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Yes, the believers had need of patience in their sufferings for Christ’s sake. For here is the patience of the saints; here the believers are made a spectacle before God and angels. And in the midst of it all, theirs is the victory; they are more than conquerors. For this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, (I John 5:4b). The writer to the Hebrews had warned the readers of the dire consequences of falling back; it is a falling into perdition and destruction in hell. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, (Heb. 10:31). And the word of prophecy is very clear. The Hebrew Christians hold the Old Testament to be the Word of God, to be canonical. Well, then let them heed the words both of Isaiah and Habakkuk! 

Now the writer believes the best concerning the Hebrew Christians; Writes he, “Now we are not of those who shrink back unto perdition, but of those who believe to the obtaining of the salvation of the soul.” In so writing there is not a vain boast in man. Here is a boast in the sure work of God. Said Jesus: “My Father is greater than all, and no one can pluck them (my sheep) out of the hand of my Father!” Such is the basic confidence. The good work which God has begun in the saints He will finish even unto the day of Jesus Christ! If we were left to ourselves, even for a moment, we would surely fall back. But we are kept in the power of God, through faith, unto the salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last day, (I Peter 1:5). And, therefore, the writer can speak with certainty of these believers. It is not a mere wish which he here utters; it is a statement of fact. 

The writer speaks here of “we.” This is emphatic in the Greek text. (Heemis—Esmen) And the writer includes himself. He is certain of the faithfulness which God has promised, both for himself and for his fellow-believers. What they are they became and shall continue to be by the grace of God. Hence, they shall not fall away unto perdition. On the contrary, they shall go forth from strength to strength until they appear before God in Zion. They shall possess their souls in patience, as those who were not appointed unto wrath but unto obtaining salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. For salvation is all of grace from beginning to end. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega of this good work in us; and, therefore, He will finish it. Such is the secret of salvation, and more particularly the secret of faith. For by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, (Eph. 2:8-10). 


We agree with Calvin and other exegetes of reputation that it is wrong to begin in Hebrews 11:1 as if it were a brand new subject. Fact is, that the division of the chapter here is rather misleading, because it suggests that we are here dealing with a matter, which heretofore had not been discussed by the writer. We know that the original manuscripts had no chapters and no verses; and, therefore, we will view this passage as a continuation of the fact that the Hebrew Christians are in need of patience in the battle, and that their victory is faith. And in view of this the writer here analyzes this mystery of faith! 

What we have here is an analysis of saving faith, justifying faith, and not of a general faith, faith as this is purported to be found even in the endeavors of sinful and unbelieving men in the world. But this is the faith by which the just shall live! (Hab. 2:4Rom. 1:17Gal. 3:11 andHebrews 10:38) Of this there can be no doubt. And only sophistry of man can distill out of this text a “general faith” of mankind, even though it be true that unbelieving men have a certain confidence concerning the future. However, this confidence of the ungodly is qualitatively different from the “confidence” of the children of God, who are saved by grace. For this confidence of the saints is a leaning upon the everlasting arms of God, which they know are underneath. Their faith rests upon the rock-bottom truth expressed by Moses, “Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thy enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places,” (Deut. 33:29). And, therefore, we conclude that here is spoken of a savingfaith by which we do not fall back but press forward till the victory is won! 

Concerning this faith two things are stated in which the secret of faith, in opposition to all other forms of certainty, is clearly set forth. There are basically two ways of living: by faith and by sight! We can take our starting point either in God or in the creature. True faith is directed to God; true saving faith is directed to God’s promises as revealed by His authoritative Word. Faith asks nothing more and nothing other or less. The writer in the Hebrews places emphatically the verb “is” (estin) on the foreground. Although we do not have a formal definition here of faith, a dogmatic definition, we do have here a disclosure of faith as it is operative in the hearts of all the believers. We are given a spiritual ex-ray picture of faith as it is in the hearts of the faithful. We see the Christian as he moves and lives in this battle-arena, as he goes forth conquering and to conquer. And when one asks after the secret of this victory, this super-human display of strength and patience, then the answer is: faith! 

First of all, then, we notice that faith is called the “substance of things hoped for.” Now the things hoped for are the same things which are not seen. That much is clear from the text. And this is clearly the teaching, too, of Paul in Romans 8:18-25. There we learn that all the sufferings for Christ’s sake are not worthy to be compared unto the glory which will be revealed in us. But this glory we do not yet see. Yes, all of creation groans in hope to share in this glory of the adoption of sons. However, we only see this in hope. We are saved in hope. And the salvation which shall be ours in that day is things which are not seen. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for it. But now we await it with patience. Thus is the clearly enunciated teaching of Paul in Romans 8. Basically that is what we have here in the text. The things hoped for are the things not now seen by the believer. He lives in faith and not by sight. 

However, there is some difficulty connected with determining the exact meaning of the term in the Greek, which here is translated in the KJV by “substance.” In Hebrews 3:14 the term is translated “confidence,” while in Hebrews 1:3 it is translated “person.” This is the Greek term “hypostasis.” In the great Greek Creeds the three Persons in the Trinity are called three “Hypostases,” and the Person of the Son incarnated is also called his “Hypostasis.” However, the Bible is no dogmatics! And the terms will need to be interpreted in the light of the immediate context, and in such a way that the shade of meaning in the term as used in a given text comes to its own. Beza renders “substance” by “subsistence” and “evidence” by “demonstration.” Stuart speaks of “confidence” and “convincing evidence.” The Latin has “Substantia” and “demonstratio.” Now of the things hoped for and not seen, “faith” is a real solid ground, subjectively. It is the point of departure in all the battle. The Dutch translates it “vaste grond,” solid ground. And the German translates, “Fest zuvorsicht,” the certain prospect. It is quite evident that the “solid ground” here is the ground on which the believer starts in the entire life’s course: faith, as the solid confidence that the things hoped for are real, true, all that they purport to be. They have substance, and will not evaporate as the mirage in the desert. Faith is more than mere subjective confidence; it is the body itself. That is the mystery of this faith as it reveals itself in the midst of the display of patience. 

However, faith is also the “evidence” of things not seen, the things hoped for. When you see this faith in action you see the evidence of the age to come. There is a magnitude to this faith and its evidence which only the ages to come will justify. Then the approved character of this faith, its evidence of things not seen, will be found to be unto praise, honor, and glory of God, even in the day of Jesus Christ. Such is the mystery of faith which is great! And we may not equate this faith with the general faith of the heroic deeds of natural man, the world’s great men of courage and achievement. 

The great men who are here presented to us as living demonstrations of this faith, and as incentive for the saints who press on in the battle, are all taken from the midst of the saints. They are really not “heroes” of faith in the strict sense of the term. The whole concept of the Greek “Heeros” must here be ruled out once and for all. He was a mythological or legendary figure, often of divine descent, endowed with great strength and ability; or he was an illustrious warrior, a man admired and emulated for his great achievements and qualities. And in the dramatic works he was the chief character, the central figure in a period or event. In the Greek hero it is the glorification of man, to demonstrate what a mere human mortal can do: The world has its heroes. Strikingly the Bible does not know the term “hero,” nor the concept. All these great men of faith were weak men, poor sinners. It was not they who were great; it was the secret, the mystery of faith! It was the secret that faith as a mustard seed is so great that when one has it he says to this mountain: be cast unto the sea, and it comes to pass when the cause of God demands it. It is faith which sings: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord, Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become by salvation!” (Isaiah 12:2) Here is not a “hero” of faith, but here are humble saints who drink water by faith from the wells of salvation. 

We should be very careful about the term “heroes of faith,” for such are qualitatively different from the world’s great! 

When we, therefore, turn our attention to the examples of faith as it is manifested as substance of things hoped for, and as evidence of things not seen, we will not rivet our attention upon the “hero” but upon the living God, who energizes this faith in the hearts of man of like passions as we are, in the sure confidence that He who made these Old Testament saints strong, is equally able and willing to make us strong in the conflict, so that our boasting may not be in man’s strength but in the faithfulness and mercies of our Covenant God!