In speaking to the Hebrews, Paul states: "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)." This verse does not describe any mere human, of course, but Jesus Christ, son of the living God.
What gave Paul this sure knowledge of Christ? Assuming Paul was as human as any of the rest of us, how could he be so sure of his understanding of Jesus? He knew Jesus was no mere "good guy" but "the radiance of the glory of God." He knew Jesus was not just wise and courageous, but "the exact imprint of his (God's) nature." He knew Jesus did not just have the gift of healing, but that "he upholds the universe by the word of his power." Can we describe Paul as a man of great faith, or should we say that he is a man with certain knowledge?
Those of us who like to pose troublesome questions may never receive entirely satisfactory answers. One thing is certain, however-Paul had a lot to say about that multi-dimensional concept known as faith: for example, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)." At least on a superficial level, we understand: faith is connected to hope. You can be sure of something even if you do not see it. I am sure Ireland exists, even though I have not seen it.
Going a bit further we read: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (11:3)." This should put the wheels of thought in motion. Unaided human vision definitely has limits. We can barely see enough to keep from bumping into things as we move around. We cannot see microbes and molecules, nor can we see the far side of the moon, not to mention distant galaxies. By the grace of God, we use technology to expand our vision but the physical universe surely suggests a greater and more mysterious spiritual realm.
How do we relate to the creator of the universe? "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (11:6)." It seems reasonable that you must believe God exists before you can please him. But there are implications. How many people do we know (and love) who are ambivalent on whether they believe God exists, but who assume "being good" will get them into heaven? They need to hear the gospel, the good news about Jesus, "the founder and perfecter of our faith (12:2)."
Paul goes on in Chapter 11 to give many examples of Old Testament faith. Some of them deal with people in transition-going from one place to another: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance (11:8)." This sets in motion a great story-the story of God's chosen people seeking their homeland. Just think of it: "and he went out, not knowing where he was going (11:8)." Christian men, when driving their cars on family vacation and refusing to ask for directions, have been imitating Abraham ever since.
Skipping ahead to the time of Moses, we observe: "by faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned (11:29)." Travelling with faith is so different from travelling without faith. There are trials and tribulations to be sure-but there is also the ultimate and benevolent protection of almighty God. And when mortal death comes some day, as it must, there is the promise of eternal salvation through Christ.
From these and many other examples we can observe an interesting thing: there appears to be a connection between faith and acknowledging the need for human leadership. "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (13:7)." We know our human leaders are imperfect; we know also they are generally trying their very best.
God's people are sinful. They tire easily. They need help. They need guidance. They need encouragement. (When speaking of human sinfulness, the words "they," "we," and "me" are pretty much synonymous). But we have seen how God works with groups of his people through human leadership. It is humbling to realize how much we need each other, even as we acknowledge each other's imperfections.
So let there be love amongst Christians and within Christian groupings. Let those who are strong lead the weary across the desert of doubt. When one falters, another may lead. We can all take our turn, each in our own way, in due course. Praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
In faith and fellowship,
New Life Community Church
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