The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews1 explains that true faith in God’s Word is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
We must ask the obvious question concerning all these things that Christians “hope for”: from where do they come? They come from the hand of God; they are the things promised by God in the Bible2.
If this faith in the Gospel is “the substance”3 of those things hoped for from God, then it must also be true that this faith itself—this belief in the Gospel—has come from God.
The writer of Hebrews further explains: this faith is, itself, “the evidence of things not seen.” Therefore, we must conclude: to possess this faith is to possess the things hoped for, from the hand of God.
These things hoped for but not yet seen are the promised things of God’s “exceeding great and precious promises” which the Bible reveals to every Christian (2 Peter 1:4). And these promises are utterly sure, because God is totally faithful—“For all the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
God keeps his promises. What God promises, God bestows.
What God has promised to true believers in Christ are all really, truly and certainly theirs: this is salvation, including all that it entails—“all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1:3).
Assurance of salvation
How can the Lord’s people know they are saved? By these truths:
Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world through being conceived and born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-23);
This he did in order to be their great High Priest before God, their Covenant Representative Head (Hebrews 2:10-17; 5:5-10; 9:11-15);
In that capacity, Jesus lived an obedient life under the law of God (Hebrews 4:15), actually walking in all the ways of the Lord—he “did no sin” and “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22);
And then he made full reconciliation (atonement) to God for their sins by offering up himself as a sacrifice without blemish or spot (Romans 4:25; 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17; 7:27; 1 Peter 1:19);
That Christ’s crucifixion has provided full reconciliation and complete justification4 by God is evidenced by Christ’s resurrection from the dead (John 11:25; Romans 4:24–25; 1 Peter 3:21);
The Lord’s people, therefore, “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of [God’s] grace” (Ephesians 1:7; compare Hebrews 9:12);
And here are three of those riches of God’s grace—three evidences (or, marks) of grace: God gives his elect the new birth; he teaches them concerning their salvation; and he enables them to believe all these things (and more); and they begin living5 as a Christian.
Thus, those people who can affirm with real faith that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour, say what they know to be true. They have been taught this truth by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3; compare 1 Corinthians 2:10-13).
As Christ himself said: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:25-27).
Indeed, Christ explained this repeatedly (e.g. Matthew 13:10-11, 16-17; John 6:37, 44-45, 64-65). In John 6:44-45 he cites the prophet Isaiah’s words, “They shall be all taught of God” (see Isaiah 54:13).
Therefore we do right to pray with Paul, both for ourselves and our fellow Christians: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
The Lord’s people are those who are taught the truth concerning the doctrines of the Gospel—and they come to believe them, and to repent of all that contradicts them.
They may struggle with the false doctrines of Arminianism (free-willism, potential universalism, or whatever else this false gospel may be labelled)—perhaps for many years. But they will be brought out of these errors sooner or later.
The Truth will eventually gain an absolute victory in their hearts, so that they will ascribe all the glory to God in their salvation. They too will be brought to know that the whole of their salvation is “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6).
Are you there yet, Christian? It is inevitable that you shall be, one day!
God gives grace to the humble
You who are called “Calvinists” for your believing in the Biblical doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints—“Be not highminded, but fear” (Romans 11:20).
Paul counsels us all: “Learn…not to think of men [including yourselves] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-7).
You received everything that pertains to your salvation from the hand of God—and you know it. Now you should understand that even your knowing it at this moment is coming from the hand of God too.
You have no reason whatsoever to boast or to be proud or to feel superior: you know that you have not contributed anything toward your salvation. You know that you were not “clever” enough to choose to become a Christian!
You know that you are utterly dependent upon God for all things—material, physical, mental and spiritual. You know that, but for the grace of God having saved you, you would have remained dead in your trespasses and sins, still deserving condemnation to Hell.
Always bear in mind that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). Therefore, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) should be your life—this should be your new nature, now.
Please remember that, Christian friend.
- The Epistle to the Hebrews does not begin with the apostle Paul’s usual introduction—“Paul…to the [Christians identified by the name of their home city or region]…”. Therefore, the authorship of this epistle is open to question. There are several things that can be pointed to that may indicate that Paul wrote this epistle, e.g. the author was a well-educated Jew and a brilliant theologian; there are some similarities in style; the author was (or had been) in prison and they had supported him (10:34); he was very familiar with Timothy (13:23). Also, Hebrews has always been included with the the epistles of Paul, and some of the early “Church Fathers” affirmed that he was the author. However, there are arguments against this. Perhaps the most weighty of these is that Paul was the “apostle to the gentiles” (Romans 11:13)—as though this meant he wouldn’t or shouldn’t even once have written to his own people, who were always in his heart (Romans 10:1; 11:1). Some say that Pet, the apostle to “the circumcision” (Galatians 2:7-9), is a more fitting candidate. And other early Church leaders have also been suggested. All Christians agree that this epistle has been “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16) and has a rightful place in the New Testament Canon. I have personally not been convinced by the arguments against Paul being the human author of Hebrews, but be that as it may, I have merely referred to “the author”, whoever he was.↩
- Several of the Bible’s promises to the Christian are mentioned subsequently in Hebrews 11. There they are exemplified in these brief to-the-point biographies of several Old Testament believers. We should read each one, and examine our own heart to see whether we have the same faith as these old saints.↩
- The Greek word translated substance here is ὑπόστασις (hupostasis), meaning a substructure or foundation—something firm and real upon which we can trust (Strong’s Concordance).↩
- To be justified (or, declared righteous) by God means to be pardoned by God (as a judicial act) for our sins—instead of being condemned for our sins. God the Father justifies us because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and our sins are imputed to Christ, when he died for us.↩