Jan 22, 2011

Duty Faith by James K. Popham

We have been asked to state what is meant by the term "Duty faith," as some are perplexed by it. We comply with the request the more readily as the term is probably used loosely. And that we may be exact, by the Lord's help, it is desirable to understand the two words which constitute the formula.

1. Duty. Duty is thus defined: "That which a person is bound by any natural, moral, or legal obligation to do or perform; what has to be done as being due towards another."

2. Faith. We venture to define it thus: Belief, on adequate evidence, in God, and in everything He manifests and propounds in Scripture, in creation, and in providence.

Together, then, these two words mean that it is the duty of man to believe in God, and obey Him in whatever He says. This obligation arises out of law. No law no duty. This is the law of God given in Eden and written in man's heart, for man was made in the image and likeness of God in His law. And the Holy Ghost by Paul confirms this truth by showing that all impressions of the law in the hearts of men were not obliterated by the Fall; for that the Gentiles, who had not the advantage of the externally written law, yet did by nature things contained in the law; whereby, he says, they "show the work of the law written in their hearts" (Romans 2:14-15).

It was given to man as endowed with every advantage which belonged to a pure nature a free will, and power to render the obedience commanded. Within this law, which is holy, just, and good, is found the duty of man. And the duty must, of course, be co-extensive with the commandment. If the commandment reaches the heart, then disobedience thereis sin. It does reach the heart; it is universal: " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these " (Mark xii. 30, 31). Clearly, then, the whole duty of man means believing whatever God has been pleased to say and manifest of Himself, for that is essential to loving Him perfectly and keeping His commandments with all the heart. It means that as God made man upright, it is his indispensable duty to be perfect.

But the Fall changed man. " How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! " His understanding has become darkness. " Ye were sometimes darkness." His will is so perverse that his response to every command of his Maker and law Giver is, " I will not." His heart's love is turned to hatred. His power to obey no longer exists. And this his entirely evil state is, by divine inspiration, called death, Eph. ii. 1. But the law has not changed, nor is its authority weakened. " Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth ? " (Rom. vii. 1). There is no shadow of turning in the law Giver. Therefore our wofully changed state does not, cannot absolve us from our duty ; our duty is not affected by our voluntary change, loss of power, and rebellion. Sin procured inability to walk in them gives no freedom from divine statutes. Sin is no excuse from obedience. Our inability is our sin. Our solemn position therefore is this: We are not absolved from our obligations because we have rendered ourselves unable to meet them. It is our indispensable duty to believe every discovery God has condescended to make of Himself.

Therefore every man ought to believe in the Trinity. The Tri-Une, Tri-Personal God has revealed Himself. God said, " Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." " There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One." The record is that the Father decreed to set up His Son, and decreed His Incarnation ; the Son voluntarily consented ; the Holy Ghost entered into an agreement to beget the sacred humanity which should be the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. Hence, in the fulness of time, the manifestation of the Trinity. The Father sent His Son. His Son said, " Lo, I come." The Spirit overshadowed the virgin.

Further, man is duty bound to believe the Bible account of the creation ; the Fall of Adam and the imputation to his seed of his sin ; the election of the church in Christ in eternity; His vicarious life and death ; His resurrection; the resurrection of all men ; the j udgment to come; the everlasting felicity of the saints ; the everlasting perdition of the reprobates for their sin. All the above are Bible truths, written on the sacred page as with a sunbeam. They are a manifestation of God in His works; they are objects set up in the firmament of the Scriptures for the obedience of faith (Rom. xvi. 26). And can men cast them away, reject them, and not be guilty? " They have rejected the Word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them ? " (Jer. viii. 9).

Unbelief of God is the root sin : " Yea, hath God said ? " was the first seed of evil (Gen. iii. 1). Unbelief was the sin that kept Israel in the wilderness forty years (Heb. iii. 7 19). And that men ate obliged by the law to believe the record God has given of His Son in the gospel, is evident, for " he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son " (1 Jno. v. 10). And the Holy Ghost reproves the world of sin, "because," says Christ, "they believe not on Me" (Jno. xvi. 9).

And further, it is the nature of the gospel to give men ground to repent and seek God: for it discovers that there is forgiveness with Him that He may be feared, " through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus " (Rom. iii. 24); whereas the law accepts of no repentance or approach of a sinner to God, accepts nothing but the perfect righteousness of Christ, in order to let go its deadly hold of a sinner. There is, therefore, no way for a sinner to repent toward God without some kind of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance and faith go together, whether natural or spiritual (Acts xx. 21; Mark i. 15; Jno. xii. 34 36); for to believe in Christ is to repent of unbelief. And all to whom the sound of the gospel comes are commanded to repent. So Paul to heathens: " The times of this ignorance " when the word of God was confined to Israel "God winked at, but NOW commandeth all men everywhere to repent," warning them of the day of judgment (Acts xvii. 30).

The ground given for this is the gospel: " Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand " (Matt. iii. 2 ; iv. 17). But this duty of men under the law to obey and believe the gospel on the testimony of Scripture, is not to believe their own interest therein ; nor does the law make any account of their inability to obey. To tell men that Christ died for them, and they have only to believe, is not warranted by Scripture, and is contrary to its testimony that Christ laid down His life only for His sheep (Jno. x. 15, 26) ; that all men are by nature " dead in trespasses and sins " (Eph. ii. 1, 2), and shut up together in the power of unbelief (Rom. xi. 32, margin ; iii. 9 20 ; Jno. vi. 44). For the law gives no power to obey, and yet requires the absolutely perfect faith of a sinless man; and this Christ gave, as part of the righteousness He wrought for all those His Father gave Him. So that the use of the law in respect of every man's duty of faith is "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God " (Rom. iii. 19).

Within the law, the covenant of works, which declares to man what is his only proper course, lies his duty. Naturally he is outside, or not under, any other covenant. The law of his creation binds him to an entire obedience, a full, unquestioning surrender of himself to God. This is proved by Christ's teaching: " And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life ? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind ; and thy neighbour as thyself. And He said, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live" (Lu. x. 25 28). This word comprehends all we need do to please God in the covenant of works. " Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man " (Ecc. xii. 13).

It is also proved by the curse of the law. " For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. iii. 10). The curse never comes causeless. Duty is by law; disobedience is breaking the law; sin is the transgression of the law. There could be no transgression without law: " For where no law is, there is no transgression" (Rom. iv. 5). Punishment follows sin. " For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness " (Eom. i. 18). And the curse begins in this life. " And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave rhem over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" (Rom. i. 28). This is most just punishment for dereliction of duty. When men, through the pride of their hearts, will not seek after God, but choose their own ways, He chooses their delusions, and rains snares upon them. Because they receive not the love of the truth. that they might be saved, God sends them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: " that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness " (2 Thess. ii. 10 12).

"Therefore," says inspired Paul, " by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin." All the sons of Adam, the subjects of law, are judged and condemned by law, as breaking it. " Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God " (Rom. iii. 19). And it is exceedingly solemn for all. The Atheist, the Unitarian, the Papist, the worldling, the deniers of the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Spiritualist, the Christadelphian, the critic, who holds himself at liberty to use his penknife on the sacred, the verbally inspired page; the man who denies the Holy Ghost and His saving work, these, and all who are " in the flesh," and so cannot please God, will find one day, if grace prevent not, that they will stand before Him, to believe and obey whom they refused, who will execute judgment upon them all for all the ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which they have spoken against Him. How much better for them never to have been born than to have lived in disobedience! Then will it be seen that the law lost none of its authority, was not robbed of its sanction, and that the law Giver is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. 0 how horror-stricken will be the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, when they hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and say to the mountains and rocks, " Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of His wrath is come ; and who shall be able to stand ? "But there is another covenant, the covenant of grace, full of inalienable blessings, and laying obligations on all who are made partakers of those blessings; and as the subject is large and vitally important, we propose taking it up in our next issue, if the Lord will. Meanwhile we crave a careful perusal of what we have set forth, relating to the whole duty of man.

By James K. Popham

Duty-faith Expositions

Free Grace Expositions