To be faithful is to be reliable, steadfast and unwavering, and the Bible speaks of this type of faithfulness in four ways: as an attribute of God, as a positive characteristic of some people, as a characteristic that many people lack, and as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Faithful is also used in the sense of “believing,” as in the case of the Christians in Ephesus and Colossae (Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).
Scripture speaks often of God’s faithfulness. Over and over we learn that when God says He will do something, He does it (even when it seems impossible). When He says something will happen, it happens. This is true for the past, the present and the future. If this were not the case—if God were unfaithful even once—He would not be God, and we could not rely on any of His promises. But as it is, “Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave” (1 Kings 8:56). God is eternally reliable, steadfast, and unwavering because faithfulness is one of His inherent attributes. God does not have to work at being faithful; He is faithful. Faithfulness is an essential part of who He is (Psalm 89:8; Hebrews 13:8). In His faithfulness, God protects us from evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3), sets limits on our temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13), forgives us of sin (1 John 1:9), and sanctifies us (1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 1:6).
When a person walks consistently with God, in humble service to Him, he or she can be called “faithful.” When Nehemiah had to leave Jerusalem to return to Persia, he put Hanani and Hananiah in charge. The reason for his choice of these men was that they were “more faithful and God-fearing . . . than many” (Nehemiah 7:2, ESV). Nehemiah needed men of character whom he could trust. Men who would not take bribes, who were committed to the welfare of the people, and who would uphold the integrity of the office. Notice, also, that faithfulness is associated with fearing God. The better we truly know God, the more we will want to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). Other examples of faithfulness include Silas (1 Peter 5:8), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21), Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), Onesimus (Colossians 4:9), and Moses (Hebrews 3:2).
Some of the names included in this “faithful list” are unfamiliar to most people. Not much is known of Tychicus or Epaphras, for example. But faithfulness, even in small matters, is known to God and rewarded in the end (Luke 19:17).
The Bible also warns us of the consequences of unfaithfulness. These warnings are necessary because, as the old hymn says, we are “prone to wander . . . prone to leave the God I love.” Our hearts are too often found fickle, despite our best intentions (Proverbs 20:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 26:75).
Faithfulness affects every relationship we have. The Bible says it is a gift from God. When we receive Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit indwells us and brings the blessings of love, joy, peace and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). The fullness of these blessings depends on walking with God and yielding to His Spirit. We should be faithful to read and abide by God’s Word and to seek the Lord in prayer (Psalm 1:1-2; Ephesians 6:18).
The Old Testament taught that “the just will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4), and that truth is quoted, amplified and illuminated three times in the New Testament. We obtain that faith, and our faithfulness, by the grace of God. He is faithful to His children, and by His grace we will one day hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).