A Series of Short Exposes on Faith

We read in Genesis 15:6, after God clarifies that Abram would have children numbering the stars of heaven coming from his own body 

“And he (Abram) believed in the LORD; and he (YHWH) counted it to him (ABRAM) for righteousness.”

I suggest that this might just be the most important passage in the Old Testament.  Because of this view I want to appeal to the Apostolic Record and what it has to say about faith and specifically I will appeal to the text of Hebrews 11, Romans 4 and James 2.  Let’s start with the later – and turn to Hebrews 11, also known as the Hall of Fame of Faith chapter.  

HEBREWS 11

At the end of Chapter ten the writer of Hebrews states

Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

Here we see that a person, contrary to the Calvinist view, can draw back into disbelief and that salvation in scripture is a matter of faith abiding.  Before we wrap this article u-my hope is to clearly and plainly illustrate what genuine completed faith really looks like – but I get ahead of myself.  

After establishing that the just will live by faith, the writer begins chapter 11 of Hebrews and says,

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Twice in this verse the word, things is used.  I maintain that the “things” referenced is “the promises of God.”  Another way to read this is:

Now faith is the CONFIDENCE in the promises of God hoped for, and faith is the PROOF of the promises of God NOT seen.

I want to reiterate that Christians live and walk by faith.   That we humbly admit to faith and make no excuses for it.  So many believers today think that they have to prove to the world why they believe through material proofs or what we might call, knowledge, but the reality is a Christian chooses to believe in the evidences around them as indicators of a living God.  Non-believers see the same evidences as non-proofs.  There really isn’t that much more to it.

I interviewed with a Gnostic secularist recently and at one point he rambled off a bunch of evidences for why Christianity isn’t real or true.   I listened intently with his every claim, but was able to honestly and confidently say 

My brother, what you see as evidences against the faith I see as supports – it’s a choice I unapologetically make as a Christian justified by faith.  You see a baby born as a godless biological event; I see it as evidence of Him as the Creator but is by faith.  Faith is a choice.

The writer of Hebrews is going to describe some highlights of faith he pulls from the Tanakh and he continues, saying in verse 2

2 For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good report.  And then

3 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 which do appear.

Verse three, I suggest, is not saying that God framed the world by faith that He possesses but that we accept, by faith, that God framed the worlds by His own words.  Then at verse 4-5 he gives more examples of faith in the Old Testament saying

4 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. 

5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

And then he adds the following which explains the importance of faith to God 

6 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.

This passage is anathema to atheists who desire the opposite – they want God to appear and not hide so that He can be seen and not be sought.  But since faith pleases Him, He appears to long for those made in His image to choose to seek Him diligently and believe on His promises . . . all by faith and not through knowledge or knowing.

Note the language in this passage, too, especially in the face of the Calvinist idea that nobody seeks God ever as the writer of Hebrews says “For He that cometh to God.”  A number of other translations present this even more forcefully, writing things like, “and those wanting to come to God. . .  showing that it is an act or desire of the individual and not referring to those that God elects.  This seriously implies that we, as a means to come to Him and to discover Him must do so in and through faith.  Then verse 7

7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 

Again, moving forward in belief in things not seen.  Then we come to our place in Genesis which speaks of Abram and the writer of Hebrews adds

 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

This is the first instance of Abrams faith that the writer mentions which speaks to his leaving his home and not knowing where he went as a means to receive an inheritance promised to him by God.  Then verse 9  

9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

This speaks to Abram after he and Sarah had Isaac.  Then

10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Then he steps back and mentions Isaac, and says, speaking of Sara and her faith

11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

And then he returns to Abraham and says

12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

The point is that in Abram’s case, when all hope was lost, when all evidences were gone, his faith remained – even to the point where Abram and Sara knew that their bodies were dead and incapable of bringing forth the son of promise, yet they believed and trusted in the promises of God.  This is so far afield from the standard expectations of most people today who say, “I will believe when the evidences support such a belief.  It looks like the case was the opposite to Abram – he believed when all the supportive evidences of being able to have a son with Sara were removed!   Then the writer gives a summary from verse 13-16 saying

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Then he returns to Abram and His faith and says at verses 17-19

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:  19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

This speaks to God turning up the tests of faith He might place on us, which is never an easy thing to endure.  Then the writer gives mention to Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, saying

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

And at this point the writer speaks of the faith of Moses with more verses than any other except Abraham, speaking first of his parents and saying

 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

Then onto Moses himself, the writer adds:

24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

And the writer does something really significant here by saying

26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 

Isn’t that fascinating that the writer of Hebrews, looking back to Moses, assigns the reproach of Christ to him?  This is an example of assigning the suffering of Christ to Moses before He was even born!  The writer could have meant that Moses, by faith, believed and trusted that the Messiah would come through the Nation and was willing to do all that was necessary to see this come to pass, or that it is a reference to suffering like Christ for the cause of truth.  Either way, it was all in faith, and it was looking forward to a day not seen.  The writer goes on and says also of Moses

27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

Needless to say, Moses was a tremendous example of someone who lived in expectation of the promises of God.  Even when things appeared dire. Then at verse 30, though he doesn’t mention Joshua’s name, he mentions an event that included him and all those who participated in it, saying 

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

And then he goes on and mentions someone really revelatory from the scripture adding

31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 

This is key for Christianity today as the passage moves us from personal perfection in pleasing God and shows firsthand that even harlots with faith are pleasing to Him; that it is not the worthiness of the flesh that pleases Him or the unworthiness that displeases Him, but our faith and trust in the Lord.  We will see before the end of this paper what mature faith really looks like, but for the time being, the reference to Rahab is significant in establishing the import of faith when it comes to pleasing Him. 

The writer continues with his wrap up and adds

32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 

We could spend hours on this – but the message is the same – faithful souls from the Old Testament lived their lives looking forward to the promises of God – and never saw them.

Shawn McCraney
Shawn McCraney
Articles: 108

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