Biblical faith is not just theology but the power of God to create a new life (a born again person) and to give us power over sin to know, love and obey God. In the first ten Chapters of Hebrews the writer shows us the superiority of Jesus over prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, the High Priest, the tabernacle/temple, the sacrificial system etc., and reveals Him as the Model and Object of our faith, the Source (author and perfecter/finisher) of our faith and thus the One Who empowers us to live a life of trust and obedience in an unseen God. In this chapter the writer is primarily focused on faithfulness (persevering faith seen in obedience to God) more so than saving faith (believing in God/Jesus for salvation). God loves to be trusted.
Biblical faith is also seen as having assurance and conviction of things yet to come and in the promises of an unseen God. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Heb 10:35 -36) with the full rewards of faith only coming in heaven (Heb. 11:39). “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” ( Rom. 8:23-25) Yesterday’s faith is today’s sight.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us (as seen in Jesus and the saints in Hebrews 11 ), let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb.12:1-2) As pilgrims we are always to be journeying and never settle down and get attached to this fallen world. But our journey is an inward journey of ongoing growth into Christ likeness.
Throughout this epistle the writer has been exhorting and warning these Jewish believers (and all believers then and now) about drifting, doubting, dulling, drawing back and denying God and now inspires them/us by many examples of men and women who had persevering faith and thus finished their race. [“Hebrews chapter 11 strikes a powerful blow to the attraction of Old Testament Judaism. How could law-keeping under the Old Covenant be superior to faith in Christ through the New Covenant if no Old Testament saint was ever declared righteous because of law keeping? These Old Testament heroes – every single one of them – were declared righteous because of their faith, not because of law-keeping.” © 2009 by Robert L. Deffinbaugh. Near to the Heart of God – A Study of the Book of Hebrews]
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old (OT saints) gained approval (were commended for).” Here we see God testifying to the faith of these saints who pleased Him as they persevered by faith to the end. God’s history book (the Bible) includes many people who are unknown to the world but are famous in His sight only because of their faith and obedience in their relationship to Him.
“By faith (not by facts) we understand that the worlds (Gr. aiÃ…Ânas; the universe and the ages; time, energy, matter and space) were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) Faith not only enables us to receive God’s approval but it enables us to understand spiritual truth and thus we believe God’s Word is true even when we can’t prove it. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:12-14) Unbelievers believe because they see, but we see (spiritually) because we believe. Christians can use scientific facts (e.g., Intelligent Design) to try to convince an unbeliever that God created the universe but this is not Biblical faith. Biblical faith is believing what God says in His Word.
“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” Here we see Abel as the first martyr of the faith and from the very beginning of the Bible we see the very opposite of the prosperity gospel; that faith brings temporal blessings. Many of the other examples in this chapter also speak of suffering or death for faithful obedience as we will see later. In faith Abel offered a blood sacrifice which must have been communicated to him by his parents as God had killed an animal (shed blood) and covered Adam and Eve with its skins (Gen. 3:21; a picture of being clothed in Christ’s righteousness; 2 Cor. 5:21). Cain offered produce for his sacrifice which is a picture of works righteousness or self-righteousness which is unacceptable to God. (Gal. 2:21) Cain then killed Abel because a proud, self-righteous man hates to admit he needs a Savior. Law hates grace. Thousands of years after his death, Abel’s example of faith and obedience still speaks and inspires us to do the same.
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.” [“When two friends thus walk together their communion is secret, their conversation is kind and sweet. So the man who walks with God pours into his Father’s ear all his desires and complaints, and receives his kind and comforting answers in return. Their wills and governing feelings are the same; and thus are advancing towards the same object. So the man who walks with God is conformed to him in moral character. The man who walks with God walks humbly. God will not walk with him else; for “the proud he knoweth afar off.” The whole of man’s duty is summed up in doing justly, in loving mercy, and in walking “humbly” with his God.” Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings by Edward Griffin] “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:9-10)
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb.11:6) God has created all of mankind with a desire and hope for happiness or reward. And all people live by faith in something or someone as they put their trust in people (themselves and others) or things (money, possessions, etc.) for profit/reward and happiness. Thus it is the reliability of the source of our faith (can it deliver what it promises) and even if it can and does, will we be truly satisfied? Biblical faith calls us to trust in the Triune God to deliver what He promises and that He and His reward alone can satisfy the deepest needs and desires of our hearts. Ultimately God Himself is our reward and satisfaction now and forever. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. From verses 1, 3 and 6 discuss what faith can enable you to do. Which of these are you doing and which are you not doing? What has God enabled you to do in the past (or is enabling you to do presently) through faith?
2. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7) Who are some of your contemporary examples of faith, both people you know personally and others who have inspired you through their books or messages. What are some of the qualities that reveal their faith? How can you imitate their faith (not them)?
3. What contributes to your faith account and what makes withdrawals? Are you in the black or red?
4. How does the prosperity gospel misinterpret faith and discuss some examples from this lesson and other Scriptures that disprove it?
5. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb.11:6) What rewards are you seeking from God?