Tuesday, June 30, 2009

0 Weakness of Faith and the Christian

William Gurnall is such a pastorally sound writer - in taking up the question of weak faith, he makes clear the difference between those who fall prey to temptation through weakness of faith, and those who fall prey to temptation in rebellion against God. There is a stark contrast between the two, and Gurnall anticipates the question of a concerned hearer of his words concerning the believer's need to arm himself with God's armor:
"Objection: But is all armour that is of God thus mighty? We read of weak grace, little faith; how can this then be a trial of our armour whether of God or not?" (p. 57, The Christian in Complete Armor)
Gurnall answers, then, declaring the importance of setting an appropriate test for the weak of faith -
"I answer, the weakness of grace is in respect of stronger grace, but that weak grace is strong and mighty in comparison of counterfeit grace. Now, I do not bid thee try the truth of thy grace by such a power as is peculiar to stronger grace, but by that power which will distinguish it from false. True grace, when weakest, is stronger than false when strongest." (p. 57, The Christian in Complete Armor)
This couples with what I've recently quoted from Gurnall - that NO armor that derives not from God has ANY efficacy whatsoever with the enemies of God. There is no personal resolve, no individual resource that can stand up to the temptation to sin. While the believer does fall, and the new or immature believer, often, this is no necessary indicator that his armor is false. Gurnall takes pains to outline some thoughts concerning the fall into sin of the believer, and how it may be distinguished - and how one's concerns about the reality of his God-given armor may be assuaged:
"Speak, O ye hypocrites, can ye show one tear that ever you shed in earnest for a wrong done to God? Possibly you may week to see the bed of sorrow which your sins are making for you in hell, but ye never loved God so well as to mourn for the injury ye have done to the name of God. It is a good gloss Augustine hath upon Esau's tears - Flevet quod perdidit, non quod vendidit - he wept that he lost the blessing, not that he sold it. Thus we see an excellency of the saint's sorrow above the hypocrite's.... while the Christian commits a sin he hates it; whereas the other loves it while he forbears it." (p. 57, The Christian in Complete Armor )
The hypocrite, in falling prey to a temptation and giving in, will never lament the fact that he has sinned against God... the Christian, when falling into a sin, will frequently do so, and pray strength for recovery and resistance in the next instance of said temptation. This is a huge comfort to me, and to any Christian, who still recognizes his weakness and propensity to sin in various ways. If perfect obedience and perfect standing against all temptation were the rule of justification, none of us would pass the bar. Thanks be to God for His gift of Christ in atoning for us, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us gain that maturity and the dexterity with the Armor that He alone provides us, so that as we walk with Him, we'll stand firmer and firmer, and be better and better able to withstand as the battles with sin and temptation come at us daily.



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