Sermon: The Attributes of Faith (Hebrews 11:1-3)

The Attributes of Faith

Hebrews 11:1-3 (ESV)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  [2] For by it the people of old received their commendation.  [3] By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The Hebrew Christians, as has been noted before, were tempted to go back to their former ways and practices of Judaism.  One reason surfaces in this text of Scripture.  Judaism was a religion to behold.  The sights, sounds, and smells were breathtaking.  Can you imagine the amazement of the worshipper when he entered the temple and saw the shine of gold and silver?  It would be astounding to see the size of such a place with every flicker of the candles being reflected a hundred times.  Can you imagine the singing and the blasting of the shofar or the smell of the incense rising up and filling the room?  All this majesty was almost more than one could take in.

Christianity on the other hand does not have such breathtaking scenes.  As far as images go, it really has none, at least none that we can see now.  I’ve never once seen the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ve not been allowed into heaven like John was.

The Old Testament worshipper was hindered in the fact that he often began to worship what he saw and not the God it was to represent.  In many ways we are much better off.  They worshipped by sight, we worship what we can’t see.  We’re not distracted by visual images.  We worship the Lord by faith.

One thing that New Testament worshippers must be cautious with is trying to create visual images that would take away from our worship of God.  Visual images can compete with our devotion to God which is by faith.

They saw the great sights but their faith was lacking.  Those great sights didn’t remind them of One greater.  When they saw the architecture of the temple it didn’t remind them of the One who gave Moses the blueprint of the temple.

There was a group of people who couldn’t get past the visual to worship by faith the unseen God of heaven.  This group was not pleasing to God, in fact this group met with God’s wrath.  For them the magnificence of Egypt exceeded the glory of God.

Hebrews 3:3-19 (ESV)

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.  [4] (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)  [5] Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,  [6] but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

[7] Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

[8] do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

[9] where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works  [10] for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;

they have not known my ways.’

[11] As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest.’ “

[12] Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  [13] But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  [14] For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  [15] As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

[19] For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?  [17] And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  [18] And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  [19] So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Faith pleases God and a lack of faith or unbelief greatly displeases God.  The contrast is very clear.  There was an entire generation of Hebrews that rebelled and complained against God because they wanted to go back to Egypt rather than trust and believ God.  They were walking by sight and they were unable to see the outcome so they complained.  Their situation was sand and dessert and heat and thirst but they thought that it was all there was.  They thought that their present situation was how it would be forever.  They were not looking to a land whose builder is God.  They remembered Egypt, where they were slaves, as if it were the Promised Land.  They wanted their former life over a life with God.  They were guilty of unbelief and they died in their unbelief.  Like them, every person who does not have the faith God requires will also die in their unbelief.  If you’re here today and your assessment of yourself is that you lack saving faith, ask God to give it to you.  Plead with the Lord to give you what He requires.

The church today, for the most part, doesn’t understand true biblical faith.  We’ve all heard various manmade definitions of faith but all of them come up short of what true biblical faith is.  True biblical faith doesn’t originate within us.  Faith is part of the gift of salvation.  Saving faith is given by God alone.  It’s not the power of positive thinking.  It’s not manufactured within our own heart, faith comes by God alone.

Ephes. 2:8-10 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Romans 12:3 (ESV)

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Philip. 1:29 (ESV)

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

God works faith within His people and results in their salvation.  When we see a clear biblical view of faith and then in the next few weeks as we look at some specific examples of faith, we’ll understand that there’s no way these people did this on their own.  Faith is too great a commodity to be manufactured within a sinful fallen human.

No one can believe apart from the work of God.

Our human need that these verses address is the need for a biblical understanding of faith and a need for God to give it or to strengthen it.

Truth Taught- Faith is a rock solid trust in God’s promises, those we’ve seen we build on those we haven’t seen we trust in.

1.  By Faith the Invisible is Made Visible (Hebrews 11:1-2)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  [2] For by it the people of old received their commendation.

These verses are not so much a definition of faith but they show us the attributes of faith.  Faith is that which transfers the certainty of the promises of God to us.  It is the means by which we live based on unseen promises.  We have assurance and conviction based on faith.  Unlike the Old Covenant that had many visible experiences, the New Covenant for now is invisible.

2 Cor. 4:18 (ESV)

as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We might say it this way…Faith is what gives the unseen truths substance today.  In other words, faith is the eyes in which we can see the invisible unfulfilled truths of God.

the assurance of things hoped for

the conviction of things not seen

1 Cor. 2:14 (ESV)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Hebrews 11:27 (ESV)

By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses saw Christ not with his physical eyes but by faith.

Faith is not knowledge.  You can know a lot about Jesus and the Bible and still not possess saving faith.

James 2:19 (ESV)

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Demons believe the same things we believe.  For them it causes trembling and fear.  However, for the true Christian the knowledge of God produces joy.  We are not fearful when we believe…

1 Peter 1:8 (ESV)

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Faith allows us to see the invisible.  It makes the invisible visible.

Faith also works the other way in a believer.  It makes the visible point to the invisible

2. By Faith the Visible Points To the Invisible (Hebrews 11: 3)

[3] By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

So far we’ve learned that we need something that we didn’t have to begin with.  If we are to see Christ we must have something that the natural man does not possess.  We need spiritual eyes.  If we are going to live in obedience to the Lord we must have the faith to apprehend the invisible spiritual realities of Him as Lord and Savior.

1 Cor. 2:14 (ESV)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

This spiritual sight is given to us at conversion by the Holy Spirit.

John 3:3 (ESV)

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Next, faith is not simply knowledge but it is trust in and obedience to the things revealed.  Very specifically it is obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostle writes about another work faith accomplishes in our being.  Through faith we interpret the visible things.  We see creation with our physical sight and our hearts soar with amazement because we understand the Creator God made all this out of nothing.  Literally, ex nihilo…out of nothing.  God’s Word created substance.

[3] By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

When we look into the night sky we worship the Creator.  When we see snow capped mountains, or endless oceans, or giant redwoods, or a spider spinning a web we can worship the God who created all things.

Faith apprehends the invisible God by His visible creation.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a letter to a friend describing what he observed in the spiders that were around the New England area.  This writing has been titled the spider letter.  In it, Edwards describes spiders that shoot out a web up into the air and use it to fly from one tree to the next.  While they fly they shoot out another web to connect where they started to where they end up.  Now they have a bridge from tree to tree.

At the end of this letter he spends about two pages glorifying God for the wisdom God has in the creation of this spider.

Pardon me if I thought it might at least give you occasion to make better observations on these wondrous animals, that should be worthy of communicating to the learned world, from whose glistening webs so much of the wisdom of the Creator shines—Edwards

By faith, Edwards saw the glory of God shining in a sparkling spider web.  Faith causes the visible to point to the invisible.

When God says in the Book of Genesis that He created the world, faith believes it and interprets creation in light of this special biblical revelation.

God the only thing that existed spoke into nothingness and nothingness responded.

Today, all around us we see the result of God speaking into the darkness and creating by His Word alone everything we see.

Truth Taught- Faith is a rock solid trust in God’s promises, especially the ones yet to be fulfilled.

I pray you experienced conversion.  I pray that you know Jesus Christ by faith and that He has become Lord of your life.  By faith may we look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

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