Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter, sometimes referred to as the “Hall of Faith”. It is a powerful lesson that the currency of God’s Kingdom is faith. As we read many of the Old Testament events, there isn’t an explanation at the time of how or why they occurred. But the New Testament writers reveal that the key was and has always been faith. We won’t have room here to delve into every example given, but we will hit some highlights. Be encouraged to read Hebrews 11 slowly and to refer back to the Old Testament names and events that are referenced. Go back and read those passages in the original telling through the lenses of grace and faith.
This chapter opens with the definition of faith. It is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is not wishful thinking. It is not blind belief in the unexplained. Faith is knowing that something is true regardless of what is seen. In fact, verse three tells us that “the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” When God spoke creation into being, His words weren’t visible any more than our words are visible when we speak. But those invisible words generate results. The word of faith is not saying something enough to try to make it true. It is speaking from a knowledge of who God is and how His Kingdom works in order to produce desired results.
In verse four, there is a great example of what we mentioned above about Old Testament events that don’t seem to have a clear explanation in the moment. If we read the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis, faith isn’t mentioned. This has led people to speculate about why God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. But here in Hebrews, we see that speculation is unnecessary; it was all about faith. Abel offered his sacrifice in faith, which is God’s language. Cain did not. Notice that this led to Abel obtaining “witness that he was righteous”. Who was this witness? It was God Himself. Abel was judged to be righteous by faith without any law to obey. Righteousness never came by law; it was always by faith.
We see this in the following verses regarding Enoch. He never died. God just took him to heaven straight away because He was pleased with him. This should beg the question, “How do we please God?” The next verse has the answer. “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” When we come to God, we must believe not only that He exists, but also that He is a rewarder. Faith has an expectation of God’s goodness attached to it. If we don’t believe that He is good, then it is impossible to operate in biblical faith.
We’ll close with verse seven, which tells us that Noah operated by faith. In building the ark, he became the “heir of righteousness that is according to faith.” The repeated message of the New Testament is really the same message that has been true from the beginning. Righteousness has always been according to faith. It has never been according to our efforts. Believe God today, and receive unmerited favor.