What is Faith?- Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1 provides for us a biblical definition of faith, telling us what faith “is”. We find here that it is the “substance of things hoped for”. Is faith then a “substance”, which we can get more or less of like other substances. The Greek word substance here is hypostasis, a compound word composed of hypo (under) and stasis (stand). The key to understanding its use in Hebrews is provided in Hebrews 1:3, in which we find that Jesus is the “exact representation (Greek charakter) of God’s being (hypostasis). We are told here that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s character, that Jesus reveals to us the true character of God, shows us who God really is, what He is really like and how He behaves. In the same way, faith here is the embodiment of hope. The word hope here is elpis, and it describes not a wish but an expectation. Biblical hope is not a wish (as in I hope my team wins the game) but an expectation which always produces action. This is basic for all humans, for all human beings operate by faith, we all act based on what we expect to happen. If we have a ticket for a flight leaving at 11 am tomorrow, we show up at the airport by 11 am. We act (go to the airport) based on our expectation that the plane will be there and depart around 11 am. The faith here is the act of going to the airport, it is based on a “hope” (expectation) and is an either/or thing. We either go to the airport or we don’t, and there is no quantity involved, you can’t get more of it, you either act on what is promised or you don’t. Faith then is acting on what we expect, and it always has an object. As Christians, the object of our faith is always to be the Word of God, it is the source of our hope, for we expect that what it says will happen. Faith then is acting on that expectation, it is the “embodiment” of our hope. Just as Jesus actions always revealed the character of God to us, so our actions always reveal the character of our faith, what our faith is in. Having biblical faith is acting upon our hope in the Word of God, acting like the Word of God is true, it is our embodiment of our expectation that the Word of God always tells us the truth, that what it says will always come to pass, it is the substance of things hoped for.

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