A Faith that Understands

Intro:  Hebrews 11:1-3 – 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

We spent some time last week looking at the first part of this definitive statement about faith. There is a real connection between faith and hope. Faith is the substance (undergirding) of our hope. Look carefully at the latter part of verse 1.

I. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen” – The word that is translated as “evidence” [elegchos (el’-eng-khos)] means  proof, conviction(Vines).  Barnes says it  “… goes to demonstrate the thing under consideration, or which is adapted to produce “conviction” in the mind,” It is the “convincing argument” to the existence of those things that we cannot see.   This is important to our understanding of faith.

A. “Things not seen” – Think of something that you have never seen, but are convinced thoroughly that it exists. (This does not have to be a spiritual reality, just something you have not seen. This may be more difficult in our age of images. We have seen many things. But I have never seen a germ. (H1N1)  Are you convinced that it exists?  Would you act and reason based on its existence? (wash your hands, put on a mask) You then have “faith” in its existence.  I am convinced through testimony of others and certain other evidences. But as I react to its existence, my faith that it exists is the convincing argument of my actions.

1.  In this sense, all men live by faith. It helps if we view faith in this context, rather than see faith as a blind devotion that exists only in religious or spiritual concerns.  Faith is the way we all relate to unseen things. But our faith in the unseen spiritual realities is the convincing argument of our actions.

2.  Faith is described in precisely this way in Hebrews 11. It is viewed as the convincing argument in the hearts of God’s people that what cannot be seen actually exists. Being convinced, they act in defiance of what is seen. They do what they do “by faith”, not by sight.

II.  “For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” (v.2) The writer of Hebrews can easily remind his Jewish audience of the many before them (elders = patriarchs of the O.T.) whom God approved of because they acted by faith. God testified of His approval of them in the O.T. scriptures, and the writer will further testify in this chapter.   If they were approved because of their faith, then we will also. In verse 6 he points out that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

A.  Living by faith is not just one way to please God, it is the only way. Nothing that we can in an effort to gain God’s approval is of any value if it is not done in faith.  The rationalist has no ability to live with God’s approval. He measures everything experientially and puts his trust only in what he can see or prove through experiment.  God demands faith.

1.  What is under consideration here is how one reacts and responds to what cannot be seen. Are we willing to act with confidence toward that which we do not see? To live in response to what we only hope for, but have not yet attained. If not, we cannot please God. This points not only toward our justification by faith, but to the everyday decisions of living that require faith in that which we do not see. 2 Cor 4:1818 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

III.  “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” – Where did their faith begin? Where does yours?  In the first Divine event recorded for us.

A. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) Faith in the creation is fundamental, because the questions that it addresses are fundamental. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where did all this around us come from?  Everyone asks these questions?  How can I know the answers?

1.  Does the created world give me the answer? (Ex. – watching the history of our national parks on TV. Many, such as John Muir, were driven to preserve the natural beauty of the land because they sensed a “spiritual” connection.)  But ironically, as “spiritual” as the natural world appears, it cannot provide the knowledge of its own origin. (That is the irony)

a.  The origin of the universe has been a long-standing problem for both philosophers and scientists. After centuries of investigation and speculation there are only theories.  “For some 100 years the nebula theory was the dominant scientific explanation of the origin of the universe. It was eventually replaced by the tidal theory, which was soon replaced by the steady-state theory, the super dense (big bang) theory, and so on. None of these theories gained universal acceptance among scientists.

b.  The answers to our origin are outside the scope of human investigation. We were not there. It will always remain unseen to us. God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4) Although science (the study of things seen) can and does support creation, it cannot prove it through experimentation. Neither can it prove evolution as the source of all things.

c.  The Christian recognizes that all truth comes from God. Some of it is discoverable with our eyes, ears, touch and intellect, but most it is not. It is apprehended only through faith. We should make no apology for that. Physics professor T. L. Moore of the University of Cincinnati has said, “To talk of the evolution of thought from sea slime to amoeba, from amoeba to a self-conscious thinking man, means nothing. It is the easy solution of a thoughtless brain.”

2.  How can we know? This verse says we understand “by faith” Our knowledge of this unseen event is based on the testimony of God.  “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:9-10). I must put my confidence in the revelation of the Spirit of God.  That does not mean that the visible world does not corroborate my faith. Paul said in Romans 1:2020 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  There is revelation in the natural world. But my understanding of creation is by faith.

B.  “Framed by the word of God” – The text says that God “framed” the worlds by His word.

1.  The word “framed” [ katartizo (kat-ar-tid’-zo)] is not the word synonymous with the powerful Hebrew word “bara” used in Genesis 1 and throughout the O.T.; applying only to God.  Bara means to create out of nothing. “Framed” here means to set in order or complete.

a.   The creation is not haphazard or disconnected it has been” framed”. The intricate order of everything in the universe is a strong evidence of creation. (maybe the strongest external evidence that exists).  Haven’t you often been awed by the marvelous design of what you see?  (ex. – taking pictures of crashing waves – color balance, focus, shutter speed, light, etc. – all done instantaneously and continuously by the human eye.)

2.  by the word of God – the term here means by “a word spoken”  or a command. To believe in creation is to have faith in the absolute power and authority of God’s word. If His spoken word created the world, then His written word is absolute as well. In fact it is that connection between the word expressed in the physical creation and His word active in the spiritual creation that James refers to in James 1:17-18 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

  • Ps 33:6-9 – By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;  He lays up the deep in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

3.  “so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” This presents one of the key elements of our understanding of creation. God did not use something to create something else. This is the thought expressed in the word “bara” that we mentioned earlier. – “out of nothing”  Only God can “create” in this sense. It is only in this sense that we can understand creation. Matter is not eternal, and thus somewhere back there something had to come from nothing.

a.  I like what Barnes says here… The “argument” here, so far as it is adapted to the purpose of the apostle, seems to be, that there was nothing which “appeared,” or which was to be “seen,” that could lay the foundation of a belief that God made the worlds; and in like manner our faith now is not to be based on what; “appears,” by which we could infer or reason out what would be, but that we must exercise strong confidence in Him who had power to create the universe out of nothing. If this vast universe has been called into existence by the mere word of God, there is nothing which we may not believe he has ample power to perform.

Conclusion: What does it mean to live “by faith” as expressed in Hebrews 1:1-3?

  • It means to confidently affirm and act according to the reality of that which I did not and cannot see. My faith is the evidence of things not seen.
  • It means to interpret the things that I do see in context of my faith. Many today attempt to interpret the Bible so as to corroborate or agree with what they see (science).  The Christian is to interpret what he sees so as to agree with the Bible. I must judge all things by truth. My faith is a faith that understands because it is only through my faith that I can understand the world I live in. It answers my questions.
  • Let me close with one more important question?
  • What must I do to be saved? The answer can only come through faith. Listen to the testimony of God Mark 16:16 – 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.