He was an old man, a preacher, and he knew he would not live much longer. He had dedicated his life to telling people about Jesus and how they could be saved. He had suffered much and also had a disability. Although highly educated, he made tents to earn a living when necessary, so he would not burden others. He travelled great distances to preach. Three times he was shipwrecked, and once he drifted in the sea for a day and a night! He was flogged five times by the Jews, and he spent several years in prison. People tried to kill him because they did not like what he preached. He often had to flee from a city to save his life.
While a prisoner at Rome, he wrote a letter to a young evangelist named Timothy, asking him to come before winter, and bring books and a cloak he had left at Troas.
When this man, the Apostle Paul, knew that the time of his departure was at hand, he could say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Because he had “kept the faith,” he was looking forward to God’s blessings in the hereafter and wrote “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Paul is a great example for us in so many ways! Yet it is fair to ask: are we keeping the faith?
What is “the faith” and what does it mean to “keep” the faith?
What is the faith?
In the Scriptures the word “faith” can refer to the concept of faith, to someone’s personal faith (the act of believing or the content of what they believer), or – as Paul uses it in 2nd Tim 4:7 – to the Christian faith. “The faith” is the doctrine of Christ, which is also called the teachings of the apostles, or the gospel. The New Testament (New Covenant) defines the faith. The faith is what Christians are to believe, and how they must serve God.
The Christian faith is singular and exclusive, it is “the” faith. Other faiths are not recognized as valid. Paul writes: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Just as there is only one Lord, there is also only one faith. That one faith includes one baptism that places a believer in the one body of Christ, the church.
What does it mean to “keep” the faith?
Keeping the faith means living in harmony with the teachings of Christ.
Jesus tells His followers: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
- “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31),
- “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” John 14:23),
- and “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10).
Keeping the faith is essential for salvation. John writes: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 1:9).
- Keeping the faith is the essence of being a Christian
- Christians must be “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
- They must “continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22; Colossians 1:23).
- They must be “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
- They are “established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7).
- They are “strengthened in the faith” (Acts 16:5).
They must be “sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).
- They must be “steadfast in the faith” 1 Peter 5:9).
They must “stand fast in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
- They must hold “the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).
- Christians “preach the faith” (Galatians 1:23) the he purpose of which is to accomplish “obedience to the faith among all nations” (Romans 1:5; 16:26).
Christians can become unfaithful and
- “depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1),
- “stray from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:10, 21) and
- “deny the faith” (1 Timothy 5:8).
We must keep the original faith!
Paul said, “I have fought the good fight!” It requires effort to do it. It may even involve struggle to keep the faith. Yet Christians must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). We must “strive together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
“The faith” was delivered “once for all”. It was given in its entirety in New Testament times. Anyone who claims otherwise must be rejected as we contend for “the faith” that was “once for all delivered to the saints.”
Paul warned: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Paul uses harsh language because a perverted gospel does not save. It makes people think they are saved when they are lost. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to repeat this curse to emphasize the importance of keeping the original faith! “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).
To keep the faith we must know the faith.
The Scriptures enable us to know the faith. Paul told Timothy: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
The angel who showed John the Revelation called Christians “those who keep the words of this book” (Revelation 22:9).
Let us keep the faith! If we follow Paul’s example and keep the faith, we can be confident that we will be blessed in the hereafter.
“Here is the perseverance of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:12, 13).
If we “keep the faith of Jesus,” when our departure is at hand, we can say with the apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).