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The Faith-Rest Life

Introduction

The Scripture emphatically declares: “For the righteous one will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11); “Now without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6); and “for we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It is so important that we do not underestimate the importance of faith in the life of the believer that to overemphasize it is almost impossible. Some might respond that works are also important and quote James 2:15f for support. But the emphasis of Scripture is that bonafide works must be the product of faith in the person and plan of God which sets God free to work in the heart and life of the individual.

Faith brings the power of God into the life of the believer. We become the children of God and justified by faith, but we are also to live and experience the Christ-exchanged life by faith. The Christian life from start to finish is of necessity a life of faith—a life of dependence on God and His grace provision for us in Christ. It is a supernatural life to be accomplished by God through faith in the Spirit who, as a gift from God, indwells every believer from the moment of salvation. As God’s gift, the indwelling Spirit accomplishes a variety of ministries each of which are vital to the believer’s spiritual life. We can no more live the Christian life by self effort than we can manufacture a resurrected body by our own effort.

The Apostle Paul rebuked the believers at Galatia for their failure to recognize this very important principle. They began by faith in Christ, but because of the pressure of legalists they had moved into the realm of human achievement through religious works for spirituality. In fact, he viewed their failure to understand this as the result of being bewitched. Such is undoubtedly the product of Satan’s deception.

Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so many things for nothing? —if indeed it was for nothing. 5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

Reasons faith in the power and plan of God is absolutely necessary:

(1) Because of the nature of man.

Ephesians 2:1-3 And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest.

(2) Because of man’s inherent weakness.

Romans 6:19 (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Romans 8:3-4 For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Matthew 26:41 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

(3) Because of the blindness and deceptive nature of the world in which we live.

John 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness.

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?

Ephesians 2:2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,

Ephesians 4:19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

(4) Because of the activity of Satan and his forces.

Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, 16 and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.

(5) Because we are totally inadequate and God alone is adequate, it is vital that we learn to walk by faith with every step.

2 Corinthians 2:16 to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,

As we have received Christ by faith in the message of the Gospel (God’s witness concerning His Son or justification through faith) so we are to walk step by step by faith in the Bible’s message of sanctification.

Romans 1:17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

Colossians 2:6-8 Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Faith is such an inherent part of the message of Bible that a study on faith is fundamental and essential to the transformed life. As we think in terms of spiritual growth and the transformed life, I’d like to begin with an emphasis on faith because we need to guard against four serious problems that work against faith and spiritual transformation.

Problems We Must Guard Against

A Spirit of Legalism

Legalism is a disposition in which man seeks to establish his own righteousness with God. It is man doing good deeds or religious works to impress God, to merit God’s blessing, or even to impress people. Legalism relies on human resources rather than on God’s resources of grace, on human abilities rather than on divine enablement. Legalism brings glory to man rather than to God. In summary, we may define legalism as “ my effort using my resources to obtain God’s blessing to my glory.”

Romans 4:1-2 What then shall we say that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, has discovered regarding this matter? 2 For if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about—but not before God.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

In a number of passages, the Apostle Paul strongly warns against legalism in any form. The author of Hebrews also warns against what he calls “dead works,” a reference to all that men do (any kind of religious works or human good) to meritoriously acquire either salvation or spirituality.

Romans 10:1-4 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. 2 For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. 3 For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.

Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so many things for nothing? —if indeed it was for nothing. 5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

Galatians 5:1-5 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! 3 And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God,

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

In the life of the Christian, good works, Christian labor, and endurance, etc., are to be the result of spirituality—being rightly adjusted to the Spirit of God through faith. The details of this will be discussed later in the lesson on The Spirit-Filled Life.

Compare the NIV’s grammatically accurate translation of 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine).

Working in the Energy of the Flesh

This means working in the energy of our own strength—our own abilities, talents, or resources. One of the strongest evidences of mankind’s fall into sin and his alienation from God is his proneness, indeed, his commitment to operate independently of God. As in the beginning with Eve, this is where Satan still seeks to deceive and tempt us the most. True, salvation through faith in Christ means the believer is a new creation with a new nature or new capacity for knowing, loving, and choosing for God. But the old nature, the self-life, or the flesh as it is also called, still struggles to control. The most prominent characteristic of the flesh is that of self-dependence—seeking to handle life apart from God’s plan and resources.

A few words are needed regarding the sinful nature or the flesh. The “flesh,” as used metaphorically by the Apostle Paul, may be defined as that indwelling spiritual principle or force, that strong disposition in all of us to operate out of our own resources independent of God to meet our needs and wants, the things we perceive we must have for security and significance, etc. The “flesh” is the opposite of trust in God. It is a spirit of independence and faith in self. As faith in self, it is a commitment to do our own thing, in our own way, and from our own resources. The flesh is evil, sinful, and anti-God. That “flesh” is often used of this propensity within man is clear from Jeremiah’s warning in Jeremiah 17:5.

The Lord says,
“I will put a curse on people
who trust in mere human beings,
who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,
and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.”

This passage points out four key concepts about the flesh: (a) the act of depending on human resources, (b) the act of depending on human resources rather than on God’s resources, (c) such an act is in essence, a turning away from God, and (d) such an act brings a curse, it is detrimental.

As a force in man’s life, the flesh is man’s natural means of protection. As man’s natural means of protecting himself, it is a way that seems right to man, it feels natural, but its end is the way of death.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way of death.

The Mentality of Our Culture

As never before in human history, the very nature of our modern society undercuts true dependence on God. With all the advances in modern science and technology in health, convenience, comfort, speed, power, amusement, information, etc., man’s natural spirit of independence and self-sufficiency has become even more acute. In spite of the gigantic social and moral problems facing society, mankind generally thinks in terms of “we are sufficient.” The Scripture, however, declares we are not and cannot even direct our lives. Jeremiah wrote, “Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them.” (Jer. 10:23).

Jeremiah 9:23-24 The Lord says,
“Wise people should not boast that they are wise.
Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful.
Rich people should not boast that they are rich.
24 If people want to boast, they should boast about this:
They should boast that they understand and know me.
They should boast that they know and understand
that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth
and that I desire people to do these things,”
says the Lord.

The Imbalance of Passivity

This is the “let go and let God” mentality which teaches believers are to sit back and let God do it all. Ryrie warns about this as an imbalance of what the Scripture teaches. He writes:

… there is the view which emphasizes the idea that God does all that needs to be done for us in the spiritual life. We not only can do nothing; we must do nothing; otherwise we will hinder the work of God in our lives.32

So that we do not misunderstand this emphasis and Ryrie’s comment about it, let me quote what he says just prior to the above quote.

Let it be said, too, … I am not suggesting that the entire teaching is wrong; it contains, in my judgment, an imbalance because some aspect of the spiritual life has been emphasized in a manner disproportionate to the place given to it in the Scripture. 33 (Emphasis mine)

This is basically the issue of taking personal responsibility to appropriate God’s resources. The hundreds of commands in the New Testament make this clear. Certainly, we are to do these things in dependence on God’s resources, but we are nevertheless responsible to do them. God is not going to do them for us.

Dependence on the power of God and effort on the part of the believer are not mutually exclusive. Self-discipline and Spirit-dependence can and must be practiced at the same time in a balanced spiritual life. Dependence itself is an attitude, but that attitude does not come automatically; it usually requires cultivation. How many genuine Christians there are who live day after day without even sensing their need of dependence on Him. Experience, routine, pride, self-confidence all tend to drag all of us away from that conscious dependence on God which we must have in order to live and act righteously.34

In all obedience there must be the balance of disciplined dependence. A number of New Testament passages teach this truth and if we fail to see this balance, we will become imbalanced, and end up in a very unbiblical position. For instance, note the element of personal responsibility in the following passages:

Romans 8:13 (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.

Galatians 5:16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.

2 Peter 1:5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; 6 to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; 7 to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. 8 For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. 8 For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” 9 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. 10 In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers.

To be sure, each of the above commands are to be done in the Spirit by faith in God’s strength, but still we have a vital part—we are responsible. God does not walk in the Spirit for us. We see the blending of these two concepts, responsibility and dependence, in the following two passages:

Colossians 1:29 Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Understanding the balance between dependence on God’s resources and expending human energy while depending on God’s enablement protects a believer from two serious errors. It protects him from:

… (1) the error that there is some sort of a switch which he can touch in order to turn off the current of temptation and keep it from coursing through his being; (2) the Christian life is a passive one in which all the believer does is ‘yield.’ If yielding means I decide to be what I truly am in Christ through the Spirit’s power no matter how great the struggle then it is clear that there will be much battle even as Paul stated when he wrote that ‘the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, …’ (Gal. 5:17). The spiritual life is neither automatic or passive.35

We might add, the spiritual life is not only not automatic, or passive, but it is also not painless. Bill Lawrence has a good summary of the issues under a section called, “We are responsible to obey by faith.”

In a sense, the believer’s responsibility in the spiritual life can be summarized in one word: Obedience.

The bottom line of the believer’s responsibility in the spiritual life is obedience. Believers are to do what God has told them to do and they can do what God has told them to do because the Holy Spirit makes this possible, though not without the exercise of discipline.

Discipline is not a matter of obeying God in our own strength even as we obeyed our parents or our employers in our pre-Christ days. Discipline is a matter of faith, because, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Discipline must be an act of trust in God’s resources through which the believer draws upon the infinite power of God and meets His righteous standard.

Obedience by faith means that we act by dependence on the Holy Spirit and count on His enabling power as we trust Him. It means that we do act, that we exercise every ounce of energy the Lord Jesus Christ “… mightily works within …” us (Col. 1:29). We act in His power; we obey through the Spirit’s resources. We act, but Christ does it through us in the sense that it is His power that enables us to do what He commands. In terms of power, He does it through us; in terms of activity, we do it through Him. We do what we could never do in our own capacity: we obey God and live up to His righteous standard.

Your obligation is not to do it in any strength of your own, or to try to do it, but to do it in the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit … You will do it in the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit and this is where the believer’s responsibility brings him. That is the thing that constitutes the ability to live the spiritual life and that is none other than the ability to walk by means of the Spirit in your daily life. That is the salvation from the reigning power of sin … Therefore you fall back upon the infinite power--think of it--the infinite power of the indwelling Spirit.36 (ital. orig.).

We draw on the Spirit’s power through a simple prayer of dependence in which we acknowledge our inability to accomplish anything for God apart from Him. We tell the Spirit, “I cannot do this in my own power. I give myself to You for You to enable me to do what You want me to do and I thank You by faith that You will keep Your promise to me to enable me to obey and serve You.” Then we act on that prayer and move to do the thing for which we are trusting God. In that moment we discover the infinite power which enables us to do what we could never do on our own.37

Any of these dangers will not only kill our joy in Christ, but more importantly, they leave us powerless to truly experience God’s deliverance and the Christ-exchanged life, i.e., Christ producing His character in us or the fruit of the Spirit. Because these two dangers are faithless in our new life in Christ, our position in Him, and in the power of the indwelling Spirit, they leave us powerless to deal with our spiritual enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Colossians 2:16-23 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days— 17 these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ! 18 Let no one who delights in humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind. 19 He has not held fast to the head from whom the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22 These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. 23 Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.

Among the truths that transform there are those that relate to spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, and worship. While these are crucial for building faith and cultivating our walk with the Lord, we should never do them to merit God’s favor because we already have His favor as believers in Christ—we are complete in Him.

Colossians 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.

Rather, these spiritual disciplines are to be done as acts of simple faith, out of a spirit of faith-dependence on the Lord. We do them to develop and maintain a deeper faith relationship and walk with God—never to achieve status with God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
6 Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will make your paths straight.

Romans 1:17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

2 Corinthians 5:8 Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Just as we eat wholesome meals for physical strength, so we are to study the Bible and pray that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and experience God’s strength.

1 Peter 2:2-3 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 3 if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness.

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.

But what is faith? How do we develop faith? What about the object of faith?

The Basics of Biblical Faith

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.

Faith means learning to trust God for what we cannot see with our visible eyes. It means learning to think and act on the principles and promises of the Word regardless of how things seem to us. We are told to walk by faith and not by sight. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God.

2 Corinthians 5:7 for we live by faith, not by sight.

Hebrews 11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

There are two key concepts we learn from these verses:

We Cannot Please God Without Faith

Faith is the modus operandi for the Christian life. It is God’s desire and plan that we learn to live by faith because faith acknowledges our weakness and rests in God and in His provision. It glorifies God. But faith in what?

Faith Consists in Two Concepts

(1) We must believe that He is. We must believe in the existence of God. But according to the Bible, a true belief in God’s existence includes faith in His transcendence and essence. Transcendence is the concept that God exists outside and beyond the universe. Essence speaks of who God is as the independent and sovereign God who is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite, and unchangeable, holy, love, veracity, etc.

(2) We must believe that He is also a rewarder of those who seek Him. This means belief in the personal love of God, belief in the provision and care of God. Included in this is the concept of God’s immanence, that though transcendent, He is nevertheless involved in the affairs of the universe, and that the creation cannot exist or function properly without Him and His intimate involvement.

Mankind is totally dependent on God for his existence, for his happiness, and for his security and significance. And God cares about us intimately.

For many Christians, the Christian life is devoid of God’s power. It is simply a matter of doing the best they can to conform to certain expected standards. Some are more successful at conforming externally to the pattern of their peers than others, but even for these, there is generally the awareness that something is missing. Some find comfort in the fact that no one is perfect; everyone has their weaknesses. Because they are doing their best, they hope God understands.

Unquestionably, no one is perfect. Maybe we are doing our best and certainly God does understand, but this does not alter the fact that unless we are walking by faith in God and His plan and provision, we are missing the abundant life Christ offers. Our best is not what God wants. He wants faith in His best—the Lord Jesus—His very own Son and the fullness of blessing He has made available for us in Him.

Think about these facts:

(1) No one can live the Christian way of life any more than they can perfectly keep the Old Testament Law or the Sermon of the Mount (cf. also Rom. 7:1-25).

Romans 3:9-20 What then? Are we better off? Certainly not, for we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin, 10 just as it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one,
11 there is no one who understands,
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves,
they deceive with their tongues,
the poison of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 ruin and misery are in their paths,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

Galatians 3:10-14 For all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith. 12 But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

(2) If we could live the Christian way of life without God’s enablement, why do you suppose God would send the Holy Spirit to indwell us?

John 7:37-39 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

(3) If we could live the Christian way of life and serve the Lord without God’s power through faith, why would the Lord Jesus give the Holy Spirit the title of the “Helper” or the “Enabler” (John 14:16, 26)? Why would He point to the disciples’ inadequacy apart from the Spirit (John 16:7-15) and tell them not to attempt any ministry until the coming of the Spirit (Acts 1:4-8)?

John 14:16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever

John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.

John 16:7-15 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you.

Acts 1:4-8 While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”

Because of all we face in the enemies of God who are arrayed against Christians, the world around us, the flesh within us, and the devil against us, the Christian life and ministry is an absolute impossibility apart from God’s supernatural ability which must be appropriated moment by moment through faith. The nature of these forces and our weakness necessitates the need for nothing short of the divine power of God. To think that we can live the Christian life is the height of ignorance or pride. So then, what is faith?

The Details of Biblical Faith

The New Testament Word for Faith

The New Testament word for “faith” is pistis. It means conviction of the truth or reality of anything; belief in something or someone. In the New Testament it is used of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and spiritual things, generally with the included idea of trust or reliance. The verb form is pisteuo which means “to believe, rely on, trust in.” It often occurs with prepositions to stress the concept of “personal trust and reliance as distinct from mere credence or belief.”38

A Definition of Biblical Faith

Biblical faith is confidence and trust in the ability, power, skill, and promises of another—specifically the God of the Bible as He is revealed in Scripture. In terms of New Testament theology, faith or belief is reliance (belief and confidence) on the work and grace of God’s plan. This includes all phases of salvation and sanctification, the past (deliverance from the penalty of sin), the present (deliverance from the power of sin), and the future (deliverance from the presence of sin).

Biblical Faith Is Non-Meritorious

Biblical faith is not a work, it is the one thing we can do without doing anything. Faith consists not in doing something, but in receiving something. Salvation is a gift which one receives by faith. Does a gift cease to be a gift simply because we receive it? No!

John 6:26-29 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate all the loaves of bread you wanted. 27 Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life—the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.” 28 So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” 29 Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires—to believe in the one whom he sent.”

These Jews thought in terms of works for salvation, but the Savior taught that salvation was a gift, the product of the work of God in Christ, which was to be received by believing in the Son of Man, the Messiah, upon whom God had placed His seal.

Faith is an admission of our spiritual inability and helplessness to merit or work for salvation or even to handle our own life apart from God’s grace provision as revealed in the New Testament. When we drive over a bridge to cross a gorge, for which there is no other way to cross, we are saying we are trusting the bridge to get us to the other side. But we are also saying, we can’t get to the other side on our own without this bridge.

Romans 4:1-5 What then shall we say that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, has discovered regarding this matter? 2 For if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about—but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

Titus 3:5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Faith is a rejection or repudiation of any confidence in the flesh (cf. Jer. 17:5-9; Rom. 3:9-24). Therefore, recognizing our helplessness and the sufficiency of Christ, biblical faith rests in God’s complete and finished work and provision in Jesus Christ or Christ’s merit. Faith brings merit not to self, but to the object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ and all that comes to us in Him.

Philippians 3:1-9 Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! To write this again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! 3 For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials 4 —though mine too are significant. If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: 5 I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. 6 In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. 7 But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. 8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ, 9 and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.

Romans 4:25 He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.

Romans 11:6 And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Hebrews 4:10 For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.

Faith Is Not Always Demonstrated by What We Are Doing for God

This is a popular notion, but not quite true. Works may actually demonstrate faith in oneself or in other false objects of faith as with the Pharisees who were meticulous about works. Certainly, an active and growing faith will produce works in the life of a believer, but in reality, biblical faith demonstrates what God, in His power and grace, is doing for, in, and through the one who is believing God.

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

Philippians 4:13 I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.

This is why we should never praise a person for his faith. We may be thankful for having faith and thank God for the faith of others (cf. 2 Thess. 1:3). We may also be rebuked or rebuke others for a lack of faith (cf. Matt. 6:30), but in the final analysis who is glorified by our faith? The object of faith of course! Why? Because faith is simply a disposition which allows something or someone to do for us because of what it is or who they are.

Whenever we sit down in a chair, we exercise faith in the chair. We show we believe the chair will hold us up. Our faith simply brings the chair and our posterity together so we can rest, but we aren’t sitting on our faith. Our faith doesn’t hold us up, the chair does. Who is to be congratulated, us or the chair? The chair, of course, or the one who made it. Our faith glorifies the creator of the chair. Likewise, biblical faith simply allows God to be God in the person; it brings God into action; it glorifies God. Faith is non-meritorious.

We can compare faith to a clutch and its workings in a standard shift automobile. The clutch relates the power under the hood to the wheels on the road. This is how we move an automobile down the road. We get down the road not just by the engine or by the wheels but by that which relates the two together. That’s the part faith is designed to play in the life of the Christian.

Faith Must Have a Valid Object

This is the reason biblical information is so important. It brings our faith to bear on the right objects of faith no matter what area of life is involved. Faith in the wrong object is worse than no faith at all.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 15 Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 18 Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

Illustration: If we are driving a piece of equipment that weighs 20 tons and try to cross a bridge with a 10-ton load limit because we believe the bridge will support us, the results will be disastrous. Our false confidence will destroy us.

Three things a valid object of faith must be or have:

(1) It must be ABLE and FREE to save.

Hebrews 5:7 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion.

Hebrews 7:25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

James 1:21 So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls.

James 4:12 But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge—the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor?

(2) It must be AVAILABLE to save.

Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Romans 8:34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us.

Romans 10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Hebrews 7:25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands—the representation of the true sanctuary—but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us.

Hebrews 13:5-6 Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” 6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

(3) It must be WILLING to save.

John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Hebrews 10:9-10 then he says, “Here I am: I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first to establish the second. 10 By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Philippians 2:6-8 who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
8 He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross!

1 Peter 5:7 by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Faith Does Not Operate in a Vacuum

For faith to function accurately and properly it must have information—it must have accurate biblical content to believe and appropriate. In Scripture there is “faith,” trust or confidence in the Lord, but there is also “ the faith,” the objective body of revealed truth which is to be believed or appropriated by faith. “The faith” is the content of our faith, the things we are to believe which form the index for faith.

Jude 3 Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.

Acts 6:7 The word of God continued to spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.

1 Timothy 3:9 holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.

If faith is to be effective, it must have a valid object which includes the right content. This is a tremendously important principle. The Lord Jesus reduced all of Scripture to two great commands: loving God and loving one’s neighbor as himself.

Mark 12:28-34 Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. 33 And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him.

Those who promote situational ethics often claim that the only thing which should control or dictate what one does is love. They claim the only rule for action is to do the most loving thing. But what is that? With man’s self-centered bent and his natural spiritual blindness, we need the content of God’s Word to show us what the most loving act really consists of or we will be cast on the tossing waves and shifting sand of human ideas.

Others would say, “We have freedom in Christ; we are not under the law. We are simply to follow the leading of the Spirit.” The Spirit, however, does not lead us contrary to the principles of the Word. The Bible is the Word of Truth and the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit never contradicts the Word which He Himself inspired. This is one of the reasons there is such an emphasis in the Bible on knowing what the Word teaches in an accurate way.

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle?
By following your instructions!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

Faith Must Be Personal

We cannot operate on the faith of someone else. Each person must personally receive Jesus Christ by faith.

John 1:12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children

John 12:48 The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day.

People must personally know and believe the principles and promises of the Word if they are to experience God’s work in their lives so that there is true spiritual change. Each person must mix faith with the promises of God to enter into God’s rest, or His provision for any aspect of salvation.

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

Romans 14:5 One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind.

Romans 14:10-14 But you who eat vegetables only—why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything—why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” 12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean in itself; still, it is unclean to the one who considers it unclean.

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it.

Biblical Faith Is Not Blind Faith

(1) God has provided abundant evidence in creation for the fact of His being.

Psalm 19:1-6 The heavens declare God’s glory;
the sky displays his handiwork.
2 Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber;
like a strong man it enjoys running its course.
6 It emerges from the distant horizon,
and goes from one end of the sky to the other;
nothing can escape its heat.

Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.

(2) We have abundant evidence from archaeology, history, fulfilled prophecy and many other things for the reliability and inspiration and acceptance of Scripture.

Psalm 19:9-11 The commands to fear the Lord are right
and permanent.
The regulations given by the Lord are trustworthy
and completely just.
10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from honeycomb.
11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there;
those who obey them receive a rich reward.

2 Timothy 3:16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

2 Peter 1:19-21 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

(3) We have an abundance of evidence for the truth of the resurrection. All this evidence is so tremendous that to deny it one must actually deny his own rational processes because of a prejudice against the miraculous. Faith, however, is not based on rationalism or human reason, nor on experience or empiricism. It is also not irrational nor blind nor contradictory to known and verifiable truth.

Acts 17:31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.

John 7:17 If anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know about my teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from my own authority.

Faith Must Be Progressive

There is immature (weak) faith and mature (strong) faith. Like a plant, faith must be fed and strengthened.

Romans 4:20 He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.

Romans 14:1-2 Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. 2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables.

Ephesians 4:13-16 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. 15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

1 Thessalonians 3:2 We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith,

1 Peter 2:2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.

Faith can and must grow or it will become inactive, non-functional, and dormant. The classic illustration of this is James 2:14-20.

James 2:14-20 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear. 20 But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless?

As seen above, biblical faith does not operate out of a mindless vacuum. It is related to what we know and are thinking. The content of our minds, the stuff we think with, is that which gives validity, vitality, and growth to our faith. Bible doctrine gives faith the right object or direction, expression, power, and vigor. How, then, does our faith grow?

(1) Faith grows by hearing and learning the Word.

Romans 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, which is at work among you who believe.

(2) Faith grows by the ministry of the teaching, verifying work of the Spirit of God.

John 16:11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.

Ephesians 3:16-20 I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, 18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think,

1 John 2:27 Now as for you, the anointing that you received from him resides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, it is true and is not a lie. Just as it has taught you, you reside in him.

1 John 3:24 And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us.

(3) Faith grows by the variegated trials of life which cause people to look to the Lord and His provisions for life.

James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

(4) Faith grows through the encouraging, teaching, and supporting ministries of other believers.

Ephesians 4:11-16 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. 15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

1 Thessalonians 3:2 We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith,

1 Thessalonians 3:10 We pray earnestly night and day to see you in person and make up what may be lacking in your faith.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing. 12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.

The Lies We Believe

The lies are beliefs, notions, attitudes, and expectations that do not fit with the truth of the Word of God.

General Nature

These lies include everything from the strategies by which we attempt to handle life on a daily basis to what we believe is needed to be saved or to be spiritual. The Bible refers to these false belief structures through a number of metaphors, some of which are listed below. Regardless, they are the product of ignorance or rebellion and are the execution of our plans and not those of the Lord.

Isaiah 30:1-2 “The rebellious children are as good as dead,” says the Lord,
“those who make plans without consulting me,
who form alliances without consulting my Spirit,
and thereby compound their sin.
2 They travel down to Egypt
without seeking my will,
seeking Pharaoh’s protection,
and looking for safety in Egypt’s protective shade.

Some illustrations of these pictures of self-dependent strategies are:

(1) Trusting in one’s own strength.

Jeremiah 17:5 The Lord says,
“I will put a curse on people
who trust in mere human beings,
who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,
and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.

(2) Broken cisterns that hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13 “Do so because my people have committed a double wrong:
they have left me,
the fountain of life-giving water,
and they have dug cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.”

(3) Self-made firebrands by which people seek to lighten their path.

Isaiah 50:11 Look, all of you who start a fire
and who equip yourselves with flaming arrows,
walk in the light of the fire you started
and among the flaming arrows you ignited!
This is what you will receive from me:
you will lie down in a place of pain.

(4) Influences from the East—human substitutes for faith in God and His plan of salvation and spiritual deliverance.

Isaiah 2:6 Indeed, O Lord, you have abandoned your people,
the descendants of Jacob.
For diviners from the east are everywhere;
they consult omen readers like the Philistines do.
Plenty of foreigners are around.

Religious Illustrations

These lies include any method that depends on human works for salvation; things people do in the belief this will save them such as attempting to keep the Law or a set of religious rules, keeping the sacraments, asceticism or some form of self-denial.

Romans 10:1-3 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. 2 For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. 3 For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Colossians 2:16-23 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days— 17 these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ! 18 Let no one who delights in humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind. 19 He has not held fast to the head from whom the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22 These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. 23 Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.

Another variation of this is believing in Christ but, rather than faith alone in Christ alone, adding some religious work such as circumcision, baptism, walking an aisle, promising to give up our sins, etc., as a means of salvation (cf. also Rom. 4:1-16).

Galatians 3:1-3 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?

Galatians 5:1-5 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! 3 And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.

Titus 3:5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

Other Illustrations

These lies include any method by which people seek to handle life, to find peace, significance, joy, satisfaction, or security apart from faith in God’s plan for us in the person and work of Christ. Such constitutes a false belief system. When we pursue power, position, praise, wealth, pleasure, comfort, acceptance, etc., as our means of joy, peace, security, and significance, we are looking to these false sources of trust in the belief they will give us what we perceive will meet our needs. Whatever they give will be temporary and dependent on good circumstances and desires that are self-centered. This means we will be manipulating, hurting, or walking on others in the process.

Some excellent books that cover this last category in detail are Defeating the Dragons of the World, Resisting the Seduction of False Values, Stephen D. Eyre, InterVarsity Press. The Lies We Believe, Chris Thurman, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Myths the World Taught Me, R. Scott Richards, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Why Settle for More and Miss the Best, Tom Sine, Word Publishing.

Explanation of the Faith-Rest Life (Heb. 4:1-16)

Hebrews 4:1-16 Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For we had good news proclaimed to us just as they did. But the message they heard did them no good, since they did not join in with those who heard it in faith. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my anger, ‘They will never enter my rest!’” And yet God’s works were accomplished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works,” 5 but to repeat the text cited earlier: “They will never enter my rest!” 6 Therefore it remains for some to enter it, yet those to whom it was previously proclaimed did not enter because of disobedience. 7 So God again ordains a certain day, “Today,” speaking through David after so long a time, as in the words quoted before, “O, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken afterward about another day. 9 Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. 10 For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works. 11 Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. 14 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.

The Meaning of “Faith-Rest”

The noun used for “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4 is the Greek katapausis, “a putting or causing to rest.” It means “resting” (active) or “rest” (passive). It is common in the Septuagint for God’s rest (Isa. 66:1), the people’s rest (1 Kings. 8:56), or the Sabbath rest (Ex. 35:2).

In Acts 7:49 (based on Isa. 66:1) it denotes God’s rest, i.e., the place where he fixes his presence. The verb form is katapauo and means “to cause to cease or rest” with the following shades of meaning, “to end” (actions or conditions), “to restrain” (used of persons), “to give rest” (i.e., cause suffering to cease), usually with God as the subject in the Septuagint, and “to rest or cease from works” (cf. Ex. 20:11). As we will see, it looks at a rest which God gives because of the work God has accomplished.

Usage of the Word “Rest”

Eight times katapausis is used in Hebrews 3 and 4 and in each case it is used of God’s rest or the rest that God supplies (3:11, 18; 4:1, 3, 5, 10, 11). Once the noun sabatismos, “a Sabbath rest,” is used in 4:9. This word is found only in this passage and seems to have been coined by the author to express the rest of God anticipated in God’s creation rest and in that of the Old Testament ordinance. The verb form, katapauo, is used three times: of God who rested after He finished creation (4:4), of Joshua’s failure to give rest in the ultimate sense (4:8), and of those who enter God’s rest as He rested from His works in creation (4:10). God rested when He had finished the work of creation and a rest for the people of God has been available ever since.

Contextual Meaning

Hebrews 3 begins with a comparison between Christ and Moses (3:1-6). This naturally leads to a comparison between their followers. The writer uses the conduct of the Israelites as a means of challenging his readers to a walk of confident faithfulness with God through a faith that rests in the sufficiency of Christ who is the fulfillment of all that is seen in the Old Testament. There was a promise in the Old Testament that God’s people would enter into God’s rest, one anticipated by God’s rest after creation. The writer sees this promise as ultimately fulfilled only in Christ. In drawing attention to this, he shows from another angle that Christ is God’s final word to mankind (cf. 1:2); He is the means of God’s rest both now and in the future.

Doctrinal Meaning

The term “rest” is a descriptive synonym of God’s various provisions for man, ultimately including His provision of salvation. It describes God’s provision from the standpoint of means, resting by faith in God’s work, and the results, ceasing from works, enjoying and resting in what God has provided. Let me elaborate.

(1) The term “rest” is used because it portrays the results of God’s work as historically illustrated in creation (vv. 3b-4). It refers to what has been accomplished by God for man. Eden was a place of rest and dominion for man where he could enjoy the perfect provision of God. In Eden, man could enter into the fruit of God’s labors. This was lost, however, by the fall. There is the need, then, of another rest.

Hebrews 2:5-10 For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels. 6 Instead someone testified somewhere:
“What is man that you think of him or the son of man that you care for him?
7 You made him lower than the angels for a little while.
You crowned him with glory and honor.
8 You put all things under his control.”
For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control, 9 but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone. 10 For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

(2) The term “rest” is used because God’s provision is entered by faith apart from human works. The rest (a picture of deliverance) is based on the work God Himself has accomplished as in creation, and symbolized in the Sabbath rests of the Old Testament.

(3) The term “rest” is used because, as God rested because of His creative labors, so He gives man rest in the sense of repose, deliverance, or salvation. Rest, as a picture of God’s salvation, has three aspects:

  • Salvation from sin’s penalty (analogous to Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt which was to be remembered by keeping the Sabbath rest).

Deuteronomy 5:15 Recall that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there by strength and power; therefore, the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

  • Salvation from sin’s power (analogous of Israel’s entrance into the land).

Deuteronomy 12:10 When you do go across the Jordan River and settle in the land that he is granting you as an inheritance and you find relief from all the enemies who surround you, you will live in safety.

Joshua 21:44 The Lord made them secure, in fulfillment of all he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could resist them.

  • Salvation from sin’s presence. The future hope and inheritance of believers when they will have rest from their labors on earth, from their enemies, and when they may also have the privilege of reigning with Christ (cf. Heb 2:5-10).

Hebrews 1:13-14 But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?

This is the primary focus of Hebrews 3 and 4. Reigning is dependent on faithfulness as members of the household of Christ. To be faithful, however, we must hold fast our confidence in Christ, i.e., resting by faith in the sufficiency of the Savior rather than turning back into some form of legalism

The faith-rest life is a life which encompasses three aspects:

First, it is a life in which the believer rests through faith in the finished work of God in Christ as God’s final word to man.

Second, stemming from this basic confidence in Christ, it is then a life which the believer enters through faith into God’s daily rest, His provision for strength and faithfulness, prayerfully and dependently laboring in the strength which our great High Priest supplies (4:16).

Third, it is a life in which the believer, through faith, anticipates God’s final rest, the rest of His inheritance in the kingdom of God.

In essence then the faith-rest life includes the three phases of God’s salvation—past, present, and future. Works or fruit in the Christian life are to be a result of the faith-rest life.

The “Rests” of Scripture

1 Corinthians 10:6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did…6:11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Based on the use of the word “rest,” “Sabbath,” the analogy of Scripture, and the concept of Old Testament types or examples, the following is a suggested amplification for the various rests of the Bible.

Creation Rest

God rested on the seventh day, after the completion of creation (Gen. 2:1-3). He rested not because He was tired, but because He had finished His work of creation. This points out one of the basic elements of God’s rests, the cessation of labor because the work is done, finished by God. Adam and Eve were able to enjoy this rest of God in a perfect environment. Adam and Eve had a vocation: they were to care for the garden, and were to populate and have dominion over the earth. They were to walk with God in perfect fellowship, and there was no toil nor sweat of the brow as in a cursed earth.

Genesis 2:1-3 The heavens and the earth were completed with everything that was in them. 2 By the seventh day God finished the work that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work that he had been doing. 3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased all the work that he had been doing in creation.

Sabbath-Keeping Rest

The Sabbath rest was inaugurated for Israel as a special sign for the nation. It stood for:

(1) God’s emancipation of Israel from bondage in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 5:15 Recall that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there by strength and power; therefore, the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

(2) An ordinance to give rest from labor.

Exodus 23:12 For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, in order that your ox and your donkey may rest and that your female servant’s son and any hired help may refresh themselves.

(3) A sign to the nation that it was the Lord who sanctified them as a people for His own and who supplied their needs.

Exodus 16:23 And he said to them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a time of cessation, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Whatever you want to bake, bake today; and whatever you want to boil, boil today; and whatever is left put aside for yourselves to be kept until morning.’”

Exodus 31:13-17 “Tell the Israelites, ‘Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 So you must keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. Everyone who defiles it must surely be put to death; indeed, anyone who does any work on it, then that life will be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; anyone who does work on the seventh day must surely be put to death. 16 And the Israelites must keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

Ezekiel 20:9-12 I acted for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations among whom they lived, before whom I revealed myself by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10 So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them to the wilderness. 11 I gave them my statutes and revealed my laws to them. The one who obeys them will live by them! 12 I also gave them my Sabbaths as a reminder of our relationship, so that they would know that I, the Lord, make them holy.

This was a sign for Israel that as God had provided creation for man, so He had redeemed them, would provide for them, and would one day provide a new spiritual creation that would also lead to a restoration of all that was lost.

Canaan Rest

Entrance into the land of promise with the promise to defeat Israel’s enemies was also viewed as a rest provided by God.

Deuteronomy 12:10 When you do go across the Jordan River and settle in the land that he is granting you as an inheritance and you find relief from all the enemies who surround you, you will live in safety.

Joshua 21:44 The Lord made them secure, in fulfillment of all he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could resist them.

Psalm 95:11 So I made a vow in my anger,
‘They will never enter into the resting place I had set aside for them.’”

Hebrews 3:11-19 “As I swore in my anger, ‘They will never enter my rest!’” 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that forsakes the living God. 13 But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become partners with Christ, if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end. 15 As it says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For which ones heard and rebelled? Was it not all who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership? 17 And against whom was God provoked for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose dead bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear they would never enter into his rest, except those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief.

Numbers 14:23 they will by no means see the land that I swore to their fathers, nor will any of them who despised me see it.

By way of an analogy for the Christian, this is a daily rest, a faith rest for the problems of life, a rest amidst pressure and the enemies of God with the promise of a God-provided victory. Even though Joshua took Israel into the land of promise and they experienced a great deal of victory over their enemies, another rest was still anticipated in the Old Testament. This is clear in that the author of Hebrews quotes David from Psalm 95 to show a rest still remains for the people of God in David’s time. If Joshua had given them the final rest, David would not have spoken of another rest (Heb. 4:4-10). Four times the author shows a rest remains today (4:1, 6, 9, 11 quoted above).

Salvation Rest

The salvation rest ultimately anticipates the millennial and eternal rest. The fall of man in sin resulted in the loss of creation’s rest or the loss of dominion. It was wrested from man by Satan who became the god of this world. The promise of Genesis 3:15 anticipated the regaining of this rest through the seed of the woman.

Genesis 3:15 And I will put hostility between you and the woman
and between your offspring and her offspring;
her offspring will attack your head,
and you will attack her offspring’s heel.

The Sabbath rests of the Old Testament, while they had special historical significance to Israel, anticipated the work that God would do through the One who would come. This is the focus of Hebrews 1:4-4:13. God’s Son, the final Word from God, will restore all that was lost by man as the victorious God-man King. This ultimate rest has three aspects:

(1) An Eternal Rest: Salvation from sin’s penalty, the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ.

John 1:12-13 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.

John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 3:24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

This was accomplished by the finished work of God in Christ and is received as a free gift through faith in Christ. Thinking that salvation or God’s blessings could be worked for, Jesus was asked what they might do to work the works of God. Christ answered, “This is the deed God requires—to believe in the one whom he sent.” (John 6:29). Salvation is the work of God in Christ and it can only be received as a gift through faith.

(2) A Daily Rest: Every day is a Canaan type of rest in that we can possess our blessings and have victory over our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. For this to occur, however, we must rest by faith in the sufficiency of God’s complete work and provision for us in Christ. We must know what we have in Christ (Rom. 6:1-7), believe and count on it to be true (Rom. 6:8-11), and present ourselves by faith to the Spirit of God to reproduce the character of Christ in us (Rom. 6:12-14).

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,

In that this rest constituted a call to discipleship, I believe this is the rest offered by the Savior in Matthew 11:28-30:

28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.

(3) An Eschatological Rest: This is the millennial rest in which believers, as rewarded saints, will be able to reign with Christ. While heaven is guaranteed for all believers, rewards and reigning with Christ depend on faithfulness in the daily rest, walking by faith as partners with Christ who overcome through the strength of the Savior’s life (cf. also Gal. 5:1-26; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 9:24-27).

Revelation 2:26-27 And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations—
27 he will rule them with an iron rod
and like clay jars he will break them to pieces,

Revelation 3:21 I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

The Danger of Failing to Live the Faith-Rest Life (4:1)

The rest that God offers is still available today (Heb. 4:1, 6, 9). Some might think that Joshua had been given the promised rest, but the author stresses the rest still remains both for the present and the future (cf. vss. 8-9). Therefore, just as Israel failed to enter God’s rest (their inheritance in Canaan) because of an unbelief that led to disobedience through the hardening of the heart, so today there must be a godly fear and diligence (vs. 11) lest we too come short of God’s rest (cf. 3:18-19).

This is the daily rest which gives God’s strength to His people to overcome and the privilege of reigning with Christ as rewarded saints in the Savior’s future kingdom on earth. But why is this such a danger?

The Means and Nature of the Faith-Rest Life (4:2-3, 10)

God’s rest is declared and explained in the promises of His Word—the good news of salvation in Christ—past, present, and future. This good news they (and we) have had preached to us. Those promises, however, must be believed or rested in through faith. We must mix faith with the promises of God.

The recipients of this book were believers who had trusted in Christ for salvation (3:1; 4:3; 10:19-25), but there are three phases of God’s salvation rest. They had entered into the first phase, the rest of God’s salvation from sin’s penalty. Heaven was assured, but not heavenly rewards. There was grave danger of failing to finish their work on earth and therefore of losing rewards because of failing to continue to cling to the Savior through faith.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! 8 Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.

To be rewarded and reign with the Savior in the future rest, there must be faithfulness in phase two of God’s rest—the daily rest of faith in the fullness and sufficiency of Christ (4:16). The daily faith-rest leads to a life of obedience as active partners with the Savior who partake of His saving life through fellowship (3:1, 14). This is phase two, the faith-rest of deliverance from the power of sin, overcoming evil, and the power to do good through faith in the power of God.

Finally, there is phase three, the rest of ultimate salvation which includes special rewards or crowns for faithful service when our work on earth is finished just as God rested when His work of creation was finished (cf. 1 Cor. 3:12-15 quoted above).

1 Corinthians 15:57-58 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! 8 Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.

These Hebrew Christians were being pressured to return to the Old Testament system of the Law and its legal demands or Judaistic works as a way of life. As in the books of Galatians and Colossians, they were being told they needed something more than Christ. The main issue here is not faith versus works for salvation (the author considered them saved), but a strong confidence in the sufficiency of Christ who is superior to everyone and everything in the Old Testament. Such confidence or rest in Christ should lead to productive works that result in rewards in Messiah’s kingdom because the believer will have finished his course (cf. Heb. 12:1-2; with 2 Tim. 4:7-8).

The History of the Faith-Rest Life (4:4-9)

In verses 4-9 the author explains why the rest still remains today and traces a brief history of the rest of God. Even after Joshua’s time, David spoke of the rest of God in Psalm 95. “Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God.” (4:9).

The Characteristics of the Faith-Rest Life (4:10-16)

1. It is a life that rests in God’s finished work by faith (v.10)

Entering God’s rest in any phase of His rest means resting from one’s own work just as God did from His. This is an instruction in that it reminds us that all phases of God’s rest can only be entered through faith. This is also, and this is the primary focus here, a reassurance that one day, just as God rested when He completed His work of creation, so we too will enjoy our eternal rest or inheritance when we have completed our task, the race laid out before us (cf. Heb. 12:1-2).

2. It is a life that is diligent to enter God’s rest (v. 11)

Since the rest remains and since we can one day enter our ultimate inheritance of reigning with Christ, we need to be diligent that we might enter that final rest as overcomers when our labor on earth is over. Since, however, faithfulness in the daily rest is a matter of faith in the sufficiency of the Savior who gives help in our time of need (4:16), this is also a call to diligence to enter the daily rest of continued confidence and trust in Christ.

It is important to remember that the disobedience of Israel to which the author again refers in this verse had its source in unbelief, in a failure to mix faith with the promises of God (3:18-19; 4:2). The warning here is not against losing eternal life, but of being disqualified for rewards which will include reigning with Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.

Revelation 2:26-27 And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations—
27 he will rule them with an iron rod
and like clay jars he will break them to pieces,

Revelation 3:21 I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

3. It is a life that is open to God’s Word (v.12)

Early on in this warning, there was the call to listen and heed the voice of the Spirit of God (3:7, 15) which of course is heard in the Word of God. Failure to listen to God’s penetrating Word, which reveals the inner life with its motives and causes of unbelief, will result in a failure to walk by faith.

The Word of God is itself a protection against a life of unbelief when it is cherished and carefully listened to. Faith comes by carefully hearing and taking heed to the Word of Christ. The Psalmist declared: “In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11).

Romans 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

Not only is God’s Word a power the Spirit uses to keep us from sin, but it is a power He uses to enable us to detect sin because, like a judge and a sword, it is able to penetrate and reveal the condition of the inner life.

4. It is a life that knows we are accountable before God (v. 13)

We must never suppose that the true condition of our inner life is undetected before God. He knows all the details of our lives inwardly and overtly and we must know and live in view of the fact we will all be held accountable for the use of our lives at the judgment seat of Christ. If at this time our lives have been marked by disobedience because of a failure to walk by faith, we will suffer loss of rewards. This undoubtedly includes the loss of our inheritance rest in the sense of reigning with Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

5. It is a life that is confident in our access to God (vv. 14-15)

We can be confident in our access to God because we are resting in the finished work of Christ and His priestly ministry at God’s right hand (4:14-15). There is every reason to hold firmly to the Savior and walk by faith because He sits as our sympathetic and concerned High Priest at God’s right hand where He acts as our advocate and intercessor. He is one who, though without sin, has been tempted in every way and who can feel for all we are going through.

6. It is a life that goes confidently to the throne of grace (v. 16)

With such a High Priest, we can go boldly (confidently) to the throne of grace to find the mercy and help we need. Here is the assurance that we have access through this sympathetic High Priest to a sovereign God and His gracious and sovereign provision (brought out in the words “throne of grace”) for whatever life might bring. Our need is to daily and dependently rest in and look to our all-sufficient Savior.

One of God’s provisions for prevention against a life of sin is the high priestly ministry of the Savior as our intercessor and advocate in which He prays for us, and where we have the privilege of going to Him for aid. This is beautifully illustrated in a number of ways in the gospels (cf. Mark 6:45-52; Luke 22:31-32; John 17:1ff).

Hindrances to the Faith-Rest Life (Heb. 5:11-6:6)

1. Ignorance

Ignorance of God’s Word and its revelation of God, of man and his true condition in sin, of what He has done for us in the person and work of Christ, of what believers have in Christ, etc., is, of course, fundamentally the greatest hindrance to the faith-rest life.

Both the written Word (the Bible) and the Living Word (Jesus Christ) are God’s revelation to mankind to move people from unbelief and their attempt to live life apart from the true God to faith in God and His plan of salvation as it is found solely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Jesus, speaking to those who had believed in Him, said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Then, when praying to the Father regarding His disciples and all who would believe in Him, He said, “Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

The book of Hebrews was written to remove the ignorance of its recipients concerning the superior ministry of the Lord Jesus. It declares Him to be the final revelation of God and the ultimate vehicle of God’s revelation to man. He is far superior to the prophets, to angels, and to Moses in that He is no less than God’s Son and God of very God Himself (Heb. 1:1-14).

The recipients of this letter, and this includes all believers of all ages, needed to rest in the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus as their Savior and get on with the walk of faith and the ministry to which God had called them. Their lack of understanding in the superiority and sufficiency of Christ’s person and work, however, was hindering their walk of faith. People can only walk by faith when they understand and believe they are perfected once-for-all by simple faith in Christ as the all-sufficient Savior.

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Hebrews 10:10 By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:14-19 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. 15 And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us, for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts and I will inscribe them on their minds,” 17 then he says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,

One of the problems they faced was a doctrinal ignorance that was foundational to a walk of faith. They needed to grow and press on toward maturity and so must we (cf. Heb. 5:12-6:1). Unless we are resting in the sufficiency of Christ, we will turn to some form of dead works or human achievement for spirituality or to meet felt needs.

2. Indifference

Hebrews 5:11-12 On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. 12 For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food.

Coupled with the problem of ignorance was the age-old problem of a spirit of indifference or apathy toward spiritual things (verse 11). Continuing his desire to remove their inadequate understanding, the author of Hebrews was encouraging his readers to a greater confidence of faith in the ministry of the Savior as a priest because of the greatness of His priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. He sensed it was hard to explain, however, because of his readers’ apathy or slowness to learn. As verse 12 indicates, plenty of time had lapsed for them to have moved on to maturity, but their apathy had held them back from growing and grasping the fullness of what they had in Christ.

What causes apathy or a sluggishness toward attentively listening and learning the truth of God’s Word? Spiritual apathy is basically caused by a spirit of self-sufficiency. Here again is the problem of the flesh with man neglecting the grace of God and trying to operate from his own resources apart from faith in God.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.

Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so many things for nothing? —if indeed it was for nothing. 5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

This self-sufficient mentality, which results in indifference to God’s truth, manifests itself in many ways: in materialism, in religionism, in legalism, in emotionalism, in the occult, or in any of the substitutes by which man seeks to achieve happiness, security, or acceptance with God apart from faith in God’s plan as it is revealed in the Bible. Dependence on human works or achievement whether religious, ritualistic, or altruism is one of the most prominent ways.

Analogies to Warn
Us Against Independent Living

We have mentioned these previously, but because this is such a constant problem, let’s review them.

(1) We tend to turn to the influences or substitutes of the world for our needs, rather than to the Lord.

Isaiah 2:6-15 Indeed, O Lord, you have abandoned your people,
the descendants of Jacob.
For diviners from the east are everywhere;
they consult omen readers like the Philistines do.
Plenty of foreigners are around.
7 Their land is full of gold and silver;
there is no end to their wealth.
Their land is full of horses;
there is no end to their chariots.
8 Their land is full of worthless idols;
they worship the product of their own hands,
what their own fingers have fashioned.
9 Men bow down to them in homage,
they lie flat on the ground in worship.
Don’t spare them!
10 Go up into the rocky cliffs,
hide in the ground.
Get away from the dreadful judgment of the Lord,
from his royal splendor.
11 Proud men will be brought low,
arrogant men will be humiliated;
the Lord alone will be exalted
in that day.
12 Indeed, the Lord who leads armies has planned a day of judgment,
for all the high and mighty,
for all who are proud—they will be humiliated;
13 for all the cedars of Lebanon,
that are so high and mighty,
for all the oaks of Bashan;
14 for all the tall mountains,
for all the high hills,
15 for every high tower,
for every fortified wall,

(2) We tend to walk by our own firebrands by which we seek to find our own way.

Isaiah 50:10-11 Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys his servant?
Whoever walks in deep darkness,
without light,
should trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
11 Look, all of you who start a fire
and who equip yourselves with flaming arrows,
walk in the light of the fire you started
and among the flaming arrows you ignited!
This is what you will receive from me:
you will lie down in a place of pain.

(3) Like sheep, we tend to wander, go astray by turning to our own way.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us had wandered off like sheep;
each of us had strayed off on his own path,
but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.

(4) We tend to build our own cisterns to quench our thirst, but these are always broken cisterns that actually hold no water and they constitute forsaking the Lord, i.e., independent living.

Jeremiah 2:13 “Do so because my people have committed a double wrong:
they have left me,
the fountain of life-giving water,
and they have dug cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.”

(5) We tend to lean on the arm of the flesh, here defined as trusting in man rather than on the mighty power and provision of God (Jer. 17:5).

Self-Protective Strategies of Human Independence

These include unconscious human strategies people use for avoiding pain and gratifying personal desires such as:

  • Retaliation, revenge tactics
  • Withdrawal, hiding, running away, avoidance
  • Activity—overwork, busyness
  • Overly talkative, dominating conversations
  • Denial, projection
  • Narcotization—drugs, alcohol
  • Striving for recognition, power, money, position, etc. for security or significance
  • Blaming others or conditions
  • Compensation—covering up undesirable traits by focusing on desirable ones

Conclusion

So what’s the need? Psalm 51:16-17 gives us the answer.

Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
17 The “sacrifices” God desires are a humble attitude—
O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject.

The need is brokenness. Brokenness occurs when we come to the end of ourselves so that we experience, recognize, and confess the futility of our own strategies by which we have attempted to live life apart from faith in God’s full provision for us in Christ.

What does God do regarding our self-sufficiency? He works in the lives of believers as a Father who disciplines (Heb. 12:5-15) and as the Vinedresser who prunes the branches to make them more productive (John 15:1-7). He does this to bring us to the point where we will stop struggling to handle life apart from the faith-rest life, i.e., apart from faith in the person, promises, principles, purposes, and plan of God for every area of life. In this regard note the comments of the Psalmist in Psalm 119 regarding affliction.

  • Verse 67: I used to suffer because I would stray off, but now I keep your instructions.
  • Verse 71: It is good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes!
  • Verse 75: I know, LORD, that your regulations are just. You disciplined me because of your faithful devotion to me.

The Psalmist clearly saw the affliction of his life as the tool of a loving and faithful God to remove his self-sufficiency, to draw him back to God, and please note, to rekindle his hunger for and trust in God’s Word which the Spirit of God uses to reveal our sin and to keep us from sin.

Psalm 119:11 In my heart I store up your words,
so I might not sin against you.

James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

1 Peter 1:6-9 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad.

Carefully read Psalm 119, but as you do, note that, with the exception of verses 1-3 and 115, the entire Psalm is addressed to the Lord in praise, petition, and confession. In this Psalm, the Psalmist praises God for the power and greatness of His Word. He refers to God’s Word in every verse except verses 90, 122, 132, and to show the nature and its dynamics, he uses ten different terms for it. He also prays for deliverance and strength according to the principles and promises of God’s Word, but chiefly he is acknowledging his own insufficiency to handle his sin and life in general apart from God and His Word.

A Proper Response

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess my total insufficiency to handle life apart from you; You alone are sufficient. I confess that I have been trusting in my own strength and struggling to live my life through my own strategies for security, significance, and happiness. I admit I have been trying to get my needs met through (replace the following with what applies to you) controlling people and circumstances, through seeking praise or recognition from people, through my achievements, through possessions, through pleasure, etc. I ask you to revive and strengthen me according to the promises of your Word and the new life I have in Christ. Help me, by your grace, to walk in the power of your life through the Holy Spirit. Give me the grace to replace my self-dependence with a deep dependence on Christ.

32 Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, Moody Press, Chicago, 1969, p. 183.

33 Ibid.

34Ibid., p. 189.

35William D. Lawrence, Dallas Seminary notes, 1993, p. 13-15.

36 Lewis Sperry Chafer, “The Believer’s Responsibility,” transcription of a class lecture, Dallas Theological Seminary, pp. 1, 5.

37 Lawrence, pp. 13-6-7.

38 G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1937, p. 361.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Faith, Sanctification