The book of Hebrews is all about the “greaterness” of Jesus. The anonymous human author spurs his audience to continue to believe in Jesus because He is greater. He is greater than angels, the prophets, the Levitical systems and Moses. In the eleventh chapter the author takes a few moments to remind his readers of the faith of the saints before the flood as well as those afterwards. However, in the opening three verses of the chapter instructed his audience regarding the necessity of faith in God.
Before he explains “how” the faith of the saints of old operated, he explained “why” it is necessary for everyone to have faith in God.
Faith in God enables us to be steadfast in life.
God has designed our world to operate so that people should be dependent upon Him. Dr. John MacArthur states, “Faith is the present essence of a future reality” Faith is wholehearted confidence and trust in God. The writer describes it as “the substance of things hoped for.” “Substance” can also be translated “foundation, confident, confidence.” It is a very common word from Aristotle that means something that stands under anything (a building, a contract, a promise). Biblical hope is not a “maybe so” issue but confidence in a future reality. Paul wrote that we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).”
Faith is also the “evidence of things not seen.” “Evidence” can also mean “proof, conviction.” We trust God when we cannot see or understand what is going on. Paul described this kind of faith in 2 Corinthians 4:18: while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Faith in God is sometimes all that separates us from insanity. Faith in God is the steadfast underneath our spiritual feet. He will hold us up when the world is falling apart. Trusting in God is necessary in the difficult world in which we live. Dr. M.R. Dehaan stated, “Faith is believing the unreasonable, the impossible and the unexplainable, because someone else, in whom we have absolute confidence has said it was so, and upon his word we believe it, without asking any further proof.”
Faith in God enables us to be accepted in life.
The writer said that it was this kind of trust by which the elders obtained a good testimony. Who are these elders? The Greek word is presbyteroi; the same used in other places in the New Testament for a pastor. It is where we get our English word Presbyterian. An elder is a person from an earlier time. It can be translated “men of old.” These are men and women of the Old Testament, most likely those mentioned in verses 4-40 of this same chapter.
These men and women obtained a good testimony through their faith in God. “Obtained” is the passive voice indicating the elders were acted upon by an outside force. God makes His approval known to those who trust Him. Faith is not simply one way to please God; it is the only way.
No one comes to God apart from saving faith in the finished word of His Son on the cross. Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Faith in God’s provision of His Son means we are accepted by Him. If I am accepted by Him I have experienced the ultimate acceptance. Why should I be concerned if others do not approve of me? God approves of me though His Son so everything else pales in comparison.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “That is to say, do what you may, strive as earnestly as you can, live as excellently as you please, make what sacrifices you choose, be as eminent as you can for everything that is lovely and of good repute, yet none of these things can be pleasing to God unless they be mixed with faith. As the Lord said to the Jews, ‘With all your sacrifices you must offer salt;’ so He says to us, ‘With all your doings you must bring faith, or else “without faith it is impossible to please God.’”
Faith in God enables us to understand the origin of life.
The writer states “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” “We understand” is in the present tense, “we keep on believing.” It is an old verb from the noun for “intellect.” “Were framed” can also mean “to mend, to equip, to perfect.” We intellectually understand the origin of the universe by having faith in a God who framed, equipped and perfected the universe. Genesis 1:1 explains it exactly and succinctly. There is not a hint of evolution in this biblical truth.
God spoke the world into existence with a word. The word for “word” is rhema which usually refers to the spoken word. This then refers to creation by fiat, the spoken word. “The things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” The world did not come about as a result of something that already existed. God stepped out into the middle of nowhere and took a handful of nothing and spoke the world into existence. How can I believe this? By faith in Him!
The biologist and scientists may try to disprove creation and affirm the theory of evolution, but the writer of Hebrews clearly says we can intellectually understand the creation of the world by believing God is behind it. David said in Psalm 33:6, 9: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. Peter declared, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water (2 Peter 3:5).”
The world has no meaning apart from faith in God. We have to believe that the world we live in is falling apart at the seams unless we believe there is a God who is bringing about all things according to His will. I am engaged in a self-made religion of works unless I take by faith the work Christ has accomplished for me on the cross. I have an intellectual understanding and answer to the question, “How did I get here?” if I affirm God created the world and everything in it. Faith in God is a necessity for everyone.