How Can I Strengthen My Church?
(Positive Attitudes Lead To Positive Actions)
Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
A final incentive to steadfast endurance is the fear of God’s displeasure. Continuing the quotation from Habakkuk, the author shows that the life that pleases God is the life of faith: Now the just shall live by faith. This is the life that values God’s promises, that sees the unseen, and that perseveres to the end.
On the other hand the life that displeases God is that of the man who renounces the Messiah and returns to the obsolete sacrifices of the temple: But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
The writer quickly dissociates himself and his fellow believers from those who draw back to perdition.
This separates apostates from genuine Christians. Apostates draw back and are lost. True believers believe and thus preserve their souls from the doom of the renegade.
With this mention of faith (“believe” and “faith” are the same root word in Greek), the groundwork is laid for a fuller discussion of the life that pleases God. The illustrious eleventh chapter follows quite naturally at this point.
The Great Faith of God’s People
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
This chapter deals with the vision and endurance of faith. It introduces us to men and women of the OT who had 20/20 spiritual vision and who endured tremendous shame and suffering rather than renounce their faith.
Verse 1 is not really a formal definition of faith; rather it is a description of what faith does for us. It makes things hoped for as real as if we already had them, and it provides unshakable evidence that the unseen, spiritual blessings of Christianity are absolutely certain and real. In other words, it brings the future within the present and makes the invisible seen.
Faith is confidence in the trustworthiness of God. It is the conviction that what God says is true and that what He promises will come to pass.
Faith must have some revelation from God, some promise of God as its foundation. It is not a leap in the dark. It demands the surest evidence in the universe, and finds it in the word of God. It is not limited to possibilities but invades the realm of the impossible.
Someone has said, “Faith begins where possibilities end. If it’s possible, then there’s no glory for God in it.”
There are difficulties and problems in the life of faith. God tests our faith in the crucible to see if it is genuine (1 Pet. 1:7). But, as George Müller said, “Difficulties are food for faith to feed on.”
Hebrews 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
Because they walked by faith and not by sight, the OT worthies received divine approval. The rest of this chapter is an illustration of how God has borne witness to them.
Hebrews 11:3 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.
Faith provides us with the only factual account of creation. God is the only One who was there; He tells us how it happened. We believe His word and thus we know. What can we learn from this?
McCue states: “The conception of God pre-existent to matter and by His fiat calling it into being is beyond the domain of reason or demonstration. It is simply accepted by an act of faith.”
By faith we understand. The world says, “Seeing is believing.” God says, “Believing is seeing.” Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see …” (John 11:40). The Apostle John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe … that you may know” (1 Jn. 5:13). In spiritual matters faith precedes understanding.
The worlds were framed by the word of God. God spoke and matter came into being. This agrees perfectly with man’s discovery that matter is essentially energy. When God spoke, there was a flow of energy in the form of sound waves. These were transformed into matter, and the world sprang into being.
The things which are seen were not made out of things which are visible. Energy is invisible; so are atoms, and molecules, and gases to the naked eye, yet in combination they become visible.
The fact of creation as set forth here in Hebrews 11:3 is unimpeachable. It has never been improved on and never will.
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Adam and Eve are bypassed in the honor roll of faith. When Eve had to decide whether God or Satan was telling the truth, she decided that Satan was. However, this does not deny that they were subsequently saved by faith, as pictured by the coats of skin.
Abel must have had some revelation that sinful man can approach God only on the ground of shed blood. Perhaps he learned this from his parents who were restored to fellowship with God only after He had clothed them with the skins of animals (Gen. 3:21).
At any rate, he exhibited faith by approaching God with the blood of a sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was one of vegetables or fruit and was therefore bloodless. Abel illustrates the truth of salvation by grace through faith. Cain pictures man’s futile attempt to save himself by good works.
George Cutting points out that “it was not the personal excellence of Abel that God looked at in counting him righteous, but the excellence of the sacrifice that he brought and his faith in it.” And so it is with us: we are not justified because of our character or good works, but solely because of the excellence of the sacrifice of Christ and our acceptance of Him.
Abel was killed by Cain because law hates grace. Self-righteous man hates the truth that he cannot save himself and that he must cast himself on the love and mercy of God.
But Abel’s testimony is perpetuated: Through his faith he still speaks. There is a sense in which faith enables a man’s vocal chords to go on functioning long after his body is lying in the grave.
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Sometime during his life Enoch must have received a promise from God that he would go to heaven without dying. Up to that time everyone had died—sooner or later. There was no record of anyone ever having been taken away without dying. But God promised and Enoch believed. It was the most sane, rational thing that Enoch could do; what is more reasonable than that the creature should believe his Creator? Why do we have such a hard time believing our Creator?
And so it happened! Enoch walked with the invisible God for three hundred years (Gen. 5:21–24) and then he walked into eternity. Before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. The life of faith always pleases God; He loves to be trusted. What are some ways we can walk with God?
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Macdonald, Farstad Grady Scott, Hindson, E.E.