17th November 2022
Read (Hebrews 11v1-4)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
What is faith? Our catechism answers "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel." Another definition is found in Hebrews 11. The Apostle states that faith "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (v1) So faith is a gift of God whereby the sinner receives and rests in Christ. Faith looks to the promises of God and assuredly believes them to be true and faith keeps on trusting even though we do not yet see the heavenly realities.
Faith is not just for people born after Christ's sacrifice at Calvary. The Apostle is clear that it was by faith that the men and women of the old testament received their commendation (v2). In other words at any point throughout human history, if anyone has ever been saved it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
The saving faith that you and I share is the same faith enjoyed by a multitude of believers since the beginning of time. Faith unites the church through every age and that faith points each one of us fairly and squarely towards Jesus and by our faith we know that God made the universe by His mighty Word (v3). We believe in "ex nihilo" creation - God made all things out of nothing. The Lord didn't have a storehouse full of "stuff" that He used to make everything. In the beginning there was only God and He made all things out of nothing.
Therefore faith believes extraordinary things and it rests in an extraordinary God. I suspect we take our faith for granted but Hebrews 11 allows us an opportunity to marvel at the abundantly rich gift of saving faith. It is a gift that was evident even in the very early days of humanity.
Long ago two brothers called Cain and Abel came to worship the Lord. Cain's offering was not acceptable in God's sight but Abel's sacrifice was received gladly by God. What was the difference? Cain's worship was faithless whilst Abel worshipped by faith (v4). Cain was outraged by this state of affairs and despite God's warning he ended up taking his brother's life.
Sin ruled over Cain but his younger brother was counted as righteous in the sight of Almighty God. We can state categorically that Abel was saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Abel had the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen. He had not yet seen Christ and he had no clear picture of the cross which at that stage was still thousands of years into the future, but nevertheless Abel believed God and Abel was counted as righteous.
Abel's life was taken from him unjustly but in a wonderful way he still speaks (v4). His testimony continues to echo around the world from the pages of the Scriptures and even now Abel's voice is part of the church at rest in heavenly glory. He was not a perfect man and today our message is not "be like Abel" No. Instead we once again look towards Jesus who is the author and the object of our faith.
The one who puts their faith in Christ will find that it is not misplaced. Jesus is the Saviour and friend of sinners and although we do not see Him, we believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. My dear brother or sister, rejoice today at the precious faith that the Spirit has worked in your soul. By that faith you will receive your commendation.
Q107 What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer teach us? The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen,” teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.