One of my seminary professors sums up the definition of faith from Hebrews 11 in this way: “Faith is living as if the promise of God for the future is certain and the power of God for the present is real.” – Dr. Gary Cockerill
In the previous post, we looked at Satan’s battle tactics and considered the role of the shield of faith against his attacks. In today’s post, we will look at this definition of faith from Hebrews 11, and we will see how faith serves as a shield for us from James 2.
Hebrews 11:7a – “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before.”
Hebrews 11:8 – “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”
So what is faith? “Faith is living as if the promise of God for the future is certain and the power of God for the present is real.”
How, then, can faith be a shield? Faith is a shield for us when it is active – when it results in active obedience to what God has said. Faith requires action!
Hebrews 11:17-18 – It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”
Now I love this – listen what it says next: “Abraham reasoned…” God does not ask us to set aside our reason when He calls us to faith. In fact, faith and reason go hand in hand, like the two sides of a coin. It says,
Hebrews 11:19 – “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”
Hebrews 11:31 – “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
Let’s recap these 4 examples from Hebrews 11:
- Noah? – obeyed God.
- Abraham? – obeyed God.
- Abraham? Reasoned – and obeyed God.
- Rahab? – obeyed God.
So – how was faith a shield for these people? Faith is a shield for us when it results in active obedience to what God has said. Nothing extinguishes Satan’s fiery arrows like faith demonstrated through obeying God’s Word.
Flip over with me to James 2 –
James 2:14 – What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
James 2:19-20 – You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without action is useless?
And then James talks about two of the same people that Hebrews talks about:
James 2:21-23 – Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
James 2:25 – Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.
James 2:26 – Just as the body is dead without breathing, so also faith is dead without action.
Faith is active. There is no such thing as inactive faith. Hebrews and James are both very clear: faith without action is dead. Faith that is inactive is by definition not faith at all.
So what, then, is the action of faith? The action of faith is to obey God. Faith is a shield for us when it causes us to “live as if the promise of God for the future is certain and the power of God for the present is real.” Faith is a shield for us when it results in active obedience to what God has said. Nothing extinguishes Satan’s fiery arrows like faith demonstrated through obeying God’s Word.
In the next post, we will look at how God uses our weaknesses to demonstrate His strength. Even a weak and feeble faith accomplishes much in the spiritual realm, because it is not a faith in our own strength, it is faith acting in God’s strength. And that is where faith’s real power comes from.