What Is Faith?

What Is Faith?

Leslie S. Rainey

Leslie S. Rainey is a missionary. He served the Lord in Palestine until refused a renewal of his visa. He is the author of several books especially prepared for college students in Zambia, the country in which he now labours. We always appreciate his thoughtful ministry.

(Hebrews 11:1-3)

It is important to notice what precedes this record of witnesses to the truth of a principle already declared by the writer. The principle is found in Hebrews 10:38, where it occurs as a quotation from the prophecy of Habakkuk, “The just shall live by his faith.” These words are quoted by Paul in writing to the Romans and in his letter to the Galatians. Each quotation seems to have a different emphasis. Many commentaries agree that in Romans the emphasis is laid on the word righteousness — “the righteous by faith shall live.” In Galatians 3:11, the thought stressed is on faith, “the righteous by faith shall live.” In Hebrews the thought conveyed is on life, “The righteous by faith shall live.” The argument throughout is that if men had believed as a result of the messages of angels and others, we have now something far more sure as a foundation for faith, and our faith ought to be energetic and expressive in life and deed to a greater degree. In our study we observe that faith brings:

Confidence And Conviction
Verse 1:

G. Campbell Morgan says that in this verse we have the only definition of faith in the Bible. It is not only a definition of faith itself, but also a description of its effects. The order of the sentence in the Greek language reveals the fact that it is emphatic. The noun faith is without the article and thus the Spirit of God points at once to the great subject about to be considered. Here a twofold description is given of faith, “things hoped for,” and “things not seen.” The Revised Version renders the verse “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen.” The things hoped for are things not possessed as yet, but desired and expected. The things not seen are beyond the sphere of the possible demonstrated by the senses. The word rendered “substance” has been translated “assurance,” a meaning which it has been given already in Hebrews 3:14; also “essence” in Hebrews 1:3, that is, that which gives real existence to a thing, a sense closely akin to the usage in the opening verses of Hebrews (1:3). Hence faith rests on Revelation. It is a living principle which keeps the soul in fellowship with God. The basic idea conveyed is certainty which culminates in confidence. The word “evidence” also has the meaning of “conviction,” that is the feeling of certainty. It does not refer merely to a method by which proof of faith is obtained, but rather the fact that faith is in itself the proof that brings conviction. Therefore the simplest definition of faith might be expressed: “Faith is confidence in things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Weymouth renders it: “Now faith is a confident assurance of that which we hope, a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see.” Another: “Faith is the very substance of the things we hope for; the irrefutable proof of the invisible transactions.”

It is of great interest also to learn that in a certain papyri unearthed in Egypt the Greek word translated “substance” or “assurance” (R. V.) is found in the technical sense of “title-deed,” the root idea being that they stand under the claim to the property to support its validity. What confidence this lends to those who walk by faith! How it ought to transform the common-place into a sacred tryst with the living God! Such a principle of life surely is the key to the pilgrimage of the Christian. Faith leads to:

Verse 2:

It was by faith of this kind or on the ground of their possessing faith, that the Old Testament elders, “distinguished men of past generations,” received the commendation of God. It might be rendered as “here in,” the thought being, as living and acting in the realm of faith. The Spirit of God bears witness to the lives of the ancient heroes of faith which were motivated by faith. “These,” are called, “a cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1. How important to realize that God takes knowledge of all who tread the path of faith! The world is the laboratory where the exploits and experiments of believers attest to the reality of God on the basis of faith. Faith results in:

Verse 3:

Following on in the study of these verses we have a concluding statement on the nature of faith: first, faith comprehends the universe; second, faith confirms the record of Genesis chapter one; third, faith condemns the theory of evolution; fourth, faith confesses the God of Creation.

It is by faith we believe and recognize that there is an unseen world and that out of the things unseen this visible world has taken rise. Behind the present order of creation there is a Master-Designer. The word “to frame” means “to perfect,” and suggests not merely the calling into existence, but the wise adaptation and unity of creation. Each part corresponds to the other part; “each part supports the whole, and it is supported by the whole,” in the architectural purpose of God. Its tense denotes that the original lesson of creation remains for abiding use and application. The word rendered “worlds” is “ages,” and conveys the thought not so much the material creation but the world looked upon in relation to time. Many view this term as ages of dispensations and thus trace the purposes of God in history which is “His-Story.” The purpose and climax of faith as to the creation of the world is to produce the conviction that God is the power behind the Plan. Such a conclusion is to dispel forever the mists of unbelief and lead the soul to absolute assurance on the pathway of faith which overcomes the world and worships God as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

The Worship of Faith
Hebrews 11:4

Abel appears before us as the first of the Old Testament saints illustrating “The righteousness of faith.” The sacrifice Abel brought was of superior value to that of Cain’s. Why? It was offered on the ground of faith that accepted the revelation of God. In Cain we have the manifestation of the flesh in his approach to God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” and as such cannot please God. Cain is the self-sufficient, earnest religious man. The way of Cain is the self-will way and is in contrast to Abel’s way, the blood sprinkled way. The world is still divided into two classes, those who believe and those who reject the testimony of God. The difference in these brothers is not merely conduct and disposition, but on their approach to God. Cain brings his own work, the fruit of the ground; and Abel, a lamb, the God-ordained sacrifice which pleases the Lord. Abel is accepted on account of his offering, and by means of it, he was attested righteous before God. He was not justified as in Paul’s letter to the Romans, but in the general sense of the word, “a righteous man.” Further on the record shows that Abel’s faith was the ground of his living after death. Not only did Abel’s faith cause him to offer a richer, more acceptable offering, but it found a voice of witness after death.