… after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints … Ephesians 1:15
Having completed his doctrinal doxology describing the glorious spiritual blessings which the children of God enjoy, Paul turns to give thanks and pray for the Ephesian church who have received these blessings. He prays constantly for them that their wisdom, faith, knowledge, and understanding would increase in order that they might know what is the hope of their calling. As we have already observed, this is a prayer that is prayed, not for the unsaved, but for Christians; but how does Paul know that the Ephesian church has persevered in faith. Recall that Paul was intimately involved in the work of planting the church at Ephesus; but now he writes several years later, as he is pleased to discover that their faith was not a passing emotion, but had continued and was demonstrated in their love for one another.
The mere fact that a man attends church and professes to be a Christian is no proof that he is indeed one. This is a great fallacy that has been propagated by churches of various denominations. The mere fact that one thinks himself to be a Christian is not enough; the fact that others count him as one is not enough. If we are to have solid assurance, there is in our text, two valid tests which we must apply – one refers to belief and the other to practice. Whatever else may be true of us is irrelevant if we fail to pass these two tests.
The first test is genuine, personal faith in the Lord Jesus. There are many very good, benevolent, moral people in this world who are not saved. We are not saved by doing good works, but on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone. This is the starting point for every Christian. It is not belief in God in general, as many religious people believe in God. It is not a mere ascent to the facts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; even the demons, we are told, believe in this manner, but such belief is not the same as saving faith. A Christian is one who trusts Jesus Christ – He is the center of his whole outlook on life. Everything he considers, he does so in light of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His real presence in his life. A Christian is one who sees and finds everything in His Lord and Savior. He places no faith in himself, and realizes that all of his own efforts at being good are useless and worthless, and only that which is done to the glory of Jesus Christ has any lasting and genuine value. Faith in the Lord Jesus means that I have cast my entire hope upon Christ and what He has done for me, and nothing less than His person can satisfy me.
Then, as day follows night, love for all the saints, necessarily follows genuine saving faith. Humans are naturally hateful, envious, vengeful, and prejudiced beings – if we love at all it is only those who love us back or can give us something in return. However, for one to love all of the saints, something must have happened to him; if a man loves the saints, you can be sure he has a new nature. How about you? With whom would you wish to spend your time? If you could choose to have dinner with one person, would it be the President of the United States or your humble Christian brother? Would it be your favorite actress or your meek sister in Christ? Would it be a baseball or football star or that unknown missionary in Africa? Can it be said of you, that others have heard of your love for all the saints? – not just the pretty, pleasant Christians with whom you get along, but the least of them who are your brethren?
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