by Mike Ratliff
13 Κατὰ πίστιν ἀπέθανον οὗτοι πάντες, μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας ἀλλὰ πόρρωθεν αὐτὰς ἰδόντες καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι καὶ ὁμολογήσαντες ὅτι ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. (Hebrews 11:13 NA28)
13 According to faith, these all died not having received what was promised, but having seen and welcomed them from a distance and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
All truly in Christ are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). They were once spiritually dead in their sins, but are now alive, forgiven, and now strangers and exiles on the earth. Each day lived in this life by a child of God is one spent in enemy country. The world is not their friend. In fact, if the world is a person’s friend then he or she is not God’s friend. Why? Whoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. The Christians who deny self, take up their crosses and follow Christ each day will find enemies everywhere. Pressure will come to bear on them to conform to the world and become “relevant.” The Christian who does not give in to this pressure will be seen by all those not on this narrow path to be out of step, irrelevant, behind the times, and all other sorts of things that divide them from being identified with the world and its ways. Some call us “divisive.”
Blessed is the Christian who grasps these truths and applies them to their life. Those who do this do so by faith. They are driven by a living faith that includes an intense love for God and His ways. Because of this, his or her faith is deeply rooted in God’s truth. As this Christian matures the reality of eternity far outweighs any pressure to become conformed to this present age.
21 Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος. 22 εἰ δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί, τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου, καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω. 23 συνέχομαι δὲ ἐκ τῶν δύο, τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι, πολλῷ [γὰρ] μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον· 24 τὸ δὲ ἐπιμένειν [ἐν] τῇ σαρκὶ ἀναγκαιότερον δι’ ὑμᾶς. 25 καὶ τοῦτο πεποιθὼς οἶδα ὅτι μενῶ καὶ παραμενῶ πᾶσιν ὑμῖν εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν καὶ χαρὰν τῆς πίστεως, 26 ἵνα τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. (Philippians 1:21-26 NA28)
21 For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if it means to live in the flesh, this for me is fruit of labor, and what I will choose I do not know. 23 Now I am hard pressed from two sides. The desire to depart and be with Christ is much better, 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake, 25 and having been persuaded, I know that I will remain and will continue with you all for your progress and joy of the faith, 26 that in me you may have ample cause to boast in Christ Jesus through my presence with you again. (Philippians 1:21-26 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
I love my family. I love to teach from God’s Word. I love to fellowship with other Christians. I love to be used by God for His glory. However, I also deeply desire to depart from this life and be with Christ. I have shared this with some family members, but this distressed them to the point that I decided not to bring this up very often with them. As long as I am in this body, I will continue to serve God in all I do. I will continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). However, I also deeply desire to depart this life and so be with my Saviour. This is dying in faith. Those who are in faith have received the promise from God. They have believed the Gospel, repented of their sins, and are new creations in Christ. New Testament believers have a huge advantage over the Old Testament saints. We have a much clearer picture of God’s plan of redemption for His people than those who lived before Jesus Christ’s incarnation. We do have the Gospel, while they only had the promises of it, however, all true believers are children of faith.
Behold the epitaph of all those blessed saints who fell asleep before the coming of our Lord! It matters nothing how else they died, whether of old age, or by violent means; this one point, in which they all agree, is the most worthy of record, “they all died in faith.” In faith they lived-it was their comfort, their guide, their motive and their support; and in the same spiritual grace they died, ending their life-song in the sweet strain in which they had so long continued. They did not die resting in the flesh or upon their own attainments; they made no advance from their first way of acceptance with God, but held to the way of faith to the end. Faith is as precious to die by as to live by.
Dying in faith has distinct reference to the past. They believed the promises which had gone before, and were assured that their sins were blotted out through the mercy of God. Dying in faith has to do with the present. These saints were confident of their acceptance with God, they enjoyed the beams of His love, and rested in His faithfulness. Dying in faith looks into the future. They fell asleep, affirming that the Messiah would surely come, and that when He would in the last days appear upon the earth, they would rise from their graves to behold Him. To them the pains of death were but the birth-pangs of a better state. Take courage, my soul, as thou readest this epitaph. Thy course, through grace, is one of faith, and sight seldom cheers thee; this has also been the pathway of the brightest and the best. Faith was the orbit in which these stars of the first magnitude moved all the time of their shining here; and happy art thou that it is thine. Look anew to-night to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith, and thank Him for giving thee like precious faith with souls now in glory. – C.H. Spurgeon
Are you in Christ? If you say that you are, but you are basing this on nothing but outward religiosity then please understand, that is not the same thing as saving faith. If you say that you are, but you are basing this on a religious act several years ago, but have no real evidence of Christlikeness developing in your character such as a hatred of your sin and a deep desire to become separate from this lost and dying world system, then please understand that this is also not the same thing as saving faith. Those in faith are new creations. God has regenerated them, causing their faith to become saving faith. They now believe God and are on the path of sanctification. These and these alone will live out their lives and then die in faith. Everyone else will die in their sins. Which are you?
Soli Deo Gloria!