What is Faith?- Hebrews 11

After giving a definition of faith in the opening verse of Hebrews11, the writer then provides a long list of historical examples of faith in the remainder of the chapter. Space prohibits an examination of each example, but all follow a similar pattern, and from them we can discern how faith “works”. Having given us a definition of faith, the writer then shows us what it “looks like”. All his examples contain the same four basic elements, from which we can ascertain the basic characteristics of biblical faith. The first thing present in the examples is God speaking. FĂ ith always has an object, and the object of biblical faith is always the word of God. The second thing present in the examples is responding to and acting upon what God said. In biblical faith, God is the initiator and we are the responders, we do not move God to do our bidding by our “great faith”, we respond to what God says He has already done. The third thing present is perseverence through difficulty. Our professed faith will be tested by adversity and obstacles, in order to determine if our faith is genuine, whether it is possessed rather than merely professed. The fourth is that faith “grows” as we persevere through difficulty. The idea of faith growing here is not that we possess more of it (remember verse one in our previous post), but that we grow to know the object of our faith better as we persevere. We trust Jesus more and more as He shows Himself trustworthy, and we grow to know Him better. This is growing in our faith, trusting more of our lives to Him, not trying to manipulate Him to do what we want. We often get confused about what faith is due to its translation with the English word “believe”. Our connotation of believe is generally taken to mean to agree that something is true, but biblical faith goes beyond this. In classic historical theology, biblical faith is said to consist of three components, represented by the Latin words notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Notitia describes an understaanding of what is being said, an intellectual apprehension of an idea. Assensus decribes an agreement that what is said is true and valid, which aligns with the common english usage of “belief”. Fiducia describes the deliberate choice to act upon what was said, to act in obedience to what has been understood and agreed with. All three of these are necessary for faith to be biblical, to be faith that saves. This is why faith will be tested to be proved genuine, for a “faith” that abandons its object at the first hint of trouble due to its existence is not biblical faith, not following the example set in the “faith hall of fame” of Hebrews 11, not a faith that saves.

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