Nature of Faith

Hebrews 11


The Nature of Faith

Some one has called this eleventh chapter “God’s honor roll.” It is indeed a wonderful record of the triumphs of faith on the part of eminent servants of God in four different dispensations. Abel, Enoch and Noah, in antediluvian days; Noah and Abraham himself in the dispensation of government; then Abraham, after the promise of the Seed, to Joseph the patriarch; and Moses and the other worthies of the dispensation of law. All these were but preparatory periods leading on to the present glorious dispensation of the grace of God. But in all these past ages we see that faith was the controlling power that enabled men to walk with God and triumph over the corrupting influences of their times. It is important to remember that God has never had two ways of saving men. While the revelation of His grace has come gradually, and various rites and ceremonies have been linked with it at different times, these latter have had nothing to do with regenerating or justifying the individual. It has always been true that faith in God’s Word, whatever that Word may have been, has alone justified man before Him, and through that Word men have been saved in all ages, thus entering into His spiritual kingdom and recognizing His authority in a world at variance with that divine rule. This comes out very clearly in our present chapter. In verses 1 to 3 we are given to understand the nature of faith itself. “It is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” as another has translated it. That is, faith in what God has declared gives the soul absolute assurance and firm conviction of the reality of things which the natural eye has never seen. Yet these things are as real to the man of faith as anything that he can see, feel, taste, smell, or handle. In fact, they become even more real, for his senses might deceive him, but the Word of God he knows to be absolutely infallible. It was this positive realization that every word of God is true which quickened into newness of life believers in ancient times, and enabled them to bear testimony to things that the natural man could never apprehend by such evidence as appeals to his mind.

Men have speculated all through the centuries as to the origin of the universe, and have questioned whether matter is eternal, or whether it was directly created by God. But apart from revelation, no man can speak with certainty in regard to these things. Faith alone gives apprehension of the truth. By faith we understand that the worlds were made by the Word of God, so that the things which we now see were brought into existence at His command out of nothing. It is well known that the word translated “worlds” really means “ages,” but the last part of the sentence shows that the material creation is in view; but it is the material creation as passing through a series of changing ages, all of which were planned beforehand by God Himself, for the glory of His Son.

What a magnificent conception is this and how far beyond the highest thoughts of the mere natural scientist! Reverent, God-fearing men of science have always recognized the necessity of this divine revelation as to the origin of matter, and have had no difficulty with the sublime narrative of Genesis 1. It is only unbelief and wilful rejection of the testimony of God that makes men stumble at and pervert so wondrous an unfolding of the beginnings of the created heavens and earth. Faith bows in subjection to the witness God has given and glorifies Him for such a marvelous unfolding of the divine wisdom. The late F. W. Grant has aptly pointed out the incongruity of the position of a scientist like Charles Darwin, whose great book, “The Origin of Species,” was hailed by many as throwing a flood of light upon the method of creation; and yet in that very book, Darwin never touches the question of origins! In the very nature of things, he cannot do so, for no man who is not subject to the Holy Spirit knows anything whatever about the beginnings of the material universe, and creatures living in it. But to faith all is plain. The simplest Christian with his Bible before him would say, “By faith we understand.”

Section B. Chap. 11:4-7
Faith Exemplified in Antediluvian Times

Three pattern men are selected by the Holy Spirit from the dispensation of conscience, which extended from the expulsion of our first parents from Eden to the destruction of “the world that then was,” by the flood. Eliphaz, in the book of Job, directs attention to “the way which wicked men of old have taken, whose foundation was overflown with a flood: which said unto God, Depart from us.” Here, on the other hand, we are asked to contemplate three men who found their delight in God, and glorified Him by faith in a day when corruption and violence were rapidly filling the earth.

In Abel we have the basic truth that approach to God is on the ground of sacrifice; and thatthe offering up of a living creature whose blood was designed of God to illustrate the sacrifice and death of His own blessed Son. That it was not any mere assumption on the part of Abel that led him to select a lamb of the flock for his offering, nor simply an arbitrary act of his will, is evident from the fact that we are told, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Faith is taking God at His word. Manifestly, therefore, we are to understand that God Himself had revealed the truth that approach to Him must be by sacrifice. This revelation Cain impudently ignored. Abel acted in accordance with God’s revealed will, and in so doing, “obtained testimony that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh.” His righteousness consisted in believing God and acting accordingly.

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