Summary: Sermon 22 in a study in HEBREWS
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. NASB
“For by it the men of old gained approval”
We will be wise, going into this great chapter about faith, to look behind us and be reminded of the solemn warning that ends chapter 10.
“But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if He shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
There is no alternative offered. There is the walk of faith, or there is shrinking back. According to chapter 10 verse 39, [and remember that chapter and verse divisions came much later, so this is linked to chapter 11 verse 1 by a simple punctuation mark], those who shrink back do so to their destruction and those who persevere in faith do so to the preserving of their soul.
Then we have this very familiar definition of faith, given so that the reader who desires the preserving of his soul may know what sort of faith is required.
Faith is assurance. Faith itself is evidence of the unseen. By faith, men of old gained approval.
Now here is where a newcomer, hearing these words for the first time, would be inclined to ask, “Faith in what? Faith in whom?” And those are very important questions to ask since the word ‘faith’ is so carelessly tossed about these days.
Any form of religion is referred to as a faith. What people are talking about when they say it that way is a particular set of beliefs that mark that particular religion. “That man is of the Islamic faith” would be an example of how they would say it.
A religious person is commonly called a man of faith or a woman of faith. The word is used to encourage someone in a time of trouble, prompting them to ‘hang in there’ and have faith and everything will eventually be alright.
Now as I say, these are just general and careless uses of the word, because faith, by definition, must have a foundation – an object of focus. This should go without saying and I don’t want to get bogged down in it and bore you, but faith means ‘belief’; it means believing in something or someone, it means trusting in something or someone. You passively put your faith in a chair every time you sit on one. You actively put your faith in a person when you trust them to keep a promise or stay true to a vow. If there is no object or person of focus, telling someone to ‘have faith’, is like telling them to stand on air.
This is why immediately after warning his readers/hearers that the righteous man shall live by faith and that shrinking back from it displeases God, the writer defines faith, then lists example after example of those who exercised faith and gained God’s approval. The NIV says “This is what the ancients were commended for” (vs 2).
The Holy Spirit of God, through the writer, wants us to understand clearly what true God-pleasing faith is, so we’ll know what he is talking about when in chapter 12 he says, ‘Therefore…’ and encourages us to live in the faith that gained a good testimony for those who have trod this path we now tread.
So let’s set our own focus today on the kind of faith that pleases God, and each do our own inner checklist, so to speak, to see if this is the sort of faith to which we are holding fast.
HOW DO WE KNOW WE’RE WALKING BY FAITH?
A fellow pastor and friend of mine asked this question of his Wednesday evening congregation as their topic of study and discussion. How do we know we’re walking by faith?
He didn’t go into much detail about the things that were said, but he said that it provided for some very interesting discussion and some of the answers were surprising. I would venture to guess that the reasons some responses were surprising is that far too few Christians spend time contemplating what evidences of faith are demonstrated in their lives as they go through their days.
We say, “Yes, I have faith in Jesus Christ” or “I have faith in God” and we might even be able to go on even very deeply and explain what saving faith is and present a clear Gospel message. That is good and it is needful.
But I wonder how often that knowledge works itself into our lifestyles and our reactions and responses to whatever comes across our path in our daily life.
How do we know we walk by faith? The strictly doctrinal answer to that question is that we have heard the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose up from the dead and now gives new life to all who believe, and we repented, which means to turn around or to change the mind, and we believed in that good news and now we are a new creation in Him. That means we’re saved. It means we are born again or born from above and part of God’s family. We’ve come up with a lot of ways to say it over the years, haven’t we? Some are biblical terms and some have risen up within the ranks of the church. But in the final analysis, we know we’re walking by faith because that is what the Bible says the believer is doing. That’s why he is called a ‘believer’. He has believed the Gospel, he has put his faith and trust in the good news of Jesus Christ, so now he is, by virtue of belief and the new birth, walking by faith. That is not a reference to what he does, but what and who he now is; a faith-walker.