The Expository Files

The Meaning of Faith from Hebrews 11:30

Hebrews 11:30

"By Faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days." - Hebrews 11:30

There is no denying that the Bible teaches us that we are saved by faith. The apostle Paul wrote: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Paul could also write, as he did in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." So we recognize that it is by faith that we must live in order to receive the eternal life that God has promised to those who have been faithful to Him. (See also: Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 2:10) Many cannot understand how there would be anything for us to do (apart from believing) if salvation is by faith. But the faith that Paul is speaking of is not just a belief in Christ. It is a trust in God that moves us to obey Him. That was the point that the Hebrew writer was making about faith... At Jericho, the walls fell by faith AFTER they were encircled for seven days. When did faith avail for Joshua? When did his faith give him the victory? It was AFTER he obeyed the Lord! We are saved by our faith, but when? Is it the moment we believe, and before our faith causes us to obey God's commands? No!

Listen to what James wrote about our saving faith:

"But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?" - James 2:18-22

Our faith saves when it moves us to obey God's commands! A case in point is the conversation Jesus had with a wealthy young man in Matthew 19:16-22. The young man came, recognizing Jesus as a good teacher who had the words to life. The young man asked the question, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" His confidence in Jesus was great. However, Jesus response was too much to ask of him. Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (v. 21). The young man's faith was not strong enough to impel him to make such a sacrifice. The next verse records, "But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (v. 22).

A principle is established here that is actually repeated time and again in scripture: A man's faith is sufficient only if it leads to obedience to the commands of our Lord. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:

"Not everyone who says to Me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

Here were people who were not doing what Jesus had commanded. Their faith did not lead them to submit to His direction and His authority! Jesus also went on to say, that the one who is recognized as the person who is wise is one who not simply hears His word, but who also DOES his words, because of the faith he has in Him.

When was the city given to Joshua? After he had completed ALL the things that God told him to do. What if Joshua only marched once around the city and then thought, "This is foolishness," and so ceased to fully obey God's command? What if he only marched six times around? If he failed to comply with all of God's instructions he would have demonstrated a lack of faith. There is no way he could have trusted in God if he failed to hear and obey the Heavenly Father.

"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, AFTER they were encircled for seven days." There is no question that faith is important, but faith will never stand alone without obedience. From works of righteousness - works that manifest the faith that is pleasing to Him, we must fully obey God's commands if we are to demonstrate the meaning of faith.

By John Hagenbuch
From Expository Files 11.7; July 2004