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1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Paul gives the best definition of faith extant.
He says, "faith is a confident anticipation (upostasiv) of things hoped for, a full persuasion of events not seen" (Heb. 11:1). This is the faith without which, he tells us afterwards, God is not, and cannot by any possibility be pleased. It is a faith which lays hold of the past and the future.
The person who possesses it, knows what is testified concerning Jesus by the apostles, and is fully persuaded of its truth; he also knows the exceeding great and precious promises which God has made concerning things to come, and he confidently anticipates the literal fulfilment of them.
Laying hold of these things with a firm faith, he acquires a mode of thinking and a disposition which are estimable in the sight of God; and being like Abraham in these particulars, he is prepared by induction into Christ, to become a son of the father of the faithful, and of the friend of God.
This faith comes by studying the Scriptures, as it is written, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). This word contains "the testimony of God." When this testimony is understood, and allowed to make its own impression in "a good and honest heart," faith establishes itself there. There is no more mystery in this, than how one man comes to believe another guilty of a crime when he is made acquainted with all the testimony in the case.
The ability to believe lies in a sound understanding, a candid disposition, and knowledge of the testimony of God. Where there is ignorance of this there can be no faith. It is as impossible for a man ignorant of God's word to have faith, as it is for a man to believe another is guilty of an alleged crime who knows nothing at all about the matter. But, one may say, there are multitudes who believe in Christ who are very ignorant of the Scriptures. Yes, they believe in Christ as Turks believe in Mohammed. But this is not the faith defined by Paul. The mere belief that Jesus is the Son of God is not believing in Him. To believe in Him is to believe what God testifies concerning Him.
The faith of the "religious world" is like a stool with only one leg. It professes to believe in Jesus, but it is ignorant, and therefore faithless, of the message He was sent to deliver to Israel. His message had relation to "the things hoped for"--to the things of the kingdom which the God of heaven will set up upon the ruin of the kingdoms which now exist. Men are invited to believe in the Messenger of the Covenant, and in the message which unfolds the things of covenant.
This is an important intimation, importing that no religious services are acceptable to God which are not predicated on the belief of His Promises.
Elpis Israel 1.4.
Now, faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17); in other words, it is the belief of God's testimony concerning things to come, which are not seen (Heb. 11:1); and without which, it is impossible to please Him (verse 6). When a man is renewed by the truth, he is renewed by the spirit, and not before. There is no such thing in the Scriptures as a renewed ignorant man. Ignorance of the testimony of God, and regeneration, are utterly incompatible.
The truth is the purifier to those only who understand and obey it (1 Peter 1:22) and there is no moral purity, or sanctification of spirit before God, without it. It is only believers of the truth, then, who can be the subjects of a regeneration by being submerged "in the laver of the water." When they come out of this, they have been "washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus by the spirit of God" (1 Cor. 6:11).
The truth to be believed is the gospel of the kingdom and name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). When this is understood, and heartily received, it produces a disposition of mind, such as was in Abraham and Jesus, and which is called repentance. Believers, so disposed, are the begotten of God, and have become as little children.
They believe the exceeding great and precious promises," together with the things testified concerning the sufferings and resurrection of Jesus. He fell into a deep sleep; and, while thus unconscious and insensible, His side was opened by a spear, and forthwith rushed blood and water (John 19:33-34). Being awoke out of His sleep, He was built up a spiritual body, flesh and bones; and, by His ascension, presented to the Father as the federal representative of His ecclesia.
This is the aggregate of those, who, believing these things, have been introduced into Christ through the laver of the water; according to the saying of the Scriptures, "ye are all the children of God in Christ Jesus through the faith. For as many as have been baptized into Christ have entered into Christ," . * * * ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and HEIRS according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).
Elpis Israel 1.2.
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
This made Cain fierce and sullen. He refused to "bring of the firstlings of the flock, and of the fat thereof." He did not believe in its necessity, having no faith in the remission of sins by the shedding of sacrificial blood (Heb. 9:22; 10:4-14); nor in the fulfilment of God's promise concerning Him, who, being "bruised in the heel," or slain as Abel's accepted lamb, should arise, and "bruise the serpent's head," in destroying the works of sin (1 John 3:8).
This is what Cain did not believe; and his faithlessness expressed itself in neglecting to walk in "the way of the Lord." Nevertheless, he continued "a professor of religion;" for "he brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord." But the Lord paid no respect to him or his offering; because, in neglecting the sacrifice, he had set up his judgment against God; and in being faithless had in effect treated God as a liar; for, saith the Scripture, "he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar" (1 John 5:10).
But Cain's sullen anger against God could only wound himself. His refusal to obey Him could not injure the Most High. He insulted God with his "will-worship and voluntary humility" (Col. 2:18), and convicted himself as an evil-doer.
Elpis Israel 1.4
Faith, then, in the Seed of the woman, first as a sacrifice for sin, wounded to death by His enemies, and afterwards the destroyer of the sin-power, in connexion with the sacrifice of animals as representative of the bruising of His heel--was the ground of their acceptance with the Lord God.
It was the way of life. If they walked with God in this way, they would be as pleasing to him as Enoch afterwards was, who was translated about 57 years after Adam's death. It was the way which was corrupted by the antediluvians, and although the sacrifices have been interrupted, the faith and hope which gained celebrity and commendation to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and a cloud of other witnesses, comprehended substantially the same things, but less in detail than in that faith which was preached by the apostles as the gospel of the kingdom and name of Christ, for the justification of all who should believe.
The things believed by Abel, as compared with the faith preached on Pentecost, were as the acorn to the oak. The gospel of the kingdom in the name of Jesus was the revelation in full of the things communicated in the beginning, and afterwards more considerably amplified in the promises made to the fathers of the people of Israel.
When the saints are all gathered into the kingdom, they will not find themselves in an unexpected situation. They will all be there by virtue of believing the same things; though some, contemporary with the later history of the world, will have had the advantage of more abounding testimony. Their sins will have been covered upon the same principle--by the raiment of righteousness derived from the sacrifice, by faith in whose blood they had been cleansed.
There is no true religion without faith, nor any true faith without the belief of the truth. Now, although a Scriptural faith is the scarcest thing among men, it is exceedingly simple, and by no means difficult to acquire, when it is sought for aright.
Elpis Israel 1.5
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
It is an extraordinary fact that Elijah alone of the prophets (Enoch, the seventh from Adam, excepted) should not die. Paul's comment in Enoch's case probably furnishes the explanation of the case of Elijah.
The one feature specially visible in Elijah's life is the one he referred to when excusing himself for having fled from the face of Jezebel :
"I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword."
God is jealous of His honour, though full of compassion and kindness. We may therefore understand how pleasing to Him would be Elijah's undiluted and untiring zeal on His behalf. For the same reason we may understand how God would feel at liberty (as we might express it) to exempt Elijah from the common lot of men, in translating him like Enoch, " that he should not see death."
The offensiveness of sin, which brings death, is its violation of the divine supremacy, and therefore of the divine honour. Its antidote, in the sense of allowing God to forgive, is the recognition, the assertion, the vindication of that divine supremacy. This is what was done in the condemnation of sin in the crucifixion of Christ. It is what, in another form, " pleased God" in the case of Elijah, and admitted of his removal without death.
Bro Roberts - Ministry of the prophets
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
How practical was Abraham's faith?
Imagine a man of substance, with numerous friends, possessed of a large retinue of servants, starting suddenly off without being able to say whither be was bound (Heb. xi. 8).
Abraham's children walk in Abraham's steps. They obey God, though often unable to see where the command will lead them. Abraham's children of today have received a call. They have been commanded to "come out"- to leave (in a moral sense) their idolatrous kinsfolk, and to confess themselves to be "strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
They have been exhorted to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear. If faithful they exhibit their father's mind; they suffer themselves to be led by God and recognise that their surroundings are only temporary - that at any moment they may be summoned to leave them.
Such a disposition is acceptable to God, and He is not ashamed to be called the God of those who possess it (Heb. xi. 16). Will He be ashamed to call Himself our God?
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, May 1887.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
INHERITING THE PROMISES
The verb "inherit" is here used indefinitely, and may be past, present, or future, or all together at the same time, according to the nature of the subject. Supposing, therefore, the allusion is to the promise of eternal life and the kingdom of God, it settles nothing as to the question when these are possessed: the scope of the tense would have to be governed by the facts of the case. But the context shows that the allusion was to a past occurrence.
Paul immediately adds, "For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing, I will bless thee, and multiplying, I will multiply thee; and so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise."-(Heb. vi. 13, 15.) The reference is therefore to the promise of a multitudinous posterity, which Abraham began to realise before his death. When the promise was given, Sarah was old and barren, and there was no human probability of his having seed; but after patient faith, the promise was fulfilled.
But that Abraham is inheriting the promises, in so far as they involved eternal life and the kingdom of God, is contrary to Paul's express declaration. "These all (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, &c.,) died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off."-(Heb. xi. 13.)
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, April 1868
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
The study of the promise unconnected with the study of the fathers is impossible. Those who are ignorant of the biographies of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, must be ignorant of the gospel, for these patriarchs were the depositories of the promises, which constitute the gospel-hope, and of them Abraham is especially designated as the holder of the promises (Heb. 7:6)
It is for this reason that a man must become of Abraham's seed by adoption through Jesus Christ. Unless a son of Abraham by a like faith and disposition with him, neither Jew nor Gentile can share in Abraham's estate. It is only Abraham's spiritual family that can divide with him the promises he holds.
God has made him the spiritual father of mankind, and the Lord Jesus the elder Brother of the family. If, therefore, a man become a brother of Jesus, he at the same time becomes a son of Abraham, for Jesus is Abraham's seed, and was in the loins of Isaac when Abraham offered his only son, and received him from the dead again in a figure.
If the reader understand this matter, he will fully comprehend the meaning of the apostle's saying, that believers "are all children of God (being Abraham's) by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And if Christ's THEN Abraham's seed and HEIRS according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).
Elpis Israel 2.2
26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
To walk faithfully regardless of reward is impracticable. It is not Bible requirement. The Deity's arrangement (and His way is perfect) is set forth in the following:
"Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" (1 Cor. iii. 8).
Here is an incentive to work-to work hard, and the incentive lies in the prospect of remuneration! Some call this selfish. Be that as it may, it is selfishness of a kind which God approves. It is to be seen in the characters of the most estimable.
Christ endured because of the prospective joy (Heb. xii. 2); Moses had respect into the recompense of the reward (Heb. xi. 8); Paul pressed forward for the prize of the high calling (Phil. iii. 14).
Regard for self is not unscriptural if it be fostered according to the divine mind. Man's interest (in the true sense) can only be secured by pleasing God. His pleasure requires us to practise self-abasement. This is a condition which discovers the godly from among the ordinary run of self-seekers.
The condition involves a trial-a trial which alone can be borne by those who keep the reward well to the front.
Who cannot heartily endorse the words of the Psalmist: "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?" -
Bro AT Jannaway
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
They are not to be thus perfected until all the believers of the promise are brought in; for all the faithful of all previous ages are to be perfected together...
Elpis Israel 2.2.