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11. By Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

39. And these all, etc. This is an argument from the less to the greater; for if they on whom the light of grace had not as yet so brightly shone displayed so great a constancy in enduring evils, what ought the full brightness of the Gospel to produce in us? A small spark of light led them to heaven; when the sun of righteousness shines over us, with what pretense can we excuse ourselves if we still cleave to the earth? This is the real meaning of the Apostle. 241241     This is materially the view taken by Beza, Doddridge, Scott and Stuart. The “promise” is deemed to be especially that of Christ. The ancients heard of him, believed in his coming, but did not witness it. The “some better thing” is considered to be the same with the promise, or to be the Gospel as revealed, or in the words of Stuart, “the actual fulfillment of the promise respecting the Messiah.”
   Still there is something unsatisfactory in this view as to “the promise,” as Stuart seems to intimate. There are two verses, chapter 10:36, and 9:15, which seem to throw light on this subject: by the first we find that “the promise” is future to us as well as to the ancient saints; and by the second, that “the better thing” is the atoning death of Christ, which was to the ancient saints an unfulfilled event, but to us fulfilled and clearly revealed, and yet its benefits extended to them as well as to us.

   The “promise” throughout this Epistle is that of “the eternal inheritance” and “the promises” in verse 13 include this and others, and especially “the better things,” that is the Gospel, or fulfillment of what was necessary to attain the inheritance, even the death and resurrection of Christ; or we may say that it is “the better hope,” (chapter 7:19) or the “better covenant, which was established on better promises,” (chapter 8:6.) The verses may be thus rendered —

   “And all these, having obtained a good report through faith, have not received the promise: 40. God having foreordained as to us something more excellent, so that they without us might not be perfected;” that is, in body as well as in soul.

   The sentiment seems to be this, — “the ancient saints believed God’s promise, respecting an eternal inheritance after the resurrection: they died in hope of this, they have not yet obtained it, and for this reason, because God had designed to fulfill to us what he had also promised to them, even the coming of a Redeemer; it is necessary that this more excellent thing than what had in this world been vouchsafed to them, should take place, as on it depended everything connected with the promise of the ‘heavenly city:’ so that without the more excellent thing fulfilled to us, their perfect state, in body as well as in soul, was not to be attained.”

   Their souls are perfect, for we as Christians are said to have come “to the spirits of just men made perfect,” (chapter 12:23;) they who die in the Lord are said to “rest from their labors,” and are pronounced blessed or happy. (Rev. 14:13.) But they are not in possession of the inheritance promised them, neither the ancients nor those who now die in the Lord.The promise as to both will not be fulfilled until the glorious day of the resurrection. Then all the saints, whether before or after the coming of Christ, will at the same time, with pure and immortal bodies, united to pure spirits, be together introduced into their eternal inheritance which he promised to Abraham and his seed, when he said that he would be their God. Christ referred to that declaration as an evidence of the resurrection. (Luke 20:37.) Then the Patriarchs believed that there would be a resurrection. — Ed.

I know that Chrysostom and others have given a different explanation, but the context clearly shows, that what is intended here is the difference in the grace which God bestowed on the faithful under the Law, and that which he bestows on us now. For since a more abundant grace is poured on us, it would be very strange that we should have less faith in us. He then says that those fathers who were endued with so remarkable a faith, had not yet so strong reasons for believing as we have. Immediately after he states the reason, because God intended to unite us all into one body, and that he distributed a small portion of grace to them, that he might defer its full perfection to our time, even to the coming of Christ.

And it is a singular evidence of God’s benevolence towards us, that though he has shown himself bountifully to his children from the beginning of the world, he yet has so distributed his grace as to provide for the well­being of the whole body. What more could any of us desire, than that in all the blessings which God bestowed on Abraham, Moses, David, and all the Patriarchs, on the Prophets and godly kings, he should have a regard for us, so that we might be united together with them in the body of Christ? Let us then know that we are doubly and treble ungrateful to God, if less faith appears in us under the kingdom of Christ than the fathers had under the Law, as proved by so many remarkable examples of patience. By the words, that they received not the promise, is to be understood its ultimate fulfillment, which took place in Christ, on which subject something has been said already.


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