Contributor: Okwdili Prince-Isaac
INTRODUCTION: At the close of the foregoing chapter the apostle recommended grace of faith and a life of faith as the best preservative against apostasy, and further expounded on the nature and fruits of this excellent grace and the honour it reflects upon all who lived by it and died and suffered extraordinary things by the strength of His grace (v. 1-3). (2Pet:1:4).
A definition or description of the grace of faith is in two parts.
1.It is the substance of things hoped for. Faith and hope go together; and the same things that are the object of our hope are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all that he has promised to us in Christ; and this persuasion is so strong that it gives the soul a kind of possession and present fruition of those things, as well as a foretaste. The result is that believers are filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1Pet.1:8). Christ dwells in the soul by faith, and the soul is filled with the fullness of God (Eph.3:17-19).
2.It is the evidence of things not seen. Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind thereality of those things that cannot be discerned by the eye of the body. Faith is thefirm assent of the soul to the divine revelation and every part of it, and sets to itsseal that God is true (Jn 3:33). It is a full consent of all that God has revealed asholy, just, and good and helps the soul to apply itself fully and suitably. Faith isdesigned to serve the believer instead of sight, and to be to the soul all that thesenses are to the physical body (2Cor.5:7).
FAITH (THE TESTIMONY)
An account of the honour bestowed upon all those who have lived in and exercised faith
By it the elders (ancient believers) obtained a good report: - Firstly, true faith is not a new invention, but rather a grace that has been planted in the soul of man ever since the covenant of grace was published in the world. Secondly, their faith was their honour; it reflected honour upon ancient believers and God has taken care that a record shall be kept and report made of the excellent things accomplished in the strength of this grace. (Mal.3:16-18).
OUR STAND Verses 1-3
In the first three verses, we have one of the first acts and articles of faith, which has a great influence on our entire belief system (i.e. all believers around the word irrespective of era); namely, the creation of the worlds by the word of God,- not out of pre-existent matter, but out of nothing, (v.3). The grace of faith has a retrospect as well as prospect; it looks not only forward to the future/end of the world, but back to the beginning of the world. By faith we gain a much healthier understanding of the world than ever could be understood by the naked eye of carnal reason. We understand that;
1.These worlds were not eternal, nor did they produce themselves, but they weremade by another. (Gen.1:1-2)
2.The maker of the worlds is God; he is the maker of all things.
3.He made the world with great exactness; it was a framed work that expressesthe perfections of the Creator. (Gen.1:1-31)
4.God made the world by His Word, i.e. by his indispensable wisdom and eternal Son, and by his active will, saying, Let it be done, and it was done, (Ps. 33:9).
5.The world was basically framed out of nothing, out of no pre-existent matter(Gen.1:2).
These things we understand by faith. The Bible gives us the truest and most exact account of the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to wrest or run down the scripture-account of the creation, as some learned but conceited people remark in their infidelity.
EXAMPLES: Verses 4 & 5
Two names of illustrious examples of faith in the Old-Testament times are mentioned.
ABEL: Abel is the leading instance and example of faith here recorded, as well as the first martyr; one who lived by faith, and died for it. He was a healthy example for the Hebrews (and Christian audience) to imitate.
What Abel did by faith:
He offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, a more weighty and acceptable sacrifice. Hence, we learn that;
(1.) After the fall, God opened a new way for the children of men to return to him in religious worship, and Abel was instant at seizing the opportunity. (Gen.4:26)
(2.) After the fall, God must be worshipped by sacrifices, in such a manner which carries in it a ‘confession and desertion’ of sin, and a profession of faith in a Redeemer, as a ransom for the souls of men.
(3.) That there has been a remarkable difference between worshippers approaching God. In this case, two brothers who are vastly different in that - Cain was the elder brother, but Abel the preferred. A preference not based on seniority of birth, but grace. Their personalities and works spoke of their faith or lack of it. Abel was an upright person, a righteous man, a true believer; Cain was a formalist, with little regard for grace. It is observable in their principles: Abel acted under the power of faith; Cain only from the power of carnal education, or natural conscience, at best. This was manifest in the difference in their offerings: Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement, acknowledging himself to be a sinner who deserved to die, and only hoping for mercy through the great sacrifice; This gesture takes faith to accomplish. On the other hand, Cain brought only a sacrifice of acknowledgment, a mere thank-offering, the fruit of the ground- no ‘confession’ (and certainly no desertion) of sin, no regard to the ransom; (Gen.4:7, Luke 11:18). Cain's offering was deficient in his self-sufficiency.
What Abel gained by his faith:
The original record is in Gen. 4:4, God had respect to Abel, and to his offering; first to his person as gracious, then to his offering as proceeding from grace, which is an
extension of grace through faith. Verse 4 of Hebrews 11 informs us that Abel obtained some special advantages by his faith; e.g.
(1.) A Witness that he was righteous, a justified, sanctified, and accepted person;
(2.) God gave witness to the righteousness of his person, by testifying his acceptance of Abel’s gifts. When the fire, an emblem of God's justice, consumed the offering, it was a sign that the mercy of God accepted the offerer. (Gen.4:4)
(3.) By it he, being dead, yet speaketh. And this speech testifies that;
(a) Fallen man must approach God in worship, and with hope of acceptance.
(b) If our persons and offerings be accepted, it must be through faith in the Messiah. (Lk 7:6-10)
(c) That acceptance with God is a peculiar and unique favour. (Judges 13:23)
(d)That recipients of this favour from God must expect the envy and malice of the world. (Jn 15:18-21)
(e) That God will not allow damages inflicted on the redeemed to remain unpunished, nor their sufferings unrewarded. (Gen 12:3)
ENOCH: Enoch is the second of those elders that through faith have a good report.
What Enoch did by faith:
What is here reported of him. In this place (and in Gen. 5:22, etc.) we read,
(1.) That he walked with God, that is, that he was really, eminently, actively, progressively, and perseveringly religious in his conformity to God, communion with God, and gratification in God.
What Enoch gained by his faith
(2.) That he was translated, that he should not see death, nor any part of him be found upon earth; for God took him, soul and body, into heaven, as he will do to the saints who shall be found alive at his second coming. (1Jn 2:28) (3.) That before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. He had the evidence of it in his own conscience, and the Spirit of God witnessed with his spirit. Those who by faith walk with God in a sinful world are pleasing to Him, and he will give them marks of his favour, and put honour upon them. (Gal 6:17)
The Christian walk is hard work, and only faith in the eventual fulfilment of God’s promises can keep us going. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb.11:1). We need faith that the promises God made are true, however unlikely that might seem in the present circumstances.
Our study gives us the practical examples of Abel and Enoch. Their faith was not wishful thinking. It is taking seriously God’s self-revelation in Scripture, combined with a “repen-tance from dead works”, perseverance in “love and good deeds”, and an ability to see the hand of God at work in the world, despite the evil and brokenness around us. Ultimately, faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, for we could never hold on to such faith by our own force of will.