Summary: What we really need is a practical definition of faith. How can you employ "Bible" faith in your everyday life?
WHAT FAITH IS
INTRO. We have heard sermons and lessons from this passage many times. This single chapter, above all others in the Bible, defines, illustrates and lists the rewards of faith. But this was meant to be much more than just a beautiful dissertation on religion.
A large part of the first-century church was Jewish. These Jews had been raised to see everything religious as a matter of works. So even after being taught the basic fundamental truths of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, the tendency was for them to try to fit these new principles into the mold of "works righteousness".
By the time of Christ, Judaism was no longer the supernatural religious system that God had originally given. It had been twisted entirely into a works system, with all kinds of legalistic requirements. It had become a religion of self-effort, self-salvation, and self-glorification.
Since the Jews based their religious works on the examples of the Old Testament, the writer of Hebrews takes time in Chapter 11 to show them that the Old Testament saints were motivated by the same principle that New Testament saints are to be motivated by....faith.
But before he illustrates his point, he gives a brief definition of what faith is....
I. THE NATURE OF FAITH. (Vs. 1)
A. The substance of things hoped for.
1. In the Old Testament times, people had to rest on the promises of God. God told them of a coming Messiah, a Deliverer who would take away sin. They had no physical proof of this but put their full trust and hope in it.
2. That’s what faith is. Faith is living in a hope that is so real it gives absolute assurance. Faith gives hope substance or reality. In other words, my faith tells me that God’s promises for my future are as sure and real as my past.
3. Faith is not a wistful longing that something may come to pass in an uncertain tomorrow. True faith is an absolute certainty, often of things that the world considers unreal and impossible.
a. Faith is that power within us which makes the things of the next world seem as real to us as the things of this world -- which, in turn, brings home to us the things not seen, and makes them as clear and sure to us as if we could see them with our very eyes.
b. For instance, Moses (vs.26) considered the reproach of Christ [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Moses took a stand on the Messianic hope, and forsook all the material things he could touch and see for a Messiah who would not come to earth for more than 1400 years.
c. The 3 Hebrew children were confronted with the choice of obeying Nebuchadnezzar, whom they could see very well, or God, whom they had never seen. They chose to obey God.
d. Man’s natural response is to trust his physical senses, to put his faith in the things he can see, hear, taste, and feel. But the man of God puts his trust in something more durable and dependable than anything he will ever experience with his senses. Senses may lie; God can not lie.
3. One more look at the word "substance"
a. In 1:3 translated - "express image"
b. In 3:14 translated - "confidence"
c. The point is this, faith will hold on to the promises of God as the ultimate reality...the most certain thing in our existence.
B. The evidence of things not seen.
1. This implies a response, an outward manifestation of the inward substance. The person of faith lives his belief. His life is committed to what his mind and his spirit are convinced are true.
2. Noah is a good example of this.
3. The lost man cannot comprehend that kind of spiritual faith. He has no means of perception. He has no spiritual senses. He is like a blind man who refuses to believe there is such a thing as light because he has never seen it.
II. THE TESTIMONY OF FAITH. (vs. 2)
A. The "elders" gained approval from God because of their faith and nothing else. God has always approved and recognized the person of faith.
B. This verse also implies that God makes His approval known to those who trust Him. How God shows His approval varies, but every saint has God’s witness that his faith is pleasing to his Lord.
C. Faith is not simply one way to please God; it is the only way.
1. Heb. 11:6
2. No matter what else we may think, say, or do in the name of God, it is meaningless and worthless apart from faith, and it cannot possibly be approved by God.