The Six Foundation Doctrines - Hebrews 6:1-2
Bible Study Series Part 2: Faith Toward God
Notes prepared by Pastor Bob Beverley
To listen to Pastor Bob presenting this Bible study click here.
Hebrews 6 mentions 'faith toward God' as the second foundation doctrine, without which we will not grow into spiritual maturity. A dictionary definition of faith is 'the belief or hope that a certain statement is true' - if something is true it is worthy of trust, and so the primary principle of faith is our trust in God.
Hebrews 11 says that 'faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen'. We need to see the distinction between faith and hope - hope is directed towards the future, while faith is established in the present. Hope is in the mind, but faith is in the heart!
1Thessalonians 5 tells us to 'put on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation'. Romans 10 says that 'with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation', so 'believes' becomes an action. In John 6, Jesus says 'he that believes on me has everlasting life'. True scriptural faith in action produces everlasting life here and now within the believer.
We do not base our faith on what we see or experience. If we did it would not be faith. We base our faith on what the Word of God says - 'we walk by faith not by sight' (2Corinthians 5:7). We believe first, and then we see the results of our faith. Nevertheless our own past experiences and the testimony and experiences of others can greatly encourage us.
The experience of Abraham
As soon as God said 'I have made you a father of many nations' Abraham believed that him. Romans 4:18 says that Abraham, against hope, believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations. He had both faith and hope - hope for the future and faith in the present. His hope for the future was the outcome of his faith in the present. In Romans 4:11 he is called 'the father of all them that believe'.
So our Christian faith must follow Abraham's example, rather than the testimony of our senses, feelings and emotions which can be variable, subjective and unreliable. We must have complete confidence that what the Bible says is true. In John 17 Jesus says to his Father 'thy Word is truth'.
In Romans 10:10 we read that 'with the mouth confession is made unto salvation'. There is a basic principle here of the connection between the heart and the mouth - faith and belief in the heart and confession with the mouth.
In Hebrews 1 we are told that Christ is the apostle and high priest of our profession (confession). If we fail to confess our faith on earth we don't give Christ the opportunity to act on our behalf in heaven.
So in summary, scriptural faith is a condition of the heart, not the mind, and it is in the present, not just hope for the future. It produces a positive change in our behaviour and experience. It is based solely on God's word and accepts the testimony of the senses only when this agrees with the testimony of God's word. It is expressed by confession with the mouth.
The scripture in Habakkuk 2 'the just (righteous) shall live by his faith', is also quoted in Romans 1, Galatians 3 and Hebrews 10, and is the basic scriptural authority for the gospel message preached by the apostolic church in the first three centuries and ever since. The word 'live' covers all human experience - spiritual, mental, physical and material. Everything we do must be motivated and controlled by this one great basic principle of faith.
For instance, what does the scripture in Romans 14:23 mean? 'He that doubts is condemned if he eats, because he eats not from faith'. We acknowledge that God has been the provider, we therefore thank him for it, and we appreciate that the health and strength we receive through our food belong to God and use them accordingly. Compare this to Ecclesiastes 5 'all his days he eats in darkness and has much sorrow and sickness and anger' - a statement about natural man.
Faith is united with Humility
We must acknowledge our own limitations. True faith understands those things which can be done by man and those which can be done by God. We do the simple, small, possible thing and God will do the complicated, great, impossible thing. Matthew 19 says that 'with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible', and in Mark 9, Jesus said 'if you believe, all things are possible'. Through faith, God's possibilities become ours.
For example in Joshua 1 God says to Joshua 'every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that I have given unto you.' Joshua leading his people accordingly is an example of active, personal, appropriating faith!
The promises of God are true. Even though we may not see all things come to pass in our physical lives as we might have hoped, we rest assured and we have the evidence in our hearts of the things we cannot see. The most important promise and evidence is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, he lives inside us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and gives us eternal life through our continued belief in him.
What is 'the evidence of things not seen''?
In Galatians 2 Paul talks about having 'the faith OF the Son of God', (as opposed to his own faith). The evidence of things not seen is Jesus Christ living inside us, and the major change this has brought about in our lives. The more we allow our own spirit to be in submission to the Holy Spirit, to the 'faith of the Son of God', the more fruitful we will be and the more evidence we will show of our faith.
Faith is directly linked to the Word of Truth, and is an integral part of salvation.
How do we obtain Faith?
Ephesians 2 tells us 'by grace you are saved through faith and that not of yourselves lest anyone should boast'. We are saved by having faith. When God first calls us by his grace, we have the chance to respond with confidence believing that his promises are true (this is faith), and by beginning to believe in Jesus and the opportunity to be saved.
Romans 10:14-17 asks: 'how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? . so then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God'.
Faith is the result of teaching, and of hearing the Word of God preached. Once the word has been heard and understood we are confronted with a choice - believe it or reject it. By believing it, and by believing those things that cannot be seen, we putting faith in God. A mustard seed of belief from within us brings the faith of Jesus Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this is the only way we can receive the faith of Christ. We are therefore sent to preach, so that others that hear can believe and come to him and be saved.
Who is eligible for Faith?
Romans 3 says that all those who believe are justified freely by his grace, which means that when we believe Jesus took our sin, and are born of water and the Holy Spirit we are washed clean and not judged guilty. We are declared 'righteous'. Romans 5 says that we have peace with God, and access by faith into the 'grace in which we stand' - faith brings peace with God and access into his grace.
If we are 'declared righteous' by being justified, does anything else makes us righteous? 'To him who works, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, even as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works.' (Romans 4:4-8).
So if faith makes us righteous - can works make us righteous? See Galatians 2:16-21 '..Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me'. No amount of good works can make us righteous and Isaiah tells us that all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags. That is why we must be born again and have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But having been made righteous and received His faith we are then to work the works of faith. James 2:17&18 says: 'faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say "you have faith, and I have works". Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'
As we recognize that it is only by the grace of God that we have received the faith to be saved, we then 'cease from our own works' (Hebrews 4:10) and rest upon him alone for salvation at the day that he returns.
Belief is the specific continuing act of faith by which a sinner is justified before God, and this trust, this reliance, this hope, is the essence of Christian faith.
Other important characteristics of faith
- Faith allows us to discern spiritually. 1Corinthians 2:14-16 says that things that come from the spirit of God are spiritually discerned and that the natural man cannot understand them - but we have the mind of Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
- Faith allows us to become enlightened. John 6:44 - we can only come to Jesus if God the father draws us. 2 Corinthians 4:6 'God commanded light to shine out of darkness, giving knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'.
- Faith gives us wisdom and understanding. In Ephesians 1:17-19 Paul prays that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
- Faith depends on the attitude 'thus says the Lord'. Read 1John 5:9-15 which ends with a statement of faith - 'if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us and if we know that he hears us we know we have the petitions we desired of him'.
- We are to live by faith. Romans 1:16-17 says that 'the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation . the righteousness of God is revealed . the just shall live by faith' (a quote from Habakkuk 2:4)
- We can overcome the world (sin) by faith. 1John 5:4 'whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith'.
- Knowledge and obedience are essential ingredients of faith. See 1John 2:3 'now by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments'.
- Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6 says that 'he who comes to God must believe that he is (exists) and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him'.
- Faith without love is useless. 1Corinthians 13:13 'and now abides faith, hope, charity (love of God), these three; but the greatest of these is love'.
- It is possible to move mountains with faith. See Mark 11:21-26 - Jesus said 'have faith in God . whatever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them'. The mountain you are trying to move - will it bring glory to God? 1 John 5:14,15 'according to his will'.
- Great things can be accomplished with faith. Hebrews 11:32-40 'Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel and the prophets . who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong . had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonment .'. The world was not worthy of them, they were all commended for their faith yet none of them received what had been promised. 'God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us (outside the Holy Spirit ministry) should not be made perfect'.
It can be difficult, but it is critical to understand that we should not be discouraged if our faith does not reap all the rewards of the promises of God as we understand them while we are on this earth. Most of the Old Testament men and women of faith never received what had been promised them - but they had real faith. Remember the original definition 'faith is the evidence of things not seen'. They had trust in what cannot be seen - in the promises of God and eternal life. Lack of understanding on our part must not be allowed to bring condemnation. Romans 8:1 encourages us: 'there is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus ..'
John 20:27-29 'then he (Jesus) said to Thomas, reach your finger here and behold my hands; and reach your hand here and thrust it into my side; and do not be unbelieving but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, "my Lord and my God". Jesus said to him "Thomas, because you have seen me you have believed: blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed".
THIS IS FAITH!