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Description: Is Your Faith in Jesus Real?
Is Your Faith in Jesus Real?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’ve reached Ephesians 1:15, if you’d like to turn to it loved ones. Now do you remember what
we’ve been saying about the first twelve verses, following the greetings in verses one and two?
Those twelve verses from three to fourteen are probably the most complex and deepest explanation of
reality that there is in the Bible, and I would say in the whole of literature. It is such a
magnificent survey of pre-time, and then of the present time, and then of future time. You remember
we said the pre-time period probably covers verses three to six, where Paul is talking about what
happened before the foundation of the world, and then verses seven to ten are the present and the
effect of that on us today, and then the future is verses eleven through fourteen. And then in
fifteen Paul in a sense turns round to the people that he’s speaking to and says; “Now I want to
talk to you about your own situation” and he says “For this reason, because I have heard of your
faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.” That’s what he heard about them and
in a sense that’s the most important part of their lives and the most important thing you can say
about people who are Christians.
First of all they have faith in Lord Jesus, and secondly they have a love for all the saints. And
it’s not hard for us who have talked about this so often to see that one is the belief side and the
other is the behavior side, and that’s what he’s saying; he has heard of those two sides of their
lives and so he knows that they are real in their attitude to God. I think it’s interesting the
phrase “belief in the Lord Jesus Christ,” because I would normally have taken that as just a casual
comment. I would have said that’s what everybody who is a Christian has, they have faith in the
Lord Jesus, and I would of thought that yes, they have faith in the Lord Jesus, they don’t have
faith in Mohammad, they don’t have faith in Buddha, they have faith in the Lord Jesus. They don’t
have faith in philosophy, they have faith in the Lord Jesus that is they regard Jesus as the most
important person and that’s where their faith is. Their whole understanding of life is based on
their belief about Jesus and we now know that it’s far more than that, and yet that is the first
thing that is the mark of a Christian.
Actually even behavior is not the first mark. You remember there used to be a lot of talk that made
you even suspicious at times of the whole “Jesus movement” and the whole “charismatic movement,”
because there were other groups that were obviously a little off in their beliefs and yet people
would say, “Oh they love each other so much. They have such love for each other. You can just feel
the love coming upon you.” And looking back upon it, we can see that a lot of that love was people
were making much of each other and naturally people feel good when they’re made much of. So it’s
important to see that the first mark of a person who is related to God correctly is that he has
faith in the Lord Jesus.
The first mark is not love, the first mark is faith in the Lord Jesus, and that’s not just faith
that Jesus really lived, or that Jesus was an historical person, but it is faith in the Lord Jesus.
Those are two sides in a way, because they’re the two sides of the whole person Jesus. And this is
the belief that Jesus is what is described in Colossians 1:15, that Jesus “Is the image of the
invisible God.” So first of all it’s the belief that Jesus is God. There’s a line in one of the
Creeds that says that he is eternally procreated – Christians believe in the eternal procreation of
the son and that says what we were trying to say last time that if the timeline is there and
infinity is at each end, then it was here that God conceived of his son, and conceived of his son in
eternity. And the way the Creed tries to say it is that Jesus was eternally procreated; there was
never a time when Jesus was not there as far as we, who are tied to time, can speak. So Jesus was
part of God from before the beginning of time, and that’s what faith in the Lord Jesus means.
It’s faith that Jesus is as divine as God. That according to John 3:16, “God gave his only begotten
son” that Jesus is part of God in a way that we are not and I suppose you could say in a way, that
we cannot be. We can be part of Jesus who is part of God, but Jesus has a unique relationship to
God and is part of God in a way that we are not. In a way God was in Christ on the cross in a way
that he cannot be in us. He is in us through the Spirit of Jesus, but Jesus is directly related to
God. So faith in the Lord Jesus is faith that Jesus is divine in a way that no other person is
So it’s regarding Jesus as God, that he is in fact the Lord of the whole creation. And that’s where
we begin to go a little beyond what we all used to think, because I think we all have the idea that
Jesus is our Savior, and Jesus is the one that died for our sins, and Jesus is the one by whom we
get to heaven. But I think it has been a new truth for us all to realize that we are God’s
workmanship created in Christ Jesus. And we’ve begun to see that Jesus is not just – though that’s
everything, Jesus in not just the divine only begotten Son of God, he is not just our Savior or
somebody who gets us into heaven, but he is the one in whom we ourselves were created. We owe more
to him than we do to our mum and dad.
We were created in Christ Jesus, and that has brought to life many of those verses that we knew
before like John 1:3 that say all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that
was made. And suddenly you begin to realize Jesus is not only the divine Son of God, he is not only
our Savior, but he is the one in whom we were made. And then we come to Colossians 1:15 where it
says in him all things hang together and we realize Jesus is the one who holds us together, who
keeps us alive at this moment. Without Jesus my hands would fall off, without Jesus my blood would
stop flowing, without Jesus my heart would stop beating. Jesus is the one that holds these bricks
together, the whole chapel would blow apart if were not for Jesus. Jesus is the one that holds the
pressure of the air right, and that’s what faith in the Lord Jesus means.
That it’s not just faith in some icon, or some religious symbol, or some saint, or somebody who was
a teacher in Galilee, it’s faith in Jesus as the one who is all of existence, who holds this entire
universe together. It’s faith in the one who is our Maker and our Creator. I used to see that when
non-Christians or non-church people refer to Jesus lightly in a casual way, yes, I can see how it’s
sacrilegious and I can see that it’s not very respectful, but now it just seems ridiculous.
You’re talking about the one who holds us together, the one who keeps our life going. He is our
Lord in every way. He is the one who controls and rules all of existence, and so when we talk of
Jesus we’re talking not just of even a divine figure, but we’re talking about the one who holds our
whole life together. And what we have seen goes further than that, because we’ve realized that God
made us inside Jesus to give us a chance.
Without Jesus being around us, without us being part of him, God had only one option and that was to
destroy us and exterminate us and leave it there. And the reason God made us in his son was he knew
that he would be able to destroy the human man Jesus and all of that humanity with him, and would be
able to raise it up. And that’s the other thing that we mean when we say we have faith in Jesus,
not only that he made all things, not only that he holds all things together but that he was in fact
as Colossians 1:15 says he is the first-born of all creation. That Jesus was actually the first
man. Indeed, not only that Jesus was the first man, but he is mankind, he is all humanity. You
remember there’s a verse of a hymn that says when we come to Jesus we are most truly men, and I used
to think that means when we allow the virile, strong, honest, truthful attitudes of Jesus to rule
our lives then we’re most truly like him.” But you can see it’s more than that; Jesus is humanity.
Jesus is the first-born of all creation. He is the one from whom all humanity came; it’s him that
Adam came from.
We always think Adam came first then it was Abraham and all the others, but Jesus himself explained,
“Before Abraham was, I am.” He was in fact the first human being, so when we say we have faith in
Jesus, we have faith in the one who is humanity, and we are only human in that we’re part of him.
Now you know we’ve learned it the other way around, we’ve thought, “We’re human and he’s divine, and
we have to kind of get into him.” In fact, we see now that he is eternally human. From the very
beginning God conceived of him as his only begotten son and as the first human being and as all
humanity. So when we have faith in Jesus we have faith in the one who is humanity, and we have faith
in the one in whom God destroyed humanity and raised it up and made it completely new.
So when we say we have faith in the Lord Jesus, we’re saying all of that; we have faith in the Lord
who made all things and in whom all things were made, in whom all things hang together. We have
faith in Jesus as the Lord who became the first humanity, the first human being, the first of
humanity. But then that we also have faith in the Lord Jesus, the One, the Lord, the Christ who
came to earth and lived as the human being Jesus. But he is not only Jesus of Nazareth, he is the
human being that is me, I am part of him. I am part of Jesus the human being, so when I have faith
in the Lord Jesus, I’m really saying I have faith in this man as my Father, I have faith in this
That’s why he’s talked about in Isaiah as the eternal Father. I have faith in Jesus as my Father,
and as the one who received the destruction in himself that I should have received and indeed, that
I did receive. So when we say we have faith in the Lord Jesus we’re saying those things. For us he
is the one in whom the old self was crucified and who destroyed the old self completely. And that
for us is who Jesus is; he is the one who humbled himself and took upon himself the form of a
servant and came in the likeness of men, and in him we also were humbled, and we also submitted
ourselves to death. So when we say that we have faith in the Lord Jesus, we’re saying all those
things, that we are part of him, and that we were crucified with him, and we were raised with him.
It’s partly because of that, that we have a love for all the saints. Because when you take your
place in him and you regard yourself as nothing, and regard him as everything, then his dear,
generous love flows into your heart. And you find that love is shed abroad in your heart through
the Holy Spirit, and you feel that other people are part of him also, and you want them to be at
peace and at rest in him and that’s what overwhelms you. And you see other people, all the saints
it’s said here, you see all the saints as part of Jesus, and part therefore of yourself and you no
longer think of yourself as an entity that deserves respect, or deserves looking up to, or deserves
this right or that right, but you see yourself as nonexistent. And somehow or other the love of
this man Jesus flows into you and flows out to others, so you find yourself with a desire for others
to come into all the joy of Jesus that you yourself have. And that’s why the love for all the
saints is talked about as a vital mark of Christians.
It’s the tenderness of Jesus towards others, the kindliness of Jesus towards others. It’s a desire
for others to be happy. It’s a forgetfulness of yourself and of what you want, or what you think
you deserve, and it’s a readiness to live for them and live for their happiness and for their
delight. So there comes into you the whole attitude of Jesus himself so you don’t protect yourself,
you don’t defend yourself, because you’re already crucified with him and raised with him, so what is
there to protect? So really, you have nothing to do but spend your life for all the saints, so
there’s a love that flows through you for that.
Now I think we’ve talked about how in fact the church, not only the Catholic Church, but the
Protestant Church would make saints something special. It’s the word “Hagioi” which is holy and it
becomes hagiography and you remember hagiography is a name of the city of the saints. And really,
in the Bible the saints are not just the special ones, but actually everybody, in a sense, that has
faith in Jesus is referred to as saints. If you look at Romans 1:17 you can see that sometimes we
don’t realize how broadly the term is used. It is also used quite narrowly in the New Testament but
also very broadly. Romans 1:7, “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:”
“Hagioi.” So everybody is called to be a saint, to be holy, to be set apart for God, to be set apart
from self and from the world, and set apart to God. That’s always what “Hagioi” means; it’s a
setting apart from, and a setting apart to. And then you get it in Corinthians where there were
pretty unpleasant things happening, 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to
those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place
call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” And who is he calling saints?
Well look at 6:1, “When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before
the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And
if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?” So he has to rebuke
some of these saints for having lawsuits against each other.
So in a way, saints had a broad meaning, it was anybody who believed in Jesus and who had begun to
let him start the changing work in their lives. Now it is true, that had taken place; they were
producing works worthy of repentance and the Holy Spirit had started to produce in them a desire to
follow Jesus and a love for him. So it’s not just people who have a head belief, but somebody who
has begun to turn from themselves, and turn towards Jesus. You could say that incipient
sanctification was taking place, incipient – there was the beginning of holiness. So most of us
would say that some of our sins dropped away when we became Christians; some of the things that we
knew were wrong dropped away, so that’s the beginning of a sanctifying effect.
Nevertheless, “Hagioi” has also a special meaning in the New Testament, and it’s in 1 Thessalonians
5:23. And I think we realized that in fact, if you do not go on to this(cid:9) then the love begins to
dry up inside. 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly,” that’s
what we call entire sanctification, absolute cleansing, where there’s nothing of sin that you will
tolerate within, “and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ.” And we know by our experience that unless we go on to this and allow the
Holy Spirit to cleanse our hearts and not just our outward life, then the love for the saints
begins to dry up, and begins to be replaced by our own judgment and our own opinions. So it is
vital however we do it, to go on to entire sanctification. For many of us it’s been a separate
experience, and for some it is probably something that isn’t so obvious.
But here’s one man who tells his story, “I was born at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, September 20,
1814. Early in life I realized the need of salvation and for over four years was burdened with a
sense of sin. Near the age of twenty, while listening to a sermon, I said mentally, ‘I will take
Jesus to be my Savior.’ Immediately my burden was gone, and before the evening passed God’s love
was shed abroad in my heart. In a short time I was immersed and became a member of the Calvinistic
Baptist Church in my native town. During the summer of 1839 in Boston, I obtained Mahan’s Christian
Perfection, the study of which convinced me of my duty and privilege to be entirely sanctified to
God. I was then an active obedient Christian up to the light I had.”
So he wasn’t a disobedient man but he realized that there was something within him and Wesley puts
it this way, “He did not commit sin without, but he felt sin within.” He felt the need to be
entirely sanctified, to have a heart that was cleansed by the Holy Spirit so that there was only
Jesus’ love flowing. “With this increased light I at once sought to bring my whole being into
oneness with God’s will. Being fixed in my purpose, I was soon enabled to regard myself as holy the
Lords. Not long after, while in prayer, this thought pressed itself upon my consciousness, ‘the
triune God is here’. I was at once filled with his peace and arose satisfied. On returning to my
business thence forward, nothing disturbed inward calm, though I had been troubled by a hasty
I was not aware that this was my entrance into the life of holiness until at a meeting some evenings
after, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the word recently given, ‘the triune God is here’ as the time
when he came into my life to abide, with all things pertaining to life and to Godliness. I was
filled with the Holy Ghost. It became my meat and drink to do his will as soon as known. This was
in the winter of 1839, and 1840, from which time higher and holier motives actuated me. It was not
long before the Lord called me to the ministry. The Baptist Church, not encouraging my views of
sanctification, I united with the Methodist Episcopal Church.
During the second year of my ministry my attention was called to this word in Jeremiah 15:19, ‘If
thou take forth the precious from the vial, thou shalt be as my mouth. I had thought this fully done
at the time God came into my life to abide, but the Holy Spirit now so impressed me with the
importance of this word, that I became still more sensitive God-ward, and began to detect forms of
selfish mixture that had not before arrested my attention. Finding myself unable to discriminate
between the precious and the vial, I yielded myself to God to do this for me. Soon a form of
selfishness was discovered which so surprised and discouraged me that in utter desperation I
immediately said, ‘I might as well give up my profession of holiness.’
As this thought passed through my mind I seemed to fall from that clear light and peace that for
years had been my abiding state. Perceiving this I quickly said, ‘Why Lord, all this and more if it
be thy will’ and instantly I was reinstated in God, having learned to distinguish the evil and how
to be rid of it. This proved to be the lesson of my life, and never had to be repeated. If a
temptation was likely to cause conflict, I would no longer say, ‘This is quite interesting’ as I had
been taught that it was from without, but at once yielded myself to God to bring within more fully
the life of Christ, for which the Holy Soul is predestined.”
I think it’s very easy to be deceived on that one. When does a temptation become a thought of
temptation and when does a thought become a sin? So what it does express is that desire to have
nothing to do with sin, nothing to do with anything that’s questionable. “I became sensitive to the
Holy Spirit’s work through my powers, realizing that the wholly sanctified soul is as Jesus was when
he entered upon his earthly mission. I came not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.
My preference yielded to him on the instant of any evidence of in-harmony with his way. The Lord
alone was exalted and I’m moved on with certainty in his will. It is now nearly forty seven years
since I entered the highway of holiness when death to sin passed upon my whole being and it’s been
easy to yield up the self life, which if indulged would become sin, bringing every thought into
captivity to the obedience of Christ. My abiding home must be in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.
Love to fullness has abounded always towards God and man, living by the faith of the Son of God; it
has always been adequate to the needs of this great salvation. I have two little words ever in use,
“yay” and “nay”. Toward God in all things my yay is yay. Toward anything opposite to him, my nay
is nay. Thus is the Christ’s life constantly revealed.”
Let us pray.