World English Bible translation
11:1Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen. 11:2 For by this, the elders obtained testimony. 11:3 By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible.
In the Kingdom of God, only faith has currency. Faith is the coin of God's realm. This is one of the foremost keys to understanding the Epistle to the Hebrews. The author has consistently proclaimed this message from the very beginning. Those who have faith will be saved. Those who turn away in unbelief will be lost. It was so from the very beginning, even in God's dealings with the nation of Israel. Those that refused to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief would never be allowed to enter into God's rest. For those that have faith in the sacrifice of the Son of God, their sins and lawless acts God will remember no more.
If this faith is one of the themes of this epistle, then Chapter 11 is the clearest elaboration of that theme. This chapter provides example after example of the type of faith that God has rewarded and recognized in His dealings with His creation. This chapter has sometimes been called, "The Role-call of Faith."
Here is a description of faith. "Faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen." This saying should not be considered a definition for it does not cover every aspect of what God has revealed to us through the term faith, but it is certainly an excellent launching point for the kind of response that this author is wishing to achieve from this audience. Faith, he tells them, is being sure of what God has promised even when we can't see the result of the promise just yet. Faith is the conviction that we have when we are certain that what God has declared will come about even though it may be distant into the future.
But this author is not content with only stating this description of faith. He will give them many examples of men and women who lived their lives with such confidence in the word of God. He tells them that it is by faith that the "elders obtained testimony," or in other words, that the elders of Israel left their mark or record on history. "The elders" are those in the history of the Hebrew people who were honored and revered as those that have followed God's word. They are men and woman that have been approved by God.
Any reflection on the history of faith must begin with the most basic Hebrew belief; God is the creator of all things. God spoke and the universe was fashioned. God willed and all that we see and experience came into being. As this author puts it, "the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible."
The first test of faith for the Hebrews and for us, do we believe that God created all things? Did that which is visible come from the invisible?
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