Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it, the elders obtained a good testimony.
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (NKJV)
Hebrews 11 gives a far different view of “life” with reference to God than most seem to realize. The writer gives us some examples of the faith he mentioned starting in 10:38. “Faith” has little, if anything, to do with “prosperity,” but with “perspective.” True faith enables us to looks at things the way God looks at them, which may be quite different, even opposed, to the way the world looks at them. In the verses before us, we see five instances of “faith.”
1. the elders, v. 2, that is, the Old Testament saints in general, from whom the writer picks some particular examples.
“good testimony”. Or “good report,” as the KJV has it. Perhaps we misunderstand these words. Especially in our day, what is called Christianity goes out of its way to find broad acceptance and understanding, with some going so far as to “dialogue” with Islam and other world religions. “Inter-faith” is the current buzzword. This viewpoint is unBiblical. While we certainly aren’t to try to be divisive, the only way we can find acceptance with an ungodly world in the things of God is to be unfaithful to the things of God.
Perhaps vs. 33-38 throws a little light on this “report:” the world despised these OT saints. That is a good report. Cf. Luke 6:22-26.
2. creation, v. 3. There is an important principle in this verse as the writer starts where God starts, namely, with the origin of all things. The world says that all things just happened, with a mindless, meaningless development from nothing into “here we are today.” Science tells us that everything in the universe began “as a condensed droplet of matter at an extremely high density and temperature.” (Robert Jastrow, Red Giants and White Dwarfs, p. 51). Known today as the “big bang theory,” it was first put forth in 1931 by a Father Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer educated as a Jesuit priest. Allegedly, because of enormous internal pressure, this “drop of matter” rapidly expanded and things developed, over billions of years, into that which we see around us today. This includes “us”.
There are some things, however, which this elaborate theory never addresses. Where, for example, did this primordial “drop” come from? It just suddenly “appeared”? Further, where did it appear? As I understand the theory, before the appearance of this drop, there was nothing. But wouldn’t this include “space” itself? There was nowhere for this nothing to suddenly begin becoming something.
This, of course, is a simple version of a complex viewpoint. Basically, though, it gets rid of any idea of “God” and leaves us at the top of the food chain, so to speak. There is no higher being to whom we are accountable. There are no absolutes, no sin, and certainly no need for redemption and a Redeemer.
On the other hand, “faith” simply accepts the record of Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Thousands of books and millions of words have been written about all this. The few hundred words of this post won’t settle the issue.
“Faith” says that it’s already been settled.
The word translated “understand” is in the present tense. There will never be a time in this life where faith isn’t necessary as to the origin of things. This is not to say that there isn’t “evidence” for the various “-ologies” of science, but an evolutionist and a creationist will look at the same evidence – the world around us, with its marvelous unity, intricacy and complexity – and arrive at opposing conclusions.
The word translated “worlds” is not “kosmos,” but “aionas”. “Kosmos” refers to the world from the standpoint of its place in space; “aion” considers it from the standpoint of time. There are those who say that the words are synonymous here. I don’t think so. We’re very limited in our perception and understanding. This evil world is but a dust-mote in the vast reaches of space, and it’s history the merest twinkle in view of eternity. Paul wrote of “God’s eternal purpose,” Ephesians 3:11, “the ages to come,” Ephesians 2:7, “all ages,” Ephesians 3:21. God has dealt with the whole as well as with each part, and each part has its place and purpose in the whole. Every event is but a single note in the eternal symphony to the glory of God.
Finally, though there is much more we could say about this, we’re told that what we see was made out of things we can’t see. How did the “ignorant” writers of the Bible know this? How were they able to reduce the whole spectrum of theoretical physics to this simple sentence?
3. Abel, v. 4. Note especially the phrase, “more excellent.” Cain’s offering wasn’t rejected because it was of inferior quality or shoddy workmanship. No doubt, Cain worked hard with his crops and gave of his very best. Cain was rejected because he tried to do things his way. Abel was accepted because he did things God‘s way.
4. Enoch, vs. 5, 6. Though he’s mentioned a couple of other times in the Old Testament, six verses in Genesis are all that’s told us of this man: Genesis 5:18, 19, 21-24. There’s just enough to whet our curiosity. We’re told only that after he begot Methuselah, he walked with God, v. 22. What happened to turn him around? What was it about this birth or this child that changed his life? We’re not told – only that he pleased God. No one could ask for a better “testimony”.
5. Noah, v. 7. Our earlier post on Noah and the Flood goes into more detail on this event. Here the writer simply refers to Noah’s motivation: “godly fear,” and the result of his labor: the destruction of the world. He condemned the world because he believed God and they didn’t.