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What Does ‘Without Faith it Is Impossible to Please God’ Really Mean?

What Does ‘Without Faith it Is Impossible to Please God’ Really Mean?

And without faith it is impossible to please God...– Hebrews 11:6

We don’t know what Christ looks like or recognize the sound of His voice, and we can’t literally take Him by the hand. The writer of Hebrews says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

It’s about “belief, trust, and loyalty.” Faith “expresses an individual's feeling of safety.” Our faith says something significant about who we believe God is.

What Does ‘Without Faith it Is Impossible to Please God’ Mean?

Faith is confidence in God’s power, His promises, and His tenderness towards His people as demonstrated throughout the Old Testament, on the cross, and at the resurrection. Although the Father has not changed, the readers’ faith is growing cold. The writer of Hebrews can’t see into their hearts, but he can measure their faith by the evidence.

Each line implies something. “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3) The audience isn’t paying attention to God.

Faith is active according to A.W. Tozer, and it will “allow the teachings of Christ to dominate our total lives from the moment we believe.” This means we will “be different from others.”

Believing in the resurrected Christ leads to salvation but, to please God, what we believe has to be put into practice by a “pattern of imitation and inheritance.” The audience had formerly established a pattern of faithful behavior: “He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (6:10)

John Piper says that imitation begins with our relationship with God. As Piper puts it, “God is pleased by us when two things about him are reflected in our relation to him. One: that he is real; and the other: that he is rewarding.”

We see that “the vitality of faith is rooted in what God is like, not what we are like.” Yet, “the more you know what God is like, the more conformed to his greatness will be your faith.”

Understanding that God rewards the faithful begins with drawing close to Him, but faithfulness leads us to actively and outwardly imitate the One we trust.

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Biblical Translations of Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. (HCSB)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (KJV)

By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. (Message)

Who Wrote Hebrews 11:6?

We don’t know for sure who wrote Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Bible scholars have attributed this letter to Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, and other Christians who served Christ alongside Paul.

What we do know is that the audience of Hebrews required a boost to their faith. They needed to be reminded about God’s “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14) and that since Jesus “suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)

What Is the Purpose and Context of This Scripture?

New followers of the risen Messiah faced rejection by their family members, members of the Jewish faith, and were sometimes subject to physical persecution. “Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.” (Hebrews 11:36)

Hebrews’ two main purposes were “to encourage Christians to endure, and to warn them not to abandon their faith in Christ.” Hebrews teaches the Old Testament “in light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ,” showing that Christ is superior and describing “his new covenant over angels, Moses, the [...] priesthood, and the [...] sacrificial system.”

Returning to Old Testament systems is “futile” and there is nowhere else to go but to Christ. The Christian “faith is grounded in the most superior revelation.”

Secular definitions of faith often refer to belief without evidence, but the writer of Hebrews points to “God’s revelation in Jesus.” God is reasonable - He reasons with us.

It’s as if the writer is saying “God doesn’t expect you to believe without evidence, so all the evidence you need has been provided.”

Verses Related to Hebrews 11:6

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge. (2 Peter 1:5)

Good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebrews 4:2)’

What I love about these verses is that they interlock to create a picture of solid faith. Faith involves whole-hearted pursuit on our part with the promise of finding God. God expects us to seek evidence (knowledge) but to also cultivate virtue and love; fellow feeling.

Fellowship is fed by a unifying faith which also bolsters faith, perpetuating a strengthening cycle. The more faith we have, the more we receive. Even a tiny mustard seed of faith can be expected to grow into a flourishing tree. (Luke 13:19)

man reading bible outdoorsPhoto Credit: ©Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw

Applying Hebrews 11:6 to Our Lives Today and Pleasing God

The examples above impart a few themes which can help us relate the message of Hebrews 11:6 to our modern Christian walk.

1. Faith Comes from God. He didn’t expect you to believe in his trustworthiness or His rewards without providing evidence of His character. Jesus provided a personal revelation of God’s trustworthiness.

2. Seek God. He loved us first. He pursued us first. But since we have been awakened to the truth, it’s not just a duty to read scripture, pray, and grow in our walk; it’s our joy if we really love Him. Tozer said “the genuinely renewed man will have a new life center.”

3. Seek Him Diligently. Don’t pay lip service to your faith. Cultivate discipline. Remember that pattern of life Tozer points to: it’s not a once-in-a-while observance. Imagine if God were to treat us with that kind of whimsical, half-hearted love? We’d be doomed.

4. Expect Godly Reward from God. That is, don’t buy into the prosperity gospel that says “all you need is faith, and you’ll have everything you want.” The writer of that gospel skipped over the parts the writer of Hebrews mentions: stonings, stabbings, and other forms of persecution.

Many of Christ’s followers throughout history have died by drowning, freezing to death, starvation, firing squad, and so on. Yet they knew that their reward from Christ is eternal, while any rewards man can offer are perishing.

5. Share the Reward. The faithful are unafraid to imitate Christ actively and share the gospel. In fact, the nature of the reward makes you want to share it. The truth makes you want to be different.

“The change experienced by a truly converted man is equal to that of a man moving to another country,” Tozer said. You won’t lose your reward if people reject Christ or reject you. Your faith does not rest in people; it rests in Christ.

Prayer for Today’s Faithful

Lord, God in Heaven, please bless those who want to know how to be more faithful and how to please You. God, we wonder how it is possible to please the One who has everything, who is everything, like trying to buy a Father’s Day gift for a dad who doesn’t need any more ties, fishing rods, or model trains. We are so grateful that You invite Your people to please you by a simple childlike faith in the Son You gave to us. God, if that’s all it takes, then give us more of it - we beg You, Father, to multiply our faith so that we can glorify You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you’re still not sure you have enough faith to please God, “take heart,” says R.C. Sproul, “for a sorrow for neglected duties in life evidences a faith desiring to please Him. Ask God to help you please Him” and He will oblige.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Navneet Mahajan

Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.

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