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Now Faith Is

The scripture has several ways of expressing what a man does when he exercises saving faith in Jesus. Sinners are saved by grace through FAITH (Ephesians 2:8-9). They TRUST in Christ (Ephesians 1:12). They RECEIVE Jesus and BELIEVE on his name (John 1:12-13). They CALL UPON the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). They OPEN THE DOOR of their hearts and let Jesus in when he knocks (Revelation 3:20). All these biblical expressions represent what a man does at the moment God saves him from his sins. 

Some express the salvation formula as “accepting Christ as personal Saviour.” I don't care much for that phrase. While I get the sentiment, there exists no biblical reference to men “accepting Christ.” When Jesus saved me at age twelve on my knees by my bedside, I had no thought of accepting Christ. I did, however, have a heart-felt desire to be saved from my sins by trusting (believing on) Jesus, calling on his name and opening the door of my heart. A truly biblical discussion of “acceptance” in the matter of salvation has nothing to do with whether a man has accepted Christ, but whether God in Christ has accepted him (Ephesians 1:6). 

The one exception is found in 2 Corinthians 11:4, where Paul expressed concern over the Corinthians accepting 'another' gospel they had not heretofore accepted. When someone accepts the gospel, they no doubt accept the Christ of the gospel. But this is an indirect reference. I prefer to use the direct references of scripture—trusting, believing, receiving, calling upon and opening the door of the heart. 

In Hebrews 11:1, often referred to as “The Faith Chapter” of the Bible, Paul provides a more detailed definition of faith: 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Now is a logical now. It connects the truth Paul is about to introduce (11:1) with truth immediately preceding it (10:22-39). In those verses, Paul mentions “full assurance of FAITH” (10:22) and “the just shall live by FAITH” (10:38). In 10:38-39, he contrasts those who draw back unto perdition with those who BELIEVE to the saving of the soul, expressing confidence both he and his Jewish readers belong to the latter group. Having made these references to faith, he 'now' proceeds to explain the essence of saving faith and illustrate how it manifested itself in lives of OT saints. 

Faith is πίστις (pistis), “a conviction of truth, belief (with the predominate ideas of trust, confidence).” In the NT, it is used 244 times. It derives from a verb meaning “to persuade.” Faith is conviction born of persuasion. Persuasion is the child of repetition. Please do not criticize your preacher for repeating himself. Repetition is the  breeding ground for persuasion. When persuasion gives birth to rock-solid conviction, your church is better off for the repetition. Faith is far more than 'accepting' a set of facts. It is a persuasion about Jesus Christ that results in trusting him!

Paul defines faith as both substance and evidence in terms of what a believer hopes for and yet remains unseen. Substance is ὑπόστασις (hypostasis), “a setting or placing under.” It refers to that which has a foundation that's firm, a substructure. It's used five times in the NT. In two instances, it's translated “confidence.” The other three usages are in Hebrews. In 1:3, Paul declares Jesus to be “the express image of his [God's] person [substance].” Since Jesus is the express image of God the Father's substance, he MUST be God in the flesh. Jesus iterated this truth when he told Philip: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). In 3:14, the writer urges us to hold stedfast “the beginning of our confidence [substance].” The reason believers can “hold fast” is because faith has substance. The substance we hold to is Jesus—an “anchor” of the soul, both sure and stedfast, who's entered within the veil of the heavenly Tabernacle (6:9). 

I grew up in Miami. Back in the 1950's and '60's, it was common to drive down Collins Avenue and observe pile drivers sinking huge concrete pilings into beach sand to establish a firm foundation for the hotel that would rest upon it. Those concrete pilings were a substructure for the hotel even as Jesus is the foundation of our faith. 

In 11:1, the writer says: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” The verb hoped for is ἐλπίζω (elpizō), “to expect with confidence.” There is no “hope so” in biblical hope. It is a confident expectation God will perform all that he has promised. Biblical hope NEVER disappoints those who possess it (Romans 5:5). Our expectation of FUTURE glory is the Christ who NOW lives in us (Colossians 1:27). 

The writer adds: “The evidence of things not seen.” Evidence is ἔλεγχος (elegchos), “a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested.” It's used twice in the NT. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul used it to describe the profitability of scripture to provide “reproof” (evidence) of what is right versus wrong, of what is agreeable to God's will and what's contrary to it. If your fingerprints or other DNA is found at a crime scene, it would serve as 'evidence' or proof you were there. The words substance and evidence are inseparable! If someone asks a believer, “How can you believe in what you haven't seen?”, the believer may answer: “My faith IS my evidence!” But his faith is not standalone evidence. His evidence has substance, a firm foundation, in the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth—his life, his death, his resurrection and ascension to the Father's right hand. If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain. But the Person of Jesus Christ and his resurrection are the substance of our faith. 

Not seen is βλέπω (blepō), “to see or look upon with the physical eye, discern with the mind's eye.”  A believer never abandons his evidence even though he's unable to see it. The words “not seen” appear several times in the NT. (1) In post-resurrection remarks to Thomas, Jesus pronounced a blessing upon those had NOT SEEN him, and yet had believed—John 20:29. (2) Paul said eyes have NOT SEEN the things God has prepared for them that love him—1 Corinthians 2:9. (3) Believers live out their lives in a temporal setting looking at eternal things that are NOT SEEN—2 Corinthians 4:18. (4) Noah prepared an ark after being warned of God concerning things he had NOT SEEN—Hebrews 11:7. (5) Peter reminded readers they loved Jesus even though they had NOT SEEN him—1 Peter 1:8. For these things not seen, there's evidence they're substantive. Faith is substance and evidence of unseen things, making them as real as if they we had already experienced them. 

Things is πρᾶγμα (pragma), “an accomplished fact, a real act or object.” The word “pragmatic” comes from this root. Pragmatism has to do with the practical as opposed to the theoretical. There is nothing theoretical about the place called heaven Jesus has prepared for believers (John 14:1-3). Nor is there anything theoretical about the glorified body with which Jesus will one day clothe his people (Philippians 3:21). The things for which believers have an expectation are absolutely pragmatic. They're tangible! It is worth noting that while the word “things” appears twice in the KJV text, πρᾶγμα appears only once in the Greek text. This is important because the things we are hoping for and the unseen things we are looking to see one day are not TWO sub-groups, but rather ALL the things belonging to ONE glorious salvation package. 

Now faith is the substantive foundation for everything we are hoping for in Christ and the evidentiary proof of everything not yet seen that shall be seen. Faith is the unshakable certitude, the conviction, the persuasion that what God has promised us he is well able to perform and deliver. Biblical hope is not a “think so” or “sure hope so” hope. It's a “know so” expectation! Biblical faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


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