Albert N. Martin
Belief in and expectation of the return of Christ was indeed a vital element of ordinary, New Testament Christian experience. So much so that the little Aramaic phrase maranatha, ‘O Lord come,’ became part of the common verbal stuff of the churches not only in Palestine, where Aramaic would have been the major language spoken, but even throughout the Greek-speaking world, the consciousness that the faith of the Christian was a faith that looked forward to the consummation at the Coming of Christ, so much a part of life and thought that it was natural to greet one another and to part from one another with the words maranatha, ‘O Lord come.’
Then, in the next two messages we examined three of what will be four reasons why the New Testament believers eagerly awaited and loved and longed for the return of the Lord Jesus. I stated the answer to the question: why did they? with this qualifying, descriptive introductory part of the response: New Testament Christians, that is, true Christians, in a healthy spiritual state eagerly awaited the return of Christ because.. and we looked at three reasons why they anticipated and longed for the Coming of Christ.
1. Because they longed to experience the complete salvation which they and the whole creation will experience at the Coming of the Lord Jesus.
2. Because they long to see the defeat of all of the enemies of Christ and of His Church.
3. Because they long to witness the public and universal acknowledgement of the true identity and official position of the Lord Jesus.
We looked at a number of Scriptures which demonstrate that these were indeed part of the complex answer to the question: why do true believers in a healthy spiritual state eagerly await and love the appearing of the Lord Jesus?
Now we come to the fourth and final part of the answer. I am not saying that this exhausts the answer of Scripture, but I do believe that this fourth part of the answer will bring into focus at least a major dimension of biblical truth. Again, I state the matter in this way: true believers who are in a healthy spiritual state eagerly await the return of Christ because they long to see and to be with the object of their faith and love.
Now, this statement assumes two very basic realities of genuine, Christian experience. I want to show, from the Scriptures, that those assumptions are well-grounded in the Word of God.
The first is this: that Christ Himself is indeed the particular object of saving faith. I have stated in answer to the question why do true believers in a healthy spiritual state long for the Coming of Christ? I answered by saying: because they long to see and to be with the object of their faith and of their love. That answer assumes that Christ Himself is indeed the particular object of saving faith. I want to demonstrate this from the Scriptures.
While there can be no saving faith in Christ without some measure of faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who sent Him into the world; while there can be no saving faith in Christ if there is not some measure of faith in the God whose wrath was appeased by the sacrifice of Christ, and while Christ Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.” So there is, in any act of saving faith, a measure of faith in God the Father who sent God the Son, and there are a number of Scriptures that highlight that reality, some of them very familiar to you.
John 5:24, Verily I say unto you, whosoever hears My word and believes on Him that sent Me shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death unto life.
Romans 4:23-24 has a similar emphasis in which the text points us to that faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.
The familiar words of Romans 10:9-10, If thou shalt confess with thine mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
However, the Scriptures are equally and abundantly clear that Christ Himself, in the glory of His unique Person and in the perfection and power of His saving work, is the particular object of saving faith. Saving faith does not terminate on some aspect of the work of Christ or on some statement of fact concerning the Person of Christ, but saving faith rests upon Christ Himself.
Christ, in the uniqueness of His Person, and Christ in the perfection and power of His saving work—He is the particular object of saving faith.
Look with me quickly now at several Scriptures that do, indeed, state this in unmistakable clarity.
Galatians chapter 2, verses 15 and 16:
We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Now, notice that repeated emphasis: “knowing that a man is not justified,” that is, declared righteous in the court of heaven, “by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ.”
Here is is evident that the object of saving faith is Jesus. Jesus Messiah; the Christ of biblical revelation in the uniqueness of His Person and in the perfection of His work. Therefore, we find this formula in several of the epistles.
Ephesians chapter 1. Paul writes in verse 15: For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.
Paul says I was stirred to pray afresh for you with fresh confirmation that you are persevering in the Christian faith, because I heard of the ongoing faith that is among you, faith that terminates upon the Lord Jesus Christ. “I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus.
We have similar words in Colossians 1:4, but then when Paul summarizes his three plus years of ministry at Ephesus, notice the way in which he summarizes the heart of his preaching.
Acts chapter 20, verse 20: how I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house, solemnly testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God [that is, a repentance which focused primarily upon God’s right and God’s place as Creator, Lawgiver and Judge], and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, obviously, as we’ve already seen, saving faith does involve some faith content with respect to God the Father. “That He so loved the world as to send His only begotten Son.” That the Father who sent Him punished Him when He hung upon the cross and made Him a curse on our behalf; that the Father raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.
But the Apostle is clear in this passage that the great focal point of preaching is this: repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
Bible References: John 5:24; Romans 4:23-24; Romans 10:9-10; Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 1:15-16; Acts 20:20-21