Wednesday, March 07, 2007

We please God because He works it!

We Please God Because He Works It

The following was an exchange between two Internet posters ("DuckyGlenn" and "FreeGrace"):

DuckGlenn wrote:
GRACE, You see that you used the word "reward"- Salvation is not a reward for having faith, it is a gracious gift. If God gives it because of something we do, it is no longer grace. It is a reward.

FreeGrace replied:
I think you are missing what Heb 11:6 is saying. The author is addressing believers, and yes, even believers are commanded to live by faith. It is our faith that pleases God. And it is clear from 11:6 that God rewards those who seek Him. That isn't about salvation. It's about seeking God.

I respond:

Ultimately, it is Christ's righteousness that pleases God. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags.

However, we sometimes do please him:

1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

Colosians 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Colosians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

Hebrews 13:16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

2 Timothy 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

1 Corinthians 7:32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

But this is because it Christ working in us:

Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Hebrews 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

And contrary to the Pelagianism preached by some, it is not in man's natural ability to please God:

Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Applying those principles of Scripture to Hebrews 11:6

First, let's read Hebrews 11:6 in context:

Hebrews 11:1-13
1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, 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. 8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

As laid out in verse 1, Faith is the substance of the hoped-for and the evidence of the unseen. Verse 2 explains that the elders (men of old time) were justified ("received a good report") by faith. Verse 3 provides a major example of the things that we know by faith (Creation), and further states the principle that we can know the unseen, although we can only perceive the seen.

Verse 4 provides an example of an elder who was justified by faith (Abel), by presenting the act that can be seen which proceeded from the unseen faith (offering a blood sacrifice), and by presenting the result (he obtained testimony as to his righteousness). Verse 4 adds that the testimony is from God, meaning that Abel's faith is recorded in divinely inspired Scripture, in which God testifies to Abel's righteousness.

Verse 5 continues with another example of an elder who was justified by faith (Enoch), by presenting the act that can be seen which proceeded from the unseen faith (walking with God), and presenting the result (he was translated, and before the translation he obtained testimony as to his righteousness).

Verse 6, the verse in question, address the second part of that result, which was phrased in verse 5 as "he pleased God." Verse 6 explains that we can derive the information that Enoch had faith from this statement "he pleased God" because without faith, it is impossible to please God. In other words, verse 6 teaches the general principle that if you are pleasing God it is proof of your faith.

James makes the same point in James 2.

James 2:1-26 (the entire chapter)
1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James is explaining the relationship between faith and works. A live, real faith should produce works. Indeed, it is the works that testify to the faith. As Hebrews 11 is saying, we see faith in works.

Verse 7 continues with another example of an elder who was justified by faith (Noah), by presenting the acts that can be seen which proceeded from the unseen faith (prepared an ark / condemned the world), and presenting the result (to the saving of his house / became heir of the righteousness that is by faith).

Notice that the righteousness is by inheritance. This points us to Christ, for it is by his death that we receive the inheritance of His righteousness.

Hebrews 9:15-17
15And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Verses 8-10 continue with another example of an elder who was justified by faith (Abraham), by presenting the acts that can be seen which proceeded from the unseen faith (went out to a unknown place / sojourned in tents), and presenting the result (the promised land).

Of course, the promised land points us toward heaven:

2 Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Verses 11-12 continue with another example of an elder who was justified by faith (Sarah), by presenting the acts that can be seen which proceeded from the unseen faith (Judge Him faithful who promised), and presenting the result (bore a child from whom Abraham's seed spring).

Isaac and the seed of Christ points us toward Christ and the elect.

Romans 9:7-8

7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Galatians 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Verse 13 ties things up by summarizing that all of these people finished their earthly lives in faith, without having received the promises, but seeing them (by faith) afar off, and with an understanding that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth.

So, having looked at verse 6 in context, we can see that it giving the proof that Abraham had faith. Even so, James also points to Abraham's acts (in this case, the sacrifice of Isaac) as the proof of his faith. Thus, we should understand verse 6 as showing the faith-revealing effect of good works. Here it is the good works that please God, and therefore demonstrate faith.

Maybe you are wondering where our faith comes from? Turn to the first part of the next chapter of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

May our Holy God be praised!


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