The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is definitive. It undergirds the whole message of the book of Hebrews, which is the whole message of the Bible in one book. Amazing.
The first verse does not define faith, but rather describes what it is. That in itself reveals that faith is greater than a definition. You can’t define faith any more than you can define a person. You can only describe it; or rather, you can only describe a person with it.
The first phrase is “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” The Greek word translated “substance” is hupostasis, and literally means “substructure.” It is a concrete word describing what buildings are built upon.
Faith is a substance in our lives upon which all of life is built. You don’t see the foundation, but you know it is there. Buildings don’t work at staying up; they just rest upon their foundations.
Faith is what Jesus was talking about in His parable about the man who built his house upon the rock as compared to the man who built upon the sand. Both had houses, but only one had a substructure. That was the one that stood up to the storms. Have you ever heard the saying, “I just don’t know how a person gets through something like this without the Lord.” The answer is they don’t.
This story also tells us where the substructure comes from, “Those who hear these words of Mine and does them is like the man…” We do not build the foundation, God’s Word creates it. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” That means that God’s Word creates the foundation upon which the fruit of obedience stands. The world sees the fruit but God sees the source, His foundation from His Word. God traces everything to its source. The obedience is also His. When it is from God, it is for God.
Hope is something we have that moves us forward because we can see what’s coming; it is looking forward to something. Have you ever noticed the way some people walk looking down while others walk with their head up, looking straight ahead? It is the difference between people of faith and people who can only “see” their own feet. By God’s Word, people of faith have vision; a future and a hope as Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us. They can “see” what’s coming, or rather, where they are heading because they know Who they are following!
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews will go on to describe some of the people of faith in the Old Testament who were not looking down at their own feet, but rather were looking forward to something that God had promised and their actions revealed that solid foundation and hope!
The question is does yours?