“By their faith, our ancestors won God’s approval. Faith enables us to believe God created all things by His powerful Word, and that the things now visible were made from nothing.” (paraphrased)
Faith (pistis) is best defined by examining those who govern their lives by it. The forefathers were affirmed by God and their trust in Him became part of the Biblical record. Their legacy proves pistis appropriates the unseen. The “good report” regarding the saints did not come from the world. The commendation they received was God’s testimony concerning their faith.
“Elders” are “the men of old” (presbuteroi) from whence we derive the word “presbyter.” These people of faith are also called “the fathers” (1:1) and “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1). Because they have God’s commendation, their stories have blessed the Church throughout the ages. Abraham was a friend of God (Jas. 2:23), Enoch walked with Him (Gen. 5:24), and David was a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). But men of faith are not perfect. Abraham lied (Gen. 12:13), Jacob deceived (Gen. 27:24), Moses murdered (Ex. 2:14), and David fornicated (II Sam. 11:4). As they repented of their various sins and shortcomings, their trust in God won His endorsement.
Amid adverse circumstances, their zeal enabled them to perform exploits. The promises of God were sufficient to sustain them and they found their struggles were not in vain. So firm was their faith in His word, it directed the course of their lives. They received God’s favorable testimony (martureo). This term is used when referring to Able and Enoch, who both received the Lord’s affirmation (11:4-5). The secret of their greatness was not their great faith, but the great faithfulness of the God they served.
Spanning hundreds of years in a single chapter, the writer begins an overview of dynamic men and women. Their biographical sketches outline for us how God’s people interacted with Him throughout history. Faith is not an enigma known only to ancient saints, but is the essential attribute all Christians share. The saints of the past established for us a firm foundation for the present in order that we may anticipate a glorious future.
By his reference to the origin of the universe, the writer affirms that people of faith accept the Genesis account of creation. This is why the Bible begins with the inception of the cosmos and the creation of all species on earth. Through faith we perceive what the wisest men cannot comprehend. The effort to explain the cosmos apart from God is a fool’s errand. Those who do not recognize God have a “darkened” understanding of the world they live in (Rom. 1:21). Truth is only revealed through God’s Spirit (I Cor. 2:9-10). Through faith we understand, perceive, and comprehend things beyond the realm of human reason. God is Creator. There is no other side to this argument.
Because a fundamental act of faith is accepting God as the Creator, the writer takes his readers to the birth of the universe. No human was present when it was framed. Adam was not yet formed. The Lord asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job. 38:4). But in order to interact with human beings, God created a suitable environment for them. The cosmos did not self-originate. Just as a builder must first exist before he builds something, God existed before the universe. Ten times in the first chapter of Genesis we find the phrase “and God said.” With these simple words, He created everything. The universe is the expression of His thoughts (Ps. 102:25). It was as effortless for God to create a world as it is for a person to create a memory. Only through faith can we discover the relationship of the Creator to His creation. Faith is the means by which we understand the correlation between the tangible and the intangible.
Most people are reluctant to view creation from God’s perspective. But it is only “through faith we understand” that which cannot be discovered through science. Faith begins where science ends. While many things are beyond explanation, they are not beyond appreciation. Faith moves the intellect and heart to praise the Lord for his creativity.
“Worlds” is more accurately translated aiones, meaning ages or dispensations. It refers to more than the material creation. It includes all that exists in time and space. The eras of time were planned by God from the beginning and are moving toward a preordained goal. The worlds were framed (kateertishai) by the word of God. The term means “fitted; perfectly joined together; adjusted; set in order; prepared with great exactness.” The term for “word” is hrema and refers to His divine utterance. People of faith realize time and eternity were arranged by God. Based on this fact, we believe He will do everything necessary to accomplish His purposes as He interacts with those He created.
The writer of Hebrews states faith begins by believing that God made everything from nothing. He had no need to form the universe from existing matter. The Creator called into being what did not exist before. He spoke. The cosmos materialized and was arranged according to His perfect will. The writer seeks to stress this is God’s universe and He alone controls it. According to this verse, man can only fathom anything about the universe by faith. Since the Garden of Eden, the primary task of human beings has been to interact with God. Because creation proves miracles are possible, it is reasonable to assume the rest of the Bible is true as well.
Whoever planned and made the universe with such wisdom and precision must be God. “Big Bang” advocates propose the cosmos formed randomly. This is like assuming tossing a hand grenade into a print shop could produce a dictionary. All such theories are invalid and cannot be scientifically proven. The “facts” evolutionists surmise are assumptions based on suppositions. We are warned that in the last days scoffers will emerge and deny God as creator (II Pet. 3:3-7). Paul informs us that unrighteous men “suppress the truth” because God’s existence is evident by what He has created. Those who adopt a view of creation that excludes God’s creative power are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20-28).
While astronomy may be astounding, simple faith is the only thing necessary to understand the origin of every celestial body. The evolutionist looks at creation through a microscope and doubts. The Believer looks at creation through a telescope and believes. The origin and beauty of God’s universe cannot be fully appreciated by human intellect, but only by God’s revelation. By faith we understand more about creation than the best-educated agnostic. According to this verse, Christians are not evolutionists, for faith is based on honoring God as Creator.
Man inherently knows he is estranged from God because of sin. It is logical that those who are created will want to communicate with their Creator. It follows that a loving God will provide a path that leads back to Him. The Lord perfectly framed our universe to correspond with His plan of redemption. If we believe He spoke the worlds into existence by divine design, we can believe He sent His Son to die as the sacrifice for our sins.
QUESTIONS: FAITH’S WITNESSES
1. Which of the following statements are true?
A. Enoch walked with God.
B. David was a man after God’s own heart
C. Abraham was a friend of God
D. only A & B
E. A, B & C
2. Colossians 2:8 can serve as a warning against believing in evolution. True or False?
3. What did Gods say was “not good”? (Genesis 2:18)
4. According to Genesis 2:22, how was Eve formed?
5. Read John 1:1-3 and Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 1:2. Discuss their similarities with your spouse.
6. According to Genesis 1:16, what did God create?
7. According to Psalm 121:2, what did God create?
8. What did God ask Job in Job 38:4?
9. Read Colossians 1:16. Write a paragraph concerning the value of knowing God as Creator.