Heroes of Faith
The Nature and Benefit of Faith
*(1) What does it mean to have faith, and (2) why is faith important for us?
*In our age, faith is reduced to a virtue that helps us to kick field goals (Facing the Giants).
*In Hebrews, the author is speaking to the Israelites that failed to believe God and live by faith. These folks are teetering on the verge of going back and leaving their faith.
*The author of Hebrews is calling us to faith (a major point of the whole book).
*He will shortly hit the highlights of who our godly examples.
* Before he does this, however, he must first define what faith is and why it is beneficial.
The Nature of Faith.
Assurance of what we hope for. In vs. 1, the author begins by saying that “Substance of things hoped for.” There is a bit of diversity on how this is translated in English Bibles today.
ESV: “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”
NIV: “being sure of what we hope for.”
CSB: “The reality of what is hoped for.”
NASB: “the assurance of things hoped for.”
The KJV and the NKJV take this as substance, but here the idea is still to show faith is the foundation of Christian walk. This idea seems to be revealed more clearly in the ESV, NIV, and the NASB when it speaks of it as assurance. The point being made is simple. Faith is described as a clear confidence that our hope is not foolish or misguided. Men of faith are those that have confidence in Christ. They do not waiver or flip back and forth. Simply put, it is the assurance someone has that their belief is true.
Conviction of that which is unseen. In 1, he goes on to say that faith is the “conviction of things not seen (ESV).” Here he adds to his description of faith. It is a confidence that the unseen things are real and can be trusted. Just because it is not seen does not mean that it is not real or is untrue. The person of faith is the person that believes even when he cannot see, and maybe when he doesn’t fully understand. There are times when it seems hard to believe in the Lord because we do not see Him or touch Him. Bu faith is the deep-seated conviction that this belief is true. So in short, we might think of faith as
- James 1:5-7. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Thus, faith is the confident trust in the message of God, which leads to obedience.
The Benefit of Faith: Salvation & Divine Approval.
In vs. 2, the author of Hebrews speaks about faith as something that leads to divine approval. He says, “For by it the men of old gained approval.” Here the author returns to a theme that has come up several times throughout the book: Faith is essential to a right relationship with God. You cannot be a child of God without faith in him. In Hebrews 10:38, he quotes from Habakkuk 2, which says, “The just shall live by faith.” In Hebrews 11:6, he even says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Now, in 11:2, he reminds us that faith is what brought justification to all the giants of the faith throughout the Old Testament. The believed God, and they were approved.
- Galatians 3:6-8. “Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
- John 1:12. “But to as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to be the sons of God, to those who believe in His name.”
- John 5:24. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
The Benefit of Faith: Insight & Understanding.
In 3, he goes on to speak about the benefit of faith. He says, “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.” Now it doesn’t seem likely that he is suggesting that faith is what gives us the knowledge about the origins of the world. This information comes to us by the person of Jesus Christ or by the bible itself. Rather, once we have heard, we then have a choice: trust, or reject. When we decide to trust, we are given a better understanding. Because of our faith in God’s divine revelation, we can understand some of the foundational insights about the world. Thus, here we see how Christianity offers a better way of seeing the world. Through faith, we can see things in ways that we could not otherwise see. Christ is a lens by which we see and make sense of the world around us.
Consider, as an example, the apostle Paul. Immediately after coming to faith in Christ, he demonstrates a clear and firm grasp of the gospel and all the deep mysteries of God. He was already highly educated before coming to faith but drew all the wrong conclusions about Christ. What was added to him in salvation was not new information. Instead, what was added was insight and perspective that brought all other knowledge together in such a way that his understanding of reality grew exponentially.
Consider my own salvation. On the day I came to Christ, I knew not just that he died for me, saved me, and gave me grace. Now that I knew Him, I seemed to grasp so much more about the world itself and His purposes in the world through history.
“I believe in God as I believe in the Sun. Not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” — C. S. Lewis