Saving Faith (Part Three)- Hebrews 11

In our previous two posts, we have seen in James that faith is a verb, it always produces action, and faith that does not act is not saving faith. We also have seen that, since faith requires action, it is primarily an either/or kind of thing. If we believe something we will act upon it, and if we will not act upon it we do not truly believe it. We now turn to Hebrews 11, in which we find a New Testament “definition” of faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen”. This immediately gives rise to a question: What does it mean that faith is a “substance”? The Greek word translated substance here is hypostasis. It is used one other time in Hebrews, in Hebrews 1:3, in which Jesus is referred to as “the exact representation of His (God’s) being”. It can be literally translated as “substantiation”. So what does it mean to substantiate something? It means to make it real and active in our experience. Jesus “substantiates” God for us, makes God real in our experience, gives God “substance”. In other words, we can know “about” God through a book, but we can only know God through Jesus, faith in Jesus makes a personal relationship with God possible, and we can know Him as a person rather than as an abstract concept. Through Jesus, God becomes real in our experience, a person intimately involved in our day to day lives rather than an abstract concept, a person to be known rather than a subject to be learned. This very same concept, according to the writer of Hebrews, applies to faith. Someone once famously said that “knowledge without obedience is just information”. It does us no good to know something if we do not use the knowledge we have, and using the knowledge we have “substantiates” it, or makes it real in our experience. A good illustration of this is of a blind person and the color yellow. We can explain to a blind person what the color yellow is, they can know “about” the color yellow, but they can’t know the color yellow, for they do not have the faculty of sight to “substantiate” it, to make it real in their experience. According to our passage, faith to a believer is like sight in the illustration. We may know the truth, but it is only through faith, through acting upon the truth we know, that it becomes real and active in our lives. Faith makes knowledge of the truth real in our experience, substantiates it, moves it from our heads to our hearts. We may know the truth of God’s word, but that truth only becomes real in our experience through our acting upon it, through faith, not only knowing it’s true but acting like it’s true by ordering our lives according to it. This is what pleases God (verse 6), not merely believing that He exists, but living our lives according to the truth of His word, for faith ultimately is living like God tells the truth. The final thing we take from this passage is that faith always has an object, our faith is always “in” something. As believers, the object of our faith is always to be the Word of God, we must not only know that it is the truth, we must act like it is the truth, and if we do not act as if it’s the truth, then we don’t really believe that it’s the truth. God’s word is true whether we believe it or not, but knowing the truth without living in accordance with it is useless, it does us no good and makes no difference in our lives. It is our faith in the truth of the Word of God, it is the ordering of our lives in accordance with it, that substantiates it, that makes it a reality in our own lives. It is living in this way that the “ancients were commended” (verse 2), and living in this way will allow us to be commended by God also, for it is only saving faith, only faith that produces action, which truly pleases God.

No Comments Conformed to the Image of Christ  //  Epistles  //  Faith  //  Transformation

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