By S. Leonard Tyler
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, AV). “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction (`test,’ marginal reading) of things not seen” (ASV, emphasis mine to identify these words, SLT).
The different renderings of Hebrews 11:1 are very interesting. The word “substance” or “assurance” is translated from hupostasis meaning, “assurance, substance or confidence.” “Evidence” or “Conviction” is from elegmos, meaning a reproof, vindication …. which denotes a proof, proving, test, as in Heb. 11:1, `proving,’ R.V. marg., `test”‘ and is found in 2 Tim 3:16 (W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, p. 283, and Vol. 4, p. 88). Faith has evidence to sustain the assurance, the confidence, and the proving. Faith gives a basis or ground upon which true confidence can rest.
The gospel reveals these truths in respect to Christ, even as it reveals all spiritual things (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). We can see how evidence leads to faith in John 20:30-31). “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Faith is produced and sustained by the word of God which was written for this purpose (Rom. 10:17). Paul so declares it in 1 Timothy 3:16. Perhaps, we have not come to appreciate and rely upon this statement as we should. It reads:
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen of angels, Preached unto the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up into glory.”
A Look At The Passage
“And without controversy” means no one may rightfully even question the greatness of the “mystery,” if he understands. This should create in the minds of all of us a keen interest in the “mystery” and give a desire to motivate effort to learn what the “mystery” really contains as revealed.
“The great mystery of godliness” is the revelation of the truth regarding God’s provisions through Jesus Christ for man’s salvation. “Mystery” has reference to something unknown or unrevealed, not to something unlearnable, mysterious in its very nature, confusing, and unattainable. This “mystery” is now reveal4d (Eph. 3:3-12; 5:32). Paul explains that one by reading can understand. This, according to the apostle was accomplished by Jesus Christ in whom we are to have “boldness and confidence by faith of him.” This was not known in ages past “as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” The gospel is now revealed for the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).
“Godliness” is explained by W.E. Vine: “. . . In 1 Tim. 3:16, `the mystery of godliness’ is godliness as embodied in, and communicated through, the truth of the faith concerning Christ” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 2, p. 162). One must imbibe these truths into his own heart and life to be of the faith “which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Let us now notice the expressions used to impress upon men and women the evidence upon which assurance may be established with firm confidence – not imaginative, wishful, dreamy feelings or some sort of a mystic vision.
Firm Evidences Of Christ
(1) “God was manifest in the flesh” presents Jesus as indeed the Son of God. John so declares Him, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). This is the manifestation of the “mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations . . . . to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:26-28). This is also the basis and strength of John’s presentation as declared that the “fellowship is-with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-7). Jesus is the Divine Son of God sent for the redemption of all men (Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 5:8).
(2) “Justified in the Spirit.” This is proven in the light of the following points. He was conceived of the Spirit (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35) and had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). The Spirit was a sign to John by which to identify Jesus (John 1:32-34). The Spirit testified that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God by descending upon Him at baptism (Matt. 3:16). The Spirit vindicated Christ of all charges alleged against Him and confirmed that He is the Son of God (John 15:26; Rom. 1:4). Justified means vindicated and proven true or righteous. Christ is the genuine, Divine Son of God.
(3) “Seen of Angels.” The angels announced His birth (Luke 2:9-11) and they ministered unto Him after His temptations on the mount (Matt. 4:11). When he prayed in Gethsemane, an angel came and strengthened Him (Luke 22:43), and at His resurrection an angel watched over the tomb (Matt. 28:1-8). When the woman came to anoint the body of Jesus, two men stood by them who caused them to be afraid and to bow down their faces to the earth. The men said unto them, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:5-6). Christ is risen! He is alive!
(4) “Preached unto the Gentiles.” This happened first by Peter at the house of Cornelius (Acts 15:7-8), and Paul was a chosen vessel to the Gentiles (I Tim. 2:5-7). In Romans 9:30-33, Paul plainly shows that the Gentiles obtained unto righteousness by faith and Israel lost their place with God for refusing to believe in Jesus Christ. The Gentiles believed Jesus to be God’s Son.
(5) “Believed on in the world” declares that Jesus Christ was accepted in His own time to be the Divine Son of God. This is the essential truth for man’s salvation. Christ is the author and finisher, the perfecter, of our faith (John 3:16-21; Heb. 4:2-3; 11:1, 6; 12:1-3). Faith will accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Without that faith, a person cannot come to God (Mk. 16:15-16; John 1:12; 5:39-47; 8:24; 14:1-7; Matt. 7:24-27). “Believed on in the world” is given as one of the great facts of the “mystery” because it is a manifestation that Jesus was accepted by those with whom He lived as the Son of God, the incarnate Deity, as John so firmly declared (1 John 1:1-7). The inspired Word is given to produce faith and lead one to accept Jesus as both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:37-42; 8:37-38; Mk. 16:15-16; Heb. 3:12; 10:38-39; James 1:25; 2:17, 20, 24).
It is faith which worketh by love that brings salvation (Gal. 5:6; 1 John 2:22-25; 5:4-5, 9-13). Truly, Jesus was believed on in the world in spite of the forces of all false, human reasoning. The inspired Word of God reveals the only firm, proven reasons upon which faith in a Divine Personal Savior can be substantiated. It was a “great mystery” while kept secret, but now being revealed, it is understandable and sufficient to produce the faith which moves one to accept Jesus (Phil. 3:8-11; Gal. 2:20). This is God’s grace provided to give man the only way of salvation (Tit. 2:11-12). What a wonderful revelation. They believed and obeyed. We should follow their example. The message is trustworthy (2 Cor. 4:13).
(6) “Received up into glory.” This points to Christ’s ascension back to the Father (John 17:5; Acts 1:9). As Paul declared, “When he ascended upon high, he lead captivity captive and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8). Thus, Christ took His seat at God’s right hand with all authority in both heaven and earth (Acts 2:36; Eph. 1:18-23). The gospel of Christ is God’s power unto salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16-18). “O the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways are past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again! For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).
Herein lies the substance, assurance, and conviction upon which faith is produced and sustained. Will you believe and imbibe these precious truths into your heart and life? After Jesus prepared the way, the Holy Spirit revealed it in an understandable manner to make it available and attainable to all men (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 1:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:1-3). Will you hear, it, believe it, and obey it to the saving of the soul? God has provided – will you accept? The answer lies within your own reach. Your soul depends upon your answer. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world . . . who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11-12, 14-15).
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 13, pp. 401-402
July 7, 1983