Lesson 26: "Without Faith It is Impossible to Please Him. . ." (Hebrews 11:6)
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome! This is lesson #26. The text before us is Heb. ch. 11, sometimes call the Faith Chapter of the Bible. Faith is defined, faith is illustrated, extolled, celebrated, honored, urged and faith is commanded in this chapter. This is a great chapter. It might be called the honor-roll of faith or faith exemplified...starting with Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham. There are more than two dozen examples of faith specifically mentioned. Please get your marker set. We will be reading ch. 11 in a moment.
Ch. 10 was also a great chapter. I trust you will take the time to personally investigate these things in more detail. For example, I have in my hand a little green-back book written by one of my old Harding professors, named James D. Bales, entitled, very simply: STUDIES IN HEBREWS. One of the short chapters in his book, deals with NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLY. He shows the Lord's day is the first day of the week. Perhaps you have met some, who brand themselves Sabbatarians, i.e. they worship on Saturday and observe Saturday as many Jews do. This is just one more example of trying to bring over a little of the Mosaic law into the Christian age. They need to read the book of HEBREWS and better understand this writer's theme. Bales has the references all lined up to refute the Sabbatarian argument. He covers a long list of events in the N.T. that I don't have time to cover. He shows that Christ arose from the dead on the first day of the week. Christ met with his disciples after his resurrection on the first day of the week. He shows the kingdom came, i.e. the birthday of the church was on a Sunday. The Holy Spirit came to the apostles on that same day. The day of pentecost (a Sunday) was the beginning of the last days as prophesied by Joel (in the O.T.). He shows that the disciples met on the first day of the week to take the Lord's Supper at Troas (Acts 20:7). He then goes into the fact that the disciples were commanded to take the Lord's Supper of which they observed on the first day of the week. Like I said, our study deserves much more depth. For example, there is a doctrine in the world known as "once saved always saved" (-or-it's sometimes called "the impossibility of apostasy") which teaches that one cannot fall from grace. V.26 and v.29 of ch. 10 simply leave no possibility for that doctrine... it is rendered totally false by these verses. Just a casual reading establishes this. Think on v.39 just a moment, "we are not of them who draw back unto perdition," i.e. to be lost. When you align this with the writer's thesis... he is simply warning against falling from grace. Why such a. warning, if it is impossible to fall from grace? And may I appeal to you once more, please help us get these courses to your friends and neighbors. They will appreciate you for it.
Now, I don't want to stretch this out; but, let me make one more comment (about v.26). Someone may get the idea from reading this passage (v.26) that one negative (wilful) thought will render them lost forever without any possibility of repentance. If that be the case, then we simply have no hope...no one can be saved. All have sinned and all fall short! (Rom. 3:23). The last half of v.29 (here) describes this person as "hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." I believe the writer is saying, if you die in that condition, you are lost. However, keep in mind, that's the very thing the writer is pleading for ...repent! ...don't be lost. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward," (v.35). Confidence and faith is one and the same thing. He says, "ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." In other words, "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (v.22), then hang-in-there, "hold fast the profession your faith without wavering," (v.23), confess your faults daily (I-John ch. 1), pray for forgiveness, get it corrected now that you might have a good conscience toward God. If we are lost, it's simply because we "draw back unto perdition" (v.39), it is not because that's what God wants. God loves us (John 3:16), God is on our side (Rom. 8:31) "if God be for us, who can be against us?" But, BE IT UNDERSTOOD, God expects us to carry through and do our part and he will tolerate nothing less.
Now, let's get down to ch. 11, first: do a little connecting up (here) just a moment. Try to link these thoughts together. In 10:38, our writer brought his admonitions or warnings (that we have just been considering) to a close with a quote from the O.T. book of Habakkuk "the just shall live by faith" (that's v.38). The Lord told Habakkuk (back there) to write this upon tables. The Lord said: "the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak... because it will surely come..." What will surely come? There would be time when, "the just shall live by faith." That's Hab. 2:2-3-4! Now, be sure and get the thought here..."the just shall LIVE," i.e. the word "live" here is a reference to heaven or eternal bliss...not just to live in this life, only. This was prophesied, "it will surely come...the just shall live by faith." It was prophesied 100's of years before the fact. It's a description of God's law in the Christian age in which we live today. It connects back to that same Jeremiah prophecy quoted and then re-quoted up in 10:16, "I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds..." Faith is simply another word describing that process. Then in 10:22, our writer pleaded: "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." Coming down to v.35, our writer says, your faith (or your confidence, same thing) "has great recompense of reward." That is saying, much depends upon your faith. When you believe something and get it embedded into your conscience, a pure conscience, then that motivates and directs the rest of you to follow through, i.e. to get prepared for Christ's second coming, (mentioned in v.37). Our faith motivates and directs our attending the worship assembly, our provoking one another unto love and to good works (v.24). And, keep this in the back of your mind, it's just as important to act as it is to believe, "faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone" (Jas. 2:17). Faith cannot be just faith alone. We MUST BE provoked to do "good works" (just up the page, v.24). In other words, your faith must be an acting faith. Faith cometh by hearing (Rom. 10:17) and faith leads to doing. Don't lose that connection. At this point, our writer lapses into a long discussion on the subject of faith, this discussion consumes (what we call) the entire 11th chapter of HEBREWS. Let's read it! Let's read the first six verses and then discuss that a little before going on...are you ready? Please read with me!
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things that do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son is necessary to being saved. It couldn't be said clearer than it is expressed (here in v.6). This thought is expressed many places in the N.T., for example, John said in his prologue: "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name..." (John 1:12). The necessity of faith is the reason for this chapter. Our writer started with the definition (v.1): "Faith is...!" Now, Milligan disagrees here in that he says this is not a definition; but rather a description of the relation of faith to the human soul. Well, maybe I am missing something here; but, when the writer says: "Faith is..." so and so; then, I would call it a definition. At any rate, let me ask you: what is faith? Remember now, James said faith without action is not faith. Our writer says (if I follow his thinking) there are two main aspects to faith: (#1) faith is a substance and (#2) faith is evidence (v.1). Now at this juncture, let's take these one-by-one, let's look at the "substance" idea first. Some translations use "assurance" instead of "substance." Still another translation reads like this: "faith forms a solid ground for what is hoped for," another says, "faith is being sure." Personally, I think of a substance as something like wood or plastic or air...something containing matter. There is something there, something solid and dependable. Our writer says "Faith is the substance of things hoped for..." Now, what's involved in this "things hoped for," aspect? Well, obviously that's obeying God and ultimately heaven. I say again, what's involved? Well, faith is the substance of what's involved. Isn't that what it says? The word "faith" as used in the Bible does not always refer to the process of believing, i.e. mental development and mental consent. Sometimes the word "faith" is substituted for WHAT we believe, or in other words the gospel. A commonly used example here is Jude v.3, where Jude said: "I...write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the FAITH [are you listening?] which was once delivered unto the saints." The faith was once delivered...did you get it? As I said, this is substituting WHAT we believe for the process. The gospel, our connected hopes and aspiration...the whole Bible really; thus, becomes the substance of our faith. This is the only way I can reconcile faith as "the substance of things hoped for." Faith is NOT just anything your brain happens to tune-in and latch on to. "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing BY the word of God." Not just ANY hearing -or- not just by hearing ANYTHING! Thus, Bible faith is cut from a special material, it has a special substance to it. Thus, our writer says: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." Do you get it?
Alright, let's look at the second aspect: "faith is...the evidence of things not seen." Now, burn that in just a minute, sacrifice a brain cell or two on this. Faith is evidence? I must have evidence from which to build and to construct my faith, obviously. Otherwise, it is just opinion, or conjecture, or a big blob of thought that I have no real reason to believe in and I would be silly to place my confidence in it unless I can establish -that it's true. How can faith be evidence? Or to turn it around, how could evidence be faith? Edward Robinson translated the verse like this: "Faith is confidence as to things hoped for; conviction as to things not seen." I like that translation better. However, I'm NOT SURE which is most accurate. Faith is a conviction as to things not seen...I can buy that. That's clear enough. That's true! But, I keep thinking...those Greek translators must have recognized something inherent in this connected with evidence as well as conviction as to that evidence. If faith involves the word of God as the substance of faith; then, perhaps it involves evidence in some way. And there is a sense in which the word of God, i.e. the substance of faith contains evidence. Faith cometh by hearing and by hearing the word of God. Is there something magical about that? Or does this conviction come by evidence. I believe it' the latter. In connection with this evidence idea, Jesus said, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true" (i.e. not necessarily true.) You see, Jesus came from God and Jesus went to God (John 13:3), this is proved in the scriptures. In other words, if the O.T. had not testified of Jesus by the prophets AND John the Baptist (another prophet) had not established this fact beforehand and there was no real connecting evidence, then you would have no reason to accept Jesus as the Christ. One cannot come and just declare themselves as a prophet...like Joseph Smith and Ellen G. White and a whole host of others in our day. Thus, the scriptures, (i.e. the substance of our faith) does establish evidence for our faith in things not seen. Well, work on this. Let's go on.
I want to say this before our time is out. If you pick up a dictionary, most will give you a definition and then (if it's complicated) it will illustrate by giving examples of use. This is exactly the technique the HEBREWS writer uses. Thus, you must look for this "substance" and this "evidence" idea in every example he gives. Some examples may contain one idea or the other, some may contain both. Our writer says, (by way of illustrating this now) it was by this process of faith "the elders received a good report" (Heb. 11:2). The elders (mentioned here) are a reference to the roll-call of the faithful as outlined further down in this chapter...Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc., we'll get to that. It is by this process of faith, "we [can] understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" (v.3). Things are not exactly as they appear. For you scientists out there, this is particularly true as you study the structure of matter...electrons, protons, neutrons and the relationship of these subatomic particles of matter. It is confirmed, that 99% of the universe is nothing more than space in their complicated and sophisticated molecular arrangements. This statement (v.3) does not defy true science in any way. It was by the substance of faith that Able offered a blood offering (v.4) as recorded (in Gen. ch. 4). You see, Abel appropriately learned this from God in some way...although, exactly how he learned this is not recorded there, we learn about it here. Cain ignored this substance and this evidence (that comes with faith) that God expected a blood sacrifice offering. Thus, Abel obeyed God and Cain disobeyed. "By faith Enoch was translated" (v.5), i.e. God took Enoch to heaven without Enoch going through the death channel required of every other mortal since then (Gen. 5:24). God made an exception with Enoch. If Jesus comes again before we die, we will in effect be translated...without death (I-Cor. 15:51). But, the point here is that Enoch had faith and Enoch acted and obeyed by faith. Then, we come to Noah (v.7). Noah was warned of God...that's how Noah obtained that substance of his faith. Noah "moved with fear" (middle of v.7)...i.e. Noah obeyed. Noah accepted the evidence (a flood was coming) through faith in God's word. God's explanation to Noah is recorded for us (in Gen. ch. 6). By this means Noah "became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (end v.7). Now, what's the message to us? "By faith Abraham...," another example beginning in verse eight. We'll get to that! But, "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" (v.6). Verse six contains a conclusion or the basic principle the HEBREWS writer wants us to see. But, right now, our time is out. I'll be with you in lesson #27. Until then, have a good day.