The Faith of Christ
A. E. Horton is a missionary in Angola. His many years of diligent and productive service add weight to his convictions in regards to the Christian Faith. His article merits deep consideration.
Colossians 2:6 is a verse which is often quoted with mistaken emphasis; one frequently hears it with the emphasis on the verbs “As therefore ye received so walk.” And one has heard it explained as, “How, then, did I receive Christ? Certainly, by simple faith. That is how I am to walk in Him: as I received Him, by faith alone.”
The thought so stated is, of course, in accordance with facts. And undoubtedly God has used this interpretation to help many believers to peace and to power. For it is quite true that we do not enter into life by any efforts of our own, but simply by relying upon Him who has come for our salvation. And it is equally true that we will never be able to live the Christian life by our own self-effort or struggle, but only in the same way in which we were saved: by reliance upon Him who alone can save us in daily living.
This emphasis is, however, not the correct one in the verse we are considering. We do have the truth of reliance on Christ in Galatians 2:20, where “I live by the faith of the Son of God” means simply that “I live (daily living) by that faith which has the Son of God as its object”; that is, by continual conscious reliance on Him. The R.V. translates the idea correctly as “the faith which is in the Son of God.”
A similar use of the construction is found in Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; 3:22; and Philippians 3:9. Revelation 14:12 may have the same thought, or may denote that faith (as the revelation which is to be believed) which is concerned with the Person of Jesus Christ.
The true emphasis of Colossians 2:6 lies in the words “Christ Jesus the Lord” and “in Him.” A literal translation would read, “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, in Him be walking.” This is in accord with the theme of the Colossian epistle. Colossians was written to counteract false doctrine which (like all false doctrine) detracted from the Person of Christ. It robbed Him of the place of pre-eminence which is His alone. It tended to dilute the faith of believers, directing their confidence to things and to other entities: to ascetic practices and to other supposed mediums of salvation. It thus destroyed the faith which is from God, which has the Lord Jesus Christ as its only Object.
Hence what the Apostle exhorts here is, “Since (at the time of your conversion) you received (not any thing, or some other one, but) Christ Jesus the Lord, go on now walking in Him. Let Him be the sole Object of your faith, now as then; the Receiver of your hearts’ devotion; the Sun around whom all your thinking shall revolve.”
From this exhortation we may observe three things:
1. The gospel as proclaimed by Epaphras to the Colossians was not a gospel concerned primarily with things or with doctrines. It was concerning a Person: the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Naturally, that gospel could not be presented to men apart from the statement of certain facts concerning Him; facts whose definitions are what we mean when we speak of “doctrines.” (The modern idea that we may dispense with doctrines while holding the Person of Jesus is mere superficial ridiculous nonsense.) Epaphras, like Paul, did preach about sin, coming judgment, about the necessity of repentance and of faith to salvation, and about a good many other things as well. But all these doctrines, these statements of facts, essential as they were then and are today, were but the background of the gospel; not the gospel itself.
For the Good News is that God has sent to us a Saviour; that that Saviour died for us, to pay the penalty of our sins; that He rose again victorious; and that He lives today (1 Cor. 15:3, 4), Lord over all (Acts 10:36), calling men to repent and to submit to Him for salvation. He is God’s good news, and Paul so preached Him that men, moved by what they heard, were moved to seek Him, and to receive Him into their hearts and lives.
2. Paul not only preached the Person of Christ: he preached Him as Lord. He writes in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” or, as the R.V. renders it, “Christ Jesus as Lord.” His gospel was not merely of a Saviour, but of a Saviour to whom God had given the Name which is above every other Name, decreeing now that at that Name every one should bow the knee, confessing Him as Lord of their souls (Phil. 2:9-11; Rom. 10:9. cf. also Peter’s word in Acts 2:36, where the words Lord and Christ are in the emphatic position).
3. The effect of such preaching was to impress the Person of Christ Himself upon the hearts of hearers, so that when these were moved by the Word of God, it was not merely to seek forgiveness of sins or salvation from judgment. These they did indeed receive, but they received them only in their receiving the exalted Christ Jesus as their Lord. It is on this fact that the exhortation is based. The Colossians received everything else in their submitting to Christ as Lord, for all is to be found only in Him (vs. 9, 10).
These are not mere theories, since they are facts clearly revealed by God in His Word, and facts which we will controvert (as, alas, they are sometimes controverted today) only at our peril. We may note here three things in the light of these facts of the Word:
1. Those of us who are called to engage in the preaching of the gospel should most carefully examine our preaching in this light. What is the object ever before our minds as we preach? Is it, as it should be, the glorified Person of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is our aim so to present Him in all His present glory (as gracious Saviour, certainly, but as Saviour exalted to the throne), that men will see Him, and be moved to acknowledge His authority? What is the impression we leave on the minds of our hearers? Is it merely of things, even legitimate things such as sin, judgment, and urgency of salvation? Or is it of Him in whom alone all blessing is to be found? For true gospel preaching will always be a “lifting up” of Christ, and such “lifting up” will always draw men to Him. God’s purpose is to exalt His Son, and so should it be ours.
It is not at all uncommon to hear “gospel” preaching which does not so make prominent the Person of Christ; preaching in which, if He is even mentioned, it is almost as an incidental, secondary to the main consideration of salvation. The hearer may be impressed with the fact of sin and the necessity of doing something about it. It may leave him anxious and concerned, but may not leave the Person of the Lord Jesus Himself as the predominant figure in the picture which has been put before him. And men may be moved to seek the things they need, in themselves, rather then to receive into their hearts the Glorious Person in receiving whom alone those things are to be obtained.
2. Nor should this presentation of the Person of Christ be that of a Saviour alone. There are probably few doctrines which have done more harm to men than the popular idea that one may receive Christ as Saviour, without receiving Him as Lord. The conception is based on a very superficial understanding as to what the gospel really is. For it should be evident that even faith in Christ “as Saviour” is quite impossible without submission to Him as Lord. Saving faith is not, as sometimes misconceived, mere credence in the truth of certain revealed facts. It has such credence as its foundation, but not as its substance. Saving faith is faith in Christ Himself, not merely about Him. It is such credence as leads to action; to submission of the will. Christ comes now personally to the soul, desiring to do certain things for that soul’s benefit. It should be noted that it is He personally who saves, but that He cannot save until the individual is ready to allow Him to do what He will. Without such submission of the will He can do nothing. It is demonstrable that one may believe the truth of the facts, without yielding to the Lord for Him to act. But such submission is nothing less than an acknowledgment of His Lordship, even though the one who thus yields to Him may not at once realize all that is implied in his submission.
3. The harmful results of a gospel not centred in the Lordship of Christ can be seen on every hand. How many there are who call themselves “believers,” but who have never really yielded to Christ, and who, as a result, have never really passed from death to life! Such may be convinced that, at a certain time in their lives, they “believed in (actually, about) Christ as Saviour.” But their daily living shows no evidence whatever of eternal life. They have no real love for the Lord Jesus Himself. They have no love for His Word. They have no desire whatsoever to order their lives according to His will, and to please Him. Indeed, to many such, the idea of being governed in all things by Him is repugnant, and savors of fanaticism! Self is lord, not Christ. They are still “of the world” and their speech and conduct is “of the world.” Such “believers” need to wake up to their terrible lack, before it is forever too late; before they hear the Lord say, as He Himself said He would have to say at last to some, “I never knew you!” (Matt. 7:21-23).
It has very often happened, in teaching on the Lord as the Christian’s Life, that certain people, who have been “believers” for years, but have never known what it is to be ruled by the Lord, are reached by the Word, receive a vision of the glory and beauty of Christ, and so at last yield their all to Him. They then enter into an experience of devotion to Him and of joy, peace, and power for daily living, such as they have never known. What has actually happened in many such cases of “revival” is that they have for the first time entered into the real experience of salvation! A true conversion will always result in a transformed life, and where there is no such transformation, it should be questioned whether there is really any life at all!
Oh the tragedy of “believers” who are lost because they have never really been saved! Brethren, let us realize that “Jesus Christ is Lord”! Let us see to it that He is really Lord of our lives; of all we have and are. Let us proclaim Him as Lord to all, and press upon all the necessity for them of God’s command, not merely “to receive Him as Saviour,” but to bow the knee to Him as Lord! Let us make it plain that, apart from such submission to Him, there can be no salvation.
And then? Let us ever remember that in our salvation, “we received Jesus the Lord.” We did not accept something, we accepted someOne. “So let us walk in Him.” Let Him be the One who dominates our thinking, to whom our minds always turn. May He thus continually sit on the throne of our hearts, and He alone!