Hebrews 11:1-3 "Faith is…"

What Must I Believe? H.C. Lord's Day 7

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 7

Q 20. Are all people then saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?
A 20. No. Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.

Q 21. What is true faith?
A 21. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.

Q 22. What then must a Christian believe?
A 22. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

Q 23. What are these articles?
A 23. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Salvation history can be boiled down to the actions of two men: Adam and Jesus.  Adam, the first human, as a representative of the whole human race, sinned against God by disobeying Him.  In doing so, Adam plunged all humankind and the whole of creation into sin and misery.  Humans were cut off from our relationship with God and left with the total inability to repair that relationship on their own.

Jesus, whom Scripture calls the “second Adam,” also represented all humankind.  Through His life, death, and resurrection, He purchased redemption for humanity, through His blood, making it once again possible to live in relationship with God.  This too has the potential to impact all mankind.  However, unlike the actions of Adam, which had an instant effect on all humans from that time forward, the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ must be accepted by faith for salvation to be realized.  God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ is universal, extending to every man, woman, and child that ever lived, but the efficacy (the effect or intended result) is only realized when someone places their faith in Jesus Christ.

So naturally, the next question is: “what is faith?”  Question and Answer 21 take on this question and it can be boiled down, as author Kevin DeYoung points out, to two things, ‘knowledge and conviction.’  He goes on to stay, we don’t worship a ‘content-less’ Jesus and as such, knowledge is an important component.  Sadly it often feels like knowledge has been the only thing that we focus on, suggesting that we could possibly “know” our way into salvation, something that spills over into works-righteousness.

Faith also comes with and through a deep conviction.  It is a confident (not arrogant) assurance of our eternal salvation.  Faith is, as the author of Hebrews writes, “the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things unseen.”  When we believe the Gospel, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, knowing and being assured that He accomplished for us what we were otherwise unable to do.  He purchased redemption for us through His blood and the sacrifice of Himself that He offered once and for all on the cross that, when we believe in Him, we would be accepted by God and never forsaken by Him.

Galatians 4 – Know or Known?

Read Galatians 4

Though it may seem like his attention has shifted, Paul continues here to lay out the foundation of what it means to be in Christ by grace through faith rather than through works.  He uses the themes of slavery and adoption to illustrate this.  Where slaves do their master’s bidding, working at whatever they are told to earn their place, through Christ, we are set free from that.  No longer do we need to work to earn favor with God or our place in His Kingdom.

The same is true with adoption.  A child that is orphaned has no family, no inheritance, no future (or so it was at that time).  Orphans would often become slaves or worse.  Paul casts us as orphans until God, in Christ, adopts us into His own family by His grace.  When this happens, we are made heirs of God’s Kingdom and God calls us His child.

God calls us His child

Paul has spent a considerable amount of time talking about the role of faith in this argument.  Faith is crucial to salvation because it is through faith that we receive the gift of God.  It is important that we not confuse what Paul is saying here though because faith itself can be a “work” of our own.

Biblical theology points to faith as a work of the Holy Spirit inside of us, another act of grace by God.  We, in turn, come to a point of acceptance, claiming that faith as our own.  This is when, using Paul’s language, that we “know” God, or at least begin to know Him.

However, Paul makes a distinction here that is important.  He says that we are “known” by God.  He has been at work in our lives since the very beginning bringing us to the point of faith and salvation.  God knows us more deeply and more fully than we even know ourselves.  When we come to the point of salvation and know God, we enter into a family of believers where our “abba Father” knows each one of us and loves us unconditionally and eternally.

1 Corinthians 8 – Puffed Up

Read 1 Corinthians 8

Reading the middle section of 1 Corinthians, Paul seems to meander through issues in a scatterbrained sort of way.  He’s here and there and back again without any seemingly logical progression.  However, if we take a step back and look at the whole of this section, the same theme continues throughout: “Don’t let the way you act diminish the message of the Gospel.”  Sometimes he talks about this in reference to “outsiders,” here it is in reference to conduct with other believers.

Sacrificing food to idols is archaic practice if ever there was one.  I think this is why Paul frames this in terms of knowledge, not the act itself.  The reality is, in every Christian community, there are those that understand and embrace the freedom that Christ offers and those that are still working that out.  Those that have “knowledge,” meaning they understand the freedom they have, must temper how the act on it so as not to hurt others.  In this instance, some people may know that food sacrificed to a false god that doesn’t exist is fine to eat.  Yet younger Christians who may still be working that out could find it offensive… or perhaps even a temptation to fall back into their former sinful life.

Perhaps a more contemporary example would be the idea that drinking alcohol is not a sinful act.  However, expressing our freedom by drinking alcohol in front of a recovering alcoholic causing him/her to fall back into that addiction is wrong, the very opposite of Christ’s call to love.

Christian freedom is always express in love and concern for others.  Knowledge is always expressed through the wisdom of God that is in Christ Jesus.  Therefore let us use our knowledge to build others up… not to boast and be puffed up.