God Bears Witness to Faith

Dr. Brian Allison

What is one of your biggest delights? What do you take particular pleasure in? Maybe it is traveling, or playing golf, or having family gatherings, or spending an evening with your friends. God takes pleasure or delight in different things. For instance, we read Moses' words to Israel in Numbers 14:8, "If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us – a land which flows with milk and honey." Deuteronomy 10:15 reads, "Yet on your fathers did the LORD set his affection [i.e., delight] to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day." Again, we read part of King David's prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:17, "Since I know, O my God, that Thou triest the heart and delightest in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Thy people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to Thee."

God finds particular delight in the expression of faith in Him and in His Word. In this connection, we read, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, for by it [i.e., faith] the men of old gained approval.... By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up [into heaven] so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hb. 11:2,4-6).

God bears witness to faith

God takes special note of faith that rests in Him and His word – "For by it the men of old gained approval [or simply, they were borne witness to]." This activity of bearing witness is indeed that which God Himself performs, as verse 4 of this chapter clearly states – "God testifying...." (same term in the original as we find in verse 2). God Himself testifies to faith. If I may be permitted to speak in this way, there are few things that capture the attention of God as does faith. God specially acknowledged the faith of the Old Testament saints, along with those listed in this 11th chapter of Hebrews.

Now, it is interesting that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, made special mention of, and even marveled at, the presence and expression of faith. For instance, we read, "And when [Jesus] had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, entreating Him, and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain.' And He said to him, 'I will come and heal Him.' But the centurion answered and said, 'Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it. Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled [He was amazed], and said to those who were following, 'Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel'" (Mt. 8:5-10). Jesus was not marveling simply because there was no one in Israel that had a comparable faith, but Jesus marveled at the reality and depth of this man's faith. Now, what I find interesting, and almost incomprehensible, is that it is the Son of God who makes this statement. Jesus Himself marveled at this man's faith, and He directed attention to it. If I can, for a moment, use earthy language, Jesus was overly impressed with this man's depth of faith; the fact that he could believe in the incredibly extraordinary, without doubt and without wavering.

So, God acknowledges and affirms (or simply approves of) the reality of faith. If you have faith, then God bears witness to this fact. I wonder if it could be said of you that if Jesus were to encounter you, that He would marvel at the depth at your faith. God is not particularly impressed with your talents and skills, regardless of how many and great they may be. God is not particularly impressed with your accomplishments or achievements. God is not particularly impressed with your personal qualities or characteristics. But rather (speaking in an earthy way), God is impressed with your faith. It is that to which He bears witness. He takes special note of those who have faith, whether you are a child, someone mentally challenged, or an adult.

God's witness is one of pleasure

Second, God bears witness to (i.e., He approves of) faith because faith pleases Him. Recently, I asked my daughter, Sarah, to do a chore, and she did a good job. When I relieved her, she asked, "Dad, what do you think about what I did?" I was pleased with what she had done, and I answered, "You did a good job." Because I was pleased, I bore witness to what she did, and I declared that it was good. Such is the case with God. In being pleased, He testifies to that which pleases Him. Hebrews 11:5 reads, "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness [from God] that before his being taken up [into heaven] he was pleasing to God." More specifically, Enoch pleased God because he walked with God [i.e., followed God's righteous ways and thus enjoyed communion with Him] (see Gn. 5:22ff.); and his walk with God was the outworking and demonstration of a living, vital faith. So, in effect, God was pleased with the presence and fruit of Enoch's faith.

Now, you may have asked yourself the question at some time: How does God feel towards me? Have you ever asked yourself: Is God angry with me? Is God upset with me? Is God unhappy with me? Is God disappointed with me? Of course, different factors impinge upon an evaluation of the nature of your relationship with the Lord at any given time; but one truth is certain: if you have faith, He is pleased. I find that tremendously comforting; that though you stumble and sin, if you have faith (which is the desire and self-conscious effort to carry out of His word), then He is satisfied. He takes pleasure in you. He does not take pleasure so much in your countless hours of prayer (though He desires and delights in your sincere prayers). He does not so much take pleasure in your countless hours of Bible study and meditation (though He desires you to be a student of His Word). He does not so much take pleasure in your countless hours of service to Him (though He delights in selfless commitment for the sake of Jesus Christ). What God takes particular pleasure in is the reality and demonstration of your faith. You can show all these other behaviours, and yet be lacking in faith, and thus all these other behaviours will mean absolutely nothing in the presence of God; for, "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hb. 11:6) This means that the basic and necessary matter that does please Him is faith. Faith is devoid of personal merit. It is not essentially a doing, but rather an accepting, which ought to blossom into a doing, and that is why it is the only thing which we can offer or bring to God that is acceptable and pleasing to Him.

Faith is obedience to God's word

So, God highly values faith. He puts a high premium on its presence. Why does faith evoke His approval? Why does He bear witness to it by way of divine acknowledgement and affirmation? Well, very simply, faith is the essence of true worship; and faith is the essence of true worship because faith is a demonstration of the surrender and submission that we owe to God. Remember, faith is simply accepting and keeping God's word, without question, doubt, or resistance; and thus God is honoured, He is extolled, and it is affirmed that He indeed is God. This is why God delights in faith.

The account of Abraham illustrates this truth. God had commanded Abraham to take his son, Isaac, to mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice to Him. Yet God had promised Abraham that through him and his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Nevertheless, Abraham immediately responded, without question or hesitancy, to the word of God and went to mount Moriah. He prepared the altar, tied Isaac up, and raised the knife to plunge it into his son for the offering; and then the angel of the Lord [i.e., God Himself] called out of heaven to Abraham to desist from killing his son, for Abraham had passed the test of his faith. Hence, we read, "Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, 'By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice'" (Gn. 22:15ff.). Abraham responded to God's word and was obedient. The New Testament reveals that this willing response and obedient act was simply an expression of Abraham's faith. We read, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son" (Hb. 11:17). The point is: the act of faith in God's word is the act of obedience to God's word. The genius and uniqueness of Biblical faith is that it receives and acquiesces in a divine revelation or word. Biblical faith is not merely believing in a 'something', but rather, it is believing in God's word. God's word gives Biblical faith its substance and significance. If there is no divine word, then there can be no Biblical faith. So, Abraham's faith was revealed by, and resulted in, his acceptance of, and obedience to, God's word (i.e., surrender and submission to God), and thus God received glory; His name was honoured.

Faith renders our works acceptable to God

Again, the act of faith in God's word is the act of obedience to God's word. So, we read, "By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which [faith] he obtained the testimony [the witness by God] that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts [which he brought to Him], and through faith, though he is dead, he stills speaks" (Hb. 11:4). God deemed Abel righteous [i.e., testified to or declared him to be righteous] because Abel followed God's command and directive on how to approach Him in worship. Apparently, God had instructed Adam and his family on what kind of sacrifices would be acceptable; and through faith, Abel accepted God's word and carried it out. Through faith, Abel did what was right, and God took special note of it. Even Jesus referred to him as 'righteous Abel' (Mt. 23:35).

As a result of Abel responding in faith to God's word, God approved of, and delighted in, his offerings. It was faith that sanctified his service and actions. In accepting or approving of Abel, God was accepting or approving of Abel's offerings (see Gn. 4:3,4). Abel's act of faith made his service to God pleasing, for it was a faith-ful service, which is the only service which does please Him.

Faith has power with God

In response to faith, God is pleased to bless. Faith, and only faith, has power with God – "and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks." Faith has power with God, not because God is bound to cater to our whims, not that we can control God like a puppet, but because God has committed Himself to respond to faith, for faith glorifies Him. Though Abel is dead, yet through his faith, he still speaks. Faith gains a hearing with God when nothing else can. Faith renders our devotion, our gifts, our service a perpetually effectual offering to God even though we are dead. God does not cease to regard our demonstrations of faith. Abel's blood cried out for a moment in time (Hb. 12:24). Abel's faith speaks continually throughout eternity. God continues to remember it, and take special note of it.

So, faith has power with God; and maybe this explains why some Christians are experiencing very little power in their lives and in their families – lack of faith. They really don't believe God's word; they doubt in their hearts. The Scriptures teach, "But if any of you lacks wisdom [or anything else; see Jas. 4:3], let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (Jas. 1:5-7). The word of God says that if we doubt, which is the opposite of faith, don't even begin to think that God will hear you. Faith is the key and the prerequisite for transacting business with God. The Lord does not hear doubt, but He must hear faith, because He has committed Himself to respond to it, and that for His glory.

How has your week been? Have you lived triumphantly? Have you experienced the power of God? Did you gain a hearing with God this past week? God is not looking for great religious acts, or for extraordinary religious service (though, if Spirit-driven, He rejoices in that). God is not impressed with what you do for Him. What God takes note of is this: your faith. In faith, you are the object of His pleasure. By faith, you too, like the saints of old, gain approval from Him. And that is good news.