“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
The King James Version of this verse (I don’t know if I’ve started a sentence like that before!) translates this characteristic as “faith” instead of “faithfulness.” I think that definitely puts a different spin on this verse. When I read the verse with “faith” as a characteristic of the Spirit, I am reminded that faith in God is a gift from him. This isn’t something that I can generate on my own, but comes from him.
The word that is translated “faith” or “faithfulness,” is referencing fidelity and a character that can be relied upon. This particular word is used in some really interesting Bible passages.
In this first verse, Jesus is once again talking to the Pharisees who were notorious for making God into their own image and building their doctrine around that. They added so many things to the Law and followed their rules while missing out on the heart of God. They were abusive and oppressive instead of acting with justice and mercy.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23 (NIV)
I find Jesus’s inclusion of “faithfulness” in the list of things they’ve neglected to be interesting. The Pharisees were consistent in how wrong they were. I would say that they were very faithful people, they valued all the wrong things. Jesus understood their hearts and minds and found them lacking. Their faith and faithfulness were in their own strength, their own opinions, and their own desires.
Faithfulness that comes from God is consistency in the things that matter to God.
Philemon is a short book in the Bible I doubt many people have really dug into or preached from. It’s a letter from Paul to Philemon, a religious man who even hosted a church in his home. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who had run away. Paul had entrusted this letter calling for forgiveness and reconciliation to Onesimus to deliver to his master.
“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints” Philemon 1:4-5 (NASB)
Philemon was a faithful man who loved God and people. He was known for his faith in God. Even though he was a prominent leader in the church, everything wasn’t perfect in his life. He still wrestled with concepts like forgiveness and restoration and had to seek wise and godly counsel.
Faith and faithfulness are from the Holy Spirit, but they don’t make our lives perfect or easy. It’s likely that our faith will cause us to wrestle with things that we wouldn’t have to bother with otherwise. Philemon wouldn’t have needed to work through forgiveness and reconciliation if he hadn’t believed. But because of his faith, he was presented an opportunity to take a look at himself and his own rights and choose God’s way.
Our faithfulness might take us places that we never expected. But we are blessed with these gifts as we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and shape us day by day.
How have you seen your faith and faithfulness grow?
What does faithfulness practically look like in your life?
To go Deeper: Read The Faithful Canaanite Woman, You of Little Faith