Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Excellency of Faith


Hebrews 11:1-3
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” 

Reference: The Many Faces of Faith: Key to God's Treasury by Michael Taylor

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Verse 1)
In this definition, we see the two acts of faith. It is the substance; it is also the evidence. In other words, faith substantiates or gives substance to our hopes, and demonstrates things not seen.

There is a great deal of difference between the acts of faith and the effects of faith. The effects of faith are reckoned up throughout Hebrews Chapter eleven; but the acts of faith are only in verse 1. As the matters of belief are yet to come, faith gives them a substance, a being, as they are hidden from the eyes of sense and carnal vision and reason; faith also gives them an evidence, and convinces men of the worth of them; so that part of these acts belongs to the understanding, the other to the will.

Faith, whether natural or spiritual, is the belief of a testimony. The Christian faith is believing the testimony of God. How it operates in reference to the subject of this testimony, whether they be considered simply as future, or as both invisible and future, and the effects produced in and on the soul, the Holy Spirit explains. First, He tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for. The Greek word rendered ‘substance’ has several translations – it could be ‘ground or confidence’ as in Authorized Version or ‘assurance’ as in Revised Version. The word ‘hypostasis’ can also be translated ‘confidence of boasting’.

Faith is the confidence of things hoped for – it is far more than a bare assent to anything revealed and declared by God; it is a firm persuasion of that which is hoped for, because it assures its possessor not only that there are such things, but that through the power and faithfulness of God, he shall yet possess them. Thus it becomes the ground of expectation. The word of God is the objective foundation on which my hopes rest, but faith provides the subjective foundation, for it convinces me of the certainty of them. Faith and confidence are inseparable; just as I am counting on the ability and fidelity of the Promiser.  In John 6:69 we read; “We believe and are sure”

“Substance” is made up of two Latin words ‘Sub’ and ‘Stans’ meaning ‘standing under’. Faith provides a firm standing ground or foundation. While I await the fulfillment of God’s promises, Faith furnishes my heart with a sure support during the interval. Faith believes God and relies upon His veracity; as it does so, the heart is anchored and remains steady, no matter how fierce the storm or how protracted the season of waiting. In Hebrews 11:13 we read; “These all died in faith, not having received the fulfillment of the promises; but having seen then afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.”

Faith credits the sure testimony of God, resting on His promises, and expecting the accomplishment of them; faith gives the object hoped for at a future period, a present reality and power in the soul as if already possessed; for the believer is satisfied with the security afforded, and acts under the full persuasion that God will not fail of His engagement. Faith gives the soul an appropriating hold of them. Faith is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all that He has promised to us in Christ; and this persuasion is so strong that it gives the soul a kind of possession and present fruition of those things, gives them a subsistence in the soul by the first fruits and foretastes of them; so that believers in the exercise of faith are filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

The confident expectation which faith inspires gives the objects of the Christian’s hope a present and actual being in his heart. Faith does not look out with cold thoughts about things to come, but imparts life and reality to them. Faith does for us spiritually what fancy does for us naturally. There is a faculty of the understanding which enables us to picture to the mind’s eye things which are yet future. But faith does more; it gives not an imaginary appearance to things, but a real subsistence. Faith is a grace which unites subject and object; there is no need to ascend to heaven, for faith makes distant things near. (Romans 10:6-7) Faith then is the bond of union between the soul and the things God has promised.

But how does faith bring to the heart a present subsistence of future things? It does so in four ways:

1. By drawing from the promises that which, by Divine institution, is stored up in them; hence they are called the breasts of consolation (Isaiah 66:11)

2. By making the promises the food of the soul (Jeremiah 15:16) which cannot be unless, they are really present unto it.

3. By conveying an experience of their power, as unto all the ends of which they are purposed; it is as we appropriate and assimilate Divine truth, that it becomes powerfully operative in our lives.

4. By communicating unto us the first fruits of the promises; faith gives a living reality to what it absorbs, and so real and potent is the impression made, that the heart is changed into the same image (Second Corinthians 3:18)

At this point, it is important to make a practical application. Many profess to believe but what influence has their hopes on them? How are they affected by the things which their faith claims to have laid hold of? I profess to believe that sin is a most heinous thing – do I fear, hate, and shun it? I believe that before long I shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ – does my conduct evince that I am living in the light of that solemn day? I believe that God will supply all my need – am I fearful about the morrow? I believe that prayer is an essential means unto growth in grace; - do I spend much time in the secret place? I believe that Christ is coming back again, am I diligent in seeking to have my lamp trimmed and burning? Faith is evident by its fruits, works and effects.
Faith is first the hand of the soul which lays hold of the contents of God’s word and promises; and second, it is the eye of the soul which looks out towards and represents them clearly and convincingly to us.

To unbelievers the invisible, spiritual, and future things revealed in God’s word seem dubious and unreal, for they have no medium to perceive them: (First Corinthians 2:14) “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” But the child sees “Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27) Now, just as a powerful telescope brings home to the eye an object beyond the range of natural vision, so faith gives reality to the heart of things outside the range of our physical senses. Faith sets Divine things before the soul in all the light and power of demonstration, and thus provides an inward conviction of their existence. Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of these things which cannot be discerned by the eye of the body.

The natural man prefers a life of sense, and to believe nothing more than that which is capable of scientific demonstration. When eternal things, yet invisible, are pressed upon him, he is full of objections against them. Those are the objections of unbelief, stirred into activity by the fiery darts of Satan – nothing but the shield of faith can quench them. But when the Holy Spirit renews the heart, the prevailing power of unbelief is broken; faith argues “God has said it, so it must be true”. Faith so convinces the understanding that it is compelled by force of arguments unanswerable to believe the certainty of all God has spoken.

Faith shuts its eyes to all that is seen, and opens its ears, to all God has said. Faith is a convictive power that overcomes carnal reasoning, carnal prejudices, and carnal excuses. It enlightens the judgment, moulds the heart, moves the will, and reforms the life. It takes us off earthly things and worldly vanities, and occupies us with spiritual and divine realities. It emboldens us against discouragements, laughs at difficulties, resists the devil, and triumphs over temptations. It does so because it unites the soul to God and draws strength from Him. Faith is altogether a supernatural thing.

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