Hebrews 11.1-6



1.   You will remember from two weeks ago that we established that faith is important.  Faith is important because it is important to God, and because it is useful to both sinners and saints.  We also considered that faith is, at least hypothetically, possible to detect.  That is, it is possible, at least in theory at this point, to ascertain with some degree of certainty who has faith and who does not have faith.

2.   Last week we discovered the connection that exists in the Bible between Abraham, the first man shown in Scripture to believe in God, and this thing called faith.  With respect to his faith, Abraham is a key figure in so many ways. 

3.   The apostle Paul used the example of Abraham to illustrate justification by faith when writing to the Romans.  He used Abraham to defend justification by faith when writing to the Galatian churches.  Abraham is the most important figure used to illustrate faith in the letter to the Hebrews.  And James used Abraham as his primary example to show how faith that saves a sinner’s soul also produces works in the believer’s life.

4.   Today we get a bit deeper into the Biblical doctrine of faith.  Turning to Hebrews chapter 11, please stand and read verses 1 through 6 with me:

1      Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

2      For by it the elders obtained a good report.

3      Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

4      By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

5      By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

6      But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.


5.   There is much that passes for faith these days.  But there are three features of the kind of faith that is extolled in the Bible to be found in this passage:


1A.   First, in verse 1, we see TWO ATTRIBUTES OF FAITH

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Notice that verse 1 does not precisely consist of a declaration and then a restatement in other words of the first declaration.  Rightly understood, we actually have two different, but related, attributes of faith here, likely given by the writer of Hebrews to provide for us a working definition of faith.[1]

1B.    First, “. . . faith is the substance of things hoped for. . . .”

1C.   The word translated “substance” is the Greek word upostasiv.  “The word has a number of connotations and usages, e.g., ‘essence,’ ‘substance’ or ‘foundation,’ or ‘confidential assurance’ or ‘guarantee,’ ‘attestation,’ i.e., documents which attest or provide evidence of ownership.”[2]  “among the meanings that can be authenticated for Hb 11:1 a strong claim can be made for realization.”[3]  I think the modern day concept that most closely fits these scholarly descriptions of this word “substance” is the “pink slip” that documents the ownership of your automobile.

2C.   Thus, faith should be rightly understood to be profoundly important to the realm beyond the five senses, past what you can see, smell, hear, feel and taste.  Faith looks to the future, not the present or the past, though it is rooted in the past.  It is “the substance of things hoped for.” 

3C.   But what is “hope?”  Here “hope” means “to look forward to someth., with implication of confidence about someth. coming to pass.”[4]  That is the lexicon’s definition of hope.  I describe hope as the confident expectation of future blessing based on the promises of God.

4C.   Thus, faith is seen to be the foundation, the certainty, upon which hope rests.  It is a present belief, based upon an unseen past, that supports an anticipated future.  We will see that Abraham certainly did exhibit a present belief that was supported by an anticipated future.  Thus, a person’s faith firmly fixes his way of relating to the future.

2B.    Second, “. . . faith is  . . . the evidence of things not seen.”

1C.   This word “evidence,” the Greek word elencov, is very straightforward.  It means “proof.  The word was used in papyri of legal proofs of an accusation.”[5]  In other words, it refers to evidence that can be used in court proceedings.

2C.   “True faith is not based upon empirical evidence but on divine assurance.”[6]  Faith establishes for a believer the certainty of facts that cannot be verified.  But keep in mind that these facts which cannot be verified are rooted in the past.  They are events which have already occurred, promises which have already been given.

3C.   Faith, then, is that by which a believer receives from beyond the limits of his existence, outside the observation of science.  It is a present fixed confidence that is rooted in the past and which looks to the future with confidence and anticipation.


2A.   Next, in verse 3, we see TWO CAPACITIES OF FAITH

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”


What does faith enable someone to believe, which is beyond the reach of perception and observation?  Two things are given here as crucial and non-optional examples:

1B.    First, “the worlds were framed by the word of God.”

1C.   My friends, faith is confident that “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”  “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.”

2C.   Faith has no argument with “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Faith has no argument with any of this.

3C.   This universe and all that herein is was “framed by the word of God.”  The word translated “word” here, rhma, refers to that which is spoken.[7]  Thus, God spoke and it was so.  What incredible power!  So, faith first believes that this universe was put together and arranged in the fashion we currently observe by God, not some natural processes that took billions of years.

2B.    Next, “so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

1C.   Not only did God arrange things to be the way they are, He also brought things into existence from nothing.  That is, in answer to the question, What did God start with?  Faith answers, “God started with nothing!”

2C.   You and I make stuff out of stuff.  We take building blocks with which to form that which we make.  Ultimately, we take molecular matter and various forms of energy to construct what we want.  But God did what He did beginning with absolutely nothing.  No matter.  No energy.  No time.  Nothing.

3C.   This gives rise to the Latin phrase ex nihilo, which means “from nothing.”  As Genesis 1.1 declares, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

4C.   To clarify, God first created from nothing the space/time/energy continuum.  That is, God first created stuff.  That’s what Genesis 1.1 speaks of, and that’s what the phrase, in Hebrews 11.3, “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear,” refers to.  But after God created stuff from nothing, He then formed it.  That’s what the rest of Genesis chapter one deals with, and that is what the first half of Hebrews 11.3 speaks to:  “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.”

5C.   So, why does Hebrews 11.3 refer first to what God did second and then refer second to what God did first?  Because faith typically works back toward the past, pondering the arrangement of the physical universe by God first, then giving thought and conviction to the original creation of what God then arranged.

6C.   The bottom line is, faith accepts God as the creator and as the arranger of the universe and all that herein is.


3A.   Finally, in verse 6, we see THREE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF FAITH

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”


1B.    First, let it be acknowledged that faith is indispensable to pleasing God.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him

1C.   The word “impossible” translates the Greek word adunatov, which is derived from dunatov.  In Romans 1.16, we read, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”  “Power” in that verse translates our word dunatov.

2C.   So you see, the reason God cannot be pleased apart from faith has to do with powerlessness, has to do with inability, has to do with impotency.  There is no capacity in the individual to please God apart from confidence in God, apart from trust in God, apart from reliance upon God.  Thus, you can do nothing to make God happy with you.  Nothing.

3C.   Why can you do nothing to please God?  There are two reasons:  First, He is a being with no needs.  You have nothing He needs.  There is nothing you can give Him that He cannot provide for Himself.  As well, your own incapacity as a sinner, what we call depravity, referring to moral defilement and a fallen nature, also makes pleasing Him apart from faith impossible.

2B.    Next, faith acknowledges the existence of the God Who can be approached.

“for he that cometh to God must believe that he is”

1C.   “The very existence of God is a matter of intelligent faith.”[8]  Nowhere in God’s Word will you find any attempt at proving His existence.  From the very beginning of God’s revelation to man His existence is assumed, and by faith it is recognized.  Rienecker states that the word “must” here means that belief in God’s existence is a binding and logical necessity for someone who would come to Him.[9]

2C.   What is it that the eye of faith can see that the faithless cannot see?  Nothing.  It is what the faithless will not see, the very fingerprints of God left everywhere upon His creation, that those with the eyes of faith can see and do see.  Like footprints in the sand, we see His imprint on the stars at night, in the flight of the butterfly and the hummingbird, in the rainbow after a spring shower, and in a drop pond of water examined under a microscope.

3C.   You cannot come to a God Who you do not know exists.  And you will only know that God is, that you might come to Him, by faith.  Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ further informs faith by declaring that one must come to Him in order to come to God.  Jesus told His disciples, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”[10]

3B.    Third, faith acknowledges the gain to be had by the diligent seeker of God.

“and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

1C.   Please note that this phrase does not suggest that God rewards a person for diligently seeking Him.  Oh, no.  Diligently seeking God is the responsibility of each and every one of God’s creatures, the right thing to do, and deserving of no reward.  There is no reward due anyone for doing what is only right to do and what he always ought to do.

2C.   However, God is a rewarder.  He does give rewards.  But who does He give rewards to?  To those who diligently seek Him.  Do you see the real distinction between God giving a reward for diligently seeking Him, which He does not do, and God being a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, which He certainly is?

3C.   Among those born of women are some who diligently seek God.  The implication is that those who seek God will find Him.  I am convinced that those who diligently seek God will eventually come to Christ and be saved.  It is from this population, from those who diligently seek God, from those who become Christians, that God gives rewards to.

4C.   Will God reward you for diligently seeking Him?  No.  Salvation is all of grace and not of works, not even the work of seeking Him.  But once the diligent seeker is joined to God, he becomes one of those whose works for God and whose service to God will be rewarded by God.

5C.   To state it succinctly, faith recognizes that it will not hurt you to diligently seek God.  It will not result in long term harm to you.  You will be better off for having diligently sought Him.  Those without faith simply do not believe this to be true.



1.   Doctrinal sermons tend toward impersonal dryness and musty abstraction.  And I am afraid that this message that I have brought to clarify what faith is has been a bit dry and musty.

2.   But there is a good reason why the writer to the Hebrews wrote the passage we have examined before listing the giants of faith who so gloriously pleased God over the centuries.

3.   Some of those listed in Hebrews chapter 11 were men and women of renown, while others are not named.  But whether prominent or unnamed, those listed had one thing in common.  They had faith.

4.   But what is faith?  Some people have such a distorted view of what faith is, and mistake for faith what is actually presumption, that they end up discrediting the cause of Christ by their folly, rather than glorifying God by their faith.

5.   What is faith, real faith?  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  There are two attributes the writer of Hebrews associates with faith:  First, it is the foundation upon which real hope rests.  Second, it is the sufficient proof that things which you will never be able to personally verify as having happened, really did happen.

6.   Second, faith has two capacities.  Faith enables a person to grasp as certainties what those without faith will always doubt.  The two examples given in Hebrews 11.3 have to do with creation.  First, God arranged this physical universe to appear as it presently does.  Evolution did not do this, God did this.  Natural processes over billions of years did not do this, God did this. 

7.   And not only did God arrange what was in existence to its present form, He created from nothing the stuff He then arranged.  Only by faith does a person have the capacity to grasp these truths.  Without faith a person will believe wildly improbably theories that require far more faith of a different kind than that which pleases God.

8.   Finally, faith acknowledges three things:  That faith is indispensable to pleasing God, that God actually exists, and that there is gain to be had by diligently seeking God.

9.   So, you see, faith really is something.  It has substance and content to it.  It benefits and anticipates.  The person with faith is so much better off than the person without it.  The person with faith knows so much more than the person without it.  And the person with faith has so much more than the person without it.

10. “Pastor, this thing called faith sounds wonderful.”  It is wonderful.  “Pastor, this thing called faith sounds like something I would like to have.”  It is something you should like to have.  “Pastor, how do I get this thing called faith?”  You don’t get it.  God has to give it to you.  Ephesians 2.8, speaking of faith, declares, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”  Faith is the gift of God.

11. “Pastor, how can I receive this gift of faith?”  Listen carefully.[11]

[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 706.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 1040.

[4] Ibid., page 319.

[5] Rienecker, page 706.

[6] See footnote for Hebrews 11.1 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1916.

[7] Rienecker, page 706.

[8] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol V, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 421.

[9] Rienecker, page 707.

[10] John 14.6

[11] Romans 10.17

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