By Faith, Pt. 1
Hebrews 11:1-3 • Jeff Crotts •
The only way to connect with God is “By Faith.”
- No other way.
- You cannot buy your way into God’s heart.
- You cannot work your way into good graces.
- You cannot summon God by a soothsayer.
- You cannot give enough, serve enough, do enough, or even suffer enough to make or coarse God into your life.
You already know this.
- Dry times tell you, even as a born again Christian, your connection can feel completely cut off.
- Trying to do everything possible to reconnect with God, hearing nothing!
Connection or re-connection reduces down to one thing.
- Faith. You have to have it and exercise it to relate to God at all.
The first words of Hebrews 11:6 summarize this thought completely.
“And without faith, it is impossible to please him…” (v. 6).
The word, “faith” is repeated 23 times throughout this chapter.
- Not insignificant.
- “Faith” is cast in the instrumental use 18 of the 23 times translated, “By faith.”
- “By faith” is the leadoff phrase of over half of the first 31 verses.
- Not insignificant.
The overwhelming point being made is that to connect to God is to exercise faith.
Without faith, you have no connection whatsoever.
Chapter 10 warns not to “shrink back” from God but remember by placing your “confidence” in God! (vv. 35-39).
- Quoting Habakkuk 2, “my righteous one shall live by faith” the author accelerates pressing the gas pedal to the floor!
- “By faith” “By faith” “By faith…”
Surveying chapter 11, “faith” described with the refrain “By faith” is always doing two things.
- “Seeing” and “Obeying.”
- Inseparable dynamics.
- Illustrated by “Heroes of the faith” majestically chronicled throughout this chapter.
Faith is not merely a New Testament concept!
- These early Jewish believers, tempted to give up or go back to their old ways, needed to re-engage their Heroes!
- “Sightedness” and responding boldly is real “faith” – saving “faith!”
- What God commends! (cff. vv. 2, 4, 5, 39) and rewards! (cf. v. 6).
Back to verses 1-3.
Prop: Defining faith
1. Faith is convictional (v. 1)
Hebrews 11:1-2 is a definition of faith.
- Certainly more taught on faith but this is faith’s core!
- Faith is supernatural in the heart of every true Christian.
- A “gift” according to Ephesians 2:8.
ESV Ephesians 2:8 For aby grace you have been saved bthrough faith. And this is cnot your own doing; dit is the gift of God
- What we exercise to become believers in the first place.
- The word “pistos” is “faith” and is “believing.”
- In Acts 16:31, Paul said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”
- John 3:16 “…that whoever believes in him…”
Just above in Hebrews 10:38 believers are God’s “righteous one [who] shall live by faith” (cf. Rom. 1:17 “The righteous shall live by faith”).
- You came to life by this gift of faith and subsequently are to “live by faith.”
There is one more usage of faith in our Bibles.
- Christians fight for the object of their faith, called “The faith!”
ESV Jude 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our acommon salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you bto contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jud 1:3 ESV)
Exercising genuine “faith” always produces God-glorifying works! Obedience.
ESV James 2:17-18 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith aapart from your works, and I will show you my faith bby my works. (Jam 2:17-18 ESV)
Many nods to drumming up “faith” or keeping “the faith.” This has nothing to do with saving faith.
- Existential gurus (“pastors”) will teach you to have “faith in your faith.”
- Hyped up way of saying, “belief in yourself!”
- Disney says, “Trust your heart.”
The culture believes in all kinds of religious and non-religious things.
- None saving.
General faith is normal.
- Your car will stop when you pump the breaks.
- The faucet will produce water; the light switch will turn on the lights.
- The chief washes his hands and the food is not poison.
- The surgeon studied hard in medical school and the list goes on!
This is not what Hebrews 11 is talking about.
“The author doesn’t ask the readers to look to themselves and to summon up all their energy to persevere until the end. What it means to endure is to keep trusting God until the end” [Schreiner].
- The theme of Hebrews is to persevere, to run the race by faith.
“How to recognize it so you can run on it?”
- “What does this supernatural gift look like?”
- You need a definition!
First, faith is convictional!
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (v. 1).
- The word “assurance” also translated, “substance.”
- Connects with where the author is pointing.
- Having “faith” in heaven is “substance.”
- Heaven is a real place and you know it.
- Heaven is familiar like where you grew up.
- Heaven is somewhere you will go and when you get there, you will recognize it.
- This is faith.
This was Abraham and Sarah’s mindset.
ESV Hebrews 11:9-10 By faith he went to live in athe land of promise, as in a foreign land, bliving in tents cwith Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to athe city that has bfoundations, cwhose designer and builder is God.
ESV Hebrews 11:14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
ESV Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed ato be called their God, for bhe has prepared for them a city.
- This was the mindset of all of chapter 11’s heroes.
- You come to their conviction!
- By the way, “faith” is not a New Testament phenomenon!
- Old and/or New Testament saints possessed the same faith.
Faith is further defined as “the conviction of things not seen” (v. 1).
- “Conviction” also translated “proof” or “evidence.”
- Conviction is certitude.
- The witness of the Holy Spirit where you know Scripture is the truth.
- Truth in biblical history, descriptions, and promises are all reality.
- The skeptic does not yet have saving faith.
- Someone who wants Jesus but needs extra proof does not have faith.
- Needs the Holy Spirit.
- Saving faith is certain.
- Lapses come but we need the church to call us back!
Back to certainty in “things not seen” (v. 1). This leads us to our second point.
- Verses 2 and 3 provide two examples where believers see what you can only been seen by faith.
2. Faith sees what is unseen (vv. 2-3)
a. People of old
I am not going to say much about this verse, as it is the introduction to the rest of this chapter.
- I will make its point.
- Like us, none of these new Christians had ever been introduced to any of these men and women listed in Hebrews 11.
- As believers, it is as if they knew them!
- We too should feel this way.
- Inspirational and real.
- Real for the early church, real of us today.
Verse 38 says they were ones, “…of whom the world was not worthy” (v. 38).
- Not a direct reference to the three Hebrew teenagers who would not bow to the idol erected to Nebuchadnezzar.
- Threatened by the fiery furnace, “do you remember what they said?
ESV Daniel 3:16-18 aShadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, aour God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.1
18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
- They had the conviction that they would be resurrected in this life or the next!
- And, verse 25 says Nebuchadnezzar saw, “…four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire…not hurt…the appearance of the fourth…like a son of the gods.” (v. 25).
Like when Jesus took Peter, James, and John and revealed his glory. Transfigured!
- Moses and Elijah were there too.
- Peter had never met them knew them both by name. This is our like-faith!
As we study each of their stories, “their commendation” is our encouragement!
- “Commendation” (cff. vv. 4, 5, 39) is “bearing witness” [marturpew] “God is bearing witness” to faithfulness.
- The reward they knew, we know. The same reward we race toward!
ESV Matthew 25:23 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'
The second illustration from verse 3 reaches to the extreme past of what is naturally un-seeable. Yet, by faith, we see what happened at the Beginning.
b. The Creation
“By faith” used the first time instrumentally.
- This is how we access what is otherwise invisible.
- From the first verse in our Bibles (Gen. 1:1), we understand that the “universe was created by the word of God” (v. 3).
- To “we understand” - stronger “we know” - the universe was created by the word of God (v. 3).
“But, we were not there?” Remember the LORD confronting Job.
ESV Job 38:4 "Where were you when I alaid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
- We recognize not physically there.
- The author is saying that “by faith” it is as if you were there!
- We know what happened because Scripture tells us!
“Universe” or “ages” speaks to the full operations of the entire universe.
- Bible teaches man is the pinnacle of the universe.
- Still, the universe is beyond compression in macro and micro.
- All “created by the word of God” by God’s “rhema” or divine utterance.
- By divine fiat! “Command.”
Here we see things from two vantage points.
- From the ground up. From heaven down.
- Verse 2, Persevering saints running toward God for a reward.
- Verse 3, God speaking everything into being.
- This is full-orbed, God who is bigger than physical seeing and human comprehension!
Your understanding of God as Creator overwhelmingly determines your picture of God. By implication, your understanding of God determines how you understand you!
- First, regarding God, the biblical record from the beginning and over and over again describes Him as speaking what is visible from what is not visible.
- What makes God, God, is that He alone creates something out of nothing!
- Ex Nihilo, the Latin phrase meaning, “from out of nothing.”
This week I pulled off a book by Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in space and time dating back to 1972 (47 years ago).
- Great authors seem to never lose relevance!
- Schaeffer distills down man’s options regarding how we came to be into 4 categories.
“Man is shut up to relatively few options.”
- Once there was absolutely nothing.
- Everything began with an impersonal something.
- Everything began with a personal something. Which means “Someone.”
- The fourth category is some kind of concurrent dualism (God and matter always coexisted).
Nobody (science or philosopher, then and now) argues for a time before that was “absolutely nothing.”
- “A circle that contains everything there is and there is nothing in the circle, then remove the circle…absolute nothing.”
- No preexisting energy, atoms, movement, molecules, etc.
- Even evolutionists have to power up a “Big Bang” to get things started!
- The problem is, “Who made the first something, anything!”
- Non-religious scientists are calling for science to reconsider the notion of evolution.
Physics professor T.L. Moore University of Cincinnati said, “To talk of the evolution of thought from sea slime to amoeba, from amoeba to a self-conscious thinking man, means nothing. It is the easy solution of a thoughtless brain.”
When you consider how specific and beautiful the Creation is, it becomes irrational to believe even in an impersonal something that made this go!
- Scripture tells us the God-head or Trinity created all things! (cf. Gen. 1:26 “Let us make man in our image”).
- There was design, fellowship, intimacy, love, and glory behind Creation.
- Yet, man left to his sin, in clouded judgment, twists what only finds its origin in God.
- Creation is a miracle and it cannot be explained empirically by observation or experience.
There were once piano mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. The music of the instrument came to them in their “piano world,” filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. At first, the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was someone who made the music-though invisible to them-someone above, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see. Then one day a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano and returned very thoughtful. He had found out how the music was made. Wires were the secret-tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths that trembled and vibrated. They must revise all their old beliefs. None but the most conservative could any longer believe in the Unseen Player. Later another explorer carried the explanation further. Hammers were not the secret-great numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world. The Unseen Player came to be thought of as a myth, though the pianist continued to play. [Leadership Magazine, 1983]
Go back to the beginning to Genesis 1.
I believe the only way to interpret the Bible is literally in its natural rendering.
- So, I simply take what it says at face value.
- Reading it “by faith.”
ESV Genesis 1:1-2 In the abeginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was awithout form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
In recent years, there has been an attempt to wedge billions of evolutionary years between the white space between verses 2-3.
- This is known as theistic evolution, a capitulation to the scientific theory of evolution.
My problem with this is that throughout this first chapter, Moses defines creation by “days” beginning in verse 5.
ESV Genesis 1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
- Moses spoke of the 6 days of creation as literal days!
ESV Exodus 20:8-11 a"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 aSix days you shall labor, and do all your work,10 but the aseventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the bsojourner who is within your gates.11 For ain six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
- This is the natural normal way to describe a 24-hour day, in terms of light and darkness.
At the same time, this is miraculous creation, because not until verse 14 did God create “stars” and designate “the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night” (v. 16).
At the end of these 6 literal 24 hour days creating all living and non-living things including man, look at verse 31!
ESV Genesis 1:31 aAnd God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
- It is “very good” because of this paradise!
- This is perfect and sinless!
- Sin and death do not enter this “very good” universe until Genesis 3.
- Things are dying and they are certainly not evolving.
Creation is ex nihilo!
God as the “Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep” (v. 2).
“God” who says, “Let there be light” to be Christ.
ESV John 1:1-3 aIn the beginning was bthe Word, and cthe Word was with God, and dthe Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.3 aAll things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
ESV Colossians 1:16 For by1 him all things were created, ain heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether bthrones or cdominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created dthrough him and for him.
ESV Hebrews 1:2 but ain these last days bhe has spoken to us by chis Son, whom he appointed dthe heir of all things, ethrough whom also he created fthe world.
You have more of a vision of the Trinity in 2 Corinthians 4.
ESV 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, a"Let light shine out of darkness," bhas shone in our hearts to give cthe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Here is a quick way to understand God’s miraculous creation account from Genesis 1.
- Verse 1 describes “the heavens and the earth” as spheres or realms of creation!
- Think of the “heavens and the earth” as God’s canvas, which he now begins to paint!
- “The earth without form and void” (v. 2) is like a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel.
- Days 1-3 is where God solves the “form” (the dry land, earth, and sky).
- Days 4-6 is where God solves void (filling the heavens with stars, filling the oceans and sky and filling the land).
Back to Hebrews 11:3. “…what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (v. 3).
- Before time a Personal God has always existed.
- Everything visible instantaneously was created by Him!
“How long did he take to make the heavens and the earth?
- How long will he take to create the new heavens and the new earth?”
- Faith embraces this truth!
ESV Psalm 33:9 For ahe spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
ESV Revelation 4:11 a"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for byou created all things, and cby your will they existed and were created."
“Why is this important?”
- Our culture is gaining increasing momentum to put you into an identity crisis!
- At the center of this crisis is the attack on gender!
- Masculinity and Feminity!
- The all-out assault on monogamous marriage has moved into the realm of core identity.
What Paul predicted with eerie precision in Romans 1:18ff.
- Gender confusion and cultural identity crisis can be traced right back to Creation!
- “How we got here?” “Who put us here?” Determines who we worship and to Whom we will give an account!
- Either God is Creator and God or the Creation is Creator and God!
- “Guess who is the pinnacle of Creation is?” Mankind! God is God or you are God!
ESV Romans 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for aa lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, bwho is blessed forever! Amen.)
This is coming right into the middle of the church.
- Literal “days” interpreted as metaphors for “ages” – long time periods.
- Opens the door for Adam and Eve to be interpreted metaphorically.
- Not historical people meaning sex and gender are moot and obscured.
- Blurring the lines on what’s natural.
- The first Adam is blurred. Original sin is blurred. The 2nd Adam, Christ is next!
People are falling prey to a “machine-like” meaninglessness and an empty existence! Living for their lusts!
Listen to Schaeffer’s prediction of where we are now.
We lose our sense of God being in charge of History - that History is going somewhere. We are lost in uncreatedness. We are autonomous without solutions and without answers. Once one removes the createdness of all things, meaning and categories can only be some sort of leap, with or without drugs, into an irrational world. Modern man’s blackness, therefore, rests primarily upon losing the reality of the createdness of all things. But because…all Christians know truly, even though not exhaustively, “why” something is there, why the world has form and men have mannishness, I can meet modern man in despair and we can talk. There is a discussible answer as to why things are the way they are, and this the framework for my thankfulness, as it should be for every Christian.
Carl Sagan, the late scientists and cosmologist, and unbeliever died in 1996. Toward the end of his life on a Nightline interview by Ted Koppel he said:
We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way…one of billions of other galaxies…[of] an infinite number of other universes. That is a perspective on human life and culture worth pondering.
At the end of his life, he wrote: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
This was a Naturalist devoid of saving faith!
“Do you see the Unseen Savior?”
An evangelist of many years ago told the story of two little boys he once visited in a London hospital. The cots were side-by-side. One boy had a dangerous fever, the other had been struck by a truck and his body was badly mangled. The second one said to the first, “Say, Willie, I was down to the mission Sunday School and they told me about Jesus. I believe that if you ask Jesus, He will help you. They said that if we believe in Him and pray to God, then when we did He’ll come and take us with Him to heaven.” Willie replied, “But what if I’m asleep when He comes and I can’t ask Him?” His friend said, “Just hold up your hand; that’s what we did in Sunday School. I guess Jesus sees it.” Since Willie was too weak to hold up his arm, the other boy propped it up for him with a pillow. During that night, Willie died, but when the nurse found him the next morning, his arm was still propped up.
Certainly, the Lord saw this little boy’s arm, because the Lord sees faith and the Lord accepts faith. By faith, Willie saw his way to heaven. This boy’s faith saw what great what the learned in their own powers and strength never see. The world suppresses the truth of simple faith. But we know the only way to God is by faith.