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Living by Faith
Summary —Faith Explained. The Faith of the Elders. Remarkable Examples of Ancient Faith. All Seeking for a Better Country. The Victories of Faith. The Sufferings Endured by Faith. Christians Exhorted to Follow These Glorious Examples.
1–3. Faith is the substance. The old meaning of substance, as well as of Hupostasis, the Greek word here used, is “stand under,” that is to be a foundation. Faith is the foundation on which all our hopes for the future are built. The evidence. Rather, the conviction or persuasion of things not seen. Without faith we would be limited to the very narrow world comprehended by the senses. 2. For by it the elders, etc. The ancient men of God, through faith, so lived, that they have obtained a good name. 3. Through faith we understand, etc. The creation of the world is among “the things not seen,” and all our knowledge of it rests upon our faith in the word of God. Indeed, our knowledge of all past history depends upon faith.
4–7. Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. See the account of Gen. 4:1–5. Abel's faith was probably shown in offering just such a sacrifice as the Lord demanded, while Cain made an offering according to his own ideas. Obtained witness. In some way the Lord testified his approval of Abel's sacrifice, and showed his disapproval of Cain's, perhaps by sending fire to consume Abel's. By it. By his faith. His faith speaks to all ages. 5. By faith Enoch was translated. See Gen. 5:24; also Jude 14. His faithfulness was rewarded by a translation to heaven without first becoming a victim of death. Had this testimony. The testimony is that he “walked with God,” and God took him, because he was pleased with him. 6. But without faith it is impossible, etc. Man cannot please God without faith because in unbelief he cannot do what is pleasing to God. To please God we must come to him in the appointed ways, but this cannot be done without belief in his existence and trust in his blessings. 7. By faith Noah. See Gen. 6:13–22. When he was divinely warned of a coming deluge he believed it, simply upon the word of God. Now observe how his faith acted. (1) He was moved by fear; (2) he prepared the ark as God had directed. His faith moved him to obedience. Condemned the world. The example of his faith was a rebuke to all who were not moved by it. The man who gives heed to God by his conduct condemns those who refuse to heed him. Became heir. It was by the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5) that he became an heir of the blessings vouchsafed to those who are counted righteous through faith. See Rom. 1:17. 327
8–12. By faith Abraham. See Gen. 11:31; 12:1–4. While in Ur of the Chaldees he was commanded to go where he should be led. In obedience to this call he obeyed through faith, a striking example of the action of faith. 9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise. He was a stranger in the land promised to him and his seed, dwelling as did Isaac and Jacob, in tents, yet trusting the promise of God. Heirs … of the same promise. See Gen. 26:3, 4; 27:4, 13, 14. 10. For he looked for a city which hath foundations. Not only for a permanent home for his seed in Canaan, but for a home above in the eternal city, the New Jerusalem. Builder and maker. Architect and maker. God not only projected the plans of the eternal city but has executed them. 11. Faith also Sarah. See Gen. 17:15–21; 18:11–14; 21:1, 2. Far beyond the years of child bearing, yet by faith she was given natural strength to bear the child of promise. She was about ninety years old. 12. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead. From an old man, a hundred years old, whose reproductive powers were dead, a people. As the stars of the sky in multitude. See Deut. 1:10. These figures are used to express a vast multitude.
13–16. These all died in faith. All the patriarchs named. They died without the fulfillment of the promises, either those of a temporal possession or of an innumerable seed. Having seen them afar off. They beheld them in the future by faith. Confessed. By their whole lives that they were pilgrims. They had no fixed home and were waiting for a country. 14. They that say such things. Who confess that they are pilgrims. Seek a country. This confession shows that they are seeking a country 328somewhere and have not yet found it. 15. If they had been mindful, etc. They could have returned to their old home in Ur of the Chaldees, if they had chosen, but though homeless in a strange land they had faith in a future home. 16. Desire a better country. They desired a country better than Chaldea, better even than Canaan. They had a faith which looked for a heavenly country.
17–19. Abraham, when he was tried. See Gen. 22:1–14. Offered up his only begotten son. Abraham stands as the great Old Testament example of faith, “the Father of the faithful,” the man “whose faith was counted for righteousness.” Hence his faith was tried by the sternest test of any Man of God on record, not that God might be certain of his faith, but that all his spiritual children should profit by his example. Note: (1) Isaac was the only child of his marriage; (2) he was the child of promise and by grace; (3) he was the heir, not only of Abraham but of all God's promises to Abraham. Yet Abraham was told to offer him. It was God's command. What a trial of faith! Yet, he believed, though he would not see how, that God would keep his promises, and that in “Isaac his seed should be called,” even though God raised him from the dead. Hence in faith he obeyed, and his faith was gloriously rewarded. The lesson for us is implicit obedience to God's command and trust in his promises. Nothing less is a demonstration of faith. 19. Received him in a figure. As one who in his mind had been sacrificed. It was from the altar of sacrifice that he received him back.
20–22. By faith Isaac blessed, etc. See Gen. 27:26–40; 28:2, 3. In the blessing there are prophecies of their future history. 21. By faith Jacob, when he was dying. See Gen. 48:8–22. In his blessing he foresaw that both Ephraim and Manasseh would be tribes of Israel, and that the younger would be the ancestor of the greater tribe. Leaning upon the top of his staff (Gen. 47:31). The Hebrew word as originally written may mean either staff or bed, that on which one rests. In our English version of Genesis “bed” has been preferred. The Septuagint, followed here, says “staff.” It means that the sick old man raised from his couch and leaned his weight on his staff while conferring the blessing. 22. By faith Joseph. See Gen. 50:24, 25. By faith he looked forward to the children of Israel going up to Canaan for a home, and charged that his body should be carried up. This charge was faithfully fulfilled. See Josh. 24:32.
23–27. By faith Moses. See Exod. 2:2; Acts 7:20. Through faith in God the parents were led to disobey the king's cruel edict, and to hide the child. A proper child. A promising 329child. 24. Moses … refused to be called, etc. He had faith in God's promises, and hence forsook his honored position, for the sake of his people. 25. Choosing rather. There were honor, wealth and pleasure in the palace, but affliction with the enslaved nation. He chose the latter by faith. For a season. The pleasures of sin are transient. 26. Esteeming the reproach of Christ. Any reproach endured through faith in the promises of which Christ was the center and sum, was called the reproach of Christ. This reproach, though men might shrink from it, was really of more value permanently than the treasures of Egypt, because he looked forward to the recompense, the heavenly blessings. 27. By faith he forsook Egypt. The Exodus was all an achievement of faith. It was faith that made Moses disdain the king's wrath. He endured, as seeing him who is invisible. The unseen God was present with him by faith and his support gave strength to endure all.
28–31. Through faith he kept the passover (Exod. 12:3–30). He kept it because God commanded and he believed all God promised. The sprinkling of blood. The blood of the lamb sprinkled on the door posts. He not only believed that this would protect Israel's first born, but his faith went beyond the type to the Lamb of God. 29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea. See Exod. 14:13–22. In obedience to God's command they marched into the sea and “were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1, 2). 30. By faith the walls of Jericho fell. See Josh. 6:8–21. 31. By faith the harlot Rahab. See Josh. 2:1–22.
32–38. What shall we more say? All these cases are examples of heroic deeds and holy lives of faith. And the Scriptures are full of them; of such examples as Gideon (Judges 6:11); Barak (Judges 4:1); Samson (Judges 13:1); Jephthae (Judges 11:1); of David also (1 Sam. 16:1); Samuel (1 Sam. 1:20); The prophets. Many of these were illustrious examples of the power of faith. 330 33. Who through faith subdued kingdoms. Some of those named subdued kingdoms, as Barak, Gideon, David. Obtained promises. Promises were made to many of the worthies named. Stopped the mouths of lions. The case of Daniel is the most remarkable. See Dan. 6:20. 34. Quenched the violence of fire. See the case of “the Hebrew children” in Dan. 3:19–28. Escaped the edge of the sword. See 1 Sam. 18:10, 11. 35. Women received their dead raised to life again. The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17–24) and the Shunammite (2 Kings 4:18–37) are examples. Others were tortured. This was especially true in the terrible persecutions recorded in the Book of Maccabees. A better resurrection. They preferred to suffer in hope of the resurrection to eternal life. 36. Others had trial of, etc. This was true of many persecutions recorded in Jewish history. 37. They were stoned. See 1 Kings 21:10–15; 2 Chron. 24:21. Sawn asunder. The Talmud says that this was Isaiah's fate. 38. Of whom the world was not worthy. When it rejects the good it shows its unworthiness. They wandered in deserts. To hide from persecutors.
39, 40. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith. By the power of faith they lived holy and heroic lives, but all died without having seen the fulfillment of the promise of a Deliverer. 40. God having provided some better thing for us. The new and better covenant, the gospel, the realization of the promise made to Abraham. That they without us should not be made perfect. That they and we together might be made complete in the city whose builder and maker is God. The full fruition, the being made complete (perfect) belongs to the heavenly state. All these ancient heroes, who died not having received the promise, needed the realization of the promise in Christ to make them perfect; by that promise we also are saved. 331
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