This Week’s Focus Passage: Hebrews 11:1 ‘Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of
This Week’s Focus Passage: Hebrews 11:1
‘Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.’
The above is an inspired definition of ‘what faith is, and what it does.’ Assurance and conviction are among the answers to the question of what faith is in the heart of the individual having experienced the new birth. For it is a gift granted at the occasion of that new birth. Repentance and Faith are equally gifts given to His people by Jehovah Himself. We may read in Acts 5:30-32, of these gifts bestowed:
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so in the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
And see Ephesians 2:4-10, where we are informed by the apostle, in precious words;
But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherein he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.
Assurance and conviction are the choice words that translators of the Greek have determined to make use of in our focus passage. Saving faith involves ‘believing that,’ as we may read in the 6th verse of Hebrews 11, without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him. Assurance that ‘He is,’ and conviction ‘that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him.’ The first word which describes faith in this text may be translated by the word ‘assurance.’ The second word used in this text may be translated by the word ‘conviction.’ The King James translation may be said to wander slightly, for whatever reasons, from these choices, when they have rendered the verse after the following manner, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And they are followed by, not surprisingly, the New King James Version, as well as the 21st Century King James Version.
One writer has argued that ‘faith is commitment to the Christ of the Gospel.’ That is, that it means entrusting ourselves to Christ. Would that trust not necessarily require a huge helping of assurance? That surely seems to be a sensible assumption. To trust, or believe, in what is told you definitely necessitates assurance, and not only assurance in what is told you, but assurance toward the source of what is told. Do we believe that the Holy Scriptures are the very Word of God; and are we hearing the Voice of God, through the assurance of faith, when we read the Bible? The issue truly is, ‘is it possible to have any assurance apart from faith, or confidence, some suggesting ‘evidence,’ rather than confidence, or conviction. But is that not looking at the ‘evidence’ something not seen. While it is true that faith displaces the evidence of something seen, yet it is faith itself that ‘sees’ what is ‘unseen. There is no evidence, but faith requires none; it believes what it cannot see. John Murray the well-renowned Scottish theologian, long-time professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, has offered the following for our consideration, when writing:
“Faith must rise to trust, and to trust that consists in entrustment to Him [Christ]. In faith there is the engagement of person to person in the inner movement of the whole man to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation. It means the abandonment of confidence in our own or any human resources in a totality act of self-commitment to Christ.”—Murray, Collected Writings, Vol. 2; page 258.
The shorter catechism asks the question; “What is faith in Jesus Christ?” while the corresponding answer following, is, “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”
When will faith be sight? We would actually like to respond to that inquiry with Bible texts from the Older Testament. Interestingly, while there are nearly 280 instances of the term; the word, faith, in the Newer Testament, there are but three uses of the word ‘faith’ in the Older Testament. It might be interesting to consider these three usages. They may be found in Isaiah, Hosea, and Habakkuk. The passage in Hosea 2:4, speaks of the people ‘breaking faith.’ But in Isaiah 26:2, and also in Habakkuk 2:4, the use of ‘faith’ is conspicuously referencing biblical faith found in the people of God. Isaiah 26:1-3, reads (in the American Standard version-1901):
In that day shall this song be sung in Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will he appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation that keepeth faith may enter in. thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jehovah, even Jehovah, is an everlasting rock.
Matthew Henry’s comments on this passage are, as often, encouraging. He believed that this spoke prophetically, as it begins, In that day, and therefore wrote, “To the prophecies of gospel grace very fitly is a song annexed, in which we may give God the glory and take to ourselves the comfort of that grace: In that day, the gospel day, which the day of the victories and enlargements of the Old Testament Church was typical of (to some of which perhaps this has a primary reference).”
Whether we can fully agree with Henry, or not, this passage has influenced such thinking for years afterward. Frances Havergal hymned the words of Isa. 66:12, in her song, Like a River Glorious, joining with it words of faith, from 26:1-3, such as the well-known chorus, “Stayed upon Jehovah, Hearts are fully blest, finding as He promised, Perfect peace and rest.” Are these not things hoped for while not seen?
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
More in This Week's Focus Passage
September 18, 2021This Week’s Focus Passage: Isaiah ‘For this is as the waters of Noah unto me.’
September 11, 2021This Week’s Focus Passage: Hebrews 11:1 ‘Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of
September 4, 2021This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train up a child in the way he should go.’