Faith – Hebrews 11:1


I have been intrigued by faith for quite a while. It is the dividing line between having a relationship with God and not having a relationship with God. Those with faith stand in awe of the God who accepts them into His presence based upon their acceptance of propositional facts. Those without faith strive for God’s acceptance through their efforts.

Faith provides what man needs before God. Lack of faith causes man to strive for what he can never attain.

What, then, is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 defines it and the remainder of the chapter demonstrates it.

NAU Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

NIV Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

KJV Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

If we are to understand this verse we need to understand five key words – faith, assurance, hoped for, evidence and things! Understanding these words will begin to unlock what is faith and how it brings us into a relationship with God.

The first word – FAITH – is pistis in the Greek. It means ‘trust’, ‘confidence’, ‘conviction’, ‘assurance’, or ‘belief’ in a set of facts.

The second word – ASSURANCE – is upostasis and means a real (not imaginary) foundation.

The third word – HOPED FOR – is elpizw and means a hope or expectation.

The fourth word – EVIDENCE – is elegcos meaning ‘something that is proven or tested as being true’.

The fifth word – THINGS – is pragma meaning an accomplished fact.

OR, to paraphrase Hebrews 11:1 using these definitions, Faith is confidence in a set of facts we are expecting to be true, something that has been tested as a true and accomplished fact even though it has not yet been seen.

At first glance this would appear to contradict rational Christianity because faith is defined as something we are expecting to be true and established as true even though it is SCIENTIFICALLY unproven. And if the remainder of Chapter 11 were missing, I would certainly concur! However, the remainder of Chapter 11 was written to balance out this potential contradiction. There is a real foundation upon which we base our expectation that is established on actions no longer seen. The proof is seen in the following witnesses:

1) The Creative work of God (v3);

2) The offering of Abel in contrast to Cain (v4);

3) The walk of Enoch (v5);

4) The action by Noah (v7);

5) The responses of Abraham and Sarah (v8-19);

6) The action of Isaac (v20);

7) The action of Jacob (v21);

8) The proclamation of Joseph (v22);

9) The action of Moses’ parents (v23);

10) The action of Moses (v24-29);

11) The action of Joshua and Rahab (v30, 31);

12) The action of numerous other unnamed individuals (v32-40).

These are established past, historical events by God or past responses to established interactions with God that serve as motivators for our present confidence in a future reality.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us that without established, historical reference points we cannot have faith. He categorically states that the twelve proofs listed in Chapter 11 are established, historical reference points upon which we can ultimately ‘hang’ our confidence in the finished work of Christ on the cross for establishing an eternal relationship with God. Our future expectations of a relationship with God are based upon confidence in 4,000 years of God’s past interactions with man culminating in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

What is faith? It is present confidence in God established past events and God promised future expectations.


1 Response to “Faith – Hebrews 11:1”

  1. 1 Randy February 26, 2008 at 3:06 am


    Interesting stuff. I don’t think I have ever heard that take on the concept of faith from the Reformed camp. Seems almost to border on rationalism and the classical apologetic. I guess you can get away from the “rationalist” charge by recognizing that even though faith is a belief in a set of propositional facts (evidence?), no one can give assent to those facts apart from regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.

    Thought provoking.

    Thanks Hal!

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