The clearest description
and illustration of faith is found in Hebrews 11.
The author of Hebrews begins with the great Bible
Hall of Faith saying, "Now faith is the assurance of
things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith
we understand that the worlds were prepared by the
word of God, so that what is seen was not made out
of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:1-3,
NASB95). All Scripture quotations are from New
American Standard Bible, 1995 Update unless
It is as if the author is
standing back as he looks over the great Bible
characters in the Old Testament and declares I saw
God do it! It is an innumerable list of saints
recorded in heaven. He can name only a few in this
Remember, the context is
warning some individuals in the Hebrew church who
are tempted to shrink back and return to Judaism. So
the writer gives testimony of these heroes of faith
who remained faithful and keep on trusting in God in
spite of all odds.
He has been developing
the theme since chapter one declaring the all
sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Jesus is superior to
the old covenant and its priesthood and sacrificial
system. Christ offers a better covenant, better
sacrifice, demonstrated by His being superior to the
angels, prophets, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, etc.
As the author developed
his theme of the superiority of Christ to the old
covenant the emphasis is on the appropriation of the
new covenant. It is strictly by faith in Jesus
Christ. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to
him for righteousness." This chapter illustrates
that great truth. No one in the Old Testament was
saved by works. Works were the fruit of justifying
faith. That is not just a New Testament theme, but
is also true of the Old Testament. Old
Testament saints were saved the same way, grace
through faith in the coming of the atoning sacrifice
of Jesus Christ. It is wrong to say Old Testament
saints were saved by the Law of Moses, and the New
Testament saints saved by the grace of God. Saving
grace is seen all over the Old Testament. The people
of Israel were redeemed by the blood of the lamb at
the Passover. They were a purchased people. The Law
was given to define the way the redeemed people were
to live. Indeed, the Law came long after Abraham was
justified by faith. Read Romans chapter four for an
in-depth understanding of this principle in the
No one in the Old
Testament could ever live up to the Law. They
couldn't then, and they cannot now. The Law pointed
its finger and declared all guilty of sin. "The
Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the
promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to
those who believe" (Galatians 3:22). The apostle
Paul said, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor
to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by
faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer
under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through
faith in Christ Jesus" (vv. 24-26). Just as Abraham
believed God and it was counted or accredited to him
as righteousness, we, too, are justified by faith.
"A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of
the law." No one has ever been justified on the
basis of works of the law. Works gives evidence of a
changed life based on faith in God's saving grace.
Therefore, the question
that is so important is what is saving faith? We
hear a lot about faith in the media. Lots of books
have been written about faith. Frankly, there is a
lot of it is psychological hype. It is not faith
that is focused in Jesus Christ. The clarion theme
of the Old Testament is, "The just shall live by
In our journey through
the book of Hebrews we have arrived at another major
division in the writing. In the first ten chapters
the author demonstrated clearly the new covenant in
the blood of Jesus is superior to the old covenant
in animal sacrifices. The sacrifices under the old
covenant symbolized the perfect sacrifice of the
true Lamb of God. Now the author applies the great
truth of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus
Christ to the individual. Salvation is by faith, not
The Nature of Faith
The author of Hebrews
says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped
for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1).
The word "faith" is the first word in the sentence
in the original. (It is used 31 times in Hebrews).
That is where the author focuses our attention.
"Faith" (pistis) means "firm persuasion, a
conviction based upon hearing." It is always used in
the New Testament of faith in God or Christ. In the
example of Abraham, his faith rested on God Himself
(Rom. 4:17, 20-21). In fact, Abraham by faith saw
the day of Christ and rejoiced. Our faith must rest
on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
M. R. Vincent said, "It
is important that the preliminary definition be
clearly understood, since the following examples
illustrate it. The key is furnished by verse 27, as
seeing Him who is invisible. Faith apprehends as a
real fact what is not revealed to the senses. It
rests on that fact, acts upon it, and is upheld by
it in the face of all that seems to contradict it.
Faith is real seeing."
Several scholars see
faith as "the title-deed of eternal realities." This
saving faith is firm, solid confidence in the things
hoped for which includes the future reward, the
second coming of Christ, perseverance of the saints.
Faith is sure and firm confidence in the things
hoped for. These realities exist in spite of our not
seeing them. Faith basically deals with the future
and with the unseen. Faith is the confidence that
the unseen future promises will transpire just as
God has revealed they will in His Word.
"This faith is that
whereby the 'just shall live;' that is, it is a
divine, supernatural, justifying, saving faith, the
faith of God's elect, the faith that is not of
ourselves, but is of the operation of God, wherewith
all true believers are endowed from above. . . .
Faith gives the things hoped for a real subsistence
in the minds and soul of them that do believe. Faith
mixes itself with the promises wherein the things
hoped for are promised; faith gives unto the soul a
taste of the goodness of the things promised . . .
," wrote John Owen.
All of the Old Testament
saints believed the unseen. They trusted in the
promise given by God and they had to wait and hope.
F. F. Bruce says, "The promises related to a state
of affairs belonging to the future; but these people
acted as if that state of affairs were already
present, so convinced were they that God could and
would fulfill what He had promised. In other words,
they were men and women of faith. Their faith
consisted simply in taking God at His word and
directing their life accordingly; things yet future
so far as their experience went were thus present to
faith, and thing outwardly unseen were visible to
the inward eye."
"Faith is the assurance"
(hupostasis), i.e., "confidence, conviction,
assurance, steadfastness." Faith is the confident
assurance of the things we hope for. It is the
foundation upon which everything else stands. It is
the ground on which our hope is built. B. F.
Westcott said faith is "that which gives true
existence to an object." The things hoped for are
certainly expected. That is faith. Faith is the
basis, the foundation of all the Christian life
means and the Christian hopes for. "By faith we
celebrate now the reality of the future blessings
that constitute the objective content of hope,"
writes William Lane.
"Now faith is the
assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (elegchos)
of things not seen." "Conviction" here has the same
sense as "assurance" in the earlier phrase. It is
the "proof" or "inner conviction" about unseen
things. It is the proof or demonstration by which a
thing is tested of its reality. This conviction is
the firm inner persuasion of the existence of unseen
things, as though they were obvious to one's eyes.
"Faith is that which
enables us to treat as real the things that are
unseen . . . the proof" of things not seen
(Expositors Greek Testament). It is by faith that we
embrace those things which are invisible. They
belong to the spiritual realm, the things of God.
They are invisible to the human eye because they
belong to the future. They embrace all of the great
promises of God to the believer. As Hebrews chapter
eleven illustrates, they will assuredly be fulfilled
in the future.
What are these "things"
hoped for in this passage? Does it refer to the
Messiah, the new covenant and work of Christ or the
resurrection? What these believers were willing to
die for lay beyond the grave. Their inheritance or
Sabbath rest was real to them because they accepted
divine revelation and believed God.
"The Holy Spirit
energized act of faith which a believer exercises in
the Lord Jesus is the title-deed which God puts in
his hand, guaranteeing to him the possession of the
thing for which he trusted Him," observes Kenneth
M. R. Vincent wrote: "Our
senses may lie; God cannot (Titus 1:2). People fail;
God does not (Num. 23:19). Circumstances change; God
never does (Mal 3:6). So the faith described in
Hebrews 11 is focused on an infinitely more
dependable object than any of the day-to-day
varieties of faith. Real faith, however, is a
divinely implanted assurance that rises above the
natural functioning of the human mind. After all,
the natural man cannot see Him who is unseen (v.
In a day when we hear and
read about a lot of fanciful religious nonsense we
need to get our focus back on God's Word and the
person of Jesus Christ. We are asked to believe in a
lot of name it and claim it garbage that is far from
the revealed Word of God. Let's make sure we are
grounded in the Bible and its eternal message
because there are a lot of religious charlatans
The object of our faith
is Jesus Christ. That living faith produces
something in us. "Confidence is inspired in us;
conviction is wrought in us; faith (trust) is
produced in us," notes C. H. Lenski. Faith relates
to Christ; it represents a strong and welcome
conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah,
through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and
entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Eternal
salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ
and no other way.
The object of your
The first example of the
wrong object of faith is recorded in Genesis 3.
Satan produced faith in Eve by his lies. Lenski
observes, "Always, always someone or something
impresses us as being genuine, true, right,
reliable, in a word, as being trustworthy and so
produces confidence, conviction; these are the
essence of faith." There is a lot of egocentric
faith that is not Biblical faith.
So the question is in
whom or what are you trusting? Upon what is your
Faith is never in faith
itself. Faith must rest on something or somebody
outside of itself, and not on itself. "Somebody,
something outside of me inspires faith or trust in
me, otherwise I have no faith. It is this outside
ground that shows whether faith is true, i.e.,
justified, or false, i.e., unjustified. Truth alone
justifies me for believing or trusting; no lie ever
does that; a lie succeeds in producing faith only
when it makes itself as truth." More precisely,
"True faith is produced by God, Christ, the Spirit,
who comes to us in and by the Word of Truth."
The object content of our
faith is the Word of God. The Word reveals the
realities, greatness and blessedness of the things
not seen. Without the objective Word of God there is
no basis for our faith, and we will be deceived
every time. The Word of God always focuses our faith
on the Triune God.
Albert Mohler Jr. in He
is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World is
correct when he writes: "The Christian tradition
understands truth as established by God and known to
us through the self-revelation of God in Scripture.
Truth is eternal, fixed, and universal, and our
responsibility is to order our minds in accordance
with God's revealed truth and then to bear witness
to this truth. We serve a Savior who identified
Himself as 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' (see
John 14:6) and called for belief."
There are popular cults
today that take biblical texts out of context in
order to "develop pretexts for their theological
perversions." They promote a false faith that says
if you think something and state it in words you
give birth to it and it is yours.
Practically all cults
laud the name "Jesus," but they preach a Jesus
vastly different from the Jesus of the historic
Christian faith. They denude God and deify man
making God a puppet or a vending machine to satisfy
their carnal lust for more materialism. It produces
a counterfeit Christ and a counterfeit Christianity.
If you think you deserve something, verbalize it,
put your faith in it and it will come true. That is
not Biblical faith. It is a perversion of the Gospel
and true faith. It is faith in the wrong object. It
is deifying self and dethroning God. "Power of
mind," "force of faith," speaking it, claiming it
are false gospels. One cult leader teaches that
faith is a power that will change your life and
change your future. It is nothing more than faith in
your faith rather than faith in Jesus Christ. They
see themselves as little gods.
There is a lot of
Scripture twisting and calling it faith. But it is
faith in a carnal self. It is not faith centered in
the Lord God.
True faith is produced by
correct interpretation of God's Word. A false gospel
never saved anyone. The great saving doctrines of
the Bible are being dismissed for nothing more than
a materialistic something for nothing false
We must demand and make
sure our faith rests on the Word of God. "But the
word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the
word which was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:25). If
our faith rests on something else, then we are lost.
Or if the Christian is resting his faith in false
teachings he is serving a perverted Christianity.
An Example of Living
Faith (Hebrews 11:2-3)
"For by it the men of old
gained approval. By faith we understand that the
worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that
what is seen was not made out of things which are
visible" (Hebrews 11:2-3).
The author of Hebrews
introduces each example as far as verse 31 with the
word pistei "by faith." He repeats the word
24 times in chapter eleven. These Bible characters
in chapter eleven had a firm grasp of faith on the
Men in the Old Testament
received divine approval or were well-spoken of by
God because they trusted Him. They were willing to
suffer and even die because of what they believed.
"Faith is the spiritual organ that enables a person
to perceive the invisible realities of life" (Thomas
Constable). These men had that kind of faith. It is
a way of looking at all of life including what lies
ahead as well as the past.
Everything we know about
the creation of the universe we know by divine
revelation. The universe was set in order by the
Word of God. Science cannot tell us anything about
the creation of the world. It can only tell us what
it can observe. No one was present at the creation
except God. Scientists were not there when the world
began. By divine revelation we understand that the
Word of God produced all things. That is faith. I
simply take God at His word and believe Him. I am
convinced there is a great thinker, mind and
designer behind all creation. For many years I have
found it much easier to accept a Creator as opposed
to the philosopher Darwin. I have spent time in the
Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. I have seen God's
creation in all of its majesty and splendor. More
than ever before, I am willing to accept the fact of
a Creator by divine revelation rather than a very
unrealistic anti-god theory. There is no such thing
as eternal matter.
We become just another
animal in creation if we do not understand that the
world was made by God. "Why are men endowed with
reason and intellect except for the purpose of
recognizing their Creator?" asked Calvin. The
invisible things of God are seen in His creative
works. "God has given us clear evidence of His
eternal wisdom, goodness and power and though He is
invisible in Himself He shows Himself to us in some
measure in His work. The world is therefore rightly
called the mirror of divinity . . . because He makes
Himself clear to unbelievers in such a way that they
are without excuse for their ignorance," observes
Calvin. The believer sees the outshining of His
glory in every individual creature.
The word "world" (aion)
"includes in it all that exists under the conditions
of time and space . . . they are the work of His
word" (Henry Alford). "Here the Word of God (hrema,
not logos) is the invisible force which cannot be
perceived by sense. The great power which lies at
the source of all that is does not itself come into
observation; we perceive it only by faith which is
(v. 1) 'the evidence of things not seen'" (Expositors
Greek Text). The "word" (hrema) is the
articulate utterance. "Then God said . . ." and it
was done. "God spoke the word, and a universe sprang
into existence" (Wuest). "The universe was framed by
the word of God . . . that which is seen was not
made out of that which is visible."
John Calvin is right when
he says, "The Spirit of God shows us hidden things,
the knowledge of which cannot reach our senses.
Eternal life is promised to us . . . the
resurrection of the blessed . . . we are declared to
be just . . . that we are blessed . . . . Faith is
rightly called the substance of things which are
still the objects of hope and the evidence of things
"Faith is the confident
assurance which the believer has because God has
provided conviction about unseen realities," notes
Homer Kent, Jr. (The Epistle to the Hebrews).
M. R. Vincent said,
"Faith has power to see and realize the unseen, for
the experience of the fathers proves it." This
chapter gives us the testimony of the men and women
Genuine faith includes
the intellect which recognizes the truth of divine
revelation, the emotional element which is a deep
conviction regarding this truth, and a volitional
element which is a personal trust and surrender to
Christ. Saving faith is relying on what God has
accomplished in the saving work of Jesus Christ,
rather than our own self-righteousness. Faith is not
passive opinions about Christ, but a volitional
choice to obey Him.
Biblical faith is always
based on divine revelation. "Faith in the Biblical
sense is the assurance and conviction that what God
has said is true, and is to be acted upon by the
C. H. Spurgeon said faith
has three essential ingredients: knowledge, belief
There must be "firm and
certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us."
We must have certain knowledge in which to anchor
our faith. It is God's revealed Word that gives us
the essential knowledge of eternal life. What we
need to know God has unveiled to mankind in the
person of Jesus Christ.
What we need to know is
that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph.
2:1), and that salvation is not of works (v. 9). It
is by grace that you are saved (v. 8). We have
sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom.
3:23), and the wages of sin is death (6:23).
Because we are sinners, we are the objects of God's
However, there is some
good news because God loves us, and He wants us to
spend eternity with Him in heaven (Jn. 3:16). Jesus
Christ died for us on the cross. God loved us so
much that He sent Jesus to come to the earth and
live a perfect life without sin and then go to the
cross and die in our place as our substitute (Rom.
5:6, 8; 2 Cor. 5:21).
We have a firm and
certain knowledge of the reveled facts to believe
in. No one can be saved without this knowledge from
God. He has given us all the facts we need to know.
We do not need to speculate or second-guess God. We
have a certain knowledge that God has given us in
His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ.
Real saving faith is not
based upon your feelings. It is not psyching
ourselves up to some emotional experience. It relies
on the trustworthiness of God Himself. It puts its
faith in the facts.
Neither is saving faith
mere intellectual assent to facts alone. We must
commit ourselves to that knowledge of God we have
received from His Word. Calvin wrote, "It now
remains to pour into the heart what the mind has
absorbed." By faith it takes root in the depth of
the heart of the individual.
Have you put your trust
in Christ alone as your personal Savior? When you
trust in Christ you make a personal commitment of
your life to Him resting upon the promises of His
completed atonement for your sins to save you. Will
you commit yourself to Jesus Christ now? When you do
Jesus Christ becomes your very life, affection and
love. He becomes your Lord and Master. Have you
responded to His love with your total person? That
is what it means to believe on Him. Will you commit
yourself to Him for all eternity? Do you trust in
Him alone to save you? What are you depending on for
Saving faith is the
channel by which the grace of God is received. Faith
is not something you work yourself up to. It is not
a work. It is not psyching yourself up to a fervent
emotional pitch. Saving faith is simply taking God
at His Word to be true and accepting what He says
about you, your sinful nature, His love for you and
the all-sufficient death of Jesus to save you and
keep you save for all eternity. True saving faith is
based on that divine assurance.
God in grace has done
something for you that you could never do for
yourself. He has atoned for your sins by the shed
blood of Jesus Christ. He offers you the free gift
of eternal life by trusting in Him. Saving faith
must be in a person.
Will you commit yourself
to Him to save you right now? It is God's gift that
you receive in simple trusting of yourself to Him.
No one can boast about his or her salvation because
God does it all. Even your faith is not your work,
but His gift to you. All God asks us to do is trust
Him. We are to take Him at His Word and trust Him.
Saving grace is by faith alone in Christ alone.
The only way a person can
have a right relationship with God is by putting
your trust in Christ alone as your only hope of
going to heaven. The only basis of forgiveness is
the death of Christ for your sins. We are not told
to have faith in our faith. Your faith must be
placed or focused in Jesus Christ. He will save
every individual who puts their faith in Him alone
11:1-3 What is Biblical Saving Faith?