What Faith Is
The Preacher now turns fully to the subject of faith. He has encouraged the Hebrews to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22). And why may they do so? Because they have a great high priest who has washed them with his own blood, entered into the real holy place, and intercedes for them at the right hand of power. He is their Lord and also their Savior, and as the Apostle Paul said, “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously gives us all things” (Romans 8:32)?
I say all of this first to indicate that the faith that the Christian has is a faith that is grounded in something; that is, it is not a baseless hope in some distant dream, nor a fantasy, nor a strong desire that something go as we plan. Christian faith is predicated upon the person and work of Jesus Christ who died and rose for us and is now seated at the Father’s side. Without the knowledge of this truth, there is no reason to have faith at all; indeed, we are dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). So Christ and his work on our behalf is the object of our faith. And since we have no way of knowing these truths except on the basis of Scripture, we may say that God’s word is the object of faith as we trust and receive it as true.
But faith is more than mere intellectual assent: “It is the practical submission of the entire man to the guidance and control of such truth. ‘The devils believe and tremble.’…The essential ideal is rather that of fidelity, faithfulness, steadfastness” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd, 341). The faith that saves is pictured most beautifully by Mary Magdalene in her clinging to Christ upon his resurrection (John 20:17). It is worded most beautifully in the words of Ruth to Naomi, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God,” which in this case means we claim the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as our own (Ruth 1:16). This is the faith that is born of the Holy Spirit and is the only faith that saves. It is received by both the educated and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, the great and the small. Such faith is gift; it cannot be mustered up. And though it must be exercised upon reception that it may grow and mature, its genesis is not an act of will.
And for this reason, it sees the invisible and knows of the unseen. Faith looks behind the visible and sees the real world.