Forest Fold Baptist Chapel,
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph. 4.5.
When speaking on the first of these expressions, “One Lord”,* I set before you how all who are included in the unity of the Spirit are brought to believe in the one Lord. Their hearts are brought into a humble loving submission to His authority, and He is their Lord in everything that is spiritual. I will speak now from the next expression in the text, “one faith”. This is the fifth of the uniting principles of truth that the apostle names, which bring together in a spiritual unity the whole of the people of God. There is “one faith”. They are united in that.
Now, we need to understand what is implied by this expression, “one faith,” and how all are brought into the unity of it. There has ever been but one faith and ever will be, for all who are one in Jesus Christ are one in that they esteem, they believe, they love, they cleave to, and they walk according to that one faith. My friends, there is only one faith and there can be no union unless there is a union in this faith.
How are we to understand this, and apply it? By faith, and this one faith, we must understand two things but there has been some division of mind amongst those who interpret this Scripture as to what this “one faith” is. Some think it means the doctrine of the gospel; some think it means the principle of faith in the heart of the believer. I think it means both. I do not see how the “one faith” can ever unite us unless you believe it, and there can be no unity in believing if different people believe different things. But where there is one faith, and one believing principle in the heart that believes it, then you get the unity of the one faith.
2. Faith as Doctrine
Moreover, we may remember that in the Scripture, in the New Testament especially, sometimes the expression “faith” means the :truth and doctrine of the gospel, and sometimes “faith” means the relieving principle in the heart. Take these Scriptures as they occur to my mind. “The faith which was once delivered to the saints”. There is no question that that means the truth of the gospel which
was once delivered to the saints. We are exhorted to contend earnestly for the faith. And there it means we are to contend for the truth that we believe. When the apostle says, “I have kept the faith,” he meant he had kept the truth faithfully in his heart and never departed from it.
So faith means the one true doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one faith. There is only one gospel. In Galatians chapter 1, Paul refers to “another gospel: which is not another”, gospels that purport to be gospels. And some of the Galatians were drawn away from the truth thereby. They had turned to another g,ospel, but Paul says there is not another gospel, there is no alternative. It is not a matter as to whether you believe this gospel or that gospel, the gospel that I preach or the gospel that someone else preaches as the gospel. No, he maintains that there is only one gospel, and there is only one faith.
All the elect of God are united in that one faith, for it is expressly said to be “the faith of God’s elect”; that is, all God’s elect are brought to believe in that one faith. As sure as God has chosen anyone to salvation in the eternal purpose of His mind and will, that person will come to believe in the one faith and receive it into his heart. The whole of the elect of God are brought into the one faith.
3. The Doctrine of Christ
Now, it is important to understand that this one faith refers especially to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called by the Apostle James “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ”. And, in Revelation 14.12, “the faith of Jesus”. First of all, it is an essential part of the one faith, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in His divine nature; that He is the Son of man in His human nature. That He is the God-man, having both natures, divine and human in one wonderful and blessed Person. Now, that is the faith that God’s elect have believed ever since the days of the apostles. There has been no change with regard to that. “Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh”.
The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ also means the faith with regard to His law-fulfilling righteousness. It has always been the faith of God’s elect that the Lord Jesus Christ fulfils the law in all its spiritual demands and all its holy requirements; that in His life there is a perfect obedience without any stain of sin, without any shortcomings; that absolutely all that God’s holy law requires, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His life of obedience, fulfils; so that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10.4).
Now that perfect obedience to the law by our Incarnate God is an essential part of the faith. Every believer in every generation has believed in that; and that there is no righteousness possible, but by
the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and that righteousness, so perfect, so honouring to God, so entirely fulfilling His just law, that righteousness is “unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference” (Rom. 3.22). This really is an essential part of the faith, that the Lord Jesus Christ is righteousness to all who believe in Him.
4. The Atonement
Another essential part of the faith is that Christ’s death was an atonement for sin. It was of a sacrificial character. He bore sin in His own body on the tree, and there was that infinite merit in His suffering under sin by which He completely atoned for it, and was accepted of God. That is an essential part of the faith.
In the atonement Jesus Christ really did bear sin; it was charged upon Him, and He completely atoned for it. Now it is as though there is no sin in us at all. It was so fully, so entirely put away. Now, that is an essential part of the faith, that the Lord Jesus Christ “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”. There has been a difference of mind and views with regard to the extent of the atonement. Some have felt it is universal. We do not; we feel that it is personal and particular, that being the doctrinal meaning of that word Â“particular”. When we are called Particular Baptists, it means that Particular Baptists believe in particular redemption as against universal redemption. We cannot say that no-one is in the unity of the faith who has not strictly held to particular redemption, but we do say that no-one is in the unity of the faith who does not hold to redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ. If they are wrong there, they are out of the faith, they are entirely out of it. Whatever else men believe, if they do not believe with all their hearts that the death of Jesus Christ is an atonement for sin, they are not in the unity of the faith.
It is sad that there are differences in regard to the extent of the atonement. To us it seems clear enough. The Scripture is explicit. Besides which, we feel it is a grave contradiction to suppose that any could be lost if Jesus Christ atoned for their sins. Can there be souls in hell, suffering for their sins, when Jesus Christ atoned for them at Calvary! The hymn writer, Toplady, gets to the very heart of the matter when he says; “Payment God cannot twice demand, First at my bleeding Surety’s hand, and then again at mine.” Could it be just for God to condemn men for the sins that Jesus Christ atoned for? Does the Scripture teach that? I think not.
And, before I pass to other considerations, I must add this; if any of you are seeking peace with God in your souls, is it your desire, your concern, to know the forgiveness of sin in the real experience of it? Let me assure you of this, you will never find that peace with God, and you will never enjoy that forgiveness of sin, and you will
never find what your soul needs, apart from the atonement of Jesus Christ. I can say that in all sincerity from my own heart. I never did;
never knew what spiritual peace was until the gospel doctrine of he atonement through the blood of Jesus Christ was made clear to my understanding, and as it was made clear to my understanding, my heart received it; and as my heart received it, I felt the blessing of it in my soul.
5. The Resurrection
Let me pass to other things. The faith of Jesus Christ is that He rose again from the dead. For, as Paul says, “If Christ be not raised, YOUR faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are alien asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. 15.17,18). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential part of the faith; for how could it be assured that the gospel is a true gospel if Jesus Christ never rose from the dead? If anyone were to ask me, “How do you know that the gospel you preach is true?” I should have one answer or it, “Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. “And if they were to say, “How do you know He rose from the dead?” I should say, ‘Because that could not possibly have been fabricated.” And if
anything is sure, it is this, that if Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, Christianity would have died with Him. There is no doubt about it; it would have died with Him. The fact is that Christianity, the religion, the faith of Jesus Christ, lives to this day as being a power in the hearts of thousands and thousands of people. It has quickened them spiritually from death unto life. It is a proof that I think no-one, if they impartially consider it, would fail to see; a proof that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. If anyone does not believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead, they are out of the faith; for that is an essential part of the faith. The faith of Jesus Christ is that
He rose as surely as He died. He came forth from the grave, as surely as His lifeless body was laid there. Oh, how much depends on the resurrection of Jesus Christ! For one thing His present life depends on it. That beautiful word of His to His disciples depends on it; “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14.19). All our hope of heaven depends on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven; that is the faith of Jesus Christ. Be assured of it.
6. The Intercessor
The faith of Jesus Christ is that He is the ever-living Intercessor or all who, believing in Him, come to God through Him. “This man, because He continueth ever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” Heb. 7.25). That is the one faith. All the people of God have
believed it, really believed it, that Jesus died, rose again, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the majesty on high. We cannot see Him but we believe He is there, and some times we can feel an influence upon our hearts, which we feel sure comes from a living, exalted Saviour. “One faith”.
7. The Second Coming
This one faith of Jesus Christ also embraces His second coming and the judgement of the last day. The one faith embraces a judgement for eternity. For God has said that “He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained;
whereof he hath given assurance …. in that he hath raised him from the dead;” (Acts 17.31). Beyond that judgement is an eternal heaven or an eternal hell. Now that is the faith, plainly and simply put before you; that is the faith.
I put it in another way with regard to the faith of Jesus Christ. The faith of Jesus Christ is that there is a full and a perfect salvation in and through His blessed name. Salvation for the worst of men, the most sinful. There is salvation in His dear name, in His precious name, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given under heaven amongst men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). All Christians come to believe that in themselves they are utterly lost, helplessly lost, hopelessly lost, and eternally lost.
They are in a mire that they can never get out of; they owe a debt to God that they can never pay; they are under a power of sin that they can never free themselves from; and then they see that there is perfect salvation in Jesus Christ, salvation from sin’s power, sin’s filth, sin’s guilt, sin’s curse, sin’s hell; there is salvation in Jesus. Now, that is the faith; to believe that. And a very blessed thing it is to be brought to believe it, even though you may not be all that clear and sure about your own salvation; that will come, brethren, that will come. If you believe there is salvation in Jesus Christ, presently, you will be brought to believe that you are saved by it. For what says the Scripture? “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45.22). Bear with me if I am emphatic, brethren, but my heart warms to this theme, that there is perfect, full, free, beautiful, powerful, God-honouring, soul-saving salvation in Jesus Christ. This is the faith that there is redemption through His blood. To put it poetically, “What mighty sum paid all thy debt, when I a bondman stood, And has my soul at freedom set? ‘Tis Jesus’ precious blood.” Ah, he is a favoured, favoured man who, as Berridge quaintly but very sweetly puts it, has the receipt for all his debts signed with the blood of Jesus. That is the faith.
This is the faith, that there is a complete justification through Christ’s merits. That is indeed the very heart, truth and doctrine of the gospel. That great Reformer, Luther, said that the church stands or falls as to whether it adheres to or departs from the doctrine of justification in and through Jesus Christ. Well now, that is the one faith of my text, if I have the understanding in this matter, the one faith. It is the faith of Jesus Christ. He is its author; it comes from Him. He is its object, and He is its end; “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12.2).
Finally, I would point out to you something concerning that Scripture, “The faith once delivered to the saints.” This faith has been delivered to the saints of God; but how and when? First, by the personal teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ delivered this faith to those apostles who He called to Himself and instructed them, so far as they were able to bear it, in the principles of the gospel. And, the personal ministry of Jesus Christ laid the foundation of the gospel ministry for ever afterward.
However, after the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, the Holy Spirit was given, and He so wonderfully enlightened the understanding of the apostles and others, and so taught them these vital fundamentals of the faith, that the faith was delivered then even more fully to the saints. Everything pertaining to the faith was delivered to the apostles, and it has been preserved for us in the Scriptures by Divine inspiration. This faith, once delivered to the saints, has been preserved all through the centuries and still we have it in the sacred Word. This faith was once delivered to the saints, once for all.
This faith, the faith once delivered to the saints, is unalterable in this sense, that nothing may be added to it, and nothing may be taken from it. If anything is added to the faith, it would not be the faith as it was delivered to the saints; if anything is taken from it, it is not the faith that was once delivered to the saints.
Has any thing like this been attempted, then? – to add or to take anything away? Yes, verily, verily. For what has been the great error of the church of Rome? It adds the traditions of their fathers, and the decisions of their councils, and the fallible pronouncements of their popes to the faith. And so through the centuries there has been the accumulation of doctrines and decrees added to the faith. This was one great matter at the time of the Reformation; the reformers were for clearing the faith away from all this that had been added to it. We must add nothing to the faith.
Has anyone ever been tempted to take away from the faith? Yes, verily, for what is all modernistic teaching but a taking away from the faith? And does not this come within the scope of that almost
final word of God in the Revelation, “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” (Rev 22.18,19).
It is very wonderful when you consider it, that the faith once delivered to saints has come down to us today in the Scripture in all its purity. When you think of the opposition that has been made to it, the persecutions that have risen against it, and against those that believed it, and the undermining teachings of men have sought to weaken and overthrow it, it is wonderful, that here today we have that same faith once delivered to the saints, clear, intact, complete. Surely, we must believe that the same God who delivered the faith to the saints has watched over it, preserved it, and oh, how often He has blessed it.
Brethren, that faith which we believe, which we are united in believing, which with one heart and one mind we have received and which is preached from this pulpit, is nothing more, nothing less, nothing different from the faith that was once delivered unto the saints. If I preached anything to you but that one faith, I should be accursed; but I have preached to you that one faith in its entirety, completeness, that one faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope you feel that you can receive it, believe it, cleave to it, and, if you feel that when that solemn hour comes when heart and flesh fail, you can rest your soul on it, as I felt I could rest mine on it when I feared I had not perhaps more than another minute or two to live; what a blessing that would be to you. Oh, what a blessing. My friends, there is one Lord, there is one faith, and there is one baptism.
This sermon appears in Gospel Tidings Vol. 12 No. 5; p. 170