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Summer Hebrews Series 2012 – Study 1


Faith’s Definition

Text:  Hebrews 11:1-3, 13

This is the roll-call of the great heroes of faith in the OT.  Now, we have seen that all of these men and women had something in common.  They were all STRANGERS & PILGRIMS in the world.  But there is another, and more obvious link connecting them all.  That is the fact that each of them was characterised by their great faith.  This passage is written to inspire us.  Luke 17:6. When we speak of these men and women of great faith, remember that it was not ‘their faith’ that achieved great things; rather it was the great God in whom they had this faith!  The writer begins the chapter with a definition of faith, and I believe that this may well be the only actual ‘definition’ of faith in the whole of the Bible!

1. The WORDS of Faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now, we need first of all to note the words that Hebrews uses to help us to understand the nature of faith.  There are two defining terms used, SUBSTANCE AND EVIDENCE:-

  • Faith is SUBSTANCE.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  The word substance is the Greek ‘upostasis and it can be translated as ‘assurance’ or ‘confirmation’ or ‘title-deed.’  A ‘substance’ is something YOU HAVE – a possession. Let’s just reason this out, and clarify the Biblical teaching on what the Bible says about the faith that we HAVE, and how we obtain it:
    • Faith is something that we do not possess ourselves.  We can’t work it up, or search for it or find it within ourselves, or manufacture itself.  Now, turn in your Bible to Ephesians 2:-
    • Faith is the gift of God!  Paul notes this is Ephesians.  He argues that as sinners, we are dead in Christ, and we cannot bring ourselves to life.  Ephes. 2:1-5  The very faith we need, to believe in Christ, to accept God’s grace, to know His Son as Redeemer and to have our sins forgiven, is actually imparted to us by God himself!!  Ephes. 2:8-9.  Now,
    • When we have this God-given faith, it is a guarantee, a down-payment of heaven!  It is the substance of things hoped for!  Knowing that God has given us this faith in him, will assure us that he will complete the work he has begun, and bring us home to him.  Amp.  NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality.-
  • Faith is EVIDENCE.  the evidence of things not seen.  Matt Henry; Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of those things that cannot be discerned by the eye of the body.  Amp: faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

So, faith is both an act and a possession of the thing believed in.  It is believing and trusting in what actually exists, and which we can possess.  Something we have, something we know.

2. The WITNESS of Faith.

For by it the elders obtained a good report.  Elders here are the ancient believers, who lived in the first ages of the world. Matthew Henry notes:-

  1. 1.       True faith is an old grace: it is not a new invention, a modern fancy; it is a grace that has been planted in the soul of man ever since the covenant of grace was published in the world; and it has been practiced from the beginning of the revelation; the eldest and best men that ever were in the world were believers.
  2. 2.       Their faith was their honour; it reflected honour upon them. They were an honour to their faith, and their faith was an honour to them. It caused them to do the things that were of good report, and God has taken care that a record shall be kept and report made of the excellent things they did in the strength of this grace. The genuine acts of faith will bear to be reported, deserve to be reported, and will, when reported, will be to the honour of true believers

So this faith, that has always been the possession of true believers in every age, will be a testimony to others, and will be reported and observed, both now and in eternity.

3. The WORLD and Faith.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,  Now, here the apostle introduces a practical application of what he has been teaching us about faith.

  • By Faith we UNDERSTAND CREATION!  It is through faith that we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.  The word UNDERSTAND is noeo, and it means to perceive with the mind, to understand, to know a true fact! We did not witness creation but we have this faith, this internal witness to God and His Word and His Plan, so we know that God did it!  
  • By Faith we UNDERSTAND CREATION’S ORIGIN!  There is another great aspect to this doctrine of Creation.  Not only did God create the world, but HE CREATED IT OUT OF NOTHING!  Creation Ex Nihilo!  so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.  Hebrews was aiming a blow at the popular philosophies and beliefs of his day.  It was the current belief that matter was flawed , and that therefore from the beginning this is a flawed world because it is made from flawed material.  The Hebrew author refutes this.  This world was not made out of existing, evil matter, it was made by God, and it was made out of nothing!  This is God’s world, and God is responsible for it, and everything in it belongs to him.
  • By Faith we LOOK BACK as well as FORWARD! True faith looks not only forward to the end of the world, but back to the beginning of the world. By faith we understand much more of the formation of the world than ever could be understood by  the scientist who relies only by what he considers logical explanation.


So, this is an illustration of what faith is.  I know that God created the world out of nothing, but how do I know, when I did not see it.  God has told me so, in a well accredited revelation which I believe, and by believing His Word, or by faith, I understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God!

From → Hebrews 11

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