Why a literal reference to Hebrews 11:1 to unilaterally define faith only blurs your understanding of how faith works

An Exegesis: 1. Why a literal reference to Hebrews 11:1 to unilaterally define faith only blurs your understanding of how faith works. 2. What do Book of Hebrews and the Bible Really Say on Falling Away?

The bimonthly dinner potluck my family co-coordinates and attends for Bible studies and support group activities had a deep-level study of the Word during the scheduled August 30 get-together. There were a few digressions and impassioned but respectful variances in opinions which from my perspective, is not only highly indicative that interest is piqued and that the subject needs revisiting, it could very well also be a sign that we are growing as a learning community. That’s Good News!

It’s great that we’re having a robust conversation and that we’re being open about discussing subjective and influenced readings of the Scripture. And now as a family group, we get to dig into what the text actually tells us. That is amazing!

Bible studies are not a persuasion-centric gathering but rather, it’s an objective look of the text and a conversation about how we can be better in serving and loving each other and others.

Our last group study was focused on Matthew 12 and 13. In the interest of staying on point and respecting time, we cut short all digressed discussions. We put an implied earmark on them for future studies.

One contention brought out was that the definitive description of faith lies in the very verbatim text of Hebrews 11:1. Here then is my critical exposition of Hebrews 11:1 which includes an explanation why a literal and boxed used of this verse prevents not just a mindful understanding of the author’s narrative but it also veers us away from getting an insightful look at faith —or Faith As Defined and Embodied.

Think of a scene from your favorite film. That scene is connected not just to the plot but to the other components of the storyline. That scene is not the totality of the movie but a moving part of the narrative. It’s not intended to be treated as a disjointed, standalone unit of the film because if it is, then it should be its separate individual movie.

It’s the same with the Bible. No part of the Bible should be read or studied in isolation of the whole literary unit. Hebrews 11:1 is another example of a reading that shouldn’t be pulled in isolation or treated as strange from the unified literary study. When drawn separately, even when used as a faith affirmation quote, the passage becomes susceptible to being taken out of context.

I’ll state this very clearly. The text in Hebrews 11:1 is not to be read as a literal reality of willingly believing what’s not there. Instead, it should be acknowledged for its literary purpose which is a thesis statement of the chapter, “Now FAITH is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

The author of Hebrews is not prescribing a mystical belief. Nor is the author advising to trust without verifiable evidence. In short, faith is not believing you will one day win the lottery jackpot. It isn’t trusting that your marriage is divinely intended while your spouse beats the daylight out of you.

The Book of Hebrews is what we can refer to as a catalog of faith. Like the other 65 books in the Bible, it has to be read and studied as part of a unified literary work in its finished form. Please refer below to the photo of the four principles of foundational Bible reading and study.

In Hebrews, faith is rigorously described in chapter 11 as non-transactional. The author will support this claim by naming various examples of people in the Torah who exemplified the virtue. The author will conclude that even though none of them got to live out what was promised by God, they knew, believed, and trusted the divinity of God. The point is, they didn’t have to first see the results in order to live their faith. It’s not ”Show me the money” like it was in Jerry Maguire. The whole study of the chapter is that faith is premised on the character and being of God. The faith by which the forefathers displayed shared common characteristics of knowledge and insight (of who and what God is), belief (in his being), and trust (safety under his care).

Whilst the above teaches and preaches us about faith, Apostle John in 1 John 4:12 and 13 shows us a cognizant way faith is developed and lived, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.”

The preceding exegesis also illuminates a basic point concerning another digression, falling away. I will say this again, no part of the Bible whether verse or a book should be studied apart from the entire narrative of all 66 books combined. First, let’s see what the Scriptures say in gist about the function of the Spirit in the world, specifically in reference to Salvation by Grace.

WHILE IN THE CONDITION OF SIN, THE FUNCTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO CONVICT THE WORLD OF THE REALITY OF SIN, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD AND THE INESCAPABLE JUDGMENT THAT FOLLOWS (John 14-16).

Hence, when a person answers the call of the Spirit, in effect by faith this person also accepts God’s transforming grace. Positionally, this individual moves into the family of God where the condition of sin is removed once and for all. I also need to be clear that this doesn’t mean that a person will no longer commit sins or that she or he is exempt from the vulnerability of sin. By the same token, once you are positionally moved into the family of God, you cannot be unsaved. Because if this is so, then you are saying that the process of Salvation has to be repeated. In short, you are also pointing to the belief that Christ has to be crucified again each time you are ”falling away.”

In fact, the book of Hebrews is a direct rebuke to anybody who professed faith yet their lives remain unchanged. If the foundational premise of Salvation and your personal relationship with God is that you have been transformed by grace through your faith, the natural overall progression is towards a maturing predisposition for greater goodness. Herod Antipas whom Jesus calls a fox (uncleaned animal) is an example of a person who claims faith but doesn’t really have anything to show for as evidence of a transformed life.

Inarguably, if one has truly received God’s transforming grace through faith, there’s an inevitable and marked paradigm shift in that person’s life that’s pointed towards a continuing process of loving everyone everywhere.

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