THE MANY FACETS OF FAITH
Hebrews 11:1-3, 6
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 11, 2019
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
— Hebrews 11:1-3, 6, ESV
The book of Hebrews was written by a second generation Christian to second generation Christians in order to persuade them not to abandon the Christian faith. The first wave of Christians were almost exclusively Jewish and the second wave was distinctively Hebrew, too. Many of them were thinking of going back to the old religion, which actually died with Jesus on the cross. The shed blood of Christ and the ripped veil in the Temple opened the door to a new and better covenant, New Testament Christianity, as the sole means of salvation for all of God’s chosen people.
First century Christianity, however, was double trouble for Hebrews. The Roman Empire oppressed Jews and were intolerant towards Christians. For a Jewish Christian, it was a doubly hard row to hoe. More that a few were loosening their grip on the gospel plow and looking back to their old way of life. So the writer of Hebrews preached to them of the superiority of Jesus, the supremacy of Christianity, and the solas of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Ten chapters of exhorting them not to quit gives way to the quintessential eleventh chapter, often called the “Hall of Faith.” In it the many facets of faith are discussed and many faces of faith are displayed. Today we want to take on the meaning of faith before we call a great cloud of witnesses to the stand.
The Meaning of Faith
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
This is by far the best definition of faith found inside or outside the Bible. The word “faith” in the original language does not merely mean mental assent or a cache of facts. It reveals an active trust in someone or something. Faith is not nebulous, but a life-pervading substance (“assurance”). Faith acts based on a confident expectation (“hope”) that what you cannot now see will soon prove itself true (“conviction”).
Faith is required to drive a car. I do not know anything about automobile mechanics, but I drive. I have faith that as I approach the stop sign the brake pedal I press will engage something attached to the wheels and my car will stop before I run into something or someone else. I have faith in the car I drive (but I have about lost faith in the other drivers in our town).
Faith is required to be healed, and I’m not talking about faith healing. Once I went to a doctor whose name I cannot pronounce, found out I had an ailment I cannot pronounce, got some pills with a drug in it I cannot pronounce, went right home and swallowed them whole. That’s faith.
Faith has been translated on a foreign mission field with the native word for climbing in a hammock. One would jump and roll into the hammock, trusting that the ropes were strong enough to hold them up. It is total trust in something or someone totally outside of yourself to hold you and give you rest and peace.
Promoting a generic definition of faith in cars, pills, or hammocks is not the aim of the book of Hebrews. Faith in Jesus Christ is in plain view. To enjoy the benefits of forgiveness and eternal life that the gospel brings, you have to be all in, totally trusting, full of faith.
Gifted teachers, like the writer of Hebrews, give good definitions and follow them up with good examples. The eleventh chapter starts with the many facets of faith, then puts forth many faces of faith for all to see.
The Faces of Faith
For by it the people of old received their commendation.
The “people of old” are the Jewish patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament who proved their genuine faith in God and provide illustrations of how New Testament Christians should believe, serve, and love the Lord Jesus Christ. That their faith was bonafide is evident by this text’s use of the term “commendation,” literally their witness. They were witnesses for God in word and deed, so much so that other people could witness it. If other people cannot see some evidence that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are probably not.
On the other hand, some believers are better witnesses than others. So, the writer of Hebrews is going to offer a chronicle of select people of faith. It is meant to inspire the original audience of second generation Christians to keep on keeping the Christian faith. It is meant to inspire our generation of Christians as well, and I expect it will as we look into the following verses in the following weeks.
By the way, all Christians need other Christians to look up to, both dead and living. Find someone who inspires you. Read their works, put their picture up in your office. If they’re still living, listen to them. If they’re close at hand, spend time with them. We need many faces of faith to strengthen our own. But faith in other people cannot save your soul, you must have faith in the ultimate person, actually three persons in one.
The Object of Faith
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Let’s get back to the text and look at the important qualifying factor of quality faith. Faith is not a blind trust, but a bold trust in someone, the object of your faith. The main object of saving faith always has been and always should be almighty “God”.
Everyone has faith, but not everyone has faith in God. Faith in God requires a bedrock belief in an eternal deity, a higher power, a supreme being who created the heavens and the earth. The author’s argument here is not geological, it is theological. He is not engaging us in an old young earth debate, but making an undebatable assertion about the deity of Jesus Christ.
Who created all things? God did. Who is God? Jesus is God. “The world was made through him,” the Gospel of John says about Jesus. The book of Hebrews begins with, “God has spoken to us by his Son … through whom also he created the world.” Other texts about to attest that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are indeed the one true and triune God (ref. John 1:1, 10:30, 15:26; 1 John 2:1; etc.).
Faith in things will be of no eternal use to you if you do not have faith in God. Faith in God will be of no eternal use to you if you have not found God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ is the creator of heaven and earth and all mankind. Christ is the redeemer pictured in the Old Covenant rituals and sacrifices. Christ is the savior offered in the gospel and pictured in the bread and wine of New Testament communion. Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father and the good of all who have faith in Him. Make the person and work of Jesus Christ the supreme object of your faith, and your faith will be rewarded, on earth and in Heaven.
The Reward of Faith
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Those without faith and those with faith in the wrong person do not please God. This means that when their days come to an end and they stand before God, God will be displeased, dismiss them from His presence forever, and they will not be able to enter into the eternal kingdom of God. Faithless people will not care about true faith until it is too late to reap its rewards. The opposite is true for those who persevere in faithfully following the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith makes it possible to “please [God],” which is a reward in and of itself. I know there are those who take people pleasing to a dysfunctional level, but is it not a good thing, a reward if you will, to please the people you love? When your parents are proud of you, when your spouse is in love with you, when people honor you for some good word or work you have done, isn’t it a great reward? How much greater will it be to hear the Lord say to you one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant … Enter into the joy of your master” (ref. Matthew 25:21).
Faith makes it possible to “draw near to God,” which is a reward in and of itself. Fellowship with the true and living God is possible, on earth and in Heaven. It does not require a certain intelligence nor a series of merit badges, only faith, trust, and utter dependence upon God. Faith makes the Scriptures come alive in our quiet times with the Lord and in our public gatherings of worship, praise, and the proclamation of the gospel. Faith makes our prayers real, personal conversations with God. Faith embraces the invisible face of God and one day faith will hold a pair of visible, beautiful hands, scarred by the nails of the old rugged Cross.
Faith in the first place enables us to “seek [God],” an indicator of the reward which made faith possible. True believers seek God now and will see God in the future. But in man’s natural state, “No one seeks for God” (ref. Romans 3:11). So where does such great faith come from? It comes from the grace of God, the greatest gift that makes the greatest reward possible. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (ref. Ephesians 2:8). God gives true believers the gift of faith. True believers give to God their faithful lives, over and over, until the faith becomes sight.
Knowing and enjoying God now with the assurance of living with Him forever is the greatest reward possible. Faith makes this possible, though faith can cause the faithful to have many enemies. Those first century Christians had it rough, so rough that many were tempted to quit. You may be suffering or tempted yourself. Look at the many facets of faith, make sure yours is in the Lord Jesus Christ, and never let Him go. I assure you, He will never let go of you.
Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely,
He sees and knows all the ways you have trod;
Never alone are the least of His children;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.
Have faith in God, He’s on His throne;
Have faith in God, He watches o’er His own;
He cannot fail, He must prevail,
Have faith in God, have faith in God.
— B.B. McKinney
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org