Hebrews has been addressing those who had an experience of justification and is continuing to show how to grow in holiness within the sphere of Salvation. Here, he is talking to believers, and he is confirming them. Hebrews 10:39:
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
When one becomes a believer, the need for faithfulness is vital, especially to hold on to the Gospel and its message. For the present, we all have this great and essential need. Hebrews 10:36:
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Remember, endurance is a word that means to persevere. However, it means more than just perseverance, but to persevere absolutely and emphatically. Meaning, to persevere through the misfortunes, trials, and afflictions of life. While going through those trials, we are to hold fast and never let go of the faith in Christ, which becomes the essential motive and drive to everything you do as a believer.
Already, we have learned that trials force us to depend on God. Trials are for our spiritual good. God is not trying to hurt us in trials, but He is going to bring out of us the very character traits the Spirit of God is building in us. Also, trials cause us to long for heaven. We start letting go of material things, wrong desires, and want to go to heaven.
As you grow in Christ, the desire to want to be with Christ should grow greater, and you want to let go of this world and go on and be with Him. In the believer, trials develop a proven character, which shows that you are a believer. It’s not just a profession of faith, but proof that you are a believer. All these things that befall us are leading to the goal of glory, which also prepares us to run the Christian race. Therefore, the followers of Jesus Christ are to run the Christian race to reach the goal, to finish, and to receive the reward.
Up until this point, the key to successful endurance is faith. Being a Christian means that we have been given a new way to look at life. It is the end of life that makes this present Christian progress toward the goal important. Our text has been telling us that only those who endure until the end will be saved. Real saving faith causes someone to persevere to the end of their life. Those who came in faith will continue in faithfulness.
Our breakdown of our passage: Jesus is returning soon, the saved will persevere by faith, and the lost will shrink back. Hebrews 10:37-38:
FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. 38BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.
Last time, the point I made is that you can be confident that if there is evidence that a genuine work of grace has taken place in your heart and you have been growing in the evidence of a lifestyle of faith, then you can shout with these believers in Hebrews. We are of those who believe, are saved, and know it.
Finally, we come to this great chapter about faith. In our time, we will endeavor to wrestle down the essential of Biblical faith. We will see examples of what it means to have faith, live by faith, and sometimes to even die by faith. In the end, we obtain life. He teaches us the kind of faith that is necessary to endure. Already, I have put before you some of the ingredients of this kind of faith that endures until the end.
Remember, faith is not mere consent to proposition about God revealed in Jesus Christ as His son. People can mouth and believe that He died, rose again, and He is coming again, but mean nothing to them when it comes to their personal everyday life. However, to a real believer, it means everything.
In fact, it is the opposite of swelling pride and self-trust. Rather, it is a humility before God, readiness to conform to His will, and a conviction deep in your heart that God cannot lie because of what the word of God says and how He cannot fail in what He has promised. It is a reliance on Him despite outward circumstances. Too many times, that is where we get discouraged. Faith doesn’t look at the circumstances, but beyond the circumstances.
According to Webster’s dictionary, who was also a believer, faith is defined as the ascent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another resting on his authority and veracity without other evidence. Then, for the Christian, faith is believing that the promises of God are true simply because God says they are true. Because faith is the chief characteristic of a righteous person, which links us to Christ, then we ought to know something about how to live by faith.
We will look at the meaning and essence of Biblical faith, and there are three ingredients. First, Biblical faith accepts God’s word. Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
The translators had a real problem with this word: hupostasis. This word can also be translated in the Scripture as expected, evidence, and substances. If you go through several different translations, you will find everyone of those words. In the New American Standard Bible (NASB), assurance does not mean a faith lacking substance. In other words, the faith we are talking about in Hebrews 11 and throughout the whole body is a faith that has substance.
In fact, hupostasis is really a word that means foundation, something that is form, or that which has existence, substance, or a real being. It is a word used in Hebrews 1, but in a different way where it is talking about Christ. The theological term hypostatic-union is where the union of the flesh and Spirit of Christ both come together as nature comes together. Really, Jesus Christ declares who God is, so He is the firm real being that gives us substance to who God is in the Old Testament. Hebrews 1:3:
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
The New King James Version uses the best translation of Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If viewed in this perspective, faith is something objective. In the here and now, it gives the things hoped for substantial reality, which will unfold in Gods appointed time. In other words, it gives faith substance. God is not asking us to take a blind leap in the dark. Here, faith that we have has substance. In the Old Testament, God spoke, and God has been working in history. God raised eye-witness testimonies for us, written in the word of God, so that we may build a foundation for our faith. For example, Hebrews 1:1-2:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
In other words, God has done all these things to boaster up and firm up what we are to believe, so we are not believing in the vacuum or taking a jump into the dark, which is not even in the definition of Biblical faith. Therefore, it is the substantial quality and nature of a thing.
In this case, it is faith with all the evidence that goes underneath it to hold it up, so when we live by faith, we are not living by some thing that we don’t know what we are doing. We are living by the very truth of what God has said, the very history in which God has said it and spoke throughout the ages, the very testimonies of reliable witness, and even the miracles of Jesus Christ. Christ is telling them that there is something substantial to believe in John 10:38:
but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.
What is the difference between faith and hope? In adjusting your understanding of biblical faith, biblical faith is a faith that has absolute certainty. What it believes is true, and what it expects, or hopes, will come to pass. In some sense, faith looks to the past and sees what God has done while hope looks to the future based on what God had done in the past. If God was trustworthy in doing all these things in the past, then that same God will be trustworthy to take care of things we have not seen. Therefore, faith is looking backward and trusting what has already taken place.
Faith is not substance-less faith, and it is not a “hope-so” faith. When hope is used as a verb, hope and faith are virtually synonymous. As a noun, hope refers directly to the promises of God. The promises already given in Hebrews: a world to come in Hebrews 2:5:
For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.
A promise of an eternal inheritance in Hebrews 9:15:
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Also, the second coming of Christ, the promised eternal salvation resting in almost the whole chapter of Hebrews 4, and an unshakeable kingdom. Hebrews 12:28:
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.
These are the things that we hope for, and we don’t see them yet with our eyes. However, we hope in the promises of God that have not taken place, but surely will take place. Personally, it was not easy to study on faith. In fact, this was the hardest passage I had to deal with on Hebrews.
Someone who has faith, has hope. In Ephesians, it tells us that the person who has no faith set on Christ has no justifiable hope for the future. Ephesians 2:12:
remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
If you look at the world, people have all kinds of hope. They hope they will get married, make a lot of money, have a good life, or get an education. They have hopes and dreams, but those hopes are not substantiated on anything. They are not given any guarantees, but the one who believes in Jesus Christ is guaranteed eternal salvation, eternal inheritance, and a promise of an eternal kingdom that is unshakeable, which you will occupy someday. In the word of God, throughout history, and the holy men of God, God has already proved himself of this promise.
The verb hope speaks of our response to God’s promises. In other words, He offers us hope, so we can hope. We hope in Him and His guarantees, which we can believe them with confidence and expectancy. We can hope in them because they have some substance. Therefore, the hope here is not an, “I hope so,” or, “I hope it happens.”
We don’t go around saying, “I hope Jesus is coming back,” or, “I hope when I die, I get a resurrected body.” On the contrary, that is not what the word of God is bringing across when it talks about biblical hope. A biblical hope looks forward with utter conviction, and what God says will happen. It’s not a hope mingled with uncertainty and doubt.
That’s how God wants us to live, so you must get past the doubt and wondering. You must get to the real biblical faith in Scripture. Those who live in doubt, the opposite of faith, are essential denying that hope that God is true. Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher from England said:
I would recommend you either believe God up to the hills or else you believe none of it. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the depth of divine revelation. A faith that paddles about the edge of the water of a pool is poor faith at best. It is a little better than dry land faith, and it’s not good for much.
Hope depends on faith, and faith on the promises. If one’s faith in the promiser is absolute, then faith creates a conviction of things not seen, but guaranteed by the promises already made by God. Therefore, faith is not focused on what is seen.
In Hebrews 11:1, the word conviction means that which is proved or tested. Faith is not focused on the seen things of the world, but rather looks to the unseen promises of God, our hope, and lives accordingly. Hope is a result of faith. If there is not faith, there is no hope. Our faith must be established in the substance and undergirded by truth, testimony, history, what God spoke, and what God did.
As we understand these things, it gives us hope that what God did here, He will do there even though it has not happened yet.
For the believer, we have the conviction regarding the unseen, which is faith in its essence. We are certain it exists despite us not seeing them. We are certain of the unseen things as if we saw them. We are certain that we will be resurrected someday. We are certain that there will be a final judgement someday. We are certain that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. We don’t see them, but our faith in God and in His word has given us the foundation to have a deep conviction to know it will be and that we will be there. R.C Sproul said:
Faith is generated by the acts of God, in history, that are visible, audible, and empirical.
We have empirical data, and God is not bypassing our senses. Faith is something you can see, touch, and feel. Faith is real, and it has evidence.
This book is a record of the tangible activity of God in the theatre of history, which is why it is so important to know the word of God. The word of God boasters your faith, makes you strong, and teaches you what God wants you to know about Him, what He is going to do, and what He has said He will do. We’re still in the process of history unfolding, so we’re living in exciting times.
As believers, we are confident that those things that we have not seen yet will come to pass because we trust God. Some people might not be satisfied with that, especially someone who doesn’t know Christ. However, a Christian is quite satisfied with that, and that’s where they live.
Certainly, it is not always easy to trust. Doubt, despair, and fear continually work their way into our lives, and often through our personal trials. Even Jesus’ disciples were constantly rebuked by the Lord. God wants us to grow in a faith that is sure about Him.
Instead of giving into doubt, we can stand on God’s promises. Instead of succumbing to depression or worry, we can trust Him. Instead of being disheveled by what we see going around in this unstable world, we can be grounded in what we can’t see, but what we know is true. Isn’t that what it is to be a Christian? Missionary, Hudson Taylor, in poverty said:
We have twenty-five cents and all the promises of God.
When faith lays hold of what is promised, then we have something that is real and solid, yet unseen. In the book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego gave to king Nebuchadnezzar this answer and refused to serve his gods or worship the golden image which he has set up, and the king stated that if they didn’t do it, then he would throw them into the furnace. In Daniel 3:16-18, they replied:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
That is a firm faith, a faith we should want, and a faith that the spirit of God wants to work in us. It is a faith that can face anything such as kings and fiery furnaces. Whether they lived or died, they are still on the victory side because they knew who their God was, His ability, and His character. Only that kind of person can give that kind of answer so firmly and confidently. In our society, they would be considered insane, and this is insanity at its highest level.
Afterward, the state traps, governs, kings, and high officials gathered around and saw, regarding these men, that the fire had no effect on their bodies. Their hair wasn’t even singed, their trousers weren’t even damaged, and the smell of smoke was even on their clothing. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar says in Daniel 3:28:
Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.
Though they violated the kings commanded and yielded up their bodies so as not to worship any gods except their own, the king recognized their faith and said in Daniel 3:29:
“Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”
Man, what a testimony faith is before an ungodly world that has no hope. Missionary, George Mueller, understood quite well God’s promises and what it meant to live by faith and said:
The life lived by faith is a walk with God just right outside the gates of heaven.
The essence of biblical faith is a faith that rests solely on the word of God. Matthew 5:18:
For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.
1 Peter 1:25:
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
The first ingredient: a biblical faith is a faith that accepts God’s word. In the meaning and essence of biblical faith, the second ingredient is that a biblical faith gains God’s approval. Hebrews 11:2:
For by it the men of old gained approval.
The phrase, “gained approval,” speaks of the public witness of a person’s character. In Greek, this is called the divine passive. Meaning, it doesn’t mention God in the passage, but we know that God is speaking. God is the one who is looking at your life and testifying to your faith and understanding.
Everyone who has gone before us had to live by faith. When they lived by faith, someone recognized it, including God himself. The ancients had this enablement to endure through all kinds of difficult circumstances and situations until the end of their life.
To live in this manner, assumes that they have a knowledge that they know how to gain approval from God in the first place, and from the God in whom they serve and know. It is not a shot in the dark hoping you will hit the target with a whimsical faith. Here are people who knew whom they were worshiping and knew how to please the one they were worshiping. What satisfaction it is to know God is pleased with you.
In your circumstances, you are not living to gain human approval anymore, or living simply to get satisfaction anyway you can. In your present situation, you are beginning to discern the activity of the invisible God in your life, on your family, and on your job. Whether in adversity or prosperity, you desire in your heart to do the will of God and receive divine approval. When people are devoid of that trust in His word and in His son Jesus Christ, whom He has sent to us, God cannot be pleased. Hebrews 11:5-6:
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. 6And 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.
Because Enoch walked with God, he was taken up by God. Enoch pleased God, God bore witness of that, Enoch passed right through death, and God took him. Thus, biblical faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Rather, it is immersed in the nature and character of God in objective truth and historical reality. The people of God lived and died by faith. They did not shrink back to destruction. They knew that they were getting in a long line of those who had finished the race and had gone into heaven before them.
There a lot of people that have gone before us, so look to them, especially since they knew how to please God. Find out how they did it, and then live that way. We have a lot of people that have run the race, finished it, and went into the presence of God. In this time, it is our turn to live today by faith, to endure by faith, to believe the unseen, to trust God’s promises, and to wait and hope expectantly that our great God and Savior will bring all He has promised to an ultimate fulfillment.
When you live like that, it changes things. Hence, the essence of biblical faith is a faith that rests entirely on the character of God. Somebody who has a good report from God knows who God is and knows how to please Him just like a child knows how to and how not to please their parents.
Unfortunately, it’s the latter part first by trying all the unpleasant things, and when it gets too hard, they take the pleasing way. As we grow in Scripture, we understand the character of God, so we are learning how to please God. While in prison for his faith, Richard Baker wrote on the 103rd Psalm:
In His righteousness, He promised, and by His faithfulness, He will keep His promise.
The last ingredient of biblical faith recognizes God’s power, which is linked to His word and character. If God did not have the power, how could he pull off the promises? Not only do you need to believe God’s character and His word, but you must believe that God is able to carry out to completion everything that He says in His word, especially since it has everything to do with us. Hebrews 11:3:
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
Biblical faith has a spiritual perception that the universe can been seen, but not its origins. We cannot see the origins of the universe but believe that the origin of the universe is God. However, what is problematic in this passage is the invisible source. In our day, people have said: is it the visible that has come into being where nothing existed before? Meaning, creation out of nothing, so there was nothing there before and God created it out of nothing. Nevertheless, this is not the emphasis of our context on faith.
Secondly, is it that faith that reaches beyond the world of phenomena to the unseen ground of true being? Meaning, someone who has faith can see way beyond things. Truthfully, it is not used in this way either in the context of faith. Therefore, the best way to understand this passage is to take what cannot be seen parallel to the word of God.
In other words, God’s powerful word is an invisible power that produces visible results. For example, when we look out at creation, isn’t it there and can you see it? From the word of God, we know the source is God himself. Therefore, the invisible power can produce results that when God speaks, it comes into being.
The source of creation is God. Personally, I tell people all the time that I am a firm believer in the Big-Bang Theory. With a puzzled look, they look at me and I reply, “God spoke and bang!” The universe came into being and produced visible results, which we can see right now.
With all the math, physics, science, knowledge, schooling, and degrees, you still cannot explain how it got here, so it got here because God spoke because He is powerful. When He speaks, His powerful word produces visible results. We don’t see that we have a resurrected body, but God is going to speak, He will call us in the resurrection, and there will be a reality of a resurrected body.
Also, we don’t see a new heaven and earth, but God is going to take care of this old universe and earth, give us a new one, and He will speak it into existence. It will be there, and we will see visible results. We don’t see that we have eternal life, but we know that we have it because God says we do.
The essential of biblical faith is a faith that recognizes God’s power to bring to pass all that He has promised with visible results. What is formed, came into being. The universe can be seen, and creation speaks of the power of God. Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
When I became a believer, creation opened to me. I began to recognize things I had never recognized before, and I began to reference what I saw to what God has done, which boasters your faith. If God can do all of this with this kind of creative power to bring all different kinds of animals, colors, shapes, the universe, and all the stars in it, and He knows everything going on, holding it together by His power, then what else can He do? This mentioned is nothing to God. God is so grand and great.
A biblical faith accepts God’s word, rests on God’s character, and recognizes God’s power. Then, faith is the evidence of that which is not visible now, but which shall become visible by God’s powerful word as He moves through redemptive history.
In say thing, defining the essence of faith is inadequate. Merely defining faith is not enough, so Scripture provides us a long list of examples of people who lived by faith through redemptive history, who finished the race, and went to be with God. In many passages, they went without receiving the promise. By faith they had the promise, but they did not see it yet. However, if they have gone on, they have seen the promise.
In this chapter, it is setting up for us this context where we will see incredible people living regular lives by faith. Also, you will see that in that faith, you can recognize their acceptance of the word of God, their resting upon God, knowing the character of God, and that God is able to pull it off way far beyond what we could ever imagine. Therefore, why should we fear?
The Bible will give living examples of faith, but are there any living examples of faith today? I came across a pastor, who lived in this area, and he got diagnosed with cancer. He pastored for most of his life, and as he read Psalm 40, he said:
It has been a great encouragement to me as I have sought to walk with the Lord. He is so wonderful and has been so faithful to me.
On August 4th, he was told that he had days or maybe weeks to live. He was not afraid of death, just of the pain, and he said:
I can’t wait to see what heaven looks like. I am so excited. God made it for us to enjoy, and I want to go there.
That is faith. How else would he know there was a heaven? How else would he know he would go there? He continued:
I am just trusting in Jesus, who had forgiven my sins and made me His child. I know beyond the shadow of doubt where I am going, and I want everyone else to know Jesus, so they can go there too.
He went on to be with the Lord. Years of growing in faith produces that kind of response in the face of death, and that’s what God wants us to do. That is how we please Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please the God we say we serve. Let’s pray:
Lord, I ask You to help us. We all need greater faith. I pray, Lord, that you would deliver us from the indictment that we have too little faith. Lord, establish in our heart the very things that are needed to make our faith strong, firm, and steady. That it cannot be moved one way or the other because we have been established in the very things that Scripture teaches to make our faith what it ought to be. Lord, make us people that when You observe our life, we are pleasing to You and have a good report. I pray, Lord, from this day forward, our faith would get stronger and stronger, and greater and greater than ever before. I pray, Lord, like the ancients of old and this local pastor, that we too, when faced with adversity, trials, and even death, we can be confident that we know where we are going, we know what You have done and promised, that we simply rest and trust in You character, believe in Your word, and know that Your power is so great that it pulls off all that You say. I pray, that we would live there. Thank You, Lord, for such a book like this. Thank You, Lord, for challenging us today in faith. I pray, Lord, if there is someone who doesn’t know You as their Lord and Savior, then today they may come, confess before You their sin, and believe in You as their Lord and Savior. Please always do that, Lord. I pray this, in Christ’s name, Amen.