The Faith of the Ancient Worthies
Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.…

Christ crucified for us forms the great object of faith under the Christian dispensation. But the apostle's words, no less than the facts of the case, forbid the supposition that all God's testimony concerning His Son was embraced in the faith of these ancient worthies. In the case of Enoch, for example, the faith which the apostle's argument attributes by implication to him is the general belief "that God is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." In Noah's case no mention is made of any testimony or object of faith, except the Divine warning concerning the coming flood. In the case of Rahab, again, there is nothing in the book of Joshua, or in what the apostle says of her here, which can be construed as pointing to the Messiah. But supposing that in these cases, at least, their faith did not consciously embrace the Messiah, because the Messiah had not been revealed to it, it does not therefore follow either that they were saved in virtue of their faith as a meritorious act, or that they were saved independently of Christ. It is to be noticed, moreover, that the reason why their faith did not embrace so much as we are required to believe, was not because of anything defective in that faith, viewed as a mental act — the effects it produced forbid that supposition — but simply because of the want of a fuller revelation. They had not received the promise in its full and perfect form. Compared with that which we enjoy, their light was but as the dim dawn. And it is a striking testimony to the excellence of the principle, that a faith to which so little was revealed should sometimes so far surpass ours in the wonders which it wrought. Their faith is in fact a model for our own. It was proportioned to the degree of light which they possessed. They believed God's Word in so far as God had spoken to them. It was not that they received only one part of the Divine testimony, and wilfully rejected another — true faith never does that, but receives with equal readiness and confidence whatsoever God says. To believe only so much of what God says as suits our wishes, or accords with our prejudices, or commends itself to our reason, is not to believe the Divine testimony. The result of our own judgment, or our own fancy, it is in no sense faith. He is in no sense a believer who receives only so much of God's Word as pleases him, and gives the lie to all the rest. We insist the more on this because of the practical issues which it involves. Not only is our faith worthless, if it be not ready to give credence to all that God has said, but it will prove ineffectual for salvation, however much it may embrace, if it receive not the one truth which assures us of the freeness of the Divine love to us through Christ Jesus — that truth which constitutes the burden and substance of the gospel message. Even the faith of those earlier saints, limited as was the testimony presented to it, tended to this result. The revelations of God which they had received, declared or implied His righteousness and His friendship for man — a righteousness which would not allow sin to pass with impunity, and a friendship which promised mercy to those who would repent of sin and seek after God. Faith in these would naturally suggest to the believing soul the difficulty of their being exercised consistently with each other. But it would also convince them that, notwithstanding that difficulty, the Divine promise would be fulfilled. If the revelation given said how it was to be done, the same faith would receive its testimony. But if not — if the dim foreshadowing of the coming Saviour left them in ignorance of how God's promise could be fulfilled consistently with His righteousness — faith would nevertheless assure them of its fulfilment, and calmly receive it and rely on it, leaving Him to determine how it was to be accomplished; for the province of faith is to receive what God says, simply because He says it, not to show how God's Word can be true. In this way, we imagine, the faith of some of these earlier saints operated. Believing in God's righteousness, and yet believing His promise to forgive and receive those who came to Him, they verbally and by sacrifice made confession of their sins and evil deserts, and yet trusted to Him to find a way of rendering the fulfilment of His promise consistent with His own righteousness. Thus their faith wrought in them reconciliation to, and trust in God, and thereby proved the means of their salvation. It will now appear how it is that, although they might be saved, without conscious and intelligent faith in Christ we cannot — how it is that the revelation we are favoured with places us in a position entirely different from theirs. It is because that revelation is a test of the true state of our minds in relation to God. Possessed of it, if we do not believe in Christ we reject the Divine testimony, and prove that we have no faith in anything which God says, but are still in a state of unbelief and rebellion and enmity. In fine, in the absence of a revelation, confidence in God and submission to His will were possible, though under the circumstances faith in Christ was impossible. Whereas, in possession of a revelation, the want of faith in Christ shuts us out from a state of confidence in God, and submission to His will, and must therefore debar us. from the enjoyment of salvation.

(W. Landels, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

WEB: Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.

The Evidence of Things not Seen
Top of Page
Top of Page