One of the seven pillars on which unity among believers in Christ is built is the “One faith.” But how can there be one faith when every person we meet seems to have a faith that is uniquely their own. Solomon said that “Every way of man is right in his own eyes.” Jeremiah said, “It is not in man that walks to guide his own steps.” David declared that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”
We use the word “Faith” in multiple ways. Often it refers only to one’s personal beliefs. In Acts 8 when Philip went to Samaria to preach Christ to them, they were already people of faith. They believed that Simon the Sorcerer was a great power from God. But Simon listening to Philip preach and seeing the miracles he did, came to faith in the Lord himself. Obviously he could see a real difference in what he was doing to fool the people and what Philip was doing as he preached Jesus, his name and his kingdom.
Saul of Tarsus had a strong faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He believed the whole teachings of the Old Covenant and was full of zeal in standing against anything that he thought would hurt the Jewish cause. It seems that it had never dawned on him that the message of Jesus might be right and not in conflict with the Old Testament. Jesus said, he didn’t come to destroy the law or the prophets. He came to fulfill it or to make it full.
When Paul was converted to Christ he said in the Book of Galatians that he was now preaching the faith he had once tried to destroy. That faith he preached and said that it is “One faith” is the system of faith by which we come to believe in Jesus Christ and to submit to his will as the rule of our lives. God’s desire is that we all become mature in the faith and ready to share the message as a witness to others.
It was the Lord’s half brother Jude that challenged the church of his day and us as well to “Contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time, delivered to the saints.” This is very different from Paul’s teaching about our personal beliefs. In Romans 14 where he deals with matters of conscience on which we disagree he said, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but the one who is weak eat only vegetables.” When it has to do with the faith that is the basis for our belief in God and obeying his will for our lives, we are to contend earnestly for that faith. But if it is just a personal belief or opinion we are to accept the ones who differ with us and not to try to force them to agree with us on everything. He also points out that we shouldn’t allow the one who is weak in faith to set the standards by which the church lives. Sometimes in our efforts to accept the weak, we have allowed their weakness to become the way the whole church operates in order to not offend anyone and the result is the entire church becomes weak in the faith. No one has the right to bind anything on the church that God hasn’t bound and no one has the right to loose anything that God has bound.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews laid out the basis of the faith in the very beginning of his book. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When he had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” Notice his distinction between how God used to speak to people by the prophets in all kinds of ways, but now it is different. Now He speaks to us through His son, the heir of all things. When we go back to follow the Old Testament in our way of life for the Lord, we are putting our faith in a system that God used to get us to Christ but never intended for us to follow it after Christ has come.
Focus for a moment on some of the things said in the New Testament about the Old. We are dead to the Law by the body of Christ that we might be married to another, to Him who was raised from the dead that we might bring forth fruit to God (Romans 7:4). If one says that this isn’t referring to the Ten Commandments but to the ceremonial law, then they need to keep reading in these verses. Paul in verses 7-8 describes the law that led him to death as the one that said, “You shall not covet.” Thus the law referred to that we are dead to is the Old Testament law in its entirety.
Jesus said, that the smallest letter or most insignificant markings of the law would in no way pass UNTIL ALL IS FULFILLED. Then he said, “I didn’t come to destroy the law or the prophets but to FULFILL. It won’t pass until it is fulfilled and Jesus came to fulfill it. No wonder his cry from the cross that “It is finished” had so much power.
In Galatians 3:19-24 Paul describes the old law as being like the tutor who was responsible for getting a child to school and into a class. He said the “The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, but after Christ has come we are no longer under the tutor.”
In Ephesians 2:14-21 he compared the law to the middle wall of partition that stood between the people and God. God tore down the wall between us and him and between us and each other when Jesus died on the Christ and became our source of peace.
Jesus not only delivered the message of God to mankind, telling us to go into the world and preach the gospel to all people, He was the message of God. It is common in the Book of Acts for it to be said of the evangelist that they “Preached Christ unto them.” But we are also challenged by Paul to “Preach the word,” when people liked it and when they didn’t. Preaching the word of God and preaching Jesus is the same thing. It is the one faith we are to proclaim to the world and believe deeply in ourselves.
It isn’t that there aren’t other faiths around us that people hold on to with diligence. The point being made is that there is only one faith that will lead one to full salvation in Christ Jesus and to heaven when this life is over. In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul said, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed.”
It’s popular to believe we can choose our own way to serve God and He will joyfully accept whatever we give him. But such a notion indicates a gross failure to understand the teachings of Scripture or the God who gave it to us. Our need is to learn what God tells us in His word, how it applies in our lives then to live as we have been taught.