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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

Why Faith Pleases God (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. —Hebrews 11:6

In 1997, after a year preaching through the book of Hebrews, John Piper arrived at Hebrews 11:6. His aim was to get to the bottom of the question: why does faith please God?

He said:

There are two parts to faith in this verse which show why it pleases God. Beyond this the writer doesn’t go. He rests his case here. This is the bottom of it all. First, he says that faith believes that God exists. Second, he says that faith believes that God is the rewarder of those who seek Him. Because faith is these two things: it pleases God.

Now ponder this with me for a moment and you will get to know your God more deeply, perhaps, than you have ever known Him. That’s why this verse is here; so that we will know God. He does not say why God is pleased by these two aspects of faith. He just says that He is. There is something about the nature of God that makes this obvious. It does not need an argument. It belongs to the very essence of what it means to be God that God should be pleased by these two things.

Let’s put them into our own words. 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.

Behind these two assertions about God are two great facts:

1. God exists absolutely. He did not come into being and will never go out of being. He is not becoming or growing or changing. He said, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). That is His name. He absolutely is. Therefore, He is pleased when this absolute existence is known and embraced. He is pleased when what He is is reflected in our lives.

2. Behind the assertion that God is rewarding is the fact that God is so full and so completely self-sufficient that He overflows. Rather than needing our service, He is like a never-ending Spring of life and energy and joy and beauty and goodness and power. Therefore it pleases God when we come to Him in a way that affirms this and delights in it—when we come to Him as a Rewarder.

Now the writer of Hebrews simply asserts that this is what faith does: faith comes to God with the confidence that He is, and faith comes with the confidence that God will be a generous Giver. He is not arguing that faith is this way because he finds it defined in the Old Testament stories. He is saying: given the absolute reality of God’s being and God’s fullness, this is what faith has to be. This is the end of the argument. This is the bottom of the reasoning.

We could say it like this: what pleases God is that our hearts and minds display God’s being and God’s beauty. That we display God’s existence and his excellence. That we display how real he is and how rewarding he is. This is what pleases God, and this is faith.



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