Summary: Faith proves God’s work in us and causes us to obey and persevere.
January 20, 2013
To really understand Hebrews 11 we have to keep it within the context of the whole book and especially what we see in chapter 10. Who is he writing to? He’s writing to Christians who were afraid and thinking about giving up. And so the whole book is a warning—“Jesus Christ is better than anything we’ve ever seen or known. He’s the maker of all things, and He is God. Don’t do what the Israelites coming out of Egypt did (3:8-11). Obey Him and persevere until the end!”
And look at what we see in chapter 10:
• We’re sanctified by God’s will and Christ died for us by God’s will (:9-10)
• If Christ died there’s no more need for a sacrifice (:11-14)
• God has made a covenant with us to forgive our sins by Christ (:15-16)
• If so then there’s no more sin (:17-18)
• If so then there’s boldness to enter in and draw near to God (:19-22)
• We hold fast to this profession (:23)
• The people who gave up will be punished (24-30)
• So don’t give up (:31-37)
• The just shall live by faith (:38-39)
And it’s by this way that we come to Hebrews 11. We hear this word faith, and it’s so confusing because men have turned it into a work. “If you just believe God then He can do something for you.” But that’s not a good definition at all, is it? First of all we have to remember that faith is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and the Author of faith is Christ (Heb. 12:2). So faith isn’t a work; it’s something spiritual. This gift of faith is part of the inheritance we receive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3).
I want to be very clear on this—faith is something a believer receives.
What do you think? Have these first 10 chapters been written to convince us of how great and wonderful and powerful Christ Jesus is, and now we’re suddenly talking about the works of men? Have we stopped talking about Jesus, and now we’re talking about great and faithful men like Enoch and Noah?
Not at all!
If this is a Hall of Faith then we understand that the faith of every man on this list came from Christ and was maintained by Him—this “Hall” should really be called the “Hall of Handiwork” because we see that by grace they are saved through faith; and that not of themselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any of them should boast. For they are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph. 2:8-10). This little account shows how Jewish heroes were dependent on Christ to please God.
And so with this understanding we go in to Hebrews 11:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
“Substance” means something that’s solid. It’s used in 1:3 to show that Christ is the “person” or the “solid” of God. How can we say that faith is a substance? Who can put faith in a bottle? Go back to Hebrews 3:8-19 and see that their unbelief was evidenced by their disobedience and refusal to endure.
Faith is not me believing something is so until it is so. Faith is a gift from Christ that teaches us Christ is sufficient no matter our circumstances and that we have a sure hope in God’s promise. And since Christ is the author of our faith and the object of it we don’t think it’s too much to say, “Christ is the substance of things hoped for, Christ is the evidence of things not seen.”
2For by it the elders obtained a good report.
The elders were the forefathers, yet they were just as sinful as you and me. How did they obtain a good report? How could God be pleased with men whose righteous acts were as filthy rags? Is it not according to the covenant? Is it not according to the sacrifice of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world?
3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
How do we believe that God created the world around us? It’s by faith; we know that God created all this from nothing. And this is a physical principle to a spiritual truth. Faith is the substance and the evidence—the thing which proves that there’s something behind what we see.
4By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.