Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Faith Itself - Not Works - Is What Pleases God

The Old Testament Bible characters listed in Hebrews 11 did some very wonderful things. But what was the root of all that they did? Were they credited for doing great things because they were such great, godly people? Or is there something deeper that is the root of what they did? Join us this week as we take a look at the foundational truth in their lives that caused them to do the things they did - the foundation of simple faith and trust in God. We look at how Abraham had been credited with faith, and how God had justified him by faith, before he had ever done a thing, and we look at a few more of the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11, showing how it was faith itself that pleased God - not what they did. The things they did were simply the outflow or result of their foundational belief in God.



  1. I'm loving these about Hebrews 11. They are often misrepresented in our minds due to a wrong perception of God's grace and what faith really is. We often think of faith itself as a work. Before I surrendered to grace, if you asked me how my faith was, I would have evaluated my performance and how I was doing with my Christian activities such as reading my Bible daily, having time alone with God, and trying to be good. I considered those things as being faith. I would reason, if I REALLY believe, I would be doing this. And so I would assent to the gospel of grace but deny it in practice.

    But I love it when you and Mike discuss faith that isn't tainted with flesh. It makes so much more sense.

  2. Matthew,

    I've really been enjoying going through Hebrews in the way that we've been doing it. It was not necessarily intentional to do it like this (we didn't start out trying to go through Hebrews), but once we did, what really came to light is that many of the oft-quoted verses from Hebrews are just as often taken out of the context of the more major point(s) that the writer was making.

    And so, along with what you're saying, we get these misrepresentations in our minds about God and our relationship to Him through grace and faith.

    I think your 'testimony' is probably common. I know it was true of me as well. My faith was defined by all the things I was (or wasn't) doing, and my 'level of faith' depended upon how well I was or wasn't doing those things! I now see faith apart from works. I see how faith can lead to works, but faith itself is a gift from God and it is not a work at all.

  3. Hey Joel,
    That Hebrews 11 is such a great and burdensome passage -- especially considering the ones whom "the world was not worthy of." Does our typical American evangelicalism recommend getting sawn in half for Jesus or wandering about destitute in sheepskins and goatskins, moving from cave to cave? I'm guessing that's not part of the church growth strategy for mega churches. But I rant...
    One idea I came across was that our faith in Jesus could easily have been translated the faith of Jesus. That our ability to "maintain our faith" has more to do with trusting Jesus faith in Father.
    Looking forward to what you have here, Joel! Good stuff.

  4. Jim,

    Great thoughts... in your 'rant' and in your other words. :)

    I've always sadly observed in the church that evangelism and growth strategies and other church life is about faith that gets more numbers, that gets people to give more, that gets a better worship team, that gets a bigger building, etc, etc. Honestly, when I hear about "faith" it's usually about getting people to do something, either for the church and/or to maintain their salvation. But yeah, I rant too. :)

    I've also heard, and agree with, thoughts from others about the "faith of Jesus." For example, the KJV translates Gal 2:20 as, "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God..."

    Young's Literal Translation says, "Christ doth live in me; and that which I now live in the flesh - in the faith I live of the Son of God..."

    I connect this with the end of Hebrews 11 and the beginning of Hebrews 12. As we said in one (or more of our recent programs), Hebrews 11 is better understood in light of the previous chapters that lead up to it, and then it sets up Hebrews 12 in which the writer says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (or 'looking unto Jesus'), the author and perfecter of our faith..."

    I think that's the overall point. It's all about Jesus; it's never been about 'us.' It's all about Jesus' trustful obedience to the Father. Our faith is a gift from God, and indeed the maintaining of our faith is not about "our" faith, it's about trusting Jesus' faith in Father, as you say.

    One thing we didn't bring up in any of our programs, yet I wish we would have, is the very end of Heb 11. These people, having done some really great things "by faith" (which can't be ignored), "were all commended for their faith, yet none of them receive what had been promised. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Heb 11:39-40)

    I believe the writer is saying, "look at what they did by faith... and yet we have something better!" And he moves on to once again acknowledging "the great cloud of witnesses" and encourages us to "look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter/finisher of our faith."

    Didn't mean to go so long, but this is how I tie "the faith of Jesus" with Hebrews 11 & 12.

  5. "were all commended for their faith, yet none of them receive what had been promised. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Heb 11:39-40)
    Yeah, that's an interesting one, Joel. There's the idea that in a sense the old saints had faith, but a Christless one...and they're not to blame for this, it's simply the nature of progressive revelation. More accurately, it was a faith without the indwelling Christ (the object of that faith) to give it completeness and power.
    There's also this kind of knitting together of the saints across the ages, both pre-New Covenant and post. The Body of Christ (not a metaphor) is complete as both are united, "made perfect or complete."

    Great stuff..always more to unpack, eh?

  6. Jim,

    Yep indeed, the faith of the Old Testament saints was not quite the same as what we have. It's truly interesting to discuss this. I think in one of our two upcoming programs (already recorded) I said something about the OT saints having a faith in Christ, "in a sense" - since Jesus is Jehovah and He's always existed - but not in the same way that we do.

    1 Cor 10:4 talks about our 'fathers' having all "drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." They didn't know it was Christ, but nevertheless it was Christ.

    As you say, they had faith without the indwelling Christ, and they didn't have the new heart/spirit that we do.

    Indeed... always more to unpack!

  7. I'd better grab this while im here, Joel just wanted to say hey.