"On my desk stands a small wood sculpture, the work of an unknown Tanzanian artist. It portrays an African woman on her knees. What captures one's eyes is her tattooed face, where a big smile is beginning to break through her otherwise severely symmetrical features. It is as if she is going to reveal a great secret which has given her deep joy. The secret obviously relates to the book with the cross which she holds high above her head.
"In this sculpture the artist wanted to capture the climax of a story often told in East Africa. A simple woman always walked around with a bulky Bible. Never would she part from it. Soon the villagers began to tease her: 'Why always the Bible? There are so many books you could read!' Yet the woman kept on living with her Bible, neither disturbed nor angered by all the teasing. Finally, one day she knelt down in the midst of those who laughed at her. Holding the Bible high above her head, she said with a big smile: 'Yes, of course there are many books which I could read. But there is only one book which reads me!'"
Hans-Ruedi Weber, Experiments with Bible Study (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1981), p. vii.
“Fides quarens intellectum”
The quote comes from a man named Anselm of Canterbury, an Italian Scholastic philosopher , theologian, and clergyman who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. Often called the founder of scholasticism, and as the archbishop who openly opposed the Crusades. Greatly influenced by Augustine, Anselm sought ‘necessary reasons’ for religious beliefs, notably the famous ontological argument for the existence of God.
I believe that Anselm gives us an interesting perspective on the way we intuit the reality of God.
In our day, it may seem difficult to imagine Anselm of Canterbury, as having much to contribute to the struggles of contemporary theology. The notions of partiality, relativism, and contextuality that mark our age do not allow us easy assent to Anselm's certainty concerning theological ideas. The confidence on reason he possessed seems foreign in an age in which the recognition of the historical character of human existence is often said to entail the abandonment of theological projects rooted in the past. 1
But one cannot deny that we are rooted in the past – in as much as Anselm struggled in articulating his fide – that is his faith - we are also called to articulate our faith especially in an age that questions the rationality of faith. Presenting the case for faith is one of the main themes of the Epistle to the Hebrews especially since the culmination of the Christology as accounted for in the previous chapters leads to a response on the part of the readers– and that is to live by faith, and before doing so one must first have firm grasped of what faith is in the first place.
Relationship of Chapter 11 to the entire Epistle to the Hebrews
The Book of Hebrews is a book that is constantly showing us something better. It is a book written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to bail out on Christianity and go back to Judaism. In this book we find lessons that show us that because Jesus Christ is better, there is a better way for us to live now. 2
The better way for us to live now is to live by faith. In relating the subject of faith as it is explored in the 11th Chapter of the Epistle we need to again to look back to the main ideas that are presented in the book by back tracking to the previous chapters, in order to the establish the Christological theme of the Epistle and its relationship with faith - for faith is the response to the revelation of God in Christ who is and will always be the object of our faith.a. The Son - In the first part of Hebrews (Chapters 1 &2) the author of the Epistle introduces to us God's self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews explained it in this way:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
b. The Great High Priest (Chapter 3-9)- Jesus is "the great high priest." Christ, in the exercise of his priestly office, in the sacrifice on the cross, was not adorned with silk and gold and precious stones, but with divine love, wisdom, patience, obedience and all virtues. 3
When we think of Jesus Christ as our priest, we tend to think primarily of his death as an atonement for our sins, and that, of course, is a very important aspect of his high priestly work, an aspect we must never lose sight of. He teaches very plainly that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a perfect sacrifice, that his death is a death, once for all, to pay for our sins and doesn't need to be repeated4. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a clearer emphasis on the finality of the sacrificial death of Christ than we do in Hebrews:
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26)
c. The exhortation of the above mentioned truths for the Church (Chapter 10) – Theological truths in the Epistles always have an ecclessiological implication primarily because the immediate audience of the Epistles are always the community of faiths that are situated all throughout the world of the New Testament. Of course I am speaking here aside from the implications of theology to the individual Christians, but also as individuals who are called into the Christian community that is gathered by the Spirit around the risen Lord, and this is apparent in the book of Hebrews as the theological treatise of the Epistle culminates with a call for the church:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Therefore to speak of in terms of the context of Chapter 11 in light of the entire Epistle we can conclude that - Faith is the state upon which we are called by God to respond to His self-revelation in Christ, because He is the Great High Priest and the once and for all sacrifice of atonement for His elect that is his Church.
What is faith?
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 11:1-2)
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). This passage is considered one of the most concise definitions of faith given in the Bible. Faith is synonymous with belief, and both are translated from the same Greek word: pisteuo in the New Testament. 5
See here that when it was defined in the passage that it speaks of several action words: 'being sure', and 'certain'. What do we hope for we hope for?
We hope for - imminent the Return of Christ, an end to injustice and that our present suffering is nothing compared to what God has in store for us. We hope He who began a good work in us will be faithful to finish His work on us. We hope that all things indeed work together for those who love God. These hopes are all given to us in the Scriptures.
While when we speak of certain it means here that we are certain of realities that we do not see with our eyes, but through the eyes of faith. It can be looked at as having bad eyesight cured with eyeglasses and it is with this eyeglasses of faith with that we see -that God exists as testified to by creation, we know that He controls the present age and that the laws of physics are kept in place by His hand. We know that Jesus is the One who brings us to God and that God indwells us through the Holy Spirit. By the eyes of faith that we are confident of our salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
All Christians are called to live by faith – that is Biblical faith.
Warren Wiersbe interestingly defined Biblical faith: “True Bible faith is confidence to God's Word in spite of circumstances and consequences. Faith is not some “feeling” that we manufacture. It is our total response to what God has revealed in His Word.” 6 Moreover faith isn’t an intellectual acceptance of certain doctrines or ideas. Nor is it merely a special psychological state. Rather, to speak of faith is to speak of the entire self in action. 7
Faith here as it was delivered is a faith that exists only in convenient times but also in trying times. That's why faith here is a construct that encompasses time, J. Oswald Sanders writes: “Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.”8
One important word best describes faith: context, which theologian Benjamin Myers so compellingly wrote: “Faith occurs as my whole self responds to the reality of God. Faith is thus the total transformation of my existence. God addresses me; God confronts me; God calls me; God summons me into fellowship. God becomes more real to me than I am to myself, so that my whole existence is placed in a new context – in the context of God!”9
Perhaps as we continue the lesson further it would be fitting for us to spend the week in reflection of the truth that faith is a new way for us to live. That is living a life in the context of the truth that is revealed to us in Scriptures about God, who sought to actualize His love for us in the Person, ministry and atoning work of our Savior. Have we ever stopped to think about the profoundity of such thought?
Have we ever stopped to think that to live in the context of faith in Christ is to involve both our hearts and minds that means we ought not only to bear witness with what we know but also in trusting that God will use us to reveal Christ in a life that we live by fatih?
1Pugh, Jeffrey C. - The Matrix of Faith: Reclaiming a Christian Vision p. 54
2Baclagon, Chuck - The Revelation of God in Christ - Hebrews 1:1-3
3Luther, Martin – The Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume VII, p. 163-164
4Gaffin , Richard B. Jr. - Christ, Our High Priest in Heaven
6Wiersbe, Warren – Be Confident: How to keep your balance in the day we live p. 120-121
7Myers, Benjamin – Theology for beginners: Faith
8Sanders, J. Oswald – as quoted by Warren Wiersbe in Be Confident: How to keep your balance in the day we live p. 122
John D. Godsey, Karl Barth's Table Talk, 40-41.