1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
It is crucial to see this chapter in relation to the argument of the book and the previous immediate context. Our prior study in Hebrews 10:38–39 on living daily by faith introduces this chapter, which deals in its entirety with those who lived by faith. The argument of the book of Hebrews is that the believer must develop tenacious endurance by faith. That faith must be in the “better” things of the New Testament as over against the Old. This chapter and the beginning of chapter 12 demonstrate those in the Old Testament who lived by faith and how Jesus lived by faith and applied the promises by faith.
Chapter 11 is often called The Hall of Fame chapter of the Bible because it is a long list of those who authentically walked by faith. However, this chapter is more than a chapter on faith; it demonstrates the triumphs of faith. It shows how to overcome in the face of difficulties (He 11:33, 34). Israel failed to enter rest because of her unbelief in God’s promises. Now the church may fail to rest in God’s promises because of not taking God at His Word. The word “faith” occurs 21 times in this chapter. All examples of those who lived by faith were victorious in their walk with God even under duress.
The first three verses of this chapter are the prologue to this chapter in which the Holy Spirit gives three introductory thoughts about faith:
—the nature of faith’s assurance
—its “good testimony”
—its view about the universe
1 Now faith
The word “now” connects chapter 11 to the preceding immediate context in the latter part of chapter 10.
The Greek does not use the definite article before the word “faith,” indicating that the author is speaking of a principle. Faith deals with the future, things not yet realized by the believer.
is the substance [confidence, assurance]
The emphatic “is” in the Greek places emphasis on the reality of faith. It is active and powerful. It can overcome difficulties. Faith is a living and continuing reality.
The papyri use the word “substance” for a title deed or the certification of ownership. Faith does not create the title deed, but it accepts what is anticipated. Objective reality does not rest on faith. Belief cannot create and neither can it make something true. Faith does, however, give assurance or confidence. It gives certainty about what one believes (2 Co 9:4; 11:17; He 3:14). Faith is the foundation or title deed of our hope.
The word “substance” refers to the confidence of faith. The Greek word means something placed or set under, referring to the substructure or foundation of something (He 3:14). It is evidence that causes one to agree fully or come to grips with what is true. It is convicting evidence. A foundation makes something secure or firm. It is something that has actual existence, a real thing, or objective reality. It is the basis of our hope. We can count on it. The “substance” substantiates God’s promises. It makes His promises a present reality.
“Substance” is the underlying structure of something that stands in contrast to what only seems to be. It is the objective guarantee of what God promises. His promises are certain. They are the title deed for the believer. “Substance” is the essence, the reality of something. It is no appearance but the genuine thing. Faith rests its case on firm ground. The ground or structure of faith is the promises in the Word of God. The issue is not the sincerity of belief, but the truth believed.
Faith in what God revealed gives substance to what we believe. Faith in God’s Word gives content or substance to understanding God and His creation. Faith, then, is to believe in God’s testimony; it is the ground of the believer’s present expectation and the ground of future things.
Faith is taking God at His Word.
Faith is the foundation of Christian living. Faith is a matter of taking God at his Word and directing our lives accordingly. We find the content of our faith in the Bible. Revelation gives us information beyond the material, physical universe. All promises rest on revelation. There can be no confidence or conviction about things not seen without the Bible. Otherwise, faith is just credulity or conjecture. Faith, then, is taking God at His Word. It accepts what the Bible says and its promises as true. It is the believer’s answer to what God says.
Faith is not passive but active conviction. Assurance rests on God’s promises. It accepts the truth of those promises. Confidence in God comes from this trust. The reliability of God’s being true to what He promises deepens our convictions. God holds a high and persistent record of being true to His Word (1 Jn 5:9, 10). Non-Christians do not believe the “record that God gave of His Son.” Salvation comes down to believing the Bible. Confidence has to do with truth beyond the material. Faith is the ground upon which we build our hope.