Friday, July 15, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 39

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.


Because faith is the means by which we preserve our souls, the Writer of Hebrews now begins to discuss faith at length. He begins:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. (Hebrews 11:1-2, NASB 95)
As I have written before, salvation by faith is an aspect of the Old Covenant. It is not what makes the New Covenant great or different from the Old Covenant. Gaining God's approval has always been by faith over the keeping of the Law. But what does the Writer mean by "assurance of things hoped for" and "conviction of things not seen?" Thanks to chapter divisions, it is easy to miss part of the answer. Let's join the end of chapter 10 and the start of chapter 11 together:
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1)
In chapter 10, the Writer spoke of "accepting joyfully the seizure" of property because we have "a better possession and a lasting one." He spoke of having confidence that he and the ones he was writing to would not shrink back. Real faith is the means by which we make choices that are crazy if the reality behind our faith is not true. As Paul wrote, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)" Real faith can never be an intellectual acknowledgement of the facts of Christianity. Real faith is something that you rest your weight on when the world tells you that doing so will result in a fall. Faith is conviction and assurance. Notice that the Writer does not use the word belief. Conviction and assurance come from our faith meeting the trials and tribulations of life. Conviction and assurance come from the Holy Spirit who "testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:16)" Conviction and assurance comes from those who have persevered and triumphed before us (Hebrews 11). Faith is important to the Writer, because it was a failure of faith that caused his ancestors to balk at the border of the promised land--and it was the failure of faith that caused many of his contemporaries to turn their backs on Jesus the Son of God and their Messiah. The operating principle of both covenants is faith. It is vital and necessary. And so he begins to write about past saints and their faith. By this the Writer hopes to increase faith where it is found and plant faith where it does not yet exist. It will be an inspiring journey. Test everything. Cling to what is good.