Hebrews 11: 1 – 3
We continue in our study of the Book of Hebrews as we delve into the 11th chapter. For some this chapter is the bedrock on the subject of FAITH in the bible. They see the chapter as a tool to use or as a strategy or a technique in getting their needs met. They see God or are using God as a means to an end; using Him to get the things they are lusting for or have lusted after. When they get what they want or have desired, the person in question would claim to have worked the principle of having FAITH; and the moment things don’t seem to work for another person, he/she is blamed for not having “FAITH”. This piece of scripture is saying something different and it is clear that people have decided to read into this portion of Scripture what they want it to say rather than draw out the meaning of the scripture or what the writer had in mind when led by the Spirit of God as he penned this inexhaustible book.
Before we look at what Hebrews 11 says, we don’t want to forget the audience once again and the context in which this part of the book was carved. The book was written predominantly to the Jews, who were divided into two parts: there were Jews who had believed the message of the Gospel and also had assented and responded to it; and on the other side of the coin were Jews who were at the brink of believing and some who have not believed because of the various reasons highlighted by the book. It was to this part (the unbelieving Jews) that this portion of scripture was addressing.
We should also remember that Chapter 10 concluded by telling the unbelieving Jews that in a little while, the One who has promised to come would come and will not delay. He reminded them that to become a JUST man/woman, they would have to go through the vehicle of FAITH. He also encouraged them about the importance of the salvation of their SOULS. Jesus highlighted this when He said, “What does it profit a man who gains the whole world and loses his SOUL”. We can therefore say, that this chapter was preparing the unbelieving Jews on how to be saved because from other chapters of the book, the writer had stressed on the end of Judaism; pointing to Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice that took away Sin.
It was a great battle in the minds of this set of people (unbelieving Jews) because they had been used to earning God’s approval through WORKS. They had been used to Judaism and although they were reminded about the words of their many Prophets, they refused to move with the New and still wanted to stay with the OLD. Apostle Paul described it when he said, “It is not of works, lest any man should boast”. In the mind of the writer, he felt they had been convinced about the fact that the New Testament was the real figure of the shadowy figure presented by the Old Testament.
His (the writer) next move was to assist them in understanding Salvation and how to be saved. The great Hebrews 11: 1 – 3 was then presented.
He defined FAITH first as the substance of things hoped for – Hebrews 11:1a. The word substance is from the Greek etymology, HUPOSTATIS which, when translated means, a support, substance, steadiness, hence assurance. FAITH therefore is the assurance or support that we need for the things hoped for. The “things hoped for”, in the context of the book, is Eternity. The message of the Gospel is what the unbelieving Jews would need to be saved in order to escape the perdition described in Hebrews 10:39.
No one can be saved by being good or having the best of character or behavior. There is just one way to be saved and that is by accepting Jesus our Lord as their savior through the message of the Gospel. That is the assurance and the support we need today. Anything outside of this becomes an exercise in futility; we cannot even use the fear of Hell to get people to be saved. The ASSURANCE and SUPPORT anyone needs is the Message of the Gospel, highlighting what Jesus did and how He died as the last sacrifice which took away our Sin forever more.
The concluding part of the definition says, “The evidence of the things not seen” – Hebrews 11:1b. This other part puts the responsibility on the one who hears the message of the Gospel. Conviction is from the Greek word, ELEGCHOS which means, a proof, or a persuasion. In other words, the hearer based on what he/she has heard from the message of the Gospel is persuaded. It is this persuasion from the hearer that helps him/her focus on the details of the Message of the Gospel and what God says He would do.
Here is the template: there is a message called the “Message of the Gospel” preached; then there are people who hear the message and based on what they hear, they make a positive decision to accept Jesus or not. Apostle Paul hit the nail on the head when he said, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” That is why the Scriptures say, How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news! But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, Lord, who has believed our message? So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. But I ask, have the people of Israel actually heard the message? Yes, they have. The message has gone throughout the earth and the words to the entire world.
It’s all about the Message of the Gospel and Salvation.
It was through this template that the elders of Old got endorsed by God. God gave a message and the recipient acquiesced. It was called the good report, which also must come from God. It was this act of FAITH that distinguished our ancestors, setting them above the crowd.
The writer concluded that it was through FAITH that we see the world called into existence by God’s Word, what we see created by the things that we don’t see. The entire universe was formed at God’s command; what we see now did not appear or come from anything that can be seen. The idea was, if the unbelieving Jews who were been addressed could believe that the world was created by a God they had not seen; they were not there when He created the World but through His creation they were able to believe Him, what would then stop them from believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior?
He (the writer) would then proceed to give examples on how their ancestors got endorsed by God, receiving good reports.
“For by Grace are ye saved through FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” – Apostle Paul
“What a great word that word “salvation” is! It includes the cleansing of our conscience from all past guilt, the delivery of our soul from all those propensities to evil, which now so strongly predominate in us; it takes in, in fact, the undoing of all that Adam did. Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate; and yet it is something more than that, for God’s salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent, defiled, stained, accursed: it first heals our wounds, it removes our diseases, it takes away our curse, it puts our feet upon the rock Christ Jesus, and having thus done, at last it lifts our heads far above all principalities and powers, to be crowned forever with Jesus Christ, the king of heaven” – C.H Spurgeon