Genuine Faith, Suffering and the Tangled Web of the Greedy Fake Faith

What type of Christians are we?  What is the relationship between faith and endurance?

These are important questions for us my friends.   In the preaching of sermons, it is very popular to go straight into Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.” NASB

This to me is very childish and dangerous for our walk with God.  If you want ‘a spiritual adrenaline rush’ then perhaps you can have this.  My friends there is something a lot more valuable for the believer than any adrenalin rush.  It is our relationship in Christ by the Holy Spirit based on ‘the truth’.  If you are sick; Why take a placebo instead of the correct medication.  The correct medication is the medication that will heal our wondering soul.  I am not putting faith down, on the contrary I want the genuine faith that the Scriptures talk about.  If I am going to but jewellery for the person I love, let us buy the jewellery that is not fake. So then let us read our passage and gain genuine spiritual food for our souls that will bring us closer to Christ who is the true lover of our souls:

“32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE,

HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.

38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH;

AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.

39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

The Triumphs of Faith

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.

3 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. Hebrews 10:32 – 11:3 NASB

Verse 32

Wow, forget about the mountain top experience.  Let us start in the valleys.  These Jewish Christians experiences start from suffering.  Imagine having your best friends and family thrown into prison for something they did not do.  Imagine a world in which you lose everything. The good faithful person may have been very wealthy but because you have different religious roots, what you have is taken away by corrupt local and national governments.  It may be that that person will be flogged and laughed at as a spectacle.  These sorts of experiences really did happen to Jewish Christians before AD 70 in Jerusalem.

I found this document this Week:

4 Flight of the Christians from Jerusalem, c. 66

Eusebius, HE, III.5.3

Moreover, the people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the war, and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men. (Lawlor and Oulton, Eusebius, 1, p. 68.)

Epiphanius also records this flight. A comparison of his account with that of Eusebius shows a common source, which is undoubtedly Hegesippus. The words in italics appear to come from him. Pella was beyond Jordan, and was then in the dominions of Herod Agrippa II. The Christians in Jerusalem could not be expected to show any sympathy to, or receive any from Jewish nationalists, cf. 19. For difficulties about a flight to Pella see S. G. F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church, pp. 169–73

(Taken from A New Eusebius; J.Stevenson; SPCK; 1987; pages 5 & 6 )

This all happened in AD 66, four years before the Fall of Jerusalem. In my hypothesis then if these Jewish Christians were from Jerusalem.   (Some scholars think it could have been Rome but I disagree as you would have seen the reasons last Week)

Verses 32 -34

This is persecution my friends.  It wasn’t the first time, and it would not be the last time either. In AD 49 there was a great expulsion of Christians from Rome. In AD 62 James was murdered by someone who had it in for the Christians. In AD 96 there was another great persecution by Domitian.

 Therefore, these believers suffered and shared in these sufferings.  These believers had real confidence in Christ.   Material wealth wasn’t the most important thing; The most important thing was to put Christ first in their lives and to show real genuine love to their spiritual brothers and sisters.  Throw the ‘get rich quick Gospel’ away from you; that is fake Christianity and draws on ‘greed’ which is actually a great sin.

Verse 35

Apollos writes:

35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:35

This word ‘confidence’ comes up in other places as well in this precious book.  We are going on a small diversion in our route and have a look at these verses before we ramble on from verse 36. We need at the outset say that faith and confidence are linked but we need to remind ourselves that the context of this confidence is driven from the suffering that these Jewish Christians were facing.  We also need to remember that verse numbers and chapters were a later addition to our Bible.  The autographs we have even didn’t have full stops.  One sentence would run into another and unless you were an expert, one would not know when the sentence would change.  We sometimes take our Bibles for granted with the chapters and verses.

Confidence

In this verse we can see that there is a timeline.  We are to stay faithful to Christ to ‘the end’ of time.

but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

Hebrews 3:6

Our confidence comes from what Christ did for us.  Grace flows from Christ.  Our confidence is in Christ.

Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

It is through the sacrificial work of Christ that we can have ‘any confidence’

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19

So, then we can safely say that all the previous uses of confidence has been in relation to ‘confidence in Christ’

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:35

The walk towards the faith chapter has begun. Our confidence and our faith are to be located in Christ.  This is a relationship we have of being in Christ by the special work of the Holy Spirit. The ‘reward’ is not worldly wealth, but it is to be with Christ in heaven for ever.  This is the reward. Do not in any way link ‘this reward’ to money and wealth!

Verse 36

36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:36

For this ‘reward’ you need endurance.  You need to trust God in Christ to help you through these difficult times.  It isn’t going to be easy.  Martin Luther King was not rich and even though he was murdered his trust was in Christ.

Verse 37 to 38 the proof texts:

37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE,

HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.

38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH;

AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. Hebrews 10:37-38

These are taken from Habakkuk 23-4

1 I will stand on my guard post

And station myself on the rampart;

And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,

And how I may reply when I am reproved.

2 Then the LORD answered me and said,

“Record the vision

And inscribe it on tablets,

That the one who reads it may run.

3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;

It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.

Though it tarries, wait for it;

For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

4 “Behold, as for the proud one,

His soul is not right within him;

But the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:1-4

It is well worth reading the original Hebrew because you can see the flavour of expectancy.  Be aware though that he might have used the Greek Old Testament (LXX) but the ideas are the same.  Our confidence is linked to faith and suffering.  As Herman Bavinck would say, “faith is the root, and the works are the fruit”. 

To put it bluntly no pain no gain my friends!   When it comes to faith, bin any greed doctrines of prosperity and rely on the love of Christ.  It is the relationship with God and not the dollar/Euro/Sterling!

Now we have a right understanding of the ‘confidence – faith’ relationship we are ready to cross the border from chapter 1039 into chapter 111:

39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

The Triumphs of Faith

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. Hebrews 10:39 – 11:2

I decided to look at Hebrews chapter 10.39 through to 11.1.  There is no new topic in chapter 11.   ‘Faith’ is the bridge between the two chapters.  There are those who would indeed turn away from the Goodness of Christ.  Apollos however in verse 39 counts himself to be in union with the other believers to whom he wrote.  Notice Apollos wrote, “but we are not…” in verse 39.  The personal pronoun ‘we’ is in the fist person plural.  Apollos also in the same verse counts himself as one of those ‘who has faith’ which is linked to the preservation of the soul. So then up to this point, these believers showed that they had faith in Christ, and this could be proved by the very fact of all the sufferings and persecutions that they were going through.

It is a serious disservice to the book of Hebrews by ripping Apollos’ definition out of its context.   As background information we can begin by saying that If you read the latter part of chapter 10 and all of chapter 11 Apollos is linking the Old Testament saints to the Jewish Christians.  The thing that holds both groups together is ‘faith’.  This is important and this is the context.

The writer is continuing in the same topic with the conjunction ‘de’ translated as ‘now’ in a lot of translations.  It can also be translated as ‘and’ or but depending on context.   The job that this small conjunction doing is continuing on the same topic hence I would certainly prefer ‘and’.  The fuller account though is ‘εστιν δε’ ‘is and’ (literally).   With dynamic equivalence we have ‘now’.  You can use ‘Now’ as long as you don’t infer a change of subject.

In English usage a lot of time ‘now’ which is an adverb of time can be used to switch topic. This has probably led to this verse being interpreted wrongly.  Let us now look at some usages from the English language:

“A1

at the present time, not in the past or future:

She used to be a teacher, but now she works in publishing.

I may eat something later, but I’m not hungry now.

Many people now own a smartphone.

A2

immediately:

I don’t want to wait until tomorrow, I want it now!

B2

used to express how long something has been happening, from when it began to the present time:

She’s been a vegetarian for ten years now.”

(From: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/now )

If you read these sentences carefully one will see that there has been a qualitative change of action or situation to something else

A1

Teacher changes to publisher

Eat something later changes to not hungry now

Inferred that people at one time did not have smart phones and this changes to people who have smart phones.

An activity for you would be to go through the other examples.

If this happens in natural English language, then possibly the word ‘now’ is not a very good word to use at this point.  It sounds good but it brings logic external to the text (eisegesis and in this case although it works, it is a categorial mistake.  Better to have stuck with the boring and wooden ‘and’)

Calvin also agrees with me:

“Now faith, etc. Whoever made this the beginning of the eleventh chapter, has unwisely disjointed the context; for the object of the Apostle was to prove what he had already said ­that there is need of patience.” (From https://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc44/cc44016.htm  )

Anyhow I will append John Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews 11.1 in case you want to read it.

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. Hebrews 11:1-2

So looking at the verse again lets carry on digging the treasures.  According to one writer this is the only definition we have for faith in the New Testament.

The first section says:

faith is the assurance of things hoped for

For Calvin faith is the foundation (prop/ support) and hope is to do with the future.  We cannot see into the future but faith enables us to walk firmly even though we cannot see into the future. 

The second section says:

the conviction of things not seen.

ἔλεγχος elegchos ; from 1651; a proof, test:–

conviction(1).

I like the King James version rendering of ‘evidence’.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. From KJV.

Verse 2 is an encouragement to the present believers that they too have the ‘same faith’ as those in the Old Testament. 

Reflection

So, then my friends what is faith? 

The answer my friends is for us to believe and trust with our whole heart and life in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith and suffering go hand in hand.  If we live by faith we are going to struggle.   Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Suffered so too we will also face obstacles.  Don’t let culture with lovely, tinted glasses block our understanding of what Apollos means by faith.  Let us see beyond culture, let us see beyond our sinful natures (greed) to the majestic mountain top of service to Christ, love of our neighbours and even love of our enemies.  Faith is a gift of God and let us not take it for granted. As believer we too have the guarantor of our salvation the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps on Hebrews 11 1 you were given false teaching.  This is not your fault my friends.  Christ really loves you.  He loves you so much that he gave up his life so that you may live into a blissful eternity.  Many of us struggle at varying degrees.  The Lord Jesus is only a prayer away so you can always ask God to give you direction in your life.

In our next blog we are going to look at some of these Old Testament heroes who lived by faith. Just like these Jewish Christians who lived by faith and then the magnificent list of Old Testament heroes, we will learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk of faith and what this actually means in practice!

Calvin’s Commentary Hebrews 11.1

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

1. Porro fides est rerum sperandarum substantia, demonstratio eorum quae non videntur.

1. Now faith, etc. Whoever made this the beginning of the eleventh chapter, has unwisely disjointed the context; for the object of the Apostle was to prove what he had already said ­that there is need of patience.  200 He had quoted the testimony of Habakkuk, who says that the just lives by faith; he now shows what remained to be proved — that faith can be no more separated from patience than from itself. The order then of what he says is this, — “We shall not reach the goal of salvation except we have patience, for the Prophet declares that the just lives by faith; but faith directs us to things afar off which we do not as yet enjoy; it then necessarily includes patience.” Therefore the minor proposition in the argument is this, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, etc. It is hence also evident, that greatly mistaken are they who think that an exact definition of faith is given here; for the Apostle does not speak here of the whole of what faith is, but selects that part of it which was suitable to his purpose, even that it has patience ever connected with it.  201 Let us now consider the words.

He calls faith the hypostasis, the substance of things hoped for. We indeed know that what we hope for is not what we have as it were in hand, but what is as yet hid from us, or at least the enjoyment of which is delayed to another time. The Apostle now teaches us the same thing with what we find in Ro 8:24; where it is said that what is hoped for is not seen, and hence the inference is drawn, that it is to be waited for in patience. So the Apostle here reminds us, that faith regards not present things, but such as are waited for. Nor is this kind of contradiction without its force and beauty: Faith, he says, is the hypostasis, the prop, or the foundation on which we plant our foot, — the prop of what? Of things absent, which are so far from being really possessed by us, that they are far beyond the reach of our understanding.

The same view is to be taken of the second clause, when he calls faith the evidence or demonstration of things not seen; for demonstration makes things to appear or to be seen; and it is commonly applied to what is subject to our senses.  202

Then these two things, though apparently inconsistent, do yet perfectly harmonize when we speak of faith; for the Spirit of God shows to us hidden things, the knowledge of which cannot reach our senses: Promised to us is eternal life, but it is promised to the dead; we are assured of a happy resurrection, but we are as yet involved in corruption; we are pronounced just, as yet sin dwells in us; we hear that we are happy, but we are as yet in the midst of many miseries; an abundance of all good things is promised to us, but still we often hunger and thirst; God proclaims that he will come quickly, but he seems deaf when we cry to him. What would become of us were we not supported by hope, and did not our minds emerge out of the midst of darkness above the world through the light of God’s word and of his Spirit? Faith, then, is rightly said to be the subsistence or substance of things which are as yet the objects of hope and the evidence of things not seen. Augustine sometimes renders evidence “conviction,” which I do not disapprove, for it faithfully expresses the Apostle’s meaning: but I prefer “demonstration,” as it is more literal.

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