1/01/17 Hebrews 11:1-7I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18)”


Faith is not a gift of God but instead it is our response to the promises of God; yet it is not faith in God’s promises, for if those promises were made by another, we wouldn’t trust them. Thus, our faith is in the character of the One who makes the promises. Our faith is a character judgment of God. In this chapter faith is presented as a positive attribute without which it is impossible to please God.


The amount of belief you have in the Word (including the promises) of God is directly related to the amount of trust you have in the God who spoke the Word (and made the promises). This effectively defines faith as dependent upon how much we trust the character of God. The more you trust the character of God, the more you will trust His Word (including His promises), and thus the greater your faith in Him and therefore in His Word (and His promises).This then becomes your belief; that is, what you believe concerning God and His Word. And the more you actually believe concerning God and His Word, the more you will act positively upon those beliefs, thus, this is your faith! Faith is then the outworking of your trust in the character of God.


Hebrews 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Most commentaries appear to focus upon the things not seen as meaning the spiritual world as opposed to the physical world which we can see and feel. Of course, this appears to be at least some of the picture.

Note 2 Corinthians 5:7(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

2 Corinthians 4:18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.

But it is more than this, as I have already begun to explain above.


faithpistis (conviction of the truth of anything; belief; the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ; a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God; belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ; faithfulness, the character of one who can be relied on)


substancehypostasis (thing put under; substructure; foundation; that which has actual existence; the substantial quality, nature, of a person or thing; the steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution; confidence; firm trust; assurance)

This is an interesting word which in medical terms means The accumulation of fluid or blood in the lower parts of the body or organs under the influence of gravity, as occurs in cases of poor circulation or death. (oxforddictionaries.com)

It can also mean An underlying reality or substance, as opposed to attributes or to that which lacks substance. (Philosophy) or The single person of Christ as contrasted with his dual human and divine nature. (Theology) (oxforddictionaries.com)

From Greek hupostasis = sediment, thus essence, substance, from hupo- (under) + -stasis (standing).

The idea is of that which stands under in order to uphold, a foundation.


hypostasis occurs in two other places in Hebrews:

Hebrews 1:3aWho being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person,

Hebrews 3:14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;


things hoped for – in a religious sense, to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence. (+ hopefully to trust in)

evidence – a proof; that by which a thing is proved or tested; conviction. It is only used twice in the New Testament. The other occurrence is found in:

2 Timothy 3:16All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

“evidence” may mean that faith is the means by which a thing is proved or tested, that our faith determines the extent to which we understand those things we cannot see (or cannot see yet see (2 Corinthians 4:18). In this sense, our faith becomes our means of persevering to the end, that is, faith is our victory. Our faith is the visible evidence of where we are going.

1 John 5:4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith.


That which is proved or tested by faith may be our beliefs, and therefore faith may be seen as the proof of our beliefs. We might say we believe in God and what He says concerning our salvation, but faith is that which demonstrates the reality of our beliefs. Faith is that which puts our beliefs into action. Our beliefs are not to be seen in us; we may walk down the street without looking any different from the others around us. It is our faith that puts our beliefs into action such that people will then judge us on our beliefs as manifested by our faith. This is a correct interpretation of the word “evidence”.


Faith has been introduced at the end of Chapter 10, and now is being taught as the means by which a person may not fall away, the means by which a person may hold fast, hold onto, hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end (Hebrews 3:14) It is presented as the acceptable alternative to apostasy.


Thus, our faith (in God and His salvation through Jesus Christ as taught in the first 10 chapters of Hebrews) is the substance (the underlying foundation; the steadfastness of mind; the confidence; the assurance) of things hoped for (confident waiting for our salvation in Christ) and is that which proves the existence of things not (yet) seen (the means by which we may persevere to the end with confidence). In fact, it is that which proves the existence of that which cannot be seen otherwise, our belief in the Word of God because of our trust in the character of God.


Many theologians have surmised that James, with his emphasis upon works, was not Biblical canon, yet can only be seen as totally consistent with Hebrews 11.

James 1:22-25; 2:17-1822 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.


Last time, we looked at the quote from Habakkuk in Hebrews 10:38The just shall live by faith. From Ch.10 we also saw that the Hebrews were apparently suffering severe persecution. Backing off from their Christian belief was a very tempting option indeed. (Remember the persecution of Saul – later Paul – represented the old covenant.) It may have been the persecution that made some desire to return to the relative safety of the sacrifices of the old covenant, prompting the writer to teach concerning the superiority of the new covenant. Hebrews 11 (further on) certainly acknowledges the severity of persecution on God’s people, with the following clearly being a reality for them, if not to them personally, to their nation in the past:

Hebrews 11:35-3835 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.


The implication is that this is now going to apply to those of the new covenant now. Only their firm confidence in the eternal value of it all would keep them going. Thus, faith is that which converts the unknown into a reality, only able to be seen by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our beliefs can only be demonstrated by putting them into action through our faith in God’s promises. That is, we must practise what we preach! It was faith that exposed them to persecution.


Hebrews 11:2For by it the elders obtained a good report.


obtained a good report – to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration. Out of 79 New Testament occurrences, only 2 relate to “good” as in “obtained a good report”. Of the rest of the occurrences, “bear witness” 25, “testify” 19, “bear record” 13, “witness” 5, “be a witness” 2, “give testimony” 2, miscellaneous 2.


A witness, testimony or good report was given concerning those elders because of their faith; “elders” could (and probably does) refer to the Old Testament saints, some of whom are discussed further on in Hebrews 11. (Eg. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc.) It can also mean “forefathers”, or those of rank or in office of the Jews (or Israel). The term doesn’t necessarily mean the report was good, although the context in Hebrews 11 strongly suggests it was good.


The same word is used in the following:

Hebrews 11:39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

 …. where these are those people who demonstrated their faith in Vs 35-38 (see above).

It was faith in God’s promises that prompted the elders to live their lives as they did, thus obtaining a good report, or being a reliable witness to their beliefs. If you really believe in God’s promises, then you’ll live accordingly!


Hebrews 11:3Through 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.


worldsaion (for ever; eternity; the worlds, universe; period of time, age)

were framed – were rendered perfect or complete, that is, established.

the wordrhema (an utterance; a speaking) Not logos which is more personal; logos is God, rather than rhema is an utterance of God.

God spoke and the worlds were established.

Psalm 33:6By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.


Through (or by) faith we understand that the worlds (ages or universe) were established by the utterance of God, such that what we now see with our eyes was created (came into existence) out of things that we are not able to see with our eyes. We cannot see where it came from, yet by faith we can still understand that God created all matter out of nothing, even if scientists do say that matter can be neither created nor destroyed! Our faith tells us otherwise! And our lives should show the evidence of our belief in God as sovereign Creator of the universe.


It is of interest that Paul tells the Romans that the just shall live by faith, and then proceeds to tell them that even those who deny God as Creator have no excuse, that even the invisible things to do with His creation are to be clearly seen (obviously by faith, in this context!). Lack of faith in God is therefore what will ultimately send the lost to hell. They could have, should have known it, so that they are without excuse.

Romans 1:17-2017 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed [it] unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:


Hebrews 11:4By 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.


Genesis 4:3-53 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.


more excellent– greater in quantity; greater in quality; superior; thus more excellent.

obtained witness / testifying– obtained / giving a good report (as per Vs 2)

“by which” may apply to either Abel’s faith, or his sacrifice. But as the sacrifice must have been based upon the greater faith of Abel, then to assume that it is the faith of Abel will cover both the sacrifice and Abel’s faith in the efficacy of that sacrifice.

gifts – of sacrifices and other gifts offered to God; offerings and sacrifices.


By faith (the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation) Abel offered a greater sacrifice (thus more acceptable to God) than Cain, the better sacrifice (of Abel) being a witness (testimony; good report) that Abel was considered righteous (obviously according to the old covenant, being based upon the sacrificial system). God, through His acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice (and thus by logic, the non-acceptance of Cain’s sacrifice) testified (gave a good report) of His acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice (gifts). Thus, though Abel was no longer alive (and therefore now literally unable to speak for himself), yet even now his faith spoke after he was dead. (And even today Abel’s witness still stands.)

Genesis 4:10And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.


Faith is being given as the reason why Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable than Cain’s sacrifice. Abel trusted that his sacrifice would be acceptable to God, clearly because he must have known that God was pleased with such sacrifices, and Abel trusted that God would continue to be pleased with such sacrifices. Abel believed God’s word such that he carried out what God required. If Abel had said he believed in God yet offered a lesser sacrifice, then this would then have been a lack of faith.


Hebrews 11:5By 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.


1 Corinthians 15:51-5251 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 Thessalonians 4:16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:


translated – to transpose; to transfer one’s self or suffer one’s self to be transferred; to go or pass over; removed. Enoch was removed from life without first dying.

Genesis 5:24And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him.

It is apparent that the LXX was in mind here, though: Genesis 5:24And Enoch was well-pleasing to God, and was not found, because God translated him.

With this in mind, Enoch’s life witnessed to the fact that he was well-pleasing to God. That is, Enoch’s life (his actions, his works) were well-pleasing to God.

testimony – good report; witness. As per Vs 2, 4 and 39.


Elijah’s “passing on” would have been similar. Only two people in the Bible, Enoch and Elijah, haven’t actually “died” before “passing on” or being “translated”.

Enoch’s body would have disappeared too; a dead body would have proved his death! It happened because God “translated” him, and because Enoch pleased God. Hebrews 11:6 gives us the reason why Enoch pleased God: because he had faith in God (see Vs 6): for without faith it is impossible to please God!


Hebrews 11:6But 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.


impossible – without strength; impotent; powerless; unable to be done; impossible.

That is, without faith there is absolutely no way to please God.


Faith involves believing (without any hard evidence) that (a) God exists, and (b) He rewards those who diligently seek Him. For if you cannot believe that God exists (as He is portrayed in the Bible, not a counterfeit God) then how can you diligently seek One who isn’t there to be found? Diligent seeking after God has to be dependent upon your belief that He exists. James says that without works our faith is dead. In no way is he proposing a different interpretation of faith, for unless you are prepared to put your action where your mouth is, then your faith is truly dead. Only your works can justify the reality of your faith. As the saying goes, practise what you preach!


You may do all the good works possible yet never have faith in God and thus never please God. For God doesn’t require sacrifice (that is, a token effort to make you look like a person of God), but a broken spirit and a contrite heart (the real thing!).

Psalm 51:17The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

This is a major difference between Christianity and such as calvinism: Christians please God by having faith in Him and who He is, that is, His character; calvinists become puritans who seek to please God with works (that is, puritanism).


is (a rewarder) – ginomai (become; come into existence; come to pass; happen)

a rewarder – one who pays wages; a rewarder.

diligently seek – seek out (that is, investigate); seek out for one’s self; search for.


For he that comes to God must believe that He exists and that He pays proper dues to those who seek Him out for themselves. That is, God rewards those who diligently seek Him by allowing them to find Him.

Jeremiah 29:13And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart.


Ultimately, faith as taught here must be in the character of God, that he is exactly as the Bible portrays Him. Compare this with

Hebrews 1:2-32 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

God is God, and Christ the Son is also God in every way possible – Christ is the express image of His (God’s) person.


Our faith has to define the character of God as the One who has spoken truly at all times, and that every commitment of God to mankind will be honoured, that is, carried out (both reward and punishment!). If we believe this, then our faith will demonstrate it through our works, our lives, and thus putting into action our belief in God is that which pleases Him! I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18)


Hebrews 11:7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.


moved with fear – acted cautiously, circumspectly; was in reverence, in awe of.


How could Noah actually believe that he would need a boat in 120 years’ time? His only evidence was what God had told him.

Genesis 6:13-14; 17-18; 2213 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven; [and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die. 18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.


Noah, acting entirely upon God’s word for 120 years, built an ark. He was warned of things not yet seen and feared (respected) the word of the Lord sufficiently (he had faith in the word of the Lord above all that his eyes told him) to build an ark in order that his family would be saved (which it was when the rest of the world perished in the flood). That is, Noah by faith in God acted upon his beliefs in God’s word. By doing so, Noah became the heir to the whole human race, including Abraham who would be as the righteousness of God to the Hebrews.


2 Peter 2:5And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;


heir of the righteousness which is by faithRomans 3:22Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Romans 4:12-1312 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which [he had] being [yet] uncircumcised. 13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

That is, the promise that Abraham should be the heir of the world was through the righteousness of faith. Abraham believed what God promised and his faith was counted as righteousness.

Romans 4:3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.


Some quotes from Faith Beyond Reason (A W Tozer)

Faith does not rest upon promises. Faith rests upon character. Faith must rest in confidence upon the One who made the promise. (P 43)

When we are true believers in God’s truth we enter another world – a realm that is infinitely above reason. …. Faith never goes contrary to reason; faith simply ignores reason and rises above it. (P 37)

The man of faith does not dare rest upon human reason, but he knows that there are things that human reason cannot do. (P 40)

That is, faith takes over where reason fails to explain what we need to know. Faith goes beyond reason; faith takes over where logic has given up!


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