The Testimony and Walk of Faith: Part 1

Hebrews 11  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 5
It is impossible to deny that there is some principle livingly working in the world which has signally called out the hatred and opposition of man.
It has been so from Abel downwards to the present day.
The “course of this world” has gone on. It is now going on around us. But in the midst of this there has been, and there is, a motive acting, which calls out the hostility and proud judgment of the world. That history is the history of the town in which we are, as well as of Cain and Abel. In every age and in every country it has been so. We find the people of faith the objects of the hatred of man, but God owns this people. “Others,” we read here, “had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented: of whom the world was not worthy.” (Heb. 11:36-3836And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:36‑38)). Here God gives His history of them. He does not interfere. He leaves them “destitute, afflicted, tormented.” He does not meddle with the world, and the world goes on. It will not be always so, but that is the present fact. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:1111Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)). They go their own way, “the course of this world” (Eph. 2:22Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2)). It is not God's world. So little does He meddle with it, that, when His own children—those whom He owns—are “destitute, afflicted, tormented,” He does not interfere. It has departed from Him, and He will not own it.
We find the same thing in the message to the angel of the church of Smyrna, in the book of Revelation: “The devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days.” How came that? could He not interfere? “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” There is hope in another scene. If a person will walk with God, he must walk by faith; he is walking in the midst of a world where God is not owned, and where God does not interfere—a world ripening for judgment. He sends a testimony; and just in proportion as we are faithful to His testimony, the prince of this world will torment us. “I say unto you,” the Lord Jesus tells His disciples, “that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall the Son of man suffer of them.” That is the character of the “course of this world.” God may control by secret providence and overrule, but that is its character. Faith has its testimony, and goes on with it, recognizing that God does not own the world. “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned: and the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:17, 1817Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 18And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:17‑18)). Until then, they must live by faith of that which is unseen.
This was specially a trial for the Hebrews. Their very religion was one of sight. They had a system to walk by, a visible temple, sacrifices, priesthood, and the like. Messiah they expected to see. When they did see Him, they hated and put Him to death; and this Messiah was now gone to heaven. In becoming Christians they lost all they had possessed, and gained nothing—nothing that was tangible to the flesh. There was therefore the constant temptation to deny an unseen Messiah, and to turn back to things seen.
The apostle sums up in this chapter, and shows that all through man's history, no matter who had obtained a “good report,” it was by faith. Men will count us fools. We may give as a definition of folly, a man's acting most consistently for an object that nobody sees, and nobody believes to be true. The saint's warrant is the word of God. The moment he acts upon any object seen, he ceases to act as a Christian. Christ lived, in that sense, the life of faith. It is the life of faith we get here, not salvation, or the finding peace in the way of faith. There is a single exception (Abel), or which may be so in measure. Faith is looked at as the power by which they walked.
There are these two things in faith: as it regards,
1st,-peace of soul;
2nd,-power for walk.
It I talk of faith, I may mean belief of a testimony—a person tells me a thing, and I believe him. But there is another sense in which I may have faith in that man; that is, I may put my trust in him. We often confound these things. There is the testimony of God, which I have to believe, and a trusting in God, which is the power of my walk.
That which gives me peace is, receiving the testimony of God: I do want confidence in God for power of walk, but I must not confound this confidence in God with His testimony.
We shall find the two things in Abraham. God called Abraham, and showed him the stars of heaven, and said, “So shall thy seed be,” and Abraham “believed God.” In the offering up of Isaac (ver. 19) there was not the receiving of a testimony, but “believing in God.”
Here I am, a sinner, with the consciousness of sin: how can I trust in God? I know Him to be a holy God, a hater of sin: how can I trust in Him? I dare not be in His presence with sin upon me: what can meet that? it is not denying the holiness of God; it is not my putting away my sin; but God tells me my sins are put away. I believe Him. This is not trusting in His power. The thing that gives me peace is my receiving a testimony. My spirit cannot rest, when I am conscious of sins unless I know that sin is not imputed to me: it is God who has seen it just as it is; my being content with myself will not do; I must have God content about me. There is a wrestling going on in the soul that wants to be content with itself. Believing God's testimony, it would be at peace. It has never yet been brought to feel itself a thoroughly worthless sinner. The question is, not as to my not having sin, but do I believe what God says when He says it is put away? There is really a work of the Spirit of God in this, not in producing what will satisfy me, but in bringing my soul to say, “It is all over with me.” God often allows it to struggle on, trying to get better; He lets it, and, like a man in the mire who pulls one foot out to get the other in, its case is only worse. The answer to this comes in the blessed truth of the gospel by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, that “whosoever believeth in him is justified from all things” (Acts 13:38, 3938Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38‑39)). I find God perfectly at rest; He is resting in Jesus, perfectly satisfied. Christ says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do;” and God says, “Sit thou on my right hand.” I get rest to my soul, because I find that God has not one single thing against me. There is often this struggling under the sense of conviction before the soul gets peace.
Another thing is the walk of faith. Come sifting, come trial, come what may, the ground of my peace is never touched. If it were not completely settled—done, it never could be; and why? Because God says, that “without [not “sprinkling,” but] shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)). Therefore, if not perfectly done, Christ must die again, shed His blood again. But it is finished. The Spirit of God will make me see it; but it is done. I take this word of Jesus, “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do;” and I say, “It is finished”
Now I find the path of faith opened before me. I am sure God loves me, and is nothing but love; I can therefore trust in Him. I know His love. He has saved me as a sinner; I can trust in His love as a saint.
Mark the order in which things are presented here.
To faith, that which is unseen becomes as near and as real as though present to sight (ver. 1); yea much more so; because there is deception in seen things; but there is no deception in things communicated by the Spirit to the heart.
Through faith we know that creation was by the word of God (ver. 3).
Then (ver. 4), we come to the great basis on which a fallen creature can have to say to God. Let us look a little at the distinctive character of Abel's sacrifice.
Cain offered to God what cost him more. His was not the case of a thoroughly irreligious man; he offered to God, worshipped God, and was utterly rejected. He was not an infidel or an irreligious man; but a worshipper, and a rejected worshipper. His worship was founded on unbelief. A sinner, one out of paradise, he could go to God as though nothing had happened! So with many; they think they can go and worship God, paying a compliment to Him. And what did he bring? The very thing that had the stamp of the curse upon it. God had said to Adam, “Cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Gen. 3:17-1917And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:17‑19)). That is what comes of a person thinking he can worship God ("do his duty,” as he terms it); it is the denial of the whole truth of his condition.
What does Abel? Quite another thing: he brings a slain lamb, he comes through death (in principle, through the atonement of Christ). He sets between himself and God the testimony of a provided sacrifice. “By faith he offered.” Before the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the revelation had been that such a thing would be done; as though I were to say to a debtor in prison, “I will pay your debts.” All that we enjoy as a finished work was to them a subject of hope. “Whom God,” it is said, “hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the passing over of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25, 2625Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:25‑26)). We are not looking onward to a future sacrifice; I have not a promise of getting out of the prison—I am out. We have a testimony that the thing is done, and the Holy Ghost is the seal of the testimony. The Holy Ghost cannot testify anything to my soul otherwise than that the work is done, the debt paid, the door opened, all finished. Two things are spoken of in 1 Peter 1:10, 1210Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: (1 Peter 1:10)
12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12)
, “the sufferings of Christ, and the glories, that should follow:” we are between these two things. The believer stands upon one—half already done. The Old Testament saints looked for both; we come after the sufferings and look for the glories. The Holy Ghost has been sent down meanwhile to testify of accomplished redemption. This is not my hope. I am not waiting for my sins to be put away: they are put away. This is the basis on which we rest. God rests in the accepted work of His Son, and there I rest.
Next (ver. 5), we come to the walk of Enoch. Here I find another thing. Of course everybody is not translated as Enoch and Elijah were. Not only can I approach God (faith does not merely tell me this), but that has come in which has set death altogether aside. Death belongs to me now; it is not (as it is called) a “king of terrors:” all things are ours; life is ours; death is ours; for we are Christ's and Christ is God's (1 Cor. 3:22, 2322Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:22‑23)). In Enoch we find a walk with God; a power of life with God, and such a power that death is not seen. We have the life of the Son of God, and not only His death; the blessed truth, not simply of a made sacrifice, so as to give my soul peace, but that all the power of Satan in death has been destroyed. God allowed Satan to do his worst: all that “the prince of this world” could do was brought to bear upon His Son, and it is gone forever. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 3:2020Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. (Galatians 3:20)). We are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord confident and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5). What I am looking for is not to be “unclothed,” but to be “clothed upon;” but if I die, the life that I have is untouched, and I am “present with the Lord.”
Here I find two things which faith recognizes: first, the blood of atonement, by which sin was put away; and secondly, a power of life, by which we walk (not merely as His people, but) with God. The result will be that the power of death is entirely gone. We are identified with a living Christ—as we are saved by the death of Christ.
We do not hear anything about “condemning the world” in the case of Abel, or in that of Enoch. God “bears testimony to the gifts” of the one; and the other “walks with God.” But I find another thing. (Ver. 7). We are going through the world, and God has given us a testimony about the world, and about what is going to happen to the world—infallible judgment. He has “appointed,” it is said, “a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)). “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet [prophetic testimony] moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Warned of what is coming on the world, he owns and recognizes the judgment, and falls in with God's revealed way of salvation; and he condemns the world. Mark this: faith “condemns the world;” not merely is it belief in a sacrifice that saves, and power for walk with God; but it says of the world, that it is altogether departed from God, and is going to be judged. We have the testimony of the word of God, that the thing that is coming upon this world is judgment. There is many a person who, as a saint, would rest in a saint's walk with God, but who shrinks from breaking with the world. The saint is so to act upon this testimony as to the judgment of the world as practically to condemn the world. Had we Noah's faith, as well as Abel's and Enoch's, we could not go with the world. If His people are saved by Him, He is coming to judge the world; and therefore they have their portion with Christ, and in Christ, so that when He comes they will be with Him. As sure as Christ rose from the dead, He is “the Man” God has ordained to judge the world” this present evil world; “and so sure is there no judgment for you and for me, if we believe in Him. That by which I know there will be a judgment is that by which I know there will be none for me. How do I know there will be a judgment? Because God has raised Him from the dead. What more has God told me of His resurrection? That my sins are all put away.
There is another thing which we cannot enlarge upon now. (Ver. 8). The apostle turns to another point, the practical active manifestation of the power of faith. It was this strengthened Abraham. He trusted, so to speak, blindly in God, God called him by His grace, and he went out, not knowing whither he went. There comes in confidence in God; not simply the receiving a testimony, but blind implicit confidence in God. A person might say, “If I only knew what would be the consequence of my doing so, I could trust God.” Then you will never go. Look at Adam; how did Adam act? He had present external things, but he took the devil's word in faith. God turns round and says, “You have believed the devil, when you had all my good things; now you must trust Me.” You go out not knowing whither you go, because of trusting in the person that is leading you. God will give light enough to say, “God wills this, and I do not see another step.” When you have turned the corner, you will see what is round the corner.
Further, when we have taken a step, we shall find that the Lord never satisfies us; He blesses, but He does not satisfy. When Abraham comes into the place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance, what has he got? Nothing. He is still a stranger. This the heart dislikes. Hence the disappointments often experienced. As regards our prospects, we have our own thoughts about them; we are thinking perhaps of what we are going to make them twenty years hence. God is going to bring us into His rest.
He brings Abraham into the land; and then He begins to lead his thoughts to another country. He gets near God, and is placed upon a high enough platform of faith to see it is all before him yet. The Lord reveals Himself to him in communion; speaks with him, unfolds to him His purposes; and Abraham worships. He has his tent and his altar. And this is what God does with us; He makes Christians of us, brings us into the land of promise, and makes us see it is all before us yet. This is not the time for rest. The eye becomes clear in the ways of God; and we have the privilege of being strangers and sojourners with God, and we shall be strangers and sojourners until we get home in the home of God.
Beloved friends, how is it with you as regards this? Can you really say, “My home is in God's home (the home of your hearts, that is); I have no home till then, and I do not want one?”
There is not anything between us and God, no sins between us and God, or Christ is not there (He is there because He has put them all away); both cannot be there. Are your souls then resting on the Lord Jesus Christ? or are you working to settle something that has been settled already?
The Lord give us to believe His testimony, and to trust in His power.
(To be continued).