Hebrews 11 is one of the most instructive and the most beautiful chapters in the New Testament. Its subject is faith – that somewhat illusive principle in the lives of men. Like all those principles that are produced in our hearts by the work of God, it is utterly mysterious and unintelligible to the unregenerate mind. How men can believe in something which they have never seen is to the natural man contrary to all human logic, yet this principle, which psychologists and the philosophers can never explain, is the most potent element in life. Hebrews 11:1 tells us what it is: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (NKJV). Faith gives substance to that which is still in the future when it is based upon the promises of God. It isn’t what men describe glibly as “wishful thinking.” There are many day-dreamers who spend their time seeking to substantiate in their imaginations things which are the objects of vain hopes and which disappear into thin air only to leave the soul in the shadows of disappointment. Faith is altogether different from that. It finds its basis in the promises of God. “Faith comes by hearing” says Romans 10:17, “and hearing by the Word of God.” God speaks, men hear, and they believe. These are the normal pro-cesses by which a man becomes a man of faith.
Faith is giving substance to the things that are hoped for, the convicting evidence of things not seen. In his first Corinthian letter, Paul wrote this concerning the glories of the world that’s coming: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).
When quoting this verse, far too many Christians stop in the middle of it and take it to mean that we cannot possibly understand or see “the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” until we get to heaven. That’s not the meaning of this passage at all. It is that the heart of the unregenerate man cannot see these things; he has no notion of the vast spiritual wealth and glory reserved in heaven for those who have simple faith in Christ. But God has revealed those things to us by His Spirit.
There is a constant attempt by the enemy to keep us in a kind of uncertainty, as if we were walking in the dark now, and had to wait for death, or the Lord’s coming to bring us into the light. There is teaching that God’s ways are altogether mysterious, and that His plans and purposes are deliberately hidden until we cross the threshold of heaven; and then only shall we understand. This is apt to lead us to settle down in an attitude of indifference, if not despair.
The enemy keeps us from searching the Scriptures, and learning for ourselves the wonderful revelation of truth that God has presented to us in the Bible. The teaching of 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, however, is that although the natural heart cannot conceive of the things that are prepared for those who love God, yet He has graciously revealed them to us by His Spirit.
God’s Ways And Purposes
Some of God’s ways with us may seem mysterious, and we wonder just what God is doing. There is the vast scheme of divine purpose which is the consummation of all God’s ways with us, and we need not be in the dark as to that. While the ways of God are sometimes obscure, His purposes are clear. The Lord has told us a great deal about the world that’s coming, about the inheritance that’s incorruptible, and that does not fade away, that’s reserved in heaven for us who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (1 Pet. 1:4-5). He has told us that already He “has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). He has told us of that wonderful world where everything will be gathered together in Christ, when He will be the supreme head of God’s universe, where those who believe in His name now will bask in the sunshine of His eternal love, sons with His Son, conformed to the image of Christ, brought into the Father’s house, each given a unique place in His Kingdom according to the faithfulness of our service to Him here. All these things have been revealed to the Christian through His Word. The unregenerate man can neither see nor understand them. That is the significance of 1 Corinthians 2: 9-10.
Now faith is that element in the soul that gives understanding of the teaching of the Holy Spirit relative to things to come. Simply, it is taking God at His word concerning things unseen. It is giving substance now to that which is future. It is consciousness of the joy of the coming kingdom as our present portion; that all those things that God has promised are a present reality within our renewed vision. It is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Taking God At His Word
Now faith is not peculiar to New Testament Christianity, so the spirit of God in Hebrews 11 goes way back to the beginning of things – as far back as creation itself. Then, speaking of Abel, Enoch and all the patriarchs, He shows us that the principle of faith in human life is nothing new, but that it was the dynamic of life for those men of the Old Testament. Faith revolutionized their earthly careers, brought them out of the shadows of ignorance, ungodliness, and rebellion against God, and into the happy sunshine of conscious communion with the Lord who called them.
Two Aspects Of Faith
When we look at it subjectively, there are two aspects of faith in the New Testament. There is that principle of faith which trusts God and reclines upon the everlasting arms of His power, when we are face to face with things that are too much for us. This is faith that rests. I am sure there are many Christians faced with problems that are too great for them. Remember, “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Dt. 33:27). Have faith in God. He will never fail you. This is one attitude of faith, which Paul exhibited when he was shipwrecked: “Take heart men, for I believe God” (Acts 27:25).
The other faith is that which overcomes the world. This faith so energizes the soul that it makes us walk superior to our circumstances. Peter showed this when he walked on the water to go to Jesus (Mt. 14:22-33). I pray that the reader knows both of these aspects of faith.
It is important to remember this essential: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). If you are unsaved, it’s because you’ve never taken God at His word. He offers you forgiveness on the ground of the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38). That’s God’s Word for you. If you have never believed it, I invite you to believe it now. That is the initial stepping-stone on the stairway to heaven itself.
From Tom Westwood’s book, Faith For Daily Living, An Exposition Of Hebrews 11; The Ralph E. Welch Foundation, Orange, CA; out of print.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org