Heb. 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
This enigmatic definition of faith forces us to ponder what the assurance of hope is, and what we must be convinced of. To understand these, we must understand the three stages of faith before we can even know what to hope for, much less being convinced of things not seen.
The Three Stages of Faith
All people in the world who have language, have faith because belief is built into language by definition. James wrote A Will to Believe which shows how all people must believe in something. We learn to believe, in something, by learning language. How? We learn language from birth by listening to people speak our future language. From what we hear, we learn to believe what our parents or others who speak to us tell us. We trust what they say because that is all we have to go by. As we get older and learn from others, our belief system modifies and enlarges. And we begin to test what we learned and believed as our language matures by education and life experience.
Second, as we begin to use our language, our spoken language imitates what we heard. We, thereby, reinforce what we learned to believe by restating it over and over. And, later we use our language to test our beliefs by speaking it to others who may or may not agree with our beliefs. Again our language heard and spoken modifies, as said above, our system of beliefs by education and experience.
Third, but just hearing and speaking is not proof enough to test our system of beliefs. Being human, we test our beliefs by putting them into use; we act on our beliefs. If what we learned is true and works, we keep our beliefs. If not, we may change them. Note we may change. Language being such, some may not change beliefs because they do not work because the power of belief transcends actuality. This anomaly might be called deception. Another way to look at it is: the source and authority of our beliefs makes it difficult for some to accept things which contradict the belief. People believe many things contrary to fact, today, not in the Middle Ages or ancient times bereft of science and provable facts. Nonetheless, we act on our beliefs, which can reinforce our faith or weaken it depending on the outcome of what we do. Interestingly, sometimes we learn to believe because of what we do. A researcher plans an experiment and believes in the outcome of the study.
Then, how can we be sure of something we hope for and call it faith?
We have this definition:
"[Hope is] one of the three main elements of Christian character (1 Cor. 13:13). It is joined to faith and love, and is opposed to seeing or possessing (Rom. 8:24; 1 John 3:2). "Hope is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life, so essential indeed, that, like faith and love, it can itself designate the essence of Christianity (1 Pet. 3:15; Heb. 10:23). In it the whole glory of the Christian vocation is centred (Eph. 1:18; 4:4)." Unbelievers are without this hope (Eph. 2:12; 1 Thess. 4:13). Christ is the actual object of the believer's hope, because it is in his second coming that the hope of glory will be fulfilled (1 Tim. 1:1; Col. 1:27; Titus 2:13). It is spoken of as "lively", i.e., a living, hope, a hope not frail and perishable, but having a perennial life (1 Pet. 1:3). In Rom. 5:2 the "hope" spoken of is probably objective, i.e., "the hope set before us," namely, eternal life (comp. 12:12). In 1 John 3:3 the expression "hope in him" ought rather to be, as in the Revised Version, "hope on him," i.e., a hope based on God."
-Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
What a Christian hopes for is the resurrection to eternal life. We can be assured of this by believing the testimony of several witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Reading, hearing if you will, the Gospel is the first stage of faith. Testing the hearing by talking about the Gospel and its reality is the second stage of faith. And, when we act on the words of the Gospel, we test the veracity of the system of faith presented by its working or not.
Briefly, we believe we are the adopted sons of God through Jesus the Son of God. This powerful belief represents the basis of our actions.
Faith is convinced of things not seen. What are some things that are unseen? We cannot see the future, unless God reveals it. The future promises, which remain hidden because the time has not yet come, convince the believer, like Abraham, that the course of time must produce the outcome God reveals. Obviously, the future can never be experienced much less observed; so we must accept Gods promises without ever being able to see it. If we are children of God, than we must trust what He says.
God hides many more things from our eyes. He tells us, for example, that He created the universe by command. Not being there, we have to take His word, the very same word that commanded the universe into existence. More astonishing to the non-scientist, is the fact that the entire material world is not solid but energy at a certain frequency, if you will, that creates a kind of force field, depending on its atomic structure, which appears as iron, sand, wood, or flesh. Schroeder in the Hidden Face of God tells us that Gods Language is found in each of the smallest building block of matter. The very creation convinces those willing to listen to Gods words that faith believes in what cannot be seen, whether the past proof of Gods Nature, the future promises, or the hidden face of God in all of the universe. Still faith continues to be useless information unless acted upon. We trust the floor to hold us up; so we walk upon it. We trust the aeroplane to rest on the pressure of air beneath its wings; so we travel great distances in a short time. What good is trusting something if we refuse to use it.
We have history of those who acted in faith:
To begin with faith, believes the promise. Noah believed the promise that the ark God told him to build would save him. Abraham believed God who told him he would have a huge progeny who would live in the land. Of course these and many others could not see the future promise because, obviously, the future had not yet come. Yet they trusted Gods word that He could and would make what He promised come about.
Noah could not have known that the Unseen God would ravage the Earth with the flood, but he acted as if knew that fact. In reality, Noah trusted Gods Words and acted upon that belief by building an ark to float upon the waters to come. Gods Words assured him and convinced him to act.
Heb. 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
That is faith. If Noah ignored what God said or did not believe His Words, he would not have built and ark; and, as well, Abraham would not have attempted to sacrifice his son upon whom the promises would come. You see all people have faith, the Will to Believe as James says. What a person believes comes from what he hears or learns and is shown not just by what he thinks or says, but also by what he does. Thinking and saying prove nothing except to incite action at some point. The proof of faith is in the doing.
James 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
A person believes Jesus is lord but refuses to keep the day he is lord of: the Sabbath, that person has no faith in Jesus by which the new promise has come: eternal life in the Kingdom of God. What ever else a person thinks he believes, his true faith is shown by his works. The commandment says to work six days, but faith works seven days. Faith works according to Gods laws six days a week to earn a living, and more to give to the poor. The seventh day faith works by resting in imitation of God, Jesus and the apostolic fathers, and on that day working to give worship and glory to Our Father in Heaven.
True faith is a simple concept: act on what the Bible says to do.
Like Father Like Son
This cliché stands out as a proverbial truth. The reason some claim deity for Jesus understandably, perhaps, is because Jesus acts like his Father in Heaven, and Our Father in Heaven. If we are going to act out the Faith of the Bible, we could use a role model: Jesus. We have to believe in him as our older brother, the one in loco parentis, and his perfect love of God and us. And as our faith increases, that is, as we demonstrate our faith more and more, we become more like Jesus, more like Our Father in Heaven. Then maybe one could say of us: like Father like son.
So just how do we imitate the Brother. Obviously, we have to read about him, because his is a few blocks away (in heaven) and not available to watch and hear. But, we are assured that the gospel gives us all we need to model the Brother.
Matt. 7:24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
Jesus role model compares to a rock in that it is rock solid and destined to stand the ravages of time, events and deceptions. But, can we really imitate the things Jesus did? Well, let us not put the cart, you know, before the equine beast. We must first learn of him in detail and commit his words and deeds to memory. We do not want to be like the person putting the gadget together only referring to the manual when the darn thing just does not fit together properly.
To begin with we need to know his origin, in Gods mind from the beginning, not that God did not know us also from the beginning of time as well.
Eph. 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
Eph. 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
That being so, let us determine his greatest strength: putting Gods will before his or any humans. Gods will was that we would believe that Jesus is the Son of God who reversed Adams obeisance to the demon and worshipping it as the god of this world and bowing down to it as the governing spiritual authority on Earth. By remaining loyal and obedient to Our Father in Heaven, Jesus then died for sins we committed, and thus, as we all know, freed us from the penalty of the sins, death. A true hero, Jesus gave up his life for others, and also received a scourging and beating beyond any before or after. Did he not prove his faith by his actions? Would we do likewise if called upon, too?
1John 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
1John 3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
1John 3:7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;
1John 3:8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
1John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
When we abide in God, that is, His words abiding in us that lead to our righteous actions, we prove our faith in the unseen, that the gift of the Holy Spirit which assures us we are children of God. And act, hopefully, like Our Father in Heaven.
Faith Supplies Moral Excellence
Watching, that is, reading the Gospel, Brother in action teaches us the ways of moral excellence. We see his compassion, never neglecting to help his fellow man by healing, feeding, instructing, and even giving the wedding guests some wine, a lot of wine. He was always good company and often invited to important peoples homes. He was never too tired to help. His concern was doing Our Father in Heavens will and saving people from sin, sickness and death.
His knowledge of Our Father in Heavens words was and probably is beyond anyones. He apparently studied the scriptures since he was a youth and never let them out of his mind. He constantly expounded the ancient understanding of Gods words, which those in his age had no comprehension of. He knew that having Gods words living in ones minds was the only way to gain life and life more abundantly. But, just knowing the word, Jesus taught, was the guide to doing Gods Way, not a goal in and of itself.
Letting the richness of Gods words lead a person brings about the kind of self-control the keeps us from the deceptions of evil and the evil one. Not easy, but we must fight our selfish drives to do Gods will and behave like Jesus. Always keeping our guard up, we force ourselves to do the right thing regardless of what we feel like doing. What ever we follow makes us slaves: to God by righteousness or to doom by loving sin.
Jesus taught us to never give up, never take the easy way out. Just as he persevered in teaching and good works, we, too, must plow always in the field of righteousness. How many times do we hear about people who give up just before they become victorious? Just one more step. All right just one more step. Well, one more step, no matter how many steps it takes until we complete the journey set out by Our Father in Heaven. When perseverance is completed, we receive a satisfaction in and of itself.
But, perseverance in the Way of righteousness brings about a godly character in our lives. Then people will say of us: he is his Fathers son. Just as Our Father in Heaven persevered through out the ages until He brought us into salvation, we become godly by our acts of goodness laid out before us.
Then everything comes around again. All our imitation of Our Father in Heaven is demonstrated by our brotherly kindness. Instead of worrying about what we will eat or drink, we ought to be concerned about how we can help our fellow man, as Jesus did. Maybe we cannot yet heal or prophesy as Jesus did, but we can heal by encouraging words and act on and speak about the words of life. Anything we do to help, heals the heart and soul. Any time our positive and concerned attitude translates into action, we prophesy about the Kingdom of God.
Finally, all these things become the highest virtue, the acts of love where glorifying God and giving unstintingly becomes who we are. Then, we become fruitful branches of the vine which is Christ. Then we become children of the Living God. And people will point out: he acts just like his Father in Heaven.
2Pet. 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2Pet. 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
2Pet. 1:5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
2Pet. 1:6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
2Pet. 1:7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
2Pet. 1:8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2Pet. 1:9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
2Pet. 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
2Pet. 1:11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
2Pet. 1:12 ¶ Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.
Work of God
John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.
If we believe Jesus is Lord, we act on that belief. Thus, the first and most important act of faith is keeping the day Jesus is Lord of, the Sabbath. Further, we imitate, as Jesus did, Our Father in Heaven when we rest from our labors as God did.
Faith Works by Being Loyal
A person who has faith is faithful to his beliefs or to the person he trusts. We call a faithful person loyal, which comes from the root liege, as my liege or Lord. Liege is the root for love in English. There we put everything together when we think of loyalty because when faith works, we call it love. When we trust Gods promises, when we believe in the Lord, Jesus, we become loyal servants. No, we become much more; we become part of the God Family, adopted children of Our Father in Heaven. We behave like Our Father in Heaven by keeping his Family rules, the Ten Commandments and by being loyal to Our Lord, who is in loco parentis, that is, assumed Gods Name, or authority.
Here are some Greek terms that help us to understand loyalty:
530. emuwnah, em-oo-naw´); or (shortened) emunah, em-oo-naw´} feminine of 529; literally firmness; figuratively security; morally fidelity
529. emuwn, ay-moon´; from 539; established, i.e. (figuratively) trusty; also (abstractly) trustworthiness:faith(-ful), truth.
539.aman, aw-man´; a primitive root; properly, to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; figuratively to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; morally to be true or certain; once (Isa. 30:21; interchangeable with 541) to go to the right hand.
Faith works by keeping the commandments because this is the love of God. We know, of course, that the root of love in English is liege.
This related to life, from AS. Life, from AS leaf, dear, a common Teut. Word: Gtod liufs; L. lubet, it delights; AS. Lufu, whence Eng. Love. Sanskrit. Lubhto desire
but note that what we like, we think is just so; hence, OHG gilouban; AS. Geliefan, whence ME. Beleven, whence Eng. Believe. Thus we believe in what we love. Shipley, Dictionary of Word Origins.
Gil Kovacs, Pastor
Sabbath Christian Church