January 6th, 2019 – Epiphany
Aux. Text: Daniel 3:8-30
Call to Worship: Psa 62
Service Orientation: Faith in God is the key to life but it means trusting in God’s Word and His promises even though we do not yet see God or His promises.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. — Hebrews 11:1
- “The Saints’ Hall of Fame,” “The Heroes of Faith,” “The Honor Roll of the OT Saints,” “The Westminster Abbey of Scripture,” and “The Faith Chapter” are but a few of the titles that have been given to Hebrews 11. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 285)
- This was important to the writer of Hebrews because of the rising storm of persecution that was about to fall on the church. He knew that the key to survival was a solid faith and an attendant hope. That is why in Heb 10:38 he quoted Hab 2:4, “But my righteous one will live by faith.” There is a spiritual axiom implicit here: faith produces hope, and hope produces perseverance. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 60)
- (v. 1) In the Greek the verb “is” (estin) is the first word. Faith is a present and continuing reality. . . . This meaning is that there are realities for which we have no material evidence though they are not the less real for that. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 113)
- (v. 1) “Faith is the substance” (hupostasis). The Greek word here gives the sense of something foundational, basic, a concrete reality upon which other things are built. Stasis, the root of the word, means the place, setting, a standing pillar, that upon which other stones are placed. The prefix hupo means “under” or “below.” Together the result signifies something solidly foundational, concrete in reality, something assured. Thus faith as defined by our exhorter is not an imaginary product of the mind fabricated out of its own philosophical needs or rationalistic dreams, but that which is firm, solid, of real existence. Faith is the solid certainty of that for which we hope, based upon reality and solid existence. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 196)
- (v. 1) The Greek word hupostasis, translated here as assurance (NIV – sure), appears two other times in Hebrews. In 1:3 it is rendered “exact representation,” speaking of Christ’s likeness to God, and in 3:14 it is rendered “assurance,” as in 11:1. The term refers to the essence, the real content, the reality, as opposed to mere appearance. Faith, then, provides the firm ground on which we stand, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Far from being nebulous and uncertain, faith is the most solid possible conviction. Faith is the present essence of a future reality. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 288)
- (v. 1) The expression being sure of is given as “substance” in other translations. The difference between these translations arises from understanding the original Greek word hypostasis subjectively or objectively. If I am sure of something, I have certainty in my heart. This is a subjective knowledge because it is within me. Assurance, then, is a subjective quality. By contrast, the word substance is objective because it refers to something that is not part of me. Rather, substance is something on which I can rely. As one translation has it, “Faith is the title-deed of things hoped for.” That, in fact, is objective. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 311)
- (v. 1) The Greek phrase pragmatos elegchos is translated as the single word “evidence.” (NIV – certain) Yet when the words are considered separately, they carry force and strength not usually associated with faith, which may more usually be seen as pragmatic reality. Pragmaton, on the one hand, spreads out an idea of concrete reality, something that is critical, of consequence and of great importance–something foundational. Elegchos implies a thought or belief that has been cross-examined, questioned so as to be tested for validity or reality, brought to proof or placed under scrutiny for possible confutation. Faith, then, is based upon that which is tested and is crucial. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 196)
- (v. 1) The Greek term elenchos (1650), translated “conviction” (NASB) or “evidence” (NLT). In secular Greek it referred to “the test” or “trial” which shows a thing as it really is. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 168)
- (v. 2) In OT times, he points out, there were many men and women who had nothing but the promises of God to rest upon, without any visible evidence that these promises would ever be fulfilled; yet so much did these promises mean to them that they regulated the whole course of their lives in their light. The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future; but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what he had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith. Their faith consisted simply in taking God at his word and directing their lives accordingly; things yet future as far as their experience went were thus present to faith, and things outwardly unseen were visible to the inward eye. It is in these terms that our author now describes the faith of which he has been speaking. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 276)
- (v. 2) The writer does not contrast faith with works as Paul sometimes does, nor does he treat it as the means of receiving justification. Instead, he treats faith not so much with reference to the past (what God has done in Christ) as to the future. He sees faith as that trust in God that enables the believer to press on steadfastly whatever the future holds for him. He knows that God is to be relied on implicitly. So the writer’s method is to select some of the great ones in the history of the people of God and to show briefly how faith motivated all of them and led them forward, no matter how difficult the circumstances. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 112)
- (v. 2) Our author, however, does not only accumulate a series of examples; he sets them in historical sequence so as to provide an outline of the redemptive purpose of God, advancing through the age of promise until at last in Jesus, faith’s “pioneer and perfecter,” the age of fulfillment is inaugurated. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 278)
- Having explained to his readers exactly what faith is and how it works, he now says that the heroes of the Jewish faith who went before them, had this SAME kind of faith. Thus they learn there is no difference between OT faith and NT faith. There is only ONE KIND of faith for salvation whether NT or OT. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 246)
The questions to be answered are . . . What is faith? How do we get it? Why do we need it?
Answers: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is a gift from God. Faith allows us to have assurance, certainty and hope in those promises of God that may only come in the future and maybe not even in this lifetime.
Faith’s character is, in a word, certitude–a dynamic certainty about what God has promised. It is not a feeling, like the line from Oklahoma:
O what a beautiful morning,
O what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way!
It is not optimism or bootstrap positive thinking either. It is not a hunch. It is not sentimentality. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 60)
Faith isn’t a blind shot in the dark, positive thinking, arrogant presumption, or gullible naïveté. Faith is confidence in God, a firm conviction that what He says is true and that what He promises He will do. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 168)
The faith principle did not originate with the New Covenant. It was also active in the Old. In fact, it was active the moment man fell and needed a way back to God. It originated even before the earth began. Since God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4), and since the only way God accepts us in Christ is by our faith, then God obviously established salvation by faith at that time. The way back to God, as far as man’s part is concerned, is by faith–it has always been by faith and only by faith. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 286)
The Word for the Day is . . . Faith
What do we need to know about faith?:
I- Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see: But only if God is the object of our faith. (Heb 11:1; see also: Dn ch 3; Mt 19:29; Mk 10:30; Lk 7:2-10; 18:30; Jn 3:15-16, 36; 20:24-31; Rom ch 4; 10:17; 2 Cor 1:20; 3:12; Gal 3:29-4:7; Col 1:27; 1 Thess 1:3; 1 Tm 6:17; Ti 1:2; Heb 6:17-19; 10:23; Jam 1:12; 1 Pt 1:21)
Historic Christianity has always described true, saving faith as consisting of three elements: knowledge, ascension to that knowledge and the conviction to act on the knowledge to which you ascend. — Pastor Keith
Man’s natural response is to trust his physical senses, to put his faith in the things he can see, hear, taste, and feel. But the man of God puts his trust in something more durable and dependable than anything he will ever experience with his senses. Senses may lie; God cannot lie (Ti 1:2). (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 287)
It is not great faith in God that is needed, but simply faith in a great God.
“. . . doubt looks at circumstances; faith looks to God. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy, 343)
“. . . followers of Christ should be zealous to distinguish faith in God from faith in faith, or justification by faith alone from justification by faith that remains alone. As Adlai Stevenson quipped, “Paul I find appealing, Peale I find appalling.” (Os Guinness; No God but God, 129-30)
Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power. Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance. The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian. (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)
The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that one has faith and the other one doesn’t. For they both have faith. The difference is what they put their faith in. —Tim Keller
What then is faith? Faith really means believing in God, believing all that He tells us about Himself, all that He tells us about what He has done for us, all that He tells us about what He is going to do, and trusting ourselves utterly and absolutely to that. What is faith? Faith means reasoning and arguing on the basis of revelation. Faith means, not that I try to reason myself to God, but that, believing the revelation given by God, I reason from it. Faith means drawing out the inevitable deductions from what God has said. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 163)
If, then, your faith is feeble and tried, be not cast down; faith does not save you. Though it be an instrument of salvation, and as such, is of vast importance, it is but the instrument; the finished work of Immanuel is the ground of your salvation, yea, it is your salvation itself. Then make not a Savior of your faith; despise it not if it is feeble, exult not in if it is strong, trample not on it if it is small, deify it not if it is great; such are the extremes to which every believer is exposed. (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 89)
The senses tell us to grasp the thing of the moment; the spirit tells us that there is something far beyond that. The Christian believes in the spirit rather than the senses. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 129)
George Gordon Liddy, Watergate conspirator recently released from prison: “I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy. I have never failed me.” (The Christian Century, Sept. 28, 1977, 836)
True faith is neither brainless nor a sentimental feeling. It is a solid conviction resting on God’s words that makes the future present and the invisible seen. Faith has at its core a massive sense of certainty. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 60)
“In Hebrew, the word emun speaks of that which is sure, solid, and true. Add an ah to emun and it becomes the word emunah. Emunah is the Hebrew word for faith. What does that tell you?”
“Faith is linked to truth.”
“Yes. And so faith is a very solid thing. It isn’t a wishful thinking or an unrealistic hoping. Faith is linked to that which is rock solid–the truth. Faith is that by which you join yourself, root yourself, and ground yourself to the truth. And the word emunah also means steadfast, established, stable, and steady. The more true faith you have, the more steadfast you become, the more stable, the more steady, and the more established. So faith,” said the teacher, “causes you to become strong.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 26)
Do you ask whether this faith, confidence, conviction may not be mistaken as is the faith of so many in earthly affairs, as is the faith of so many also in religious things? Strenuous though their faith is, they after all find themselves–mistaken. The answer is easy although the writer does not deal with it. If our faith were its own basis it would, indeed, hang in the air. Our faith rests on the Word of God. Mt 5:18; Lk 16:17; 1 Pt 1:25. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Hebrews and James, 377)
For man without faith, hope is cumbered with uncertainty and cramped by unpredictability; it is retarded by the fears as well as spurred by the longings of human subjectivity. For the man of faith, founded on the objective reality of the immutable promises of God, who cannot lie. Indeed, so closely are faith and hope related to each other in the perspective of biblical realism that in our epistle, as we have already noticed, they are virtually interchangeable terms. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 438)
The great Husdon Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, used to say that the right way to translate the text, ‘Have faith in God’ (Mk 11:22) is this: ‘Trust the faithfulness of God.’ This translation does not put the emphasis on your faith and say that you have to hold on desperately to God. (The All-Sufficient God: Sermons on Isaiah 40 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 71-2)
Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.
The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority. The apologist must see clearly that the non–Christian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ. If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority. The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive—A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)
To become a Christian does not mean that you muster up or increase the level of your faith, but it means changing the OBJECT of your faith. It means to change the object of your faith from yourself to Christ. —Pastor Keith
Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace….Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness….By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side. (Paul Tournier, quoted by Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, 42)
“Humility is the obverse side of confidence in God, whereas pride is the obverse side of confidence in self.” (John Baillie quoted by Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Discipleship in an Instant Society, 143)
Every man who puts money in the bank, places his trust in that bank. He can’t see his money, but he knows, by faith, that it is still his. Ask him how much he has and he will say, X dollars, even though the money is NOT in his pocket. He doesn’t say I HOPE I have X dollars; he says I HAVE it. This is exactly what our author means by faith. The man who is saved exercises THAT SAME faith in Jesus. He can’t see the Lord, but ask him if he is saved and he will not say, “I HOPE SO.” Instead, he will confidently say “I KNOW I have eternal life! He has an assurance within himself that his salvation is in his pocket right now. The OT saints had precisely this kind of faith, with only the promises of God to rest upon. That’s why their example is so powerful. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 244)
As Mark Batterson writes, “Faith is theological. It does not ignore reality; it just adds God into the equation. Think of it this way. Logic questions God. Faith questions assumptions. And at the end of the day, faith is trusting God more than you trust your own assumptions.” (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 6-1)
John Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands. He was struggling to translate the word “faith” into the local language, and in the end the best he could come up with was to “lean heavily on.” Charles Kingsley wrote in a similar vein, “I do not want merely to possess a faith. I want a faith that possesses me.” (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 11-23)
God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity. — Augustine.
The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith. — J. G. Machen
The preference of our video culture for intuition over reason and feeling over truth have been transferred to the realm of faith. Faith that appeals to reason — even reason exercised through biblical exposition — is doomed to failure; faith that appeals to feelings, on the other hand, seems for that reason to be assured of success. (David Wells; No Place for Truth, 215)
“Modern man, with confidence in all of his modern understanding and knowledge, now has both feet firmly planted in midair”. (Paraphrase of Francis Shaffer; Session 5.1 Wide Angle)
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. —Martin Luther King Jr.
According to your faith in yourself, according to your faith in your job, according to your faith in God, thus far will you get and no further. (Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, 99)
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin is so concerned about stressing the importance of knowledge as the first element in faith that he rightly presents it in another way, showing the necessary link between faith and the Word of God, or the Bible. Reduced to its basics, Calvin shows that: (1) faith is defined by God’s Word; (2) faith is born of God’s Word; and (3) faith is sustained by God’s Word. (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 1, 391)
Faith is purposeful suspension of critical thinking. —Bill Mahre (Athiest)
I remembered Pascal arguing that God has given us just enough light so that we can understand and just enough darkness or obscurity to deny the truth, if we wish. That was it. Of course, God cannot reveal Himself in a rationally irrefutable manner. If God were plain to us as the tree outside our window, as one great theologian once wrote, we would have no need for faith. If we saw God in His true character, in His glory, in anything like the way we see the world around us, our free will would be meaningless. We could not help but believe in God. It would be impossible to deny Him. This would destroy the possibility of choosing to believe–of faith–and with it the possibility of love, because love cannot be compelled. We cannot love God if we are not given the option of rejecting Him. Remember, God has given us just enough light to see by, but not enough to eliminate the need to see with eyes of faith. Our pride has to get out of the way, and we have to recognize that faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by doubt–or at least, as Catholic piety would say, difficulties. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 380)
Jesus asks the disciples, “Do you still have no faith?” That could actually be translated as “Where is your faith?” I love that way of phrasing it. By asking the question in this way, Jesus is prompting them to see that the critical factor in their faith is not its strength, but its object.
Imagine you’re falling off a cliff, and sticking out of the cliff is a branch that is strong enough to hold you, but you don’t know how strong it is. As you fall, you have just enough time to grab that branch. How much faith do you have to have in the branch for it to save you? Must you be totally sure that it can save you? No, of course not. You only have to have enough faith to grab the branch. That’s because it’s not the quality of your faith that saves you; it’s the object of your faith. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the branch; all that matters is the branch. And Jesus is the branch. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 55)
Needless to say, this view of human reason contradicts the biblical point of view as it has been explained in previous lessons. The fall of man involved the entirety of man; all aspects of his personality were corrupted by sin. As a result, reason is not the judge of truth; only God can act as such a judge. Moreover, sin has so affected mankind that even rational abilities are not neutral. Christians seek to use their reason in dependence on God. Non-Christians seek to be independent in their thinking; there is no neutral ground on which to deal with unbelief. Human reason can be as much a hindrance as a help to faith in Christ. As St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.” To rest our faith on independent reason is to rebel against God. Reason must rest on our faith commitment to Christ and our faith must rest on God alone. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth By, 74)
Heidelberg Catechism – Question 21. What is true faith?
Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.
The Word of God is the objective foundation on which my hopes rest, but faith provides a subjective foundation, for it convinces me of the certainty of them. Faith and confidence are inseparable: just so far as I am counting upon the ability and fidelity of the Promiser, shall I be confident of receiving the things promised and which I am expecting. “We believe and are sure” (Jn 6:69). (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 650)
By communicating unto us the firstfruits of the promises: faith gives a living reality to what it absorbs, and so real and potent is the impression made, that the heart is changed into the same image (2 Cor 3:18). (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 651)
As Charles Wesley says: “Faith, precious faith, the promise sees, and looks to that alone; laughs at impossibilities, and cries, it shall be done!” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 164)
II- Faith is a gift from God. (Jn 20:24-31; Rom 10:17; Eph 2:8-9)
Faith isn’t hustled . . . It’s given. (Steve Brown; ROMANS series tape 5 Side B)
Just as natural trust comes by natural birth, so spiritual trust comes from God. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 289)
The faith will totter if the authority of Scripture loses its hold on men. —St. Augustine
Faith is a gift God gives us because he is saving us (Eph 2:8). It is God’s grace, not our faith, that saves us. In his mercy, however, when he saves us he gives us faith–a relationship with his Son that helps us become like him. Through the faith he gives us, he carries us from death into life (Jn 5:24). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 177)
If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth. And the answer to that prayer will, perhaps, surprise us when it comes. For I am not sure, after all, whether one of the causes of our weak faith is not a secret wish that our faith should not be very strong. Is there some reservation in our minds? Some fear of what it might be like if our religion became quite real? I hope not. God help us all, and forgive us. (C.S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, 58)
If our faith had not been divine in its origin and essence it would have collapsed long ago. —Charles Brown (David F. Wells; No Place For Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, 252)
Some scholars translate the Gk. word for “assurance” as “title-deed.” Used in that sense, a person’s faith becomes a GUARANTEE of ownership. He knows that all things offered in Christ are his possessions, even though he cannot see them as yet. The convictions we have concerning all that God has promised us, are PROOF that we already have title to them. Why? That conviction is generated by the Holy Spirit. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 246)
Sometimes we call people great men/women of faith. What is the great accomplishment in that? If we truly understood Who God is and His nature, then we would understand that ANYBODY would have great faith in Him once they have a clear vision of His nature. The issue is not the faith we can muster in God. The issue is seeing God as he truly is and then simply believing in what we know about God. Our problem is we have a faulty or inadequate vision of God. (Paraphrase of Superintendent Ramundo’s message @ HFM 11-5-12)
This chapter cannot be separated from the section just preceding. Our faith is based upon the perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is that sacrifice, completed once for all time and for all people, which opens for us a way into the very presence of God in whose presence we can come with holy boldness, free of all fear of holy retribution, utterly confident of forgiveness in the face of God. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 195)
We often think of the word “hope” in terms of uncertain desire–“I hope it doesn’t rain on Saturday,” “I hope I do well on this test.” For believers, however, “hope” is a desire based on assurance, and the assurance is based on God’s character. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 176)
III- Faith opens our eyes and ears and allows us to have assurance, certainty and hope in God’s promises that may only come in the future and maybe not even in this lifetime. (Heb 11:1; see also: Gn 3:1-15; Ps 19:8; 119:18; Isa 11:3; Dn ch 3; Mt 6:22-23; 13:16; Mk 8:18; Lk 11:34; 24:31; Jn 5:24; Acts 28:27; Rom 8:18-25, 31, 37-38; 11:8-10; 1 Cor 2:9; Eph 1:18; 3:20-21; Heb 10:36; 11:13, 39; Jam 2:14-26; 1 Pt 1:13; 2 Pt 3:13)
Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing. — Augustine
Faith is not about everything turning out ok–Faith is about being ok no matter how things turn out. (At the end of Carole Jacobus’ emails)
Faith brings the future into the present because it makes things hoped for as real as if we already had them. Christ’s second coming in glory and our full enjoyment of eternal salvation are not only hoped for, but real to the believer. (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 129)
The degree of our experience of hope is proportionate to the degree of our faith. The more profound our faith, the more profound our hope. A deeply intense faith spawns a deeply intense hope. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 59-60)
Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe. – St. Augustine
Here, as in the NT, the conflict is not between faith and reason but between faith and sight. We can face things which we know to be dangerous if they don’t look or sound too dangerous; our real trouble is often with things we know to be safe but which look dreadful. Our faith in Christ wavers not so much when real arguments come against it as when it looks improbable–when the whole world takes on that desolate look which really tells us much more about the state of our passions and even our digestion than about reality. (C.S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, 57)
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for. Although the “things” are only “hoped for” and “not seen” at present, the eye of faith can see them, and the hand of faith can grasp them. Faith is mightier than any of our senses or than all our senses combined. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 316)
Perhaps we might illustrate it thus: two men stand on the deck of a ship gazing toward the far horizon; the one sees nothing, the other describes the details of a distant steamer. The former has only his unaided eyesight, the latter is using a telescope! Now just as a powerful glass brings home to the eye an object beyond the range of natural vision, so faith gives reality to the heart of things outside the range of our physical senses. Faith sets Divine things before the soul in all the light and power of demonstration, and thus provides inward conviction of their existence. “Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of those things which cannot be discerned by the eye of the body” (Matthew Henry). (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 652)
Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace. (Oswald Chambers; Run Today’s Race).
Faith is living in a hope that is so real it gives absolute assurance. The promises given to the OT saints were so real to them, because they believed God, that they based their lives on them. All the OT promises related to the future–for many believers, far into the future. But the faithful among God’s people acted as if they were in the present tense. They simply took God at His word and lived on that basis. They were people of faith, and faith gave present assurance and substance to what was yet future. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 287)
If the enemy can get you to lose hope, he can get you to stop living by faith. (Jentezen Franklin, The Spirit of Python, 16)
The reason the writer makes “things hoped for” the object of the confidence in which faith consists is found in 10:35-39 where he deals with the future reward, the promise, the second coming of Christ, all of which are “things hoped for” and as such require persevering confidence and firm, solid trust that they will come to pass in due time. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Hebrews and James, 374)
Christians are not masochists. Quite to the contrary, we live for ultimate and permanent pleasure. We live in the certainty that whatever discomfort or pain we may have to endure for Christ’s sake on earth, will more than be compensated for by an eternity of unending bliss, of pleasure we cannot now imagine. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 288)
Faith celebrates now the reality of the future blessings which make up the objective content of Christian hope. Faith gives to the objects of hope the force of present realities, and it enables the person of faith to enjoy the full certainty that in the future these realities will be experienced. (William L. Lane, Hebrews: A Call to Commitment, 149)
There truly is an active spiritual order around us. If we could see it, it would change our lives! But we can see it, and we do see it! Faith brings visual certitude so that we are “certain of what we do not see.” I have never seen a flaming seraph or cherub or one of the lesser angels with my physical eyes. But I do see them every day through my eyes of faith. They are everywhere around me ministering to me and my family and my church–in fact, to all those who are God’s elect children. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 62)
Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing. What you believe determines the meaning of what you see. The disciples saw a resurrected body when Christ rose from the dead, but they believed they saw a ghost because they believed in ghosts, but not in the resurrection. (Stuart Briscoll; 11/20/97 broadcast).
Faith is what makes you feel the comfort of the hearth while you’re chopping the wood. — Frank Clark
Moses’ impatience with God in this story would surely be overcome if he had more faith in God’s power and wisdom to turn all things for the good of his people. God has promised again and again in the Bible to do just that (2 Chr 16:9; Ps 23:6; 84:11; Jer 32:40-41; Isa 64:4; Rom 8:28, 32; 1 Cor 3:22-23). (John Piper, Future Grace, 174-5)
Here the life of faith in future grace is pictured as a light burden and an easy yoke. Can it be both hard and easy?
Yes. Faith in future grace is intrinsically easy. What could be easier than trusting God to work for you (Isa 64:4), and take care of you (1 Pt 5:7), and give you all you need (Phil 4:19; Heb 13:6), and strengthen you for every challenge (Isa 41:10). In one sense, faith is the opposite of straining. It is ceasing from the effort to earn God’s approval or demonstrate your worth or merit. It is resting in the gracious promises of God to pursue us with goodness and mercy all our days. Faith is intrinsically easy.
But this ease of faith assumes that our hearts are humble enough to renounce all self-reliance and self-direction and self-exaltation. It assumes a heart that is spiritual enough to taste and delight in the beauty and worth of God. It assumes that the world and the devil have lost their power to lure us away from satisfaction in God. If these assumptions are not true, then living by faith in future grace will not be as easy as we might have thought, but will involve a lifetime of struggle.
It’s like the monkey with his hand caught in the jar. It would be easy for him to slip his hand out of the opening except that he has his fist clenched around a nut. If he loves the nut more than he loves freedom from the jar, then getting his hand out of the jar will be hard, even impossible (as Jesus said in Mk 10:27 about the young man who had his fist clenched around his wealth). But what could be easier than dropping a nut? The battle that Paul and Jesus are talking about is the battle to love the freedom of faith more than the nut of sin. (John Piper, Future Grace, 313)
Without faith we are not justified before God. Without faith we cannot please God. Without faith we have no future. Therefore, without faith we have no hope. Without faith our eyes and ears are not open to God’s Word and promises so we are unable to enjoy the riches of life “in Christ”. —Pastor Keith
Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends. —George Muller.
In 10:32-36 there is a call to patient waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Nothing but real faith in the veracity of the Promiser can sustain the heart and prompt to steady endurance during a protracted season of trial and suffering. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 647)
Many profess to “believe”,” but what influence have their hopes upon them? How are they affected by the things which their faith claims to have laid hold of? I profess to believe that sin is a most heinous thing–do I fear, hate, shun it? I believe that ere long I shall stand before the judgment-seat of Christ–does my conduct evince that I am living in the light of that solemn day? I believe that the world is an empty bauble–do I despise its painted tinsel? I believe that God will supply all my need–am I fearful about the morrow? I believe that prayer is an essential means unto growth in grace–do I spend much time in the secret place? I believe that Christ is coming back again–am I diligent in seeking to have my lamp trimmed and burning? Faith is evident by its fruits, works, effects. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 651)
Worship Point: Worship God because the things hoped for are a sure thing. Increase your worship by constantly remembering that God enables us to grasp the invisible that is eternal and is what sets us apart as humans. (2 Cor 4:18)
Faith is the spiritual faculty of the soul which deals with the spiritual realities of the future and the unseen. Just as we have our senses, through which we hold communication with the physical universe, so faith is the spiritual sense or organ through which the soul comes into contact with and is affected by the spiritual world. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 421-2)
This visible world is to man his great temptation to forget God. Faith is the eye with which he can see God in all, which makes every part of it the transparent revelation of the nearness and goodness of God. By faith we understand that all was framed by God; by faith we see divinity and omnipotence in all, so that what is seen is known as made out of things that do not appear. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 424)
For the believer faith is a sixth sense making the invisible seen and certain. (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 129)
The most significant human attributes cannot be empirically verified. A naturalist or materialist must accept these attributes entirely by faith or deny their humanity. —Pastor Keith
The person without any clear faith often accepts things simply as they are. If money comes his way, then it is obviously his to enjoy. If he is confronted with an opportunity for sensual pleasure, he will take it, regardless of its immediate effects or ultimate consequences. He does not necessarily sit down to consider whether it damages him or hurts others; that is not his concern. But the man or woman of faith possesses the conviction of things not seen. Such people look beyond the situation as it can be perceived by natural vision or enjoyed by the physical appetites. They do not look simply at their circumstances; they discern the activity of the invisible God (11:27) in their present situation and are able to endure. (John Brown, Geneva Series Commentaries: Hebrews, 198)
One of the things they (the Reformers as the Reformation progressed) noticed was that as the Word of God was demeaned, as the leaders of the Church, confessedly became ignorant (and sometimes proudly ignorant of the teaching of the Word of God) all of the emphasis lay on what you saw. What you saw the priest wearing. What you saw the priest doing with his hands, his gestures. What you saw in the choir singing.
And so everything was tangible, and this was there even of the sacraments. Grace became an almost tangible reality, kind of quasi substance that would be infused into you or restored to you, as you physically took the sacraments and it was by these sacraments that God gave you grace. Unless, perhaps, there was admitted some appalling obstacle to you receiving grace. A quasi substantial grace would be given you, right into you. (Incidentally language that still lives on in Protestantism, doesn’t it?) As though there was such a thing as grace).
And what the Reformers wanted to point to was the Word of God that was heard, not the things that were visible and could be touched.
And of course this is what happened in the Garden of Eden that had led, in the first place, to the false worship. That the serpent kept saying to Eve, by innuendo, “What do you see? What do you see? What do you see? Forget about God’s verbal regulation, through which you are to interpret everything that you see”.
And instead of seeing with her ears, according to the Word of God, she saw with her eyes and was dislocated from God’s revelation about how He was pleased lovingly to be worshiped by those to whom He had given so much.
And the whole of God’s character was distorted and therefore the nature of true worship was distorted there in the Garden of Eden and the Reformers believed it was happening all over again, by the focus on the visual and what we saw. (Sinclair Ferguson; The Priority of Worship: The Next 500 Years – Ligonier Ministries National Conference).
We can become so shallow and “content” with the addiction to things that we cease to look for anything deeper and more satisfying (Deuteronomy). We no longer groan (Rom 8) looking forward to a heavenly kingdom and a heavenly world (Heb and 1 or 2 Pt). In fact, we can become so content with this world that we are dull and anaesthetized to all that God has for us. We fail to be repentant because we are confident we have all that life can offer.
Furthermore, repentance is by faith. We are taught and conditioned (through our naturalistic, educational Darwinism) to live by sight. — Pastor Keith
Letter to a parishioner about a friend’s son who is a materialist or naturalist:
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to quickly figure out that the highest, most noble and greatest attributes of human existence are ALL beyond empirical perception. Honor, love, patience, joy, gentleness, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, perseverance, promptness, loyalty, insightfulness, discernment, creativity, etc. are ALL beyond empirical perception. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that ALL the things that make us distinctively human are beyond empirical perception. The concept of one being humane is not empirically perceivable. Yes, you can certainly see these attributes in action. You can certainly see the results. You can certainly empirically perceive the efforts of one who is humane, but you cannot empirically perceive humaneness in and of itself. Nor can one empirically quantify humaneness. You cannot walk up to Joe and say, He possess 30% of the daily FDA requirements of humaneness and then walk up to Jane and say she possess 130% of the FDA requirements of humaneness.
If this is true of the most high and noble human qualities, then are we stupid enough to think that they would not also be true of the ultimately high God and His attributes?
God gave us the ability to think higher, nobler, and deeper thoughts. But, I’m fearful that our 21st century Western culture has robbed us of that ability so that now, all that we think is truly important, real and significant are only those things that we can see, touch, smell, taste or hear. How sad. Because it means we are missing out on the truly significant events and moments of human existence that no dog or no cat and apparently no stupid humans can recognize or perceive. Those things that make us uniquely human.
Furthermore, I don’t understand his being upset about depression and anxiety. According to his world-view, they do not exist. How can they? They are not empirically perceivable. You cannot actually see depression nor anxiety. One can only see the effects of depression or anxiety. Therefore, according to your friend’s son, he has nothing to worry about because neither one actually exists if they cannot be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard.
I hope you don’t mind me going on a rampage for a moment. But, the fickleness and shallowness of modern day Western thinking bothers me. I couldn’t help but vent to you.
Still in Christ, but ONLY by His Grace,
Gospel Application: You will probably not come to Christ unless or until the Holy Spirit gives you the faith to trust in the Good News of the Gospel that assures you of the hope that is promised to all who believe: An eternal life of love, joy, and peace; being co-heirs with Christ, as well as living in the presence of God Almighty who is the Ultimate Good.
This quote is from an interview with Attorney General John Ashcroft by Cal Thomas.
People are always asking me (Cal Thomas) if there are good leaders in Washington. There are. There are quite a few, but you don’t often hear about them because many of them aren’t engaging in scandalous or self-serving activities.
One such good person is Attorney General John Ashcroft. I had the pleasure of interviewing him again this week for a column I’m writing. During the interview, Ashcroft said something so profound, I wanted to share it with you. Listen … this is good.
The attorney general of the United States said: “Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sent His Son to die for you.”
Spiritual Challenge: If you lack faith, ask God to give you faith. If you have faith, ask God to give you more faith. And keep on asking and seeking (using the spiritual disciplines) until you are ushered into the full manifestation of the presence and promises of God in eternity.
God delights to increase the faith of His children…I say, and say it deliberately—trials, difficulties and sometimes defeat, are the very food of faith…We should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more that faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us. — George Mueller.
If you are seeking Jesus, if you want to come to faith, be admonished by this earnest Scripture: “Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word…lest they should believe” (Lk 8:12). Whatever temptation there may be, either from the world or in your own heart, remember to always keep and cling to the Word. Do not let the Devil take it away from you. Let the precepts and promises of the Word be your meditation day and night. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16) (Andrew Murray; How to Strengthen Your Faith, 83)
So What?: It is eternally important that you discern the object of your faith. Faith in God in Christ is the key to being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Human beings can honestly profess to believe what they do not believe. They may do this for so long that even they no longer know that they do not believe what they profess. But their actions will, of course, be in terms of what they actually believe. This will be so even though they do not recognize it, and they will lose themselves in bewilderment about the weakness of their “faith.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 308)
Christian hope is belief in God against the world–not belief in the improbable against chance. If we follow a God whose audible voice we have never heard and believe in a Christ whose face we have never seen, we do so because our faith has a reality, a substance, an assurance that is unshakable. In doing so, Jesus said, we are specially blessed (Jn 20:29). (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 287)
Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace. As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety. The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus. (John Piper, Future Grace, 54)
The person of faith lives his belief. His life is committed to what his mind and his spirit are convinced is true. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 288)
There’s nothing worse than insecurity. So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God. On the flip side, there’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child. This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us. (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 103)
You have as much laughter as you have faith! —Martin Luther
Little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul. — Anonymous
God is the only rational answer, the only sure answer. Only the God who made men can ever satisfy men. Only the God who made reason can make life reasonable. Only the God who made the universe can show man any purpose in it. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 292)
In our culture there is a severe illusion about faith, or belief. It is one that has been produced by many centuries of people professing, as a cultural identification, to believe things they do not really believe at all. That goes hand in hand with the predominance of what was called client, or consumer, Christianity earlier. Thus there arises the misunderstanding that human life is not really governed by belief. This is a disastrous error.
We often speak of people not living up to their faith. But the cases in which we say this are not really cases of people behaving otherwise than they believe. They are cases in which genuine belief are made obvious by what people do. We always live up to our beliefs–or down to them, as the case may be. Nothing else is possible. It is the nature of belief. And the reason why clergy and others have to invest so much effort into getting people to do things is that they are working against the actual beliefs of the people they are trying to lead. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 307-8)
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self: to Jesus: but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All theses are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.” Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him. Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you. (C. H. Spurgeon as quoted by Alister Begg; Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)
I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non- worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality. (Dr. E. Stanley Jones; Transformed by Thorns, 95)
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. —George Muller
What do you hope for? What is the means of obtaining that for which you hope?
Spicq comments as follows: “Faith is a guarantee of the heavenly realities for which we hope; not only does it render them certain for us, but it envisages them as rightfully belonging to us; it is, in itself, an objective assurance of our definite enjoyment of them. Consequently, faith ‘takes possession by anticipation’ of these heavenly blessings and is a genuine commencement of the divine life with the guarantee of its everlasting permanence.” (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 439-40)
Men are always in difficulty with their faith because their God is too small. If they can once see the true God, and get the perspective that sees Him as filling all in all, then the difficulties of life will rapidly diminish to their proper proportions. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy, 340)
Our identity issues are fundamental misunderstandings of who God is: Guilt issues are a misunderstanding of God’s grace, control issues are a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty, anger issues are a misunderstanding of God’s mercy, pride issues are a misunderstand of God’s greatness and trust issues are a misunderstanding of God’s goodness. Let God be the loudest voice in your life! God doesn’t love us because of who we are. God loves us because of Who He is. (Steve Brown; January 2019 Steve’s Letter)
A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.
1- God’s presence — “I will never leave thee” (Heb 13:5)
2- God’s protection — “I am thy shield” (Gn 15:1)
3- God’s power — “I will strengthen thee” (Isa 41:10)
4- God’s provision — “I will help thee” (Isa 41:10)
5- God’s leading — “And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them” (Jn 10:4)
6- God’s purposes — “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jer 20:11)
7- God’s rest — “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28)
8- God’s cleansing — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9)
9- God’s goodness — “No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Ps 84:11)
10- God’s faithfulness — “The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (1 Sm 12:22)
11- God’s guidance — “The meek will He guide” (Ps 25:9)
12- God’s wise plan — “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom 8:28) (Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985)
In his book The Root of the Righteous, A. W. Tozer notes that a true Christian “feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see,. . . sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.” The more skeptical and materialistic our world becomes, the more outlandish the person of faith will appear. How strange it will seem to take God at His word, believe in the unseen, and invest in eternity! (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 167)