Vol.XVI No.IV Pg.3
June 1979

The Fortress Of Faith

Dan S. Shipley

As an encouragement to Christians living under the constant threat of persecution, the apostle Peter writes of a "living hope" made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. With such hope the faithful persevere in anticipation of an eternal inheritance reserved in heaven (l Pet. l: 3,4). The source of their hope and the key to their endurance was faith. It has always been so with God's people and ever shall be. "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 Jn. 5:4).

It is in keeping with this idea that Peter writes of being "guarded through faith" by the power of God (v.5). This word "guarded" is a military term used in the sense "of providing protection against the enemy, as a garrison does" (Vine). So, our faith is our fortress for providing protection against all enemies of righteousness. This protective aspect of faith is also suggested in Eph. 6: 16 under the figure of a shield —"Wherewith we shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one". Elsewhere, it is pictured as a breastplate (l Thss. 5:8). Such references show plainly that faith is our protector. Faith is our strength and help in the quest to overcome and to gain the great victory.

But behind all of this, as suggested in the employment of these military terms, is the recurring allusion to a great conflict. If not, why the need for being guarded? Why the talk of such things as shields, breastplates and victory? Too, conflict implies an enemy. In an earlier noted passage, Paul identifies him as the "evil one". In 1 Pet. 5:8 he is referred to as "your adversary the devil". This is why Christians are encouraged to "put on the whole armor of God"— that we "may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). Here it is: the enemy; the conflict; the protection. The battle is real. So are its casualties. And so is the need for protection.

Hence, the need for a strong faith. Old Testament history tells of great fortified and walled cities such as Babylon, built out of concern for physical safety. We need such concern for our spiritual safety! — for the protection of precious souls. There is a sense in which every Christian is building his fortress of faith. How well we are able to withstand the testings of trials and temptations depends on the measure of our faith-the strength of our fortress. And be sure of this, the assaults will come! In our context, Peter writes of their "manifold trials" and later tells them to "think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you" (1 Pet. 4:12). Knowing the trials will come, we must fortify our faith.

To this end we assimilate more and more of the word of God, our only source of strength and growth (1 Pet. 2:2). This means not only knowing it, it means respecting it and applying it to every circumstance of life. As Jesus, we can face and repel the tempter with: "It is written". Of him, Peter says, "withstand steadfast in your faith" (l Pet. 5:9). How strong is your fortress?