Luke 17:5; 2 Corinthians 10:15.
A great difference may be apprehended between these apparently similar scriptures. Both speak, it is true, of an increase of faith (though the word rendered "increase" is not the same in both), but the connection and context widely vary. After the Lord's instruction concerning the unlimited character of grace in forgiving a brother who might trespass against them, and perhaps with the sense of need produced by what they had heard, "The apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith." The word "increase" might here mean "add to" our faith, or "give more" faith to us. The Lord's answer would seem to teach two things; first, that the smallest degree of faith is sufficient, when in exercise, for the achievement of the greatest things; and, secondly, that faith is strengthened by exercise, that the feeblest display of confidence in God tends, through His grace, to beget more, for it is faith, whatever its degree, whether small or great, that brings God in, and, when He is brought in, the soul learns that as all things are possible with Him, so are they possible to him that believeth. To justify this interpretation it may be added that verse 6 should read, if ye have (not had) faith; for if the reading of our translation were correct, it might convey the thought that the apostles had hitherto no faith.
The second scripture may be best explained by a contrast. When the Lord was down here, we read that on one occasion He was limited by the unbelief of the people, and so much so that it is said, "He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief." (Mark 6:5, 6.) The apostle, on the other hand, had hope, on (we give a more accurate rendering) "your faith increasing to be enlarged amongst you"; meaning thereby that his liberty in service, and the display of power amongst them in preaching the word, were greatly connected with, and influenced by, the faith of the saints. This truth needs to be remembered by God's people; for if the blessed Lord was hindered in His labours by the unbelief of those around Him, how much more are His servants? Nothing can be sadder than the fact that preachers of the word may be received by those to whom they are sent, almost without any faith or expectation. It was because the apostle understood this that he looked for increasing faith in the Corinthian saints ere he returned to labour in their midst.
Romans 5:15; 1 Timothy 4:16.
Much confusion arises from inattention to the meaning of the words "saved" and "salvation" as used in the epistles. Excepting two or three times where God's eternal purposes are introduced, salvation is always looked upon as future, having its consummation at the coming of the Lord, when all the redeemed will be conformed to His own image. Salvation therefore may be spoken of in three ways: as an accomplished thing, if we think of the soul or of our perfect place of acceptance in Christ; as a continuous process day by day, being saved through all the perils of the wilderness and through all the machinations of Satan; and, lastly, as completed at the Lord's return. Scriptures abound in which the last two senses are used, and among them are the two at the head of this "note." In the beautiful passage in Romans the apostle is deducing what God will do from what He has done. The soul, especially when governed by legality, reasons from itself and its own state up to God, deeming that God's attitude towards it depends upon its own condition. The apostle meets this tendency by showing that we should build upon what God is as revealed in the gift of His Son, and that inasmuch as He commended His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, we are justified in concluding that He will never let us go, but will save us all the way through, on to the end. As He says, "Much more then being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." For if God took us up, and testified His love towards us, when in wicked enmity, He will not allow us to perish now that we are justified; and hence the apostle proceeds, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" - His life out of and beyond death, as risen from the dead and glorified at the right hand of God. As, indeed, He Himself said, in another aspect, when speaking to His disciples of the time when the Comforter should have come, and when He would make Himself and His presence known to them in a much more intimate way; "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19.) We are thus saved daily by the life of our blessed Lord.
Turning now to the scripture in 1 Timothy, our attention is rather directed to the instrumental means of this daily and progressive salvation. First, the apostle says, "Take heed to thyself [that is, in the manner enjoined from v. 12], and unto the doctrine [or the teaching]; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." We have then the divinely appointed means by which Timothy himself and his hearers might be preserved from the snares around on every hand, and by which their feet might be kept from stumbling. On his part there was to be incessant watchfulness over himself, and over his own state of soul (v. 12), as well as diligence in meditation upon the word of God, and in service. He was, moreover, to be wholly occupied in these things for manifest personal profit; and he was to take heed to his teaching, as well as to himself, having regard to its accordance with what he had received, and to its suitability to the needs of the saints, so that he and they might be kept in the presence of God, walking in the power of the Holy Ghost in subjection to the word. In this way they both would be "saved" continuously while waiting for Him who will "appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
"I think I see that Christ is presented in glory as One who leads us on in energy, conforming us to what He is according to the glory; and that when the question is of nourishing the inward life, and the affections and character, it is the humbled Christ on whom we have to feed."