Hebrews 11:1

“Faith is the basis of our expectations, and the appropriation of unseen realities.” (paraphrased)                                   

Generic Faith
The words “faith” and “belief” are nearly synonymous. The Greek term pistis is the word most frequently used for faith. It is found twenty-four times in this chapter. Pistis is derived from the Latin word fides, the root of fidelity. It denotes a firm conviction, commitment, trust, belief, and assurance. However, faith must focus on something in order to be operative. It demands an object: it cannot exist alone. One cannot have faith in faith. The true value of faith is determined by the credibility of the person or thing upon which it is centered.

Faith is the demonstrable proof of invisible realities. As such, it does not always depend upon human logic. But faith is not blind trust, a dream, wild imagination, fantasy, speculation, mind over matter, mental assent, presumption, or wishful thinking. Faith always anticipates and exercises confidence in something. For example, only if you believe Chicago exists would you endeavor to go there. Travel plans are based on faith in the existence of Chicago. Your expectations concerning the reality of the city are founded upon faith.

Similarly, by faith a farmer plants and expects a harvest. A worker has faith his employer will pay him for his labor. People believe the sun will rise tomorrow. A parent expects his boy will grow to be a good man. Such day-by-day expectations rest on simple faith.

Faith is further defined by the following illustration. When a father makes a promise to his son, the boy can govern his actions as if the promise was already fulfilled. His faith in his father is more conclusive evidence than logic or reason. In a similar way, we cannot see God, heaven, angels, or the things of eternity. However, our faith causes us to act as if we see them. Faith gives us access to an unseen world. The clearer these things become, the more they influence our thoughts and actions. By faith, they almost materialize before us. Pistis apprehends as fact the realities our hopes support. It acts as if the intangible is tangible, bridging the gap between shadow and substance. Faith grows until expectation becomes experience. In the end, faith is understood and interpreted only through experiential knowledge.

Saving Faith
Our senses can deceive us, but God will not (Titus 1:2). Faith sees the One who is invisible (Heb. 11:27). A sincere commitment to Jesus Christ necessarily involves repentance and reliance upon His atoning blood to remove sin. This must be coupled with continual obedience to His teachings. Only as we are justified by faith in Christ can we enjoy peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Peter tells us that the end result of our faith is the salvation of our souls (I Pet. 1:9). We are not saved by adhering to a creed, but by loyalty to a Person.

The benefits of faith are not produced by the one who has faith, but are derived from the One in whom faith is placed. Confidence in what someone claims to be true can inspire faith. But one may have adamant faith in a doctrine and be entirely wrong. Many cultists and satanists are sincere in their beliefs. Satan prompted Adam and Eve to have faith in his words by twisting the truth. It was faith in what the serpent said that initiated their expulsion from Eden. The question is not, “In what do we believe,” but rather, “In whom do we believe?” Entrance into the Kingdom of God depends upon faith in the King.

The skeptic says, “Seeing is believing.” The Christian says, “Believing is seeing.” Faith sees through spiritual eyes what cannot be perceived by physical eyes. Lacking spiritual sight, the unsaved person has no means of understanding the world from God’s perspective. To have proactive confidence in God’s Son is to enjoy a refuge and security unknown to those who do not serve Him. Biblical faith is not a change of attitude or lifestyle, but rests on the firm foundation of the pragmatic truth of God’s Word. For example:

<> Jesus is the Author of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
<> We are justified by faith (Gal. 2:16).
<> Jesus dwells within us by faith (Eph. 3:12).
<> Our sanctification is by faith (Acts 26:18).
<> We wear the breastplate of faith (I Thess. 5:8).
<> The Lord can increase our faith (Lk. 17:5).
<> We walk by faith (II Cor. 5:7).
<> We establish ourselves in the faith (Col. 2:7).
<> Christians are unified by faith (Eph. 4:13).
<> We should pray in faith (Jas. 1:6).
<> Miracles are based on faith (Mt. 9:22).
<> We must keep our faith (II Tim .4:7).
<> Trials and tests result from faith (I Pet. 1:7).
<> Believers are victorious by faith (I Jn. 5:4).

Faith is that spiritual faculty by which the soul contacts God’s domain. The hope of eternal life motivates us to draw close to God. Faith reveals to us the realities “within the veil” (Heb. 6:19). It feeds the soul’s tabernacle lamp with the oil of hope. Faith enables us to praise God for future blessings as if we already possessed them. It allows God’s truth to become operational in the soul. It is the hand that grasps things that can only be “spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). Faith is to the soul what the five senses are to the body, allowing us to process spiritual realities.

v. 1
By the time the book of Hebrews was written, first-century Judaism had digressed into a self-saving, self-glorifying religion. Because most Jews equated righteousness with works, it was essential the writer address the issue of faith. Because his readers were suffering persecution, some were tempted to apostatize. The only safeguard against this was to help increase their faith in God.

This unique verse has been defined and paraphrased in numerous ways:

<> Faith is the inner-conviction of things hoped for; the irrefutable proof of things not seen.
<> Faith is the firm expectation of our desires, allowing us to truly possess them.
<> Faith is the substantiation of our hopes, appropriating for us what we cannot see.
<> Faith is the title deed of things we yearn for; the acquisition of things not yet seen.
<> Faith is the certitude of what we hope for and the conviction of their actuality.
<> Faith is the realization of things hoped for and the certainty those things are obtainable.
<> Faith is the essence of what we long for and the manifestation of their existence.
<> Faith substantiates the things we anticipate, making real what is otherwise imperceptible.
<> Faith is the confident assurance of our hopes, serving as the eyes through which such things are seen.

The word “is” is emphatic: faith is the foundation of what we anticipate yet cannot see. Because faith must have a firm basis, it is actually deemed to be a “substance” (hupostasis). This word refers to that which stands under something in order to bear its weight. The writer has used this term twice before:

<> The Son is said to be the hypostasis (image) of God (1:3).
<> We must hold our hupostasis (confidence) firm unto the end (3:14).

The term can be defined as a “title deed” to property, providing evidence of ownership. It also connotes steadiness of mind, firm resolution, or trust. Faith gives credibility to the things we hope for, allowing Believers to advance spiritually.

Whatever may be the focus of our hope, it is only by faith we can claim it. Though hope and faith are closely elated, they are not the same thing. Faith activates hope, but faith is more than hope: it is assurance. Faith and hope are not sisters: faith is the parent of hope. Hope is the result of faith. Faith is the foundation upon which hope rests. Only by faith can be the gap be bridged between the present and the future (Rom. 8:24).

“Evidence” (elegchos) means assurance, proof, certification, or demonstration. It is that by which invisible things are put to the test and their reality verified. Once something becomes a conviction, faith rests upon this evidence. Faith has the ability to fully appropriate that which is imperceptible. As faith in Christ matures, unseen things are not viewed as probable, but factual. Faith is the assurance our invisible hopes will manifest into visible realities.
                         
The readers are reminded of Habakkuk’s prophecy concerning the just man who lives by faith (10:38). The writer proceeds to list saints throughout Jewish history who best illustrate this principle. Faith is heralded as the secret of their perseverance. This “Faith Chapter” or “Hall of Faith” seems to naturally flow from the warning concerning “drawing back” (10:39). By naming national heroes, the writer hopes to inspire others to persist in faith by emulating them. This chapter is a group portrait of numerous faithful men and women. Although this painting is still a work in progress (11:40), the examples provided are sufficient to present a picture that helps explain faith. The first verse describes faith and the rest of the chapter illustrates it. Although this is the only verse in the Bible that helps to explain faith, it is actually more a description of its effects.The author does not define faith; he shows how it operates. Rather than stating what faith is, he demonstrates what faith does

QUESTIONS: FAITH DEFINED

Hebrews 11:1

1. What is referred to as “a shield” in Ephesians 6:16?

2. What did Jesus call “great” in Matthew 15:28?

3. Who did Jesus praise for his faith in Mark 10:52?

4. Who did Jesus praise for his faith in Luke 17:19?

5. Faith is the “evidence” of things hoped for. The word “evidence” means:
A. assurance
B. proof
C. certification
D. demonstration
E. all of the above

6. According to Romans 10:17, what helps to increase our faith?

7. What else helps us to increase our faith? (Jude 20). Discuss the importance of this with your spouse.

8. According to James 2:17, 20 & 27, what must accompany our faith?

9. What type of prayer heals the sick?  (James 5:5)

10. Paraphrase Romans 4:5-20.

 


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