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The Nature of Faith‚ and Examples of Faith.
The key to Paul's teaching about God's way of salvation is that "the just shall live by faith". In this chapter he embarks on a study of faith.
1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (NKJVTM)
Faith is the tangible possession of those things which are not yet realized. It regards the word of God as a rock solid foundation on which to place our whole confidence. It provides evidence that the invisible realm of God is real and genuine.
2. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. (NKJVTM)
It was for their faith that godly men in the Old Testament were renowned and well spoken of by God.
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. (NKJVTM)
It is faith which enlightens our minds to comprehend that God created the universe by his word. The word "framed" means "to complete thoroughly". The things which are now visible and tangible were not formed from anything tangible, but rather by spirit. This is why no part of any evolutionary theory can be accepted as is agreement with the word of God. There can be no natural explanation for the formation of matter - only a supernatural One, God alone.
Paul lists those patriarchs who were commended for their faith in order to illustrate its importance. The list reveals the variety of ways that faith reveals itself to be present in human lives.
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. (NKJVTM)
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice which was acceptable, whereas Cain's was rejected. Abel's offering of blood showed his faith in what God had promised and gave evidence that he was righteous, that is, in a right relationship with and accepted by God (Matt. 23:35). God himself told Cain that he should do what was right as his brother had done (Gen. 4:3-7). Even after his death, what he had done remains as an ever abiding witness to the righteousness which is by faith.
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. (NKJVTM)
By faith Enoch was taken from this life into paradise without experiencing death. The point of the comment "was not found" is that there was no dead body. He had walked with God for three hundred years, and one can only walk with God by faith. This gave witness that God was completely pleased with him, since two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Gen. 5:24).
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. (NKJVTM)
Without faith it is impossible to please God. In order to come to God one must have faith that he exists and that he can be known to man (that He rewards those who seek Him by letting them find Him.)
7. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (NKJVTM)
Noah had never seen an act of divine judgment, nor did he witness any outward evidence of its approach. In fact, Jesus said everything went on as normal until the day Noah entered the ark (Luke 17:27). Yet having received the warning from God that he would flood the world, Noah was moved with reverent fear to build an ark to save his family. His faith condemned the world and brought him into a right relationship with God. The world was condemned because it did not share Noah's faith.
8. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (NKJVTM)
It was because of their faith that men of God were able to hear God's voice and then having heard it, they obeyed. Such was the case with Abraham, who was called by God to leave Ur of the Chaldees and travel to a place God would show him (Gen. 12:1). He set out on the journey even though God had not yet told him what his destination was.
9. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. (NKJVTM)
By faith Abraham lived in the land God had promised him although God had not yet made it his possession. He built no permanent dwelling place, but lived in tents with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob like travelers in a foreign country - all the while knowing it would one day belong to their offspring.
10. For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (NKJVTM)
Abraham had been promised the land for his descendants, but for his own future, he looked far beyond that day to the next life, to his home in heaven, the place prepared for him by God.
11. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. (NKJVTM)
Sarah, Abraham's wife, had been barren all her life and by the time she reached ninety was past the age of child bearing anyway. But by faith in God, who promised that she would have a son, she received the impartation of strength and youthful vitality which enabled her to conceive. For the basis for her faith was her reckoning that God, who cannot lie, would be faithful to his word.
12. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude--innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. (NKJVTM)
As a result of both Abraham and Sarah's faith, Abraham had a son at the age of 100. The phrase "as good as dead" appears rather rude, but it simply means it was as likely for a dead man to have a child as a man 100 years old! Yet Isaac was born and though him Abraham had descendants which, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore cannot be numbered.
13,14. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. (NKJVTM)
These men and women of faith died without seeing the fulfillment of the promises, but believing that they would be fulfilled. They looked forward to the eternal day, being fully assured of its reality and that God would grant them their part in it. They confessed themselves to be pilgrims, traveling through the world as through a foreign land on their way to their heavenly home (Philip. 3:20).
15,16. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (NKJVTM)
These men and women of faith had abandoned their stake in the present world in favour of that which they saw beckoning to them from heaven. In those days, as today, those who long after the things of this world would eventually turn back to it and away from God, as they would have plenty of opportunities to do so. What kept the patriarchs on the road of faith was their desire and longing for an eternal home, a heavenly country. Because of this God was pleased to call them his people, since they had accepted his offer of an eternal dwelling place with Him.
17,18. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED." (NKJVTM)
When God called Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, he was testing the sincerity of his faith and devotion. Even though all his future hopes were bound up with Isaac, he obeyed God. Abraham knew that the fulfillment of God's promise lay ultimately with God alone. Although Isaac was the one through whom Abraham's descendants would come, Abraham still believed God could keep his word even if Isaac died.
19. Concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (NKJVTM)
For Abraham reasoned that in order to keep his promise, God would raise Isaac from the dead; which he did in a figurative sense. For God at the last moment prevented Abraham from hurting his son. The incident serves as a prefigure of how God would raise Christ, His only begotten Son, from death.
20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. (NKJVTM)
By faith Isaac confidently ascribed blessing to his sons with regard to their future, for he knew that God had promised blessing to his family.
21. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. (NKJVTM)
By faith Jacob worshipped God as he leaned because of old age on top of his staff. He may have been dying but he looked forward to an eternal day, and with his sense of God's promise and purpose for his family, blessed Joseph's sons, telling them what would become of them in the future.
22. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. (NKJVTM)
Joseph knew all about what God had told Abraham. It would have been passed down from generation to generation. He too, passed it on. When he was dying he reminded the children of Israel of God's promise to bring them out of Egypt into a land for their own possession (Gen. 13:14-15 ; Gen. 15:13-14). So convinced was he of God's promise that he gave careful instructions about the removing of his bones to the promised land.
23. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command. (NKJVTM)
Moses father Amram and Mother Jochobed are commended for their faith in God. (Exodus 2:1-2). At the time when Moses was born, they lived under threat from Pharaoh who had commanded all Hebrew new born males to be killed. They kept him hidden, but had no fear of the king's command, for by faith hey saw that God had a plan for Moses' life, since he was a "proper" child; that is, one who was promising.
24. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. (NKJVTM)
Moses himself, when a man, demonstrated that his own faith was like that of his parents, in that he accepted God's call in his life. He had been brought as the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, but instead confessed himself a Hebrew, one of God's people, and identified with them and their suffering in slavery.
25. Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. (NKJVTM)
As far as he was concerned, it was better to be one of God's people, even if that meant persecution and ill treatment, than to be without God, living only for this life and the short-lived pleasures of sin rather than the blessings of eternal life
26. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. (NKJVTM)
Moses considered suffering insult for Christ's sake to be something more to be desired than all the wealth of Egypt, since it would be rewarded with everlasting blessing.
27. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. (NKJVTM)
He left Egypt and all that could have been his behind him, to embrace whatever God gave him. He had no concern for what Pharaoh might say, for God was the invisible source of his steadfast strength.
28. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. (NKJVTM)
As Noah before him, Moses heard the voice of God pronouncing judgment on the land of Egypt and obeyed God's instructions to keep the Passover and so save his people from the destroying angel (see Exodus 12). Thus, whilst every firstborn Egyptian died, the Hebrews were kept safe under the blood of the slain lamb.
29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. (NKJVTM)
As they fled from Pharaoh, the people found themselves trapped - walled in by the Red Sea. As Moses cried out to God, God instructed him to hold his staff over the Red Sea (Ex.14:14-16). Moses believed the answer of God and as he did so the sea parted before them. Those presuming to enter the sea by a different way, without faith, were drowned.
30. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (NKJVTM)
Joshua and the people of Israel circled the walls of Jericho for seven days as they had been commanded by God, for the believed that He would give them the city against all odds. And He did so by bringing down the walls (see Joshua 6).
31. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. (NKJVTM)
Out of the entire city of Jericho, only one woman and her family were spared, Rahab, and that is because she too believed what she heard, that God would give Israel the land, and so she decided to cooperate with them, to come on side, by receiving in peace and helping the spies sent by Joshua (Josh. 6:25).
32. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets. (NKJVTM)
The number of illustrations faith given in the old testament is that it would take a great deal of time to tell of them all. So Paul lists a few more well known saints, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, and briefly sums up their acts of faith in verses 33 - 40.
33. Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. (NKJVTM)
It was through faith that these men and women overpowered the enemies of God's people; by faith they did what was right in God's sight; they received promises from God; even hungry lions could do them no harm (see Daniel 6).
34. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. (NKJVTM)
The flames of the furnace did not harm them (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3); were delivered from the danger of violence; became strong through God even though they were weak in themselves; were emboldened to bravery and given victory in battle.
35. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. (NKJVTM)
Through faith, dead children were raised to life by Elijah and Elisha. Other saints were tortured, refusing to recant their faith and be released, for they wished a part in the resurrection of life.
36. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. (NKJVTM)
As God's people, those men and women of faith were subjected to cruel mockery and beatings, They were chained and imprisoned, as Jeremiah was.
37. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. (NKJVTM)
Some were killed by stoning, by having their heads sawn off, or by the sword. They wore what clothes they could find or make, being destitute, homeless and penniless. They suffered, being ill treated and regarded by the ungodly as inferior to them.
38. Of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. (NKJVTM)
Yet they were of such worth in God's sight that the world was not worthy of them. They were citizens of a better, heavenly city, sojourning here for a brief time. They were persecuted from place to place and made their homes in the deserts and mountains, finding shelter like the animals in dens and caves, as Elijah and many others of God's people did in the days of wicked king Ahab.
Perfection Comes Only Through Jesus Christ.
39,40. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (NKJVTM)
Yet all of these, who were commended by God and set forth by him as examples of faith, did not receive the promise, which is fulfilled only in Christ. They looked forward to it and embraced it. But we have now entered into it through Jesus Christ. The perfection of our being made sons of God comes to old and new testament saints only through Jesus "the author and finisher of our faith".
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