The Commended

Hebrews 11:1-2 ESV
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.

Nothing new here. Today is a simple memo reminding every Jesus follower of what you already know- by faith you receive.  

Whatever is done for the purpose of God is by faith. I raise my kids to follow Jesus by faith. I lift my hands in worship by faith. I pray for my friends by faith. As much as we like to emphasize grace, Jesus followers are justified (sin removed) by faith. The favor of God offered freely to us all is only experienced by faith (Ro 5:1-2). Without faith, the grace of God remains in the blue sky. So, if we are going to center our lives on the Gospel we can’t just talk grace, but MUST include faith in our conversation. 

THE OTHER HALF

Somewhere along the way faith comes at the hearing of the Gospel (Ro 10:17). In other words- faith is present at our sudden awareness of the Gospel of God. What we do with that reality makes all the difference. If faith is two principle parts, then it must come with both assurance and conviction. Faith is neither just belief nor just works. It can’t be. If we follow the above Roman Road back uphill, we quickly see faith released only from the Gospel that invites us to call upon whom we believe. Believing in Jesus without calling Him Lord is no different than an average demon (Jam 2:19). 

Faith comes with something to believe (assurance) and something to do (conviction). Always. Anything other than faith is just hope. Assurance without conviction is hope. Conviction without assurance is hope. Hope is a catalyst. 

Let’s oversimplify a simple dilemma: 

  1. Life has no meaning. I hope for meaning. Each subsequent endeavor proves empty. However, the hope of meaning keeps me searching. 
  2. The search for meaning brings me to a place of hearing the Gospel. Suddenly, the promise of God replaces my empty hope with an assurance and corresponding conviction. Faith is now present. 
  3. The moment I believe the Gospel and call upon Jesus- I receive God’s grace by faith. What happens next is best outlined in Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mt 13, Mk 4, Lk 8).

Faith is assurance- the internal vision of certain hopes you know are possible because of the Gospel. Only God’s promises will cause hope to evolve into assurance. Now, once you are assured of the future you can take steps towards that vision. These steps are what the writer calls conviction. Faith is conviction- those external, quantitative actions that commend what we are sure of. Without convictions, assurance is evidently absent. Actually, James said assurance without conviction isn’t faith at all (Jam 2:14-17).

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for AND the conviction of things not seen. 

BUT NOT THE SAME

Assurance and conviction are not synonymous. They fulfill different aspects of our response to the grace of God. Faith comes with them both. Faith requires both. 

Over time, if we let our convictions erode, ultimately our assurance goes with them. I think we are seeing this today. Without the evidence of our faith, there is nothing for God to commend. In the absence of His commendation, we begin to question Him altogether. At least the world does. 

Think about it. If there is no worship or prayer in the sanctuary, there is no presence of God. As the presence of God remains absent, people question whether He is. If there are no people in the sanctuary needing salvation or healing or deliverance there will be no such thing. Again, the absence of His work suggests His absence altogether. Please understand, the activity of God has always been proof of Him. Our text says God commended the faith of our forefathers. He did something tangible in response to their assurance and conviction. 

EVER PRESENT

God has always shown Himself to the generations. God clothed Adam and Eve, He took Enoch, He saved Noah, He parted the Red Sea, He prospered kings, He sent His Son and He promised to come again! In the absence of this second coming, we have His Holy Spirit who displays the power of God in us (1Cor 12, 2Cor 1:22). The commendations (grace) upon the patriarchs remain for us as well… if we live by the same faith.

Consider what you believe? What conviction has come with that belief?

Do it. And enjoy your commendation.

A weekly blog by G. Shawn Scarborough, Pastor of Livingstone Church

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