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by Mark Horne

I originally wrote this a few weeks ago in April 2002 as a column in the local newspaper, The Minco Millennium under the title “Faith & Follow-Through.”

Copyright © 2002

Several passages in the book of Hebrews are difficult for Protestants to swallow. The author affirms the once-and-for-all work of Christ and yet he warns his readers to remain faithful or face eternal consequences. Under severe persecution they are being tempted to renounce Christ and go back to Judaism. He tells them that their inheriting depends on their continuene in faith:

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (6.10-12).

Faith and patience? We typically insist that faith alone justifies, and we are right to do so in many ways. But insisting that the eye alone, of all the organs in the human body, is the one that sees, does not mean that an eye ripped out of the body is able to detect light. Dead, dismembered, eyes are always blind and faith dismembered from obedience is also dead and equally useless.

The author of Hebrews gives us a list of “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” in his famous “faith chapter”–chapter 11. This chapter claims that many heroes of the Old Testament accomplished great things “by faith.” But the author of Hebrews does not leave us simply with the information that faith is a “force” that accomplishes things mechanically. He gives us a motivational understanding of why faith would drive people to do these things.

A couple of examples should suffice:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (vv. 24-26).

So there you have it. Moses trusted God that it was better to endure ill treatment in the present than “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” I’m sure the passing pleasures of sin looked real good, but Moses trusted God that he had something better for him in the future. Trusting God for his future meant following God in the present rather than running after the treasures of Egypt.

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 (v. 7).

Noah, like Moses after him, trusted God and therefore trusted God’s promise about the future. In fact the statement that Noah was “warned by God about things not seen,” ties into the definition of faith set down at the beginning of the chapter: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The things not seen are not invisible present realities (though I’m sure the author of Hebrews believed in such things) but, as the statement about Noah shows, future things–things hoped for because God has promised them.

He goes on to reiterate his point, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (v. 3). If God made the world out of nothing, then we should know that the future does not need to be limited by what we see in the present. God can make a new world. The question is whether we trust him to do so.

He also states that, “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 seek Him.” Faith seeks. Noah believed God when God told him that something unimaginable was going to happen to the world he knew and that God would use an ark to bring him to the shores of a new world. Moses believed God that the milk and honey of Canaan was worth more than all the riches of the pyramids. In both cases, their trust in God motivated these men to follow God.

If we really trust God, then that same faith will cause us to follow him and

lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (12.1b, 2).

Copyright © 2002

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