Intro: 2 Cor 5:7 – “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”Last week we investigated the subject of faith by considering the biblical definition of faith in its basic elements of belief (assent) and trust. We must believe that Jesus is Lord. But that is not enough. We must also put our trust in Him and His promises through surrendering to His will and obeying His commands.
I want to continue our study of faith this morning by returning to 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. These words are an introduction to a larger discussion of faith wherein the apostle catalogues several OT characters who lived “by faith” (Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Gideon, David, etc.). In fact, if you include v. 38 of chapter 10, he uses the phrase “by faith” 19 times to describe the actions and choices of these individuals.
- Faith is presented as the motivation for choices and actions. It is the “why” behind activity.
- In many churches and denominations, “saving faith” is viewed as a moment of belief. The bare minimum of belief is the conviction that because we know that Jesus died for on the cross and claim Him as our personal Savior, we are going to heaven when we die. Once this “faith” is possessed, the “believer” is safe in the arms of Jesus, and cannot be lost. Even among those who do not teach salvation by faith alone, the concept of faith, or belief, is attached to a single moment in time (baptism) and is therefore easy to possess. Someone has observed that the modern definition of faith speaks if it as a noun to be possessed rather than a verb to be enacted. But according to scripture, faith is something that we live by, not simply have.
- Hebrews 11:6 – “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Living by faith is not just one way to please God, it is the only way. God demands faith.
I. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen” – The word that is translated as “evidence” [elegchos (el’-eng-khos)] in Heb. 11:1 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 acted in defiance of what is seen, being fully convinced by what God had said concerning what they could not see. Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb 11:8); “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.” (11:20) Moses endured reproach “as seeing Him who is invisible.” (11:27) They did what they did “by faith”, not by sight.
3. Are we willing to act with confidence toward that which we do not see? Faith, as a response to the unseen, points beyond our justification, to the everyday decisions of living for God that require us to exhibit trust and confidence in what we do not see.
a. As an apostle, Paul defended his uncompromising preaching of the gospel. Why did he, and the other apostles, respond to such opposition and persecution with boldness and resolve? 2 Cor 4:13-18 – And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Seeing the Invisible 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 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.
II. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” – Where did their faith begin? The Hebrew writer goes all the way back to the beginning. The first Divine event recorded for us. God tells us about what we did not see with our own eyes.
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? The Psalmist says that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Ps 19:1). But the visible creation does not answer the question of how did it all begin. Where did I come from? (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.
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.
a. 1 Cor 2:9-10 – “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” 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 1:20 – 20 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)] 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.
a. Psalm 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.
4. What does it mean to walk by faith concerning God’s creative work? (What you did not see) Does it simply mean that you accept certain apologetic arguments and agree that He did it? Or is your faith in God as the Creator something that you live by?
a. To walk in this faith is to accept your place in His creation as an accountable moral being, created in His image. I am not just a collection of evolving molecules.
b. To walk in this faith is to submit to the authority of all of His words. (family, roles of men and women, worship, sexual morality, etc.)
c. To walk in this faith is to obey Him as the Ruler of all the universe.
d. It means to interpret the things that I do see in context of my faith in the things I do not see. Many today attempt to interpret the Bible so as to corroborate or agree with what science claims to know (see). The Christian who walks by faith subordinates the conclusions of men (even scientists) to the authority of God’s word. I must judge all things by truth, and allow Him to answer my questions.
e. It is to recognize His verbal revelation contained in scripture concerning my salvation from sin, and submit to it.
f. To walk by faith has similar implications in all the elements of revealed truth, from Genesis (creation) onward.
Conclusion: In Peter’s exhortation to the Christians of Asia Minor, he urged them to be sober-minded and get ready for the coming of Jesus. He urged them to abstain from worldly lusts that motivated them when they were ignorant of God’s work. He commanded them to be holy and place their faith and hope in God. Notice how he describes their faith in 1 Peter 1:8-9 – whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.
We do not see Him but we love Him and trust in Him. Christians are certain (confident) of what they have not seen with their own eyes.
The end of your faith… The word “end” in v. 9 is telos, which means goal, or end result. By living according to their confident assurance, they obtain the goal for which it was intended – the salvation of their souls. On what basis do they have this confidence that leads to salvation?
1 Peter 1:10-12 – Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follo 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into.
Peter takes the source of this saving faith back to the revealed words of God. The prophets prophesied of “the grace that would come to you”, and these very things that were spoken to the O.T. prophets have been reported through those who have preached the gospel to you – “sent to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”.
My faith is not a blind leap or a wish in the dark. I am certain of what I believe because God has spoken in the scriptures (apostolic message).
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, that he died willingly on a Roman cross to pay the penalty of your sin, and that He arose from the dead on the third day, and is at the right hands of God to make intercession for you?
If you have that faith (even though you did not see it), what would it mean to walk in it?
Acts 2:38-39 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”