44 – Hebrews 11:1: Faith Defined

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 an object or an individual in order to be operative. It demands an object: it cannot exist alone. Faith cannot stand by itself because it has no ‘legs’. One cannot have faith in faith. The true value of pistis 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. Yet it 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 or someone. For example, only if you believe Chicago exists would you endeavor to go there. Travel plans are based on faith in the actual existence of Chicago. Your expectations concerning the reality of the city are founded upon faith.

A optimistic farmer plants and anticipates a harvest. A worker has confidence his employer will pay him for his labor. People believe the sun will rise tomorrow. Such day-by-day expectations rest on simple trust. The concept can be 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 allegiance to 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, faith causes us to act as if we see them. It provides access to an unseen world in which things virtually materialize before us. The clearer these things become, the more they influence our thoughts and actions. 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.

Saving Faith
Our senses can deceive us, but God will not (Titus 1:2). Faith allows us to “see 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 it, but are derived from the One in whom it is placed. Confidence in what someone claims to be true can inspire trust, but one may adamantly believe a doctrine and be entirely wrong. Many cultists and satanists are convinced their doctrines are true. Satan prompted Adam and Eve to depend on his sincerity – yet he twisted the truth. Reliance upon his words 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 demands unwavering loyalty to 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. The hope of eternal life motivates us to draw close to God and faith is the spiritual faculty by which the soul makes contact with Him. Sincere confidence in God is not a mere change of attitude or lifestyle, but rests on the firm foundation of God’s pragmatic truth. 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).

Belief and trust work in tandem to reveal realities “within the veil” (Heb. 6:19).
They feed the soul’s tabernacle lamp with the oil of hope.
They enables us to praise God for future blessings as if we already possessed them.
They allow God’s truth to become operational in the soul.
They become the hand that grasps things that can only be “spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).
They are 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-aggrandizing religion. Since 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 confidence in God.

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

<> Faith is the inner-conviction of things hoped for and the irrefutable proof of things not seen.
<> Faith is the firm expectation of our desires and allows us to truly possess them.
<> Faith is the substantiation of our hopes and appropriates what we cannot see.
<> Faith is the title deed of things we yearn for and the acquisition of things not yet visible.
<> Faith is the certitude of what we hope for and the conviction of their reality.
<> 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 and makes perceptible what is otherwise imperceptible.
<> Faith is the confident assurance of our hopes and serves as the eyes through which unseen things are seen.

The word “is” is emphatic, for faith is the foundation of what we anticipate yet cannot see. Because it 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).

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

Though hope and faith are closely related, they are not identical. Whatever may be the focus of our hope, it is only by faith we can claim it. 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 pistis, yet pistis is the foundation upon which hope rests.

“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 – and has the ability to fully appropriate that which is imperceptible. As belief in Christ matures, unseen things are not viewed as probable, but factual. The Spirit of God gives us the assurance our invisible hopes will manifest into visible realities.
The readers have been 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 “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 persevere by emulating them. This chapter is a huge mural of numerous faithful men and women, yet it is a work that will remain incomplete until the Rapture (11:40). The examples provided are sufficient to paint a group portrait that helps explain faith. The first verse describes it: the rest of the chapter illustrates its effects.The author does not define it, but demonstrates how it operates. Rather than stating what faith is, he proves what it does


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.


Maxim of the Moment

The bonds of matrimony don’t profit you unless the interest is kept up.