The Necessity of Faith

Dr. Brian Allison

There is nothing apart from faith, there is nothing beyond faith, which will guarantee and secure the experience of the reality and the blessing of God. Faith is everything (from human side) with respect to entering in, and enjoying, the fullness of God. Only faith can bring us to God and allow us to court His pleasure. Hebrews 6:11 reads, "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."

The possibility of pleasing God

The presence and expression of faith are necessary in order to please God – "And without faith it is impossible to please Him." Two observations may be made concerning this statement. First, some things can please God. Second, and more specifically, it is possible for us to please God. Consider, first, the observation that there are some things that can please God. For instance, financially giving to the physical or material needs of the brethren pleases God. Philippians 4:18 reads, "But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you [believers] have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God." Children obeying their parents is something that pleases God. Colossians 3:20 reads, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord."

So, there are some things that can please God, but the incredible thing is that it is possible for us to please the Lord God. In fact, the Scriptures instruct us to make pleasing God a major concern and goal. Accordingly, we read in 2 Corinthians 5:9, "Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to [the Lord]." We find the same language in Ephesians 5:9f., "(For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."

Now, we can know what is pleasing to the Lord. Simply put, God is pleased with us when we do His will. So, we read the doxology of Hebrews 13:20f., "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." In this chapter, the author also clearly indicates how we may specifically please God. He writes, "Through Him then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hb. 13:15f.). That is, we please God specifically when we worship Him (i.e., praise and offer thanksgiving) and when we engage in benevolent service (i.e., do good and share). Or, in other words, God is pleased when we, first, love Him; and, second, love our fellow believer and fellow human being. These are the spiritual sacrifices that delight God's heart. Is it your aim or goal to be pleasing to God? Is that your concern? Can you say with all sincerity, and with all assurance, that your goal, your ambition in life is to please Him? It ought to be.

The impossibility of pleasing God without faith

Now, according to our text, Hebrews 11:6, faith also pleases God. But notice, that something is said here about faith that is not said about the other things to which we have referred above. It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith is necessary to satisfy God. What this clearly suggests is that all other things which please God presuppose faith, or must result from faith. Faith renders all our acts of service and conduct acceptable to God. You can live without a gall bladder. You can live without an appendix. But you cannot live without a liver, and you cannot live without a heart. These latter organs are absolutely necessary for life. Similarly, faith is absolutely necessary for spiritual life, in all its dimensions, with God. Everything else that is pleasing to God must find its spiritual efficacy and roots in faith, or it cannot be pleasing to God.

The author of this epistle uses very strong language – "It is impossible." That term 'impossible' simply means that it allows or admits no exceptions. It is interesting that in the New Testament, this term 'impossible' is most often found in the book of Hebrews. Consider a few examples. Hebrews 6:4ff. reads, "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame." Again, Hebrews 6:17f. reads, "In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope we have as an anchor of the soul." And again, Hebrews 10:3f. reads, "But in those [animal] sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." And so it is with respect to faith when it comes to pleasing God.

There is absolutely no way you can please God without faith. You may put in 40 hours of church service per week; you may fast and pray for days; you may incessantly read your Bible; you may have been a Christian for 20, 30, or 40 years; but if you do not have faith, all that you may have acquired or accomplished means absolutely nothing in the sight of God. So, faith is necessary. That was equally true of the Old Testament people. God's ways have not changed. He is the same God; He required and expected faith from Israel, just as He requires and expects faith from us. Notice, for example, Hebrews 4:2f., a text referring to Israel, "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they [Israel] also; but the word they heard did not profit them [it did not produce spiritual fruit, it did them absolutely no spiritual good. Why?], because it was not united by faith in those who heard." Those who had no faith, experienced no blessing. The absence of faith is our downfall and our destruction, even as it was for Israel.

Only a living, active faith pleases God

Recall, biblical faith is personally accepting God's Word as true and endeavouring to carry it out. Accordingly, compare the following Scriptures. Hebrews 3:19 reads, "And so we see that they [Israel] were not able to enter [God's rest] because of unbelief [i.e., a lack of faith]." And Hebrews 4:11 reads, "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience." Do you see the parallelism? Israel failed to enter because of the absence of faith; which is to say, they failed to enter because of disobedience. In this sense, the act of faith is the act of obedience.

There are some who are reading this article who may draw the conclusion: "All I need to do is believe that Jesus has saved me, that He died for me; that He is Lord; and that is all that is required. Now I can go and 'do my own thing'. As long as I have this belief in my mind, everything is 'cool'." My friend, everything is not 'cool' because that is not a true portrayal of Biblical faith. Biblical faith is not just an intellectual assent to truth. Biblical faith involves all that you are: your thinking, your willing, your feelings, and your doing. The faith that is simply confined to your intellect will not save; that is not the faith that pleases God. You demonstrate the reality of your faith by how you live and what you do. You do not simply have faith, you are your faith. Practically speaking, different ones wrestle with the assurance of faith. The assurance of faith is the obedience of life. My Christian friend, you have no assurance of faith unless you are endeavouring to be obedient to God's Word

You may ask, "How does one know that he has this kind of faith?" Well, the question could be phrased this way: "What is your attitude towards God's Word? Are you obedient to God's Word?" Again, faith is personally accepting God's Word and endeavouring to carry it out. So, do you highly esteem God's Word? Do you rejoice over it? Does your life conform to it? Listen, if you are not obedient to God's Word, if you have no desire to make an effort to honour it, then you do not have Biblical faith. I do not care how warmly you feel towards God's people or how warmly you feel towards spiritual matters. Your warm feelings will not get you into heaven. Your warm feelings could damn you to hell. It is not your warm feelings that save you; it is faith alone, but not faith that is alone. Again, if you do not have a faith that rejoices in and loves God's Word, and is obedient to that Word, then do not fool yourself – you are not saved. Don't tell me you believe in God and Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and then spurn His Word and have no concern about obedience. If you do, then, my friend, you are deceiving yourself.

Faith approaches and seeks God

The question is: Why is faith necessary in order to please God? We have a twofold reason in our text – "for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Here we have a logical connection, rather than a moral obligation. First, it is impossible to please God without faith because he who spiritually comes to God must believe that He exists. The term 'to come', is a popular term in this particular book, being used 7 times. It simply means 'to draw near' or 'to approach'. The term clearly denotes the act of worship, the act of consecration. For example, Hebrews 4:16 reads, "Let us therefore draw near [same term in the original] with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." So, we can 'come to God' through prayer. Hebrews 7:25 reads, "Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near [same term] to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us." Again, Hebrews 10:22 reads, "Let us draw near [same term] with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." It is self-evident, to be sure, that you will not, you cannot, draw near to God, without faith. That is, you will not, you cannot, come to God, unless you believe that He exists. You would not come to a church building for worship unless you first believed that a church building existed.

Second, it is impossible to please God without faith because he who spiritually seeks God must believe that He will graciously bless. The term 'to seek', simply means, 'to pursue' or 'to endeavour to obtain'. It is used twice in this particular book. The other reference is 12:17 – "For you know that even afterwards, when he [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it [same term] with tears." Again, it is self-evident that you cannot, you will not, seek God without faith; more specifically, you cannot, you will not, seek God unless you believe that He is faithful and good. If children do not have the belief that Mom or Dad will show some kindness and give them gifts, then they will not seek to receive anything from them. Similarly, if you do not believe in the faithfulness and goodness of God, that He can and will graciously give something to you, then you will not seek Him.

Approaching and seeking pleases God

Do you see the point? Belief in the person of God (that He exists) and belief in the beneficence of God (that He is a rewarder) are motivators to come to Him and to seek Him. Now we come more directly to the answer to why it is impossible to please Him without faith. First, it is only in your coming to God and seeking Him that He is pleased. Second, God is pleased because in your coming and in your seeking, you are therein acknowledging Him to be Creator, Provider, Sustainer, and Lord, that in Him you "live and move and exist" (Acts 17:28a). In coming to God and in seeking Him, in effect, you are declaring that He is worthy of worship, of homage, of obeisance, and of reverence. You are demonstrating that He indeed is God, and that you are the dependent creature; and thus He is glorified. So, it is right and acceptable in God's sight to draw near to Him, for in doing so, we give Him due honour. Third, as argued, you can and will only come to God and seek Him, if you have faith – believing that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Thus, the conclusion is that it is impossible to please God without faith. In summary, only in faith can and will you come to Him and seek Him, and only in coming to Him and seeking Him can and will you please Him; and thus only by faith can and will you please Him – the necessity of faith.

How is your faith? Be honest now. There is nothing apart from faith, there is nothing beyond faith, that will guarantee and secure the experience of the reality and blessing of God. Do you believe that God exists? If you do not, then you will not draw near to Him. Maybe that is the reason why you have not yet come to Him, because deep down inside you do not believe that God exists and, perhaps, you have been riding on the coat-tails of the faith of your parents, your friends, or your spouse; or even on the coat-tails of tradition or a church.

Further, do you believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him? Are you seeking God? If you are not, I want to suggest that you really do not believe that He will reward you, or bless you, or pour out His goodness upon you. Those who seek God must believe that they will find a blessing in the end. My Christian brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you (because it will make all the difference in your spiritual experience), to come to grips with this particular point, and settle it in your own heart, whether you really believe that God will reward you if you seek Him. If you take that anticipatory attitude into prayer – that you really believe that He will bless you if you seek Him – it will change the dynamic of your prayers. It will add power and drive to your prayer life. It will strengthen your spiritual resolve.

God desires that you come to Him and seek Him. Do not delay. Your God is waiting.