Reflections on Hebrews 11: Heroes of Faith
Can Christian faith and science co-exist? Some critics contend the two are incompatible and assert that the study of science invariably discredits the existence of God rather than affirming it. Others, however, beg to differ from this view. Among them, Isaac Newton, widely known for his theory of the laws of motion and universal gravitation, was one of the greatest scientists who was a strong contender of Christian faith.
In his famous Principia, Newton wrote: “This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all... The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect... and from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being... He is not eternity and infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present.” On this count, we have to acknowledge that Newton was right (https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/converging-paths-truth/brief-survey-sir-isaac-newtons-views-religion#_edn7).
For Isaac Newton, the Christian faith is not blind faith. It is a reasonable and logical faith that transcends human understanding. This, we can only experience by earnestly exploring and contemplating the design and formation of the universe. Newton’s scientific discoveries led him to a deeper conviction of the Being of God, and he affirmed the inspiration of the scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Faith empowers lsaac Newton to visualise the invisible. For without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Embracing faith can be likened to having an adventure with God, exploring and attempting impossibilities. Faith fans the dying flickering fire within us and rekindles our spiritual passion for God. Faith permits us at the prime of our life to dream dreams for God. At the age of 85, it enabled Caleb to declare, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I am just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day...” (Josh14:11-12, NIV)
The writer of Hebrews succinctly defines faith in the opening sentence of Hebrews 11 - “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith visualises the invisible. Faith has the supernatural ability to transcend the physical realm and visualise the spiritual dimension of things. Faith shows the certainty and reality of what we hope for, and is the evidence of things yet to be seen. Faith penetrates through the veil of darkness and enables us to better apprehend God’s spiritual reality, his creation, and redemptive purpose for the world. It produces a deep-seated conviction in us to believe in better things to come. Faith enables us to be strongly grounded in our beliefs, and propels us to stand firm against any form of persecution.
Faith that seemingly boasts of great power, but is in reality, weak, fragile, and hollow in substance is futile. The object of our faith matters to God. Faith should not be about what it is able to help us accomplish (i.e. when we have more faith, we can accomplish greater things for God). It is not about the quantity but faith as small as a mustard seed, when placed rightly in God Himself, instrumentally takes on a whole new meaning. Faith visualises the invisible; it visualises God as one who reveals Himself in the flesh, Jesus Christ, and readily embraces Him as our Redeemer. The substance of faith is firmly rooted in the deity of Christ, the solid foundation, secure and unshakeable. For Christ is the mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), without whom there is no remission of sins nor a personal relationship we can share with Him.
A person can claim to have faith in God, but the question is – which God does he truly believe in? Is his faith a genuine faith or a misplaced faith? Is he able to tolerate trials and sufferings, solely desiring for a God who always prospers? Does he not see that trials and sufferings are an integral part in God’s kingdom to strengthen our spiritual faith, growth and dependency on Him (James 1:2-3)? The crux of the matter is not how much faith we have in God, but what kind of faith do we have in God. Jesus says, if you have faith like a grain of a seed, this mountain shall be removed. (Mt 17:20). What is the substance of our faith? Will we be able to withstand the storms in life?
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV) The substance of faith referred to here, is undoubtedly a faith tested through fire. Faith that is not tested is not true faith. Such faith must be intertwined with active obedience. As Paul writes in Romans 1:5 (ESV), “...through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith.” This same phrase was emphasised in his closing chapter in Romans 16:26 (ESV) - “but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— .” This substance of faith is clearly demonstrated in the lives of these heroes of faith, the patriarchs in Hebrews 11. By their lives and testimonies, and letters written in their own blood, they have modelled for us what authentic faith is all about – an absolute obedience to follow the Lord whenever and wherever He calls.
The substance of true faith is not merely to trust God for resources in our present lives. Rather, it is that we may continue to lay hold of that sacred trust in God even if we do not see the fulfillment of God’s promises come to pass in our generation.
Below is a brief summary of my reflections on Hebrews 11:1-26:
Heroes of Faith
1.The Substance of Faith (vv 1-3)
Faith visualises the invisible- v1
Faith channels God’s commendation –v2
Faith understands God as the Creator –v3
2. The Seekers of Faith (vv 4-7)
Faith makes us righteous before God – v4
Faith pleases God – v5
Faith believes in God as the rewarder –v6
Faith produces a reverent fear for God –v7
3. The Sojourners of Faith (vv 8-16)
Faith and obedience work together – v8
Faith believes in God’s promises – v9
Faith roots its foundation in God – v10
Faith attempts the impossible – v11
Faith results in fruitfulness of lives - v12
Faith conquers death – v13
Faith anchors in eternity- vv14-16
4. The Supremacy of Faith (vv 17-19)
Faith exercises active obedience in God- vv17-18
Faith believes in God the omnipotent – v19
5. The Supernatural Faith (vv 20-23)
Faith invokes future blessings on others – vv20-21
Faith foresees God’s destiny for us – v22
Faith conquers the fear of men – v23
6. The Sanctity of Faith (vv 24-26)
Faith forsakes the temporal – vv24-25
Faith pursues after the eternal – v26
My summary statement for the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews:-
“Faith believes in God the invisible, taking hold of the promises of God in Christ our redeemer, and acts upon them.”
The reflections on Hebrews 11 also remind me of that great hymn, “Faith of our Fathers,” written by Frederick William Faber. As the lyrics of the great old hymn and the ancient story of Hebrews 11 began to unfold and flash through my mind, the Lord inspired me to write this new song entitled, “Heroes of Faith”. This song reflects the ancient faith of our forefathers, who by faith had conquered kingdoms and overcome death. May this song inspire us to walk a life of faith as we put our trust in the faithful God, who always surprises and never fails. Let us all take an adventure ride and embark on the journey of faith!
HEROES OF FAITH
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for
C D Em
The conviction of things not seen
Faith ushers us into the heavenly realm
C D Em
In the presence of God the King
G G D
Mighty faith has conquered o’er Kingdom
Reigns over darkness and power
G G D
O holy faith, the faith of our fathers
C D Em
Had overcome dungeon and death
Nothing is too hard for God to do
C D Em
If only you would believe
If you have faith, small as the grain of a seed
C D Em
This mountain shall be removed
The heroes of faith have now stood before us
C D Em
In whose ancient paths we to tread
Not by might nor by the wisdom of men
C D Em
In the faithful God we will trust