The Book of Hebrews #47 chapter 11:1-3
The Book of Hebrews
The Substance of Faith
Hebrews 11:1-3
 
Tonight we come to what is perhaps the most familiar part of the book of Hebrews and that is chapter 11.  IT is that great “faith” chapter of the Bible.
 
And if there was one thing the readers of this book needed to understand, it was faith. Remember there were three audiences to which the writer was peaking.  There were Christians, there were those who were close to becoming Christians and there were those who were not interested.
 
To the Christians who had come to faith in Christ, they understood faith and they are being encouraged in their faith by this letter.  They were beginning a brand new life in Christ, moving from Judaism to Christianity and a part of what is said to build them up in the faith.
 
But remember, for ten chapters the writer has been laboring to make one major point and it is that Christ is superior to everything else. Jesus and His sacrifice is superior to the sacrifices and the animals in the old system. He is a better sacrifice who made a better offering. Jesus is better than angels.
 
He is better than the prophets. He is better than Moses, better than Aaron, better than Joshua. He is a better priest than all other priests. And he is from a better priesthood, a superior priesthood. He is the mediator of a better covenant and He is a better sacrifice.
And to put it in a nutshell, the message of the first ten chapters is, “Put your faith in Jesus Christ.”  So after giving the options of accepting or rejecting Christ at the end of chapter 10, he then talks to them about faith in chapter 11 and he does it, again, by going back into their history as Jews and pulling his supporting argument from there.
 
After, the true people of God through all the ages have become the true people of God by faith and chapter 11 is loaded with illustrations.
 
Just take a quick scan and let me show you what I mean:
 
verse 4, “By faith, Abel...”
verse 5, “By faith, Enoch..”
verse 7, “By faith, Noah...”
verse 8, “By faith Abraham.”
verse 17, “By faith Abraham.”
verse 20, “By faith, Isaac.”
verse 21, “By faith, Jacob.”
verse 22, “By faith, Joseph...”
verse 23, “By faith, Moses.”
verse 31, “By faith, Rahab.”
verse 32, “There's Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, who by faith did all these amazing things.”
 
Then verse 39 sums it up.
 
They didn't receive what was promised, they trusted that it would come as it had been promised. And there we find a simple definition of faith.  Faith is confident trust in the future God has promised.
 
Faith is not some kind of power by which you create your future.  It is the power of God given to you to trust in the promises God has made in Scripture about the future. These people hadn't received the promise and yet they trusted in the promise and thus they lived by faith.
 
Now tonight, we'll just begin to take a quick look at the opening three verses and then over the following weeks, we'll do some character studies in the lives of these who lived by faith.
 
First is
 
1. The Nature of Faith
 
verse 1
 
The first thing we learn about faith is that it is trusting in what isn't visible. It is trusting in what isn't received. It is trusting in what hasn’t been experienced.
 
Now faith is a noun.  And I like because it emphasizes a settled reality. It is a commodity that is possessed. Believing can be a verb, but here we're not talking some act of faith. We're talking about the reality of a settled faith. It is a gift of God according to Ephesians 2:8.
 
Now when God gives this commodity of faith, it is the assurance of things hoped for. That's what it means to live by faith. It doesn't mean that we see something we want and bring it into existence. It means that we put our confidence in something not seen, convictions of things not seen.
 
And I love the word substance there.  Substance is a word that has substance! It's a word that you can take to the bank. It's a word that you can sort of cash in on. It gives it reality. Faith is substantial confidence in the reality of something not yet realized.
 
And what we see illustrated through all these people who are mentioned is here were folks who had nothing but the promises of God. There was no
visible evidence that the messianic promises would come true.  Yet the promises were so real and the revelation of those promises in Scripture so reliable and these people were so convinced of their reality that they built their entire hope on them.
 
And what they experienced looking for the first coming of Christ is not unlike what we experience looking for the second coming of Christ.  And they all died looking for Him. They didn't see any of it here. They never saw the birth in Bethlehem.  They never saw any miracles.  They never saw the cross.  They didn’t witness the resurrection.  They simply lived by faith in a reliable revelation from a God who cannot lie and their faith gave substance to the future hope.
 
Now we're on this side of the cross, but we do the same thing.  None of us have seen heaven and we don’t know anyone who’s gone there and come back to tell us about it.  And yet, we have banked our entire eternity on the fact that a God Who cannot lie told us about it and we put our faith in that hope.
 
So in reality, faith is all about things that are off out in the future somewhere but they have substance right now.
That’s why when we sing and pray and give and teach and preach and witness and all of that there is weight to that right now.  IT’s about the future but it’s real right now.  That is the nature and power of faith.  Real faith gives us a confident substance in the present.
 
But that’s not all there is to it.  It’s not just the assurance or the substance of things hoped for.  He goes on to say it is the evidence of things not seen.
 
That takes it a step further. It is the substance that becomes conviction. Now it is your convictions that determine how you live. You can know something to be true, but until it becomes a conviction, you don't put it really into action. So we have substance that has led to conviction.  And implied in that conviction is a strong, strong commitment.
 
For example, he talks about how Noah lived by faith and built a boat.  What would make you build a boat in a desert simply because you were told it was going to rain when it had never rained in the history of the world?
 
A conviction? It had to be more than that.  After all, he wound up working for 120 years on that boat.  Well it would have to be more than just some kind of hope because you would have to spend 120 years building the boat. What put his faith into action?
 
There was such substance to what he had been told, he was so confident in the revelation of God to him that it became a conviction that he could literally live his life on. That's what puts faith into action. He acted on it. He committed to it and it absolutely, not only affected his life, it ruled and controlled his life,. And that is true of everyone of the individuals listed here in the chapter.  From the revelation came action because from the substance came conviction.
 
And that’s really not too hard to understand because we do it all the time.  We live by faith all the time.  We drink water that we can’t see where it came from.   We eat in restaurants and have no idea how clean the cook is.  We go to the pharmacy and we drink whatever the pharmacist gives us and we are clueless what is in the bottle.
 
We take an exit ramp off the highway where we’ve never traveled before because someone put up a sign that says it’s the right place to be.  We trust the sign. We trust the people who put the signs up.
 
We trust the surgeon and on and on the list goes.  That's natural faith. But to a large degree that's faith in things seen because we have some evidence, we have past history. All this has already been proven to be trustworthy. But when we're talking about eternity, we're talking about the unseen.
 
When we talk about the future and heaven and all that is there for us in the promises of God, we're talking about something that no one on the planet has experienced. There isn't one person alive today that you can go to and say, “You've been to heaven and back, tell me about it.”
 
There are lots of folks who have been to the doctor and been to the pharmacy. But this is a different kind of faith all together. This is the way we live. We live on the promise given to us in the Scripture because we believe the Scripture is reliable.
And we believe it's reliable because the evidence tells us it's reliable and because the Spirit of God has planted in us a faith to believe in its trustworthiness.
 
So that's the nature of faith.
 
Next see
 
2. The Testimony of Faith
 
verse 2
 
Here the writer sort of introduces us to what is going to be the emphasis of the chapter as he draws the hearer’s attention to these Old Testament illustrations of faith.
 
He's trying to help these Jews who are struggling with this idea of salvation by faith by pointing to the fact that this is how the saints of old came to be who they were.
 
Why did the Jews identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did they look at Abel as being more noble than Cain? Why did they look at Enoch as they did? Why did they think of Abraham as being Godly? Why  did they give Sarah such respect?  Why did they look at the others, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, Joseph and all the rest? Because of their faith and that's what he's going to show throughout this chapter.
 
This is not a new concept. The great heroes of the faith, the saints of old lived by faith. Abel believed God regarding sacrifice, acted on faith that what God said was true and what God expected was the path of blessing. He did what God told him because God told him this is what to do and I'll bless you.
And he did it and was, of course, received and approved.
 
Enoch believed God so much so that he didn't die. God was so pleased with him that one day he took a walk and walked right into the presence of God and skipped the dying part.
 
Noah believed God and because of it God granted to him righteousness and God brought about what God had promised but spared him and his family.
 
Abraham and Sarah believed God for a child and God fulfilled the promise.
 
We'll learn about Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and everybody else, all who believed God and were approved by all who knew them. The record of the Old Testament stands as testimony to their faith. They trusted in what they couldn't see. They lived their lives based upon promises God made to them, and certainly God approved of that and they were rightfully honored by the people of the past and even remained the heroes of the faith.
 
The testimony of faith has always been the testimony of the saints, Old Testament and beyond. It was by faith that the men of old gained approval not only from God but they became the heroes of the faith because of their faith, believing in what they had not yet seen or experienced.
 
So we have the nature and testimony of faith. And then there is, finally,
 
3. An Illustration of Faith
 
verse 3
 
Now the point being made here is something critical to us. We live in faith that looks forward to what God has promised, and this illustration takes us back and gives us a foundation for faith looking forward.
 
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. That looks back at creation. Creation is things seen in the universe, made out of things unseen.
 
Creation is ex nihilo.  God made the whole universe out of nothing. What is seen was not made out of anything that was visible. So out of the invisible came the visible, out of nothing came everything.
 
We understand that by faith.  In fact, that’s the only way we can understand it because we weren’t there.  Now don’t rush by that too quickly.
 
By faith we understand that God created it the universe by His Word. So in what are we placing our faith?  It is in the revelation of God written in Genesis chapter 1 and 2 which tells us that God created the universe by His Word.
 
Now keep in mind, verse 3 is not primarily a verse about the origin and creation of the world. The verse is primarily about putting your faith in things you can’t see.  And the writer is reminding us that God spoke everything into existence and the record is in Genesis 1.
 
 
We can look around us and understand there is a universe and a world.  We understand that it exists.  Anyone can see that.  And most thinking people realize it had to have a starting point.
 
And here is where the arguments begin.  From what did it come?  And what was the catalyst that started the formation of what we look around and see?  No matter what answer you give to those questions requires faith because there are no witnesses to that event alive today.
 
So we can say, “We know how that happened” and as Christians we say that all of the time.  But the truth is that is a faith declaration.  We look around and see evidence of creation.  There had to be a starting point.  There had to be a time when there was nothing. That time then ended when God created the universe. By faith we understand how that happened.
 
But the person who just understands that it happened doesn't know how.  Only the person who puts his faith in the Scripture understands how.
 
So by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God because that's what the Scripture says and we choose to believe it.
 
Now follow the thought. Scripture says God created it, we live in it and we can see the evidences of His creation. So the fact that we can look back and see that God described His creation, told us how He made it and has left His imprint on it and we are now living in that creation gives us the opportunity to have a foundation for believing in the future.
What God said in Genesis brought about the universe that we now live in and enjoy and experience.  Now if it’s true of creation and we know it’s reality we can trust that the same God who spoke this into existence by His Word has said that He has spoken another world into existence which awaits us and that we will one day experience that world.
 
We experience this world which God spoke into existence and we will experience the world which He has spoken into existence in the glory of the supernatural realm. We can trust Him for that as He is the source of that in the same way He's the source of this.
 
It's not really a stretch. There's really no other way to explain the universe than to say that God created it. No other way.  We accept that by faith. And here we live in a world created by the Word of God.
 
And by faith, we trust that God will in the future have waiting for us another universe in the glory of His presence, also promised by His creative power.
 
We all live by faith.  We trust God as Creator of this world and we trust Him as the Creator of the world to come for those who know Him and love Him.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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