithfulness personified. That is clear from 2 Timothy 2:13 where it says, "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

 

Throughout the history of redemption the Lord God has shown how faithful he is. Every time you see a rainbow in the sky you are reminded of his faithfulness, his faithfulness to the covenant that he made with Noah and his seed. He promised Noah, and therefore all of us, that he would never again destroy the earth by the flood. That rainbow was a sign of the covenant with man.

 

He also gave a sign of faithfulness in the covenant that he made with the patriarchs, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He gave them the sign of the covenant as signified and sealed in the circumcision. With that sign of the covenant he promises to Abraham and his seed that he will be their God for ever. He will not turn his back on them.

 

He also affirmed his faithfulness when he made a covenant with his people at Mount Sinai after he rescued Israel from Egypt. He gave them the ten words of the covenant. In those ten words he also shows his faithfulness. For how does he begin his ten words of the covenant? He begins by stating that he is the Lord the God of Israel who has delivered them from the land of Egypt, out of slavery. With that introduction he reminds them of his great love for them. He saved them from certain destruction. He introduces himself as their God. There are no conditions attached to these words. He does not say that we must do this or that first, and that then he will become our Father. He doesn't say, first of all I need to see how well you can keep my commandments, and then I will see whether or not you deserve to be my child. No, he says, 'I am the Lord your God.' That is a fact. Nothing can undo this; you do not have to prove yourself first.

 

That, brothers and sisters, is what he says to us and to our children as well. That is why he gives us the sign of baptism. Baptism is the sign and the seal of God's faithfulness. At baptism he says to us and our children that we have a Father in heaven who deeply cares for us. He says to us in his covenant, "I gave you my beloved Son. He died for you so that he could prepare a place for you, here around my glorious throne. Through him you may have forgiveness of sins." For that is exactly what he says to us in his Word. He says in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

 

It is very important that we have the right understanding of the covenant. We may not take away anything from God's covenant faithfulness, as some people did, for example, in 1944. There were people in the Reformed church who took away from his faithfulness by saying that those who were baptized but who later in life went their own way and rejected the covenant of the Lord, that their baptism should be treated as if it had never taken place. Some even said that then it had been nothing more than a useless spilling of water. But where did they go wrong? Well, they limited his faithfulness. For you see, just because man is not faithful does not mean that God is not so. He does not say to us, "I will be faithful to you, if you will do the same thing." No, God is faithful, no matter what. When he gives us his covenant promises at baptism, he really means it. He will never take those words back.

 

We could see the same thing in the passages we read together. In Romans 3 the Lord speaks about his chosen nation, about Israel his covenant people of old. They were not faithful to him. They rejected him. The Lord sent them many prophets. They spoke to that nation about God's faithfulness. All of the prophets did so, before, during, and after the exile. Let us listen to one of them, Hosea, to hear what he had to say about God's faithfulness.

 

Hosea spoke at a time of great apostasy. The people did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord continued to come to his people with his covenant promises. The prophet Hosea says in chapter 2:19-20, "I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.

 

Did you hear the beautiful string of covenant terms which are used here? Righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and faithfulness. But the Lord does not stop there. For the covenant is sealed when he says further in verse 23, "I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

 

Now that is quite something. God's covenant people, who were nothing more than covenant breakers, who continually whined and complained and murmured and who in every way showed themselves to be unworthy of God's love, nevertheless are still not rejected by him. God continues to remind them of the covenant he has made with them.

 

Note the word "betrothal." Betrothal has to do with marriage. And what marriage is the Lord speaking about here? It is a betrothal between the church as the Bride, and the Lord our God as the Bridegroom. But the prophet Hosea had to marry a prostitute in order to show God's people who they were: an unfaithful Bride. But he also did this in order to show the kind of God the Lord is. To show that he nevertheless remains faithful to his Bride.

 

For we see that in the New Testament times the Lord still has not forsaken his people, the nation of Israel. Paul makes that clear. The Jews rejected Christ. Nevertheless Paul says in Romans 3:3-4, "What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

 

Paul is speaking here about the Jews, who turned their backs on the long-awaited Saviour. But does the Lord God turn his back on them? No, he does not. He continues to remain faithful.

 

2.    Hold on, you may say. Does that mean that no matter what we do, the Lord God will not hold that against us? Is he going to continue to include us in his covenant, even if we want nothing to do with him? Well, brothers and sisters, boys and girls, that, of course, is not true. And that brings us to our second point.

 

It is not so, of course, and Paul is not saying that in Romans 3 either, that the Jews who rejected the covenant of the Lord will nevertheless be included in that covenant. No, not everyone who has been given the sign and the seal of the covenant will be saved. For it is indeed true that we must accept God's promises in faith. Let us not forget that there are two sides to the covenant, a promise, but also a demand. We may not ignore that demand. For if we do that then the promises of God no longer function.

 

Although it is impossible for us to fulfill that demand, Christ has fulfilled that demand. Nevertheless we must do everything in our power to try to fulfill God's demand anyway. That is to say, we must do our utmost to keep God's commandments. We must do everything in our power to show ourselves to be faithful to the covenant that God has made with us and to the covenants we make with others.

 

If we do not even want to try to be faithful, then we cannot bear fruit either. And if you do not bear fruit, then God will reject you. Not because you are incapable of doing it perfectly, which you are, but because you don't care. You want to go your own way. You want to do your own thing.

 

That's also the way it was with God's covenant people of old, with Israel. They were grafted into the vine but they bore no fruit. They let go of the vine. And so they were let go, cut off, and other branches were grafted in, as Paul makes clear further in his letter to the Romans, in chapter 11.

 

Who are those new branches? They are the heathen nations, those who originally did not belong to God's people. And that includes you and me, brothers and sisters. But let us be careful for even those newly-grafted-in branches can also be cut off and thrown away. The Lord gives a very strong warning in that regard.  He gives that warning also to you. The Lord says in verse 21, "For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either." 

 

For you see, the Lord did not give us the covenant in order to become complacent. He did not make us part of the vine so that we could boast either:  I belong to Christ, and so I can do whatever I want, I've got it made. I belong and you don't. For Paul also gives us another warning. He says in Romans 11:18 and 20, "Do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you….And you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid."

 

So what does God require from you and me? He requires us to be faithful to him, to do our utmost to be faithful to the law, to the ten words of the covenant. Listen to what Joshua said in Joshua 24:14, “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD."

 

Do you want to be faithful to your God? Do you want to receive His covenant blessings? Then put away your own gods, such as the god of materialism, the god of your own pride and selfishness, and any other earthly attachment which you now so dearly hold on to. Faithfulness belongs to the fruit of the Spirit. And that fruit must grow in your life.

 

How does that fruit show in your life? Is it your heart's desire to serve the Lord God in the way that he has commanded? How do you spend your week? Do you search the Scriptures and apply God's word to your life? Do you constantly pray to the Lord that you may do His will? Are you busy with these things day in, day out? Or do you only do these on Sunday when you come to the worship services? We have to bear fruit every day. Examine your hearts, brothers and sisters.

 

3.    Also examine the way that you serve each other, for you ought to be faithful, not only to the Lord your God, but also to each other. That brings us to our third and final point. Proverbs 3:3 says, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."

 

The Lord delights in those who are faithful, dependable. There is nothing more vexing in life than having to deal with unfaithful people. They make all kinds of promises but don't keep their word. You can't rely on them.

 

Unfaithfulness is especially devastating in marriages. An unfaithful marriage partner causes a lot of grief and misery. A husband and a wife are commanded to be totally faithful to each other. Let me ask you, husbands and wives, are you faithful to each other? Or do you have roving eyes? Do you secretly wish that you were married to somebody else? For remember, even if only in your mind you lust for another partner, you are already being unfaithful. Perhaps there are some here who want to live out that fantasy. They even think about divorce. Keep in mind you are in a covenant relationship, not just with your marriage partner, but also with the Lord your God.

 

You may say, “You don't know how difficult it is to live with my partner. It's impossible to live with him/her.” Well, the Lord our God has shown us how to be faithful even in the midst of difficulties. He is faithful even though we do not deserve his loyalty. He loves you in spite of all of our many faults and shortcomings. And now we, who are such wretched sinful creatures, can we ourselves not even be faithful to our marriage partners? Can we not live with each other's faults? 

 

That is what true love is all about. Christ showed us the way. He overlooked our sins, and gave himself completely for us. He did this without grumbling. Indeed, it even gave him joy. And so it ought to be with you and me. If you want to be joyful in your marriage, then be faithful in every way. Once you are truly committed to each other and give of yourself, the Lord will bless you in your marriage.

 

So it ought to be in all relationships, but especially in the relationship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord, the household of faith. For if you are not faithful to each other then you are not faithful to God either.

 

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, complains of the unfaithfulness shown to him. The Galatians were unfaithful to him. They questioned his integrity and authority. They even wondered if he was a true apostle. And they put him on the same level as other philosophers. Therefore in Galatians 4:16 he laments, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" 

 

But when you read through this letter it becomes painfully apparent that their disloyalty was not to Paul in the first place but to Christ. They rejected the truth of the Gospel and so they also rejected Paul. Yet Paul remains faithful to them. He calls them back on the right road. Paul did not give up on them.

 

So it ought to be with us. That is also how we ought to deal with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Often we too easily give up on people. We reject them out of hand. "He/she may be a member of the church, but I want nothing to do with him/her." We reject them because of some past unpleasant encounter with them, something they have said or done. But God is faithful to us and so we also ought to be faithful to each other. God does not so easily give up on us. He does not do so for the sake of the covenant. He did not so easily let go of the nation of Israel either. Only when they totally rejected him had that relationship been broken.

 

The Lord God shows his faithfulness through his son Jesus Christ. He was faithful to us in spite of our sins. That is why he came to earth in the first place. He knew exactly what he had to do in order to deal with our sins. He also told his disciples about it. He told them that he would be arrested and beaten and then crucified. At one time Peter tried to stop him but Jesus says to him, “Get behind me, Satan.” Why do you think he calls him Satan? It was because Peter was trying to get the Lord Jesus to quit, to be unfaithful to the promises he had made.

 

Time and again throughout his ministry, Satan tried to tempt Jesus to be unfaithful. "Don't go to the cross. Don't die for their sins. Just quit. It's going to be too tough. There will be too many obstacles and too many difficulties. Just turn around and quit.” Satan enticed Jesus. Nevertheless the Lord Jesus steadfastly continued on his path to the cross, even while he was hanging on the cross and the people wanted him to throw in the towel. They mocked him and said, "If you are really the son of God come down from the cross. Come down, it's not worth it. The pain is too intense. The people don't care anyway. Give up." But does the Lord Jesus give up? No, he does not. He remains faithful. He loves us all that much. He wants us that badly to be in a relationship with him. He wants to overlook, even forgive all our sins, in fact he is eager to forgive our sins, so that we can continue to be in the covenant relationship with him.

 

Brothers and sisters, that is also how it has to be with us in our relationship with others. He wants us to be faithful. The Lord God has also blessed this congregation because of faithfulness. Over the years a lot of things have happened. Because the church is made up of sinful people, sinful things have been said and done. Nevertheless many of you remained faithful. You did not listen to Satan who wanted you to walk away from the church. No, you were committed to God, and you were committed to each other. You hung in there. You came to the Lord’s Table together. You believed God's promises. You have a greater vision than those who can only think about present circumstances and about themselves and those who have walked away. That is why the Lord also blesses us as church. For faithfulness brings its reward. God blesses you when you are faithful, in your own relationships and in the church and in your families.

 

Think about how God blessed Abraham. Abraham's faithfulness was reckoned to him as righteousness. Abraham believed God when he spoke to him about the promised land. And the Lord fulfilled his promises. Abraham received, not only the promised land, but also and most importantly a heavenly country, as the author of the Hebrews puts it.

 

Our faithfulness will result in the same reward, brothers and sisters. The Lord is always true to his promises. That’s why he gives us the sign and the seal of his covenant. He is faithful to the end. We can be sure of that. Then brothers and sisters you can also bear fruit, good fruit, wholesome fruit, fruit we can all taste. Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2009, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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