Had Ye Believed Moses
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
“For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 10:35-11:3).
Hebrews chapter eleven is usually looked upon as “the great chapter on faith” in Scripture. Certain experiences of a select number of individuals from Old Testament history are recounted, and each of these individuals is said to have acted “by faith”: “By faith Abel…,” “By faith Enoch…,” “By faith Noah…,” etc. (vv. 4, 5, 7ff).
But something is often overlooked when studying Hebrews chapter eleven — that stated about “faith” in the introductory verses. The various things stated about individuals walking “by faith” in this chapter (vv. 4ff) must be understood in the light of that revealed about “faith” in the introductory verses leading into this section of the book (10:35-11:3).
“Faith” appears in connection with a particular subject in these introductory verses. And the subject being dealt with can only remain unchanged in that section of the book that these introductory verses lead into — that section of the book beginning with, “By faith Abel…” (11:4).
The verses introducing the thought of various individuals exercising a walk “by faith” deal specifically with “faith” in relation to the saving of the soul (10:39). And the saving of the soul has to do with present and future aspects of salvation, not with the past aspect of salvation, the salvation of the spirit. The saving of the soul has to do with a salvation awaiting those who have already “passed from death unto life,” not with a salvation awaiting those who are still “dead in trespasses and sins” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1).
Then, to view the end of the matter, the saving of the soul is revealed in the chapter one of First Peter to be the goal of “faith”:
Receiving the end [goal] of your faith — the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
And a principle drawn from the relationship between faith and salvation in this verse (salvation being the goal of faith) would be true at any point in Scripture where faith and salvation are in view. This principle would be true whether dealing with salvation by grace through faith, or with faith to the saving of the soul. “Faith,” in both instances, would be seen to have a revealed goal; and that revealed goal, in both instances, would be salvation. In the former, the salvation of the spirit would be in view; and in the latter, the salvation of the soul would be in view.
A person is saved (past) “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Through a simple act of faith, a person is “born again [lit., ‘born from above’],” passes “from death unto life” (John 3:3; 5:24). This is a spiritual birth; and once this birth has occurred, “faith,” bringing this birth to pass, can only be looked upon as reaching its intended goal.
The intended goal of “faith,” in this respect, is eternal salvation. Salvation is instantly complete the moment one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ; and faith, with respect to that which is brought to completion, must be looked upon in the same sense. Faith produced its intended result at that point in time; and faith, at that same point in time, was brought to its goal.
But that is “faith” with respect to the salvation that we presently possess. And though faith, as it pertains to this salvation, has been brought to its goal, faith itself must and does continue (though faith may or may not be active in every Christian’s life). But this continuing faith, rather than pertain to salvation past (the salvation of the spirit), pertains to salvation present and future (the salvation of the soul).
Romans 1:17 states, “…from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” And the faith referred to in this verse, both textually and contextually, can only have to do with a continuing faith beyond the point of the birth from above.
The whole of that seen in Romans chapter one, both preceding and following verse seventeen, has to do with salvation present and future — the salvation of the soul. “From faith to faith,” according to both the text and context, refers to a continuing faith by which the just are to live. It refers to faith as the operating principle within the spiritual life of the one who has “passed from death unto life.” And a continuing faith of this nature could only be the natural outflow of a new spiritual life, brought into existence through a prior act of faith.
And this continuing faith, referred to in Romans 1:17, is exactly the same faith referred to in Hebrews 10:38: “Now the just shall live by faith…” Both verses are quotations from the same Old Testament passage — Habakkuk 2:4. And whether in Habakkuk, Romans, or Hebrews, faith with respect to “the saving of the soul” is in view (Hebrews 10:39); and there is an end, a goal connected with this continuing act of faith, as there was an end, a goal connected with faith relative to the birth from above.
The pilgrim walk, the race in which Christians find themselves engaged, is a walk solely “by faith.” And though “works” enter and must have a part (James 2:14), works are seen entering only following faith. “Faith” must always precede works, and works must always emanate out of faith, bringing faith to the goal seen in 1 Peter 1:9, as Christians govern their lives accordingly (James 2:22; cf. Romans 10:17; James 1:21). Everything must be “by faith,” from beginning to end.
(In both the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul, works allow “faith” to be brought to its goal. Works are the means which God uses to bring “faith” to its goal.
In the good news concerning the grace of God, it is the work of Another — Christ’s finished work at Calvary [John 19:30] — which allows “faith” to be brought to its goal.
In the good news concerning the coming glory of Christ, it is the Christians’ own works — works which are the natural outflow of faithfulness, works performed under the leadership of the indwelling Spirit [James 2:21-25] — which allows “faith” to be brought to its goal: “…by works was faith made perfect [brought to its goal]” [v. 22].)
But what is “faith”? The definition of faith is seen in the meaning of the word itself. “Faith” and “believe” are two different forms of the same word in the Greek text. One is a noun (faith), and the other is a verb (believe). “Faith” is simply believing God. “Faith” is believing that which God has revealed in His Word.
Thus, “faith” could involve any area of study within the revealed Word. And too often little attention is paid to the context where “faith” is used when dealing with this subject throughout Scripture.
For example, in Romans 4:3, quoting from Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God [Abraham believed that which God had said; Abraham exercised faith], and it was counted to him for righteousness.”
This event is looked upon by some individuals as the point in Abraham’s life where he was saved. But that cannot be correct. The context of the statement in Genesis 15:6 has to do with that which God had previously revealed about Abraham and his progeny realizing an inheritance in another land (cf. Genesis 13:14-17; 15:5-21), which is the contextual setting of the statement in Romans as well (4:13, 20-22). And it was in this realm that Abraham exercised faith, i.e., believed God.
Abraham had believed God relative to this same issue prior to the events of Genesis chapter fifteen, while still in Ur (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Hebrews 11:8). And his belief concerning this issue, once in the land, is simply a continuing belief in God’s fulfillment of that which He had previously promised. It had nothing to do with salvation by grace through faith.
Salvation by grace through faith is not in view anywhere in this passage. Salvation by grace, of necessity, would have had to be an issue at a prior time in Abraham’s life. Abraham would have had to be saved prior to God commanding him to leave Ur and travel to another land, though the matter is not dealt with per se in Scripture.
It would have been impossible for Abraham to act in accordance with that revealed in Genesis 12:1-3; 15:6 apart from his being saved prior to this time. An unsaved man simply cannot act in the spiritual realm after this fashion. He, spiritually, is dead and cannot act in a realm in which he possesses no existence.
And the issue surrounding “faith” in Hebrews chapters ten and eleven is the same as that seen relative to “faith” in Genesis 12:1-3; 15:6. “Faith” in these sections of Scripture must be understood in accordance with that dealt with in the text. And that dealt with in the text is clearly revealed to be the salvation of the soul, not salvation by grace through faith.
Thus, one should no more attempt to read salvation by grace through faith into the subject of “faith” in Hebrews chapters ten and eleven than he should into the subject of “faith” in Genesis chapters twelve and fifteen, or elsewhere in Scripture when the context clearly shows that something other than salvation by grace is in view. Salvation by grace should never be pressed into a section of Scripture as a primary interpretation when that is not the subject being dealt with in the passage. Doing such will not only destroy that which is being dealt with, but it will often result in corrupting the simple message of salvation by grace.
(Something though should be noted about adhering to primary interpretations in the preceding manner. Any part of the Word will have a primary interpretation, an interpretation that must be recognized; but the Word of God has been structured in such a manner — given to man through the instrumentality of the Spirit, after a certain fashion — that any part will invariably lend itself to secondary applications.
A familiar case in point would be Christ’s statement to Nicodemus in John 3:14a, associating Moses lifting up the brazen serpent in the wilderness [Numbers 21:5-9] with Christ being lifted up at Calvary [John 3:14b]. The primary interpretation in Numbers chapter twenty-one would, of necessity, have to do with the sins of a people who had already appropriated the blood of the paschal lambs in Egypt [Exodus 12]; but Christ used this event as a type of that previously seen through the death of these paschal lambs [one type reflecting back on a previous type, both pointing to the antitype].
Christ used this event — as He had used the death of the paschal lambs in Exodus 12 — to typify His finished work at Calvary. Thus, Christ, in John 3:14, drew from a secondary application of the type in Numbers 21:5-9 to teach a spiritual truth beyond that seen in the primary interpretation.)
The translation of Hebrews 10:39 in the KJV doesn’t convey exactly what is stated in the Greek text, leaving the reader without the proper thought to continue into chapter eleven. Attention is called to two types of Christians in the verse — one placed in the category of shrinking back, and the other placed in an opposite category, that of faith. The former leads to ruin, or destruction; and the latter leads to the salvation of the soul.
Hebrews 10:39 could be better translated:
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [‘destruction’] but of faith to a saving [a keeping safe, or preserving (with a view to salvation at a future date)] of the soul.
Scripture leading into this verse deals only with the saved, with Christians. These verses deal with those possessing a High Priest (vv. 19-22), those possessing a hope (v. 23), those exhorted to assemble together for mutual exhortation, incitement (vv. 24, 25), those who will one day be judged by the Lord as His people (vv. 30, 31), and those in possession of a promise, with a view to a recompense for faithful servitude as household servants at the time of Christ’s return (vv. 35-37).
And the verse itself, even apart from the context, can be looked upon in only one manner. It can be looked upon as dealing with the saved alone. The latter part of the verse clearly refers to those “of faith to the saving of the soul,” and the former part of the verse must be looked upon within an opposite frame of reference, relating to the same subject — those not “of faith to the saving of the soul.” And those not of faith in this respect are described as those who “draw back to perdition [‘destruction’].”
Both the former and latter parts of this verse deal with exactly the same thing — the salvation or loss of the soul, which will be brought to pass in that coming day when “He who is coming will come and will not tarry” (v. 37). A brief statement appears in the former having to do with those not exercising faith, with a view to this salvation; and a brief statement appears in the latter having to do with those exercising faith, with a view to this salvation.
And neither part of this verse has anything whatsoever to do with eternal salvation. Both parts have to do solely with present and future aspects of salvation. They have to do with a salvation in connection with the present race of the faith, a salvation to be revealed at the time of Christ’s return. And this is a salvation in connection with realizing an inheritance with Christ in the coming kingdom (1 Peter 1:4, 5, 9). Thus, millennial verities alone can be in view.
Further, Christians are the only ones in a position to shrink back or draw back after the manner seen in the verse. They are the only ones possessing spiritual life. The unsaved are dead in trespasses and sins, completely incapable of operating after this fashion in the spiritual realm. They are in no position to receive or understand spiritual truth. They possess nothing to shrink or draw back from; and, accordingly, they cannot shrink or draw back in relation to the salvation or loss of the soul.
Shrinking back or drawing back has to do with “timidity” or “fear” relative to that which is in view — the salvation of the soul. This leads a person to the point of not wanting to have anything to do with the whole matter. And such a person withdraws, keeps silent. When the subject surrounding the salvation of the soul is dealt with, he becomes timid or afraid and draws back. He refuses to involve himself with the matter at hand, usually because of the scarcity of teaching on this subject and the fear of what others might think, or the fear of where this might lead in his standing among fellow-Christians. Thus, he simply withdraws and remains silent.
But, where does this type position on the subject lead an individual? The text is clear. It leads an individual to the opposite of that to which he has been called. It leads an individual to ruin, to destruction. It leads an individual to the loss of his soul, his life. It leads an individual into a position in which he will fail to realize salvation at the time of Christ’s return. And, resultantly, it leads an individual into a position in which he will fail to realize the awaiting inheritance and a proffered position as co-heir with Christ in His kingdom.
And that’s what is in view at the close of Hebrews chapter ten. Two types of Christians are set forth — one who draws back to ruin in relation to the saving of the soul, and the other who exercises faith in relation to the saving of the soul. And it is this whole overall thought that introduces the subject of “faith” in the chapter eleven.
There can be no proper understanding of the things reiterated in chapter eleven, beginning with Abel, apart from two things: 1) possessing an understanding of the salvation of the soul, and 2) possessing an understanding, though introductory verses, that “faith” in this chapter is dealt with in relation to the salvation of the soul.
Now Faith Is…
Beginning chapter eleven, the thought contextually, as has been shown, has to do with “faith” in relation to the saving of the soul. That is, “Now faith [believing God, in relation to the saving of the soul] is…” (v. 1).
When “faith” appears in Scripture, the object of faith also appears. Man is never told to believe God apart from the revelation of God — the object of faith — also being brought to the forefront as well. “Faith” always appears in connection with the revealed Word of God and a subject within that Word.
God has spoken, and man is expected to believe that which God has said. God has spoken to man through His Word. And a person has to know that which God has revealed before he can exercise faith. That would be to say, a person has to know that which God has said before he can believe that which God has said.
And this is why Romans 10:17 states,
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
A major problem in Christendom today though is an existing, widespread ignorance of the Word of God. Christians simply do not know this Word. And the ability of these same Christians to exercise “faith” — to walk “by faith” — is, accordingly, adversely affected. Not knowing the Word of God, they simply cannot exercise faith, cannot walk by faith. That is, not knowing that which God has said, they cannot believe that which God has said.
And this is particularly true when it comes to that which God has said relative to the salvation of the soul. Christians in general are so ill-versed in Scripture that they see only one thing when it comes to the salvation issue. They see salvation by grace through faith alone, and they attempt to fit everything pertaining to salvation or deliverance into their framework of thinking in this one area.
And Christians lacking a knowledge and understanding of Scripture, resulting in their viewing Scripture in this limited fashion, often end up with interpretations of the Word that cannot be related to “faith” at all. That is, many times they end up with a corrupted form of the Word of God, something that is not the Word; and a person believing that which has been corrupted can, by no stretch of the imagination, exercise “faith,” walk “by faith,” in the true biblical sense of the word.
The preceding is particularly true when it comes to Scriptural teaching surrounding the salvation of the soul. Christians invariably use the expression, “salvation of the soul,” referring to salvation by grace through faith. Scripture though never uses the expression in this manner. Scripture always uses the expression referring to present and future aspects of salvation, never to the past aspect of salvation.
The object of faith, the purpose of salvation, the manner in which salvation is effected, and the time in which salvation occurs are all different in teachings surrounding the salvation of the soul than they are in teachings surrounding the salvation of the spirit. This is why Scripture always, of necessity, separates teachings surrounding salvation in these two realms.
A case in point concerning how Scripture handles this matter would be the text under discussion in this study (Hebrews 10:35-11:3). These verses introduce what could be looked upon as the apex of the book of Hebrews — a book that, throughout, deals centrally with the salvation of the soul. And, as previously shown, these verses introduce faith in relation to “the saving of the soul” prior to introducing a number of individuals from Old Testament history and recounting various acts in their lives, wrought through their believing God.
Each individual performed certain acts, by faith; and “faith,” in each instance, had to do with that seen in the introductory verses, or, in reality, the book as a whole — the salvation of the soul. The acts that they performed, because they believed God, had to do with the salvation of the soul, something that had already been singled out in connection with “faith” in the book.
And this is the manner in which Scripture is structured. Scripture never leaves one in the dark to form interpretation of this manner from one’s own reasoning. Rather, Scripture forms its own interpretation. Scripture is self-interpreting, which is why Scripture must be compared with Scripture by any individual who would come into a proper and correct interpretation and understanding of the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-12).
Hebrews 11:1 is simply a continuation of the thought from the previous verse (10:39). And that revealed about individuals walking by faith, beginning in verse four, must relate back to these two verses, along with the surrounding verses and the book as a whole. This would simply be comparing Scripture with Scripture to arrive at the correct biblical interpretation of the whole of chapter eleven. And comparing Scripture with Scripture after this fashion is the only manner in which Scripture in this or any other section of the Word of God can be properly interpreted and understood.
Thus, Hebrews 11:1, introducing what is often looked upon as “the great chapter on faith” in the Word of God, can be viewed only one way contextually: “Now faith [to the saving of the soul] is…” And the remainder of the verse doesn’t provide a definition of faith (which is something seen in the meaning of the word itself; i.e., “faith” is believing God). Rather, the remainder of the verse reveals that which emanates out of the faith in view, that which emanates out of believing God to the saving of the soul.
1) The Substance of Things Hoped for
The word “substance” is a translation of the Greek word, hupostasis. This is a compound word, comprised of hupo and stasis. Hupo means “under,” and stasis means “to stand.” And the words used together, forming a compound word, would carry the meaning, “to stand under.” The thought in view is that of a foundation underlying a superstructure.
That is, faith to the saving of the soul is the foundation upon which the “things hoped for [the superstructure]” rests. The immediate contextual reference would be back to the last mention of hope in the book (10:23), where an exhortation is given:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
The hope set before Christians and that which lies within the framework of this hope is the revealed purpose for a further exhortation in verses twenty-four and twenty-five:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up [‘incite’] love and good works,
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Christians are exhorted to assemble together, not for the sake of mutual encouragement and incitement in a general sense but for the sake of mutual encouragement and incitement in a particular, specified realm. The hope set before Christians is in view, and this hope must be kept in view if Christians would assemble within the framework of that seen in Hebrews 10:23-25.
This hope was seen earlier in the book as “an anchor of the soul” (6:18, 19). An anchor is something that holds that to which it is attached firmly in place. And, with the soul being anchored in this manner, Christians are, in turn, to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6).
The words “confidence” and “rejoicing” are translations of Greek words (parresia and kauchema) which have to do with “boldness” and “pride” respectively. Christians possess something of incalculable value, something that they can both be bold about and take pride in (resulting in “rejoicing,” as in the KJV translation).
Christians possess a hope, which is an anchor of the soul. And they are to exhibit boldness and pride in that which is theirs as they stand ready to respond to any individual who might ask them about this hope:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
(1 Peter 3:15).
It is inevitable that a response of this nature will result in askance looks, disdain, scorn, etc. at the hands of other Christians. That was anticipated by Peter as he penned the words in this verse. He himself knew full-well that the servant would receive no better treatment than that accorded the One Whom he served (cf. Acts 4:1-21; 5:28-40; 1 Peter 1:7, 11; 4:12-19; cf. John 21:18, 19).
And with this in view, immediately before and after Peter penned the words in verse fifteen, he wrote,
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats [don’t be intimidated by them], nor be troubled.
Having a good conscience [spiritual awareness]; that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct [manner of living] in Christ may be ashamed (vv. 14, 16).
Christians viewing this hope with boldness and pride, knowing that this hope is an anchor of the soul, are not to be afraid, troubled, or intimidated by those who might speak evil of them because of this hope. Rather, Christians are to view this hope and respond to others concerning this hope in such a manner that even their accusers might, themselves, end up being ashamed.
This is the hope spoken of by Paul in his letter to Titus in connection with an inheritance in the coming age (cf. 1:2; 3:7). And it is called “that blessed hope,” having to do with “the glorious appearing [lit., ‘the appearing of the glory’] of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13). And Paul in this epistle, relative to this hope, exhorts Christians to “live soberly [of sound mind, keeping one’s head], righteously, and godly, in this present world [‘age’]” (2:12, 13).
And this hope is presented in a similar manner other places in both the Pauline and General epistles (e.g., Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:5, 23, 27; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 3:3). This is a “hope” that rests on the foundation “of faith to the saving of the soul.” And it is only one of two things singled out and mentioned in connection with faith in Hebrews 11:1.
2) The Evidence of Things Not Seen
“The evidence of things not seen” is that which is also singled out and mentioned in connection with “faith to the saving of the soul.”
The word “evidence,” a translation of the Greek word elegchos, could be better translated in the sense of “bringing to light.” That is, “faith to the saving of the soul” is not only the foundation on which our hope rests but it is also that which brings to light the things not seen, connected with this hope.
The things not seen, further dealt with in verse three, have to do with that which cannot be seen in the world about us. But, through “faith to the saving of the soul,” these things can be seen in that which God has revealed in His Word (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
“Faith to the saving of the soul” is the one thing that can bring to light, from the Word, that which a person cannot see in the present world system under Satan. There is the present kingdom under Satan, and there is the coming kingdom under Christ. The things of the present kingdom can be seen through natural perception, by the natural man; but the things of the coming kingdom can be seen only through spiritual perception, by the spiritual man.
These things can be seen only by faith, only by believing that which God has revealed in His Word. And it is only through this means that all the various things having to do with the saving of the soul, the hope set before us, are brought to light. They are brought to light through the Word being opened to the Christians’ understanding by the One presently in the world searching for a bride for God’s Son (cf. Genesis 24:1ff; John 16:12-15). And all these things from the Word are being laid out before the prospective bride — described as “jewelry of silver, and jewelry of gold” — as the Spirit completes His work during the present dispensation (Genesis 24:53ff).