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Hebrews 11:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Faith is the substance of things hoped for - Εστι δε πιστις ελπιζομενων ὑποστασις· Faith is the Subsistence of things hoped for; πραγματων ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων· The Demonstration of things not seen. The word ὑποστασις, which we translate substance, signifies subsistence, that which becomes a foundation for another thing to stand on. And ελεγχος signifies such a conviction as is produced in the mind by the demonstration of a problem, after which demonstration no doubt can remain, because we see from it that the thing is; that it cannot but be; and that it cannot be otherwise than as it is, and is proved to be. Such is the faith by which the soul is justified; or rather, such are the effects of justifying faith: on it subsists the peace of God which passeth all understanding; and the love of God is shed abroad in the heart where it lives, by the Holy Ghost. At the same time the Spirit of God witnesses with their spirits who have this faith that their sins are blotted out; and this is as fully manifest to their judgment and conscience as the axioms, "A whole is greater than any of its parts;" "Equal lines and angles, being placed on one another, do not exceed each other;" or as the deduction from prop. 47, book i., Euclid: "The square of the base of a right-angled triangle is equal to the difference of the squares of the other two sides." Ελεγχος is defined by logicians, Demonstratio quae fit argumentis certis et rationibus indubitatis, qua rei certitudo efficitur. "A demonstration of the certainly of a thing by sure arguments and indubitable reasons." Aristotle uses it for a mathematical demonstration, and properly defines it thus: Ελεγχος δε εστις ὁ μη δυνατος αλλως εχειν, αλλ 'οὑτως ὡς ἡμεις λεγομεν, "Elenchos, or Demonstration, is that which cannot be otherwise, but is so as we assert." Rhetor. ad Alexand., cap. 14, περι ελεγχου . On this account I have adduced the above theorem from Euclid.

Things hoped for - Are the peace and approbation of God, and those blessings by which the soul is prepared for the kingdom of heaven. A penitent hopes for the pardon of his sins and the favor of his God; faith in Christ puts him in possession of this pardon, and thus the thing that was hoped for is enjoyed by faith. When this is received, a man has the fullest conviction of the truth and reality of all these blessings though unseen by the eye, they are felt by the heart; and the man has no more doubt of God's approbation and his own free pardon, than he has of his being.

In an extended sense the things hoped for are the resurrection of the body, the new heavens and the new earth, the introduction of believers into the heavenly country, and the possession of eternal glory.

The things unseen, as distinguished from the things hoped for, are, in an extended sense, the creation of the world from nothing, the destruction of the world by the deluge, the miraculous conception of Christ, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to glory, his mediation at the right hand of God, his government of the universe, etc., etc., all which we as firmly believe on the testimony of God's word as if we had seen them. See Macknight. But this faith has particular respect to the being, goodness, providence, grace, and mercy of God, as the subsequent verses sufficiently show.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for - On the general nature of faith, see the notes on Mark 16:16. The margin here is, “ground or confidence.” There is scarcely any verse of the New Testament more important than this, for it states what is the nature of all true faith, and is the only definition of it which is attempted in the Scriptures. Eternal life depends on the existence and exercise of faith Mark 16:16, and hence, the importance of an accurate understanding of its nature. The word rendered “substance” - ὑπόστασις hupostasis- occurs in the New Testament only in the following places. In 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; Hebrews 3:14, where it is rendered “confident” and “confidence;” and in Hebrews 1:3, where it is rendered “person,” and in the passage before us; compare the notes on Hebrews 1:3. Prof. Stuart renders it here “confidence;” Chrysostom, “Faith gives reality or substance to things hoped for.”

The word properly means “that which is placed under” (Germ. Unterstellen); then “ground, basis, foundation, support.” Then it means also “reality, substance, existence,” in contradistinction from what is unreal, imaginary, or deceptive (täuschung ). “Passow.” It seems to me, therefore, that the word here has reference to something which imparts reality in the view of the mind to those things which are not seen, and which serves to distinguish them from those things which are unreal and illusive. It is what enables us to feel and act as if they were real, or which causes them to exert an influence over us as if we saw them. Faith does this on all other subjects as well as religion. A belief that there is such a place as London or Calcutta, leads us to act as if this were so, if we have occasion to go to either; a belief that money may be made in a certain undertaking, leads people to act as if this were so; a belief in the veracity of another leads us to act as if this were so. As long as the faith continues, whether it be well-founded or not, it gives all the force of reality to what is believed. We feel and act just as if it were so, or as if we saw the object before our eyes. This, I think, is the clear meaning here. We do not see the things of eternity. We do not see God, or heaven, or the angels, or the redeemed in glory, or the crowns of victory, or the harps of praise; but we have faith in them, and this leads us to act as if we saw them. And this is, undoubtedly, the fact in regard to all who live by faith and who are fairly under its influence.

Of things hoped for - In heaven. Faith gives them reality in the view of the mind. The Christian hopes to be admitted into heaven; to be raised up in the last day from the slumbers of the tomb, to be made perfectly free from sin; to be everlastingly happy. Under the influence of faith he allows these things to control his mind as if they were a most affecting reality.

The evidence of things not seen - Of the existence of God; of heaven; of angels; of the glories of the world suited for the redeemed. The word rendered “evidence” - ἔλεγχος elengchos- occurs in the New Testament only in this place and in 2 Timothy 3:16, where it is rendered “reproof.” It means properly proof, or means of proving, to wit, evidence; then proof which convinces another of error or guilt; then vindication, or defense; then summary or contents; see “Passow.” The idea of “evidence” which goes to demonstrate the thing under consideration, or which is adapted to produce “conviction” in the mind, seems to be the elementary idea in the word. So when a proposition is demonstrated; when a man is arraigned and evidence is furnished of his guilt, or when he establishes his innocence; or when one by argument refutes his adversaries, the idea of “convincing argument” enters into the use of the word in each case.

This, I think, is clearly the meaning of the word here. “Faith in the divine declarations answers all the purposes of a convincing argument, or is itself a convincing argument to the mind, of the real existence of those things which are not seen.” But is it a good argument? Is it rational to rely on such a means of being convinced? Is mere “faith” a consideration which should ever convince a rational mind? The infidel says “no;” and we know there may be a faith which is no argument of the truth of what is believed. But when a man who has never seen it believes that there is such a place as London, his belief in the numerous testimonies respecting it which he has heard and read is to his mind a good and rational proof of its existence, and he would act on that belief without hesitation. When a son credits the declaration or the promise of a father who has never deceived him, and acts as though that declaration and promise were true, his faith is to him a ground of conviction and of action, and he will act as if these things were so.

In like manner the Christian believes what God says. He has never seen heaven; he has never seen an angel; he has never seen the Redeemer; he has never seen a body raised from the grave. “But he has evidence which is satisfactory to his mind that God has spoken on these subjects,” and his very nature prompts him to confide in the declarations of his Creator. Those declarations are to his mind more convincing proof than anything else would be. They are more conclusive evidence than would be the deductions of his own reason; far better and more rational than all the reasonings and declarations of the infidel to the contrary. He feels and acts, therefore, as if these things were so - for his faith in the declarations of God has convinced him that they are so - The object of the apostle, in this chapter, is not to illustrate the nature of what is called “saving faith,” but to show the power of “unwavering confidence in God” in sustaining the soul, especially in times of trial; and particularly in leading us to act in view of promises and of things not seen as if they were so. “Saving faith” is the same kind of confidence directed to the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - as the Saviour of the soul.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Faith always has been the mark of God's servants, from the beginning of the world. Where the principle is planted by the regenerating Spirit of God, it will cause the truth to be received, concerning justification by the sufferings and merits of Christ. And the same things that are the object of our hope, are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us in Christ. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those things now; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good. This view of faith is explained by many examples of persons in former times, who obtained a good report, or an honourable character in the word of God. Faith was the principle of their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patient sufferings. The Bible gives the most true and exact account of the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to wrest the Scripture account of the creation, because it does not suit with the differing fancies of men. All that we see of the works of creation, were brought into being by the command of God.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 28

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Dear Brethren and Sisters,

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 303

God gives light to guide those who honestly desire light and truth; but it is not His purpose to remove all cause for questioning and doubt. He gives sufficient evidence to found faith upon, and then requires men to accept that evidence and exercise faith. 5T 303.1

He who will study the Bible with a humble and teachable spirit will find it a sure guide, pointing out the way of life with unfailing accuracy. But what does your study of the Bible avail, brethren and sisters, unless you practice the truths it teaches? That holy book contains nothing that is nonessential; nothing is revealed that has not a bearing upon our actual lives. The deeper our love for Jesus, the more highly we shall regard that word as the voice of God directly to us. 5T 303.2

The church in ----- is standing on Satan's enchanted ground, and there is necessity for a thorough conversion. Individual effort is needed. The rich promises of the Bible are for those who take up their cross and deny self daily. Everyone who has a sincere desire to be a learner in the school of Christ will cultivate spiritual-mindedness and will avail himself of every means of grace, but in this church opportunities and privileges have been slighted. One may be able to say but few words in public and to do but little in the vineyard of the Lord, but he is in duty bound to say something and to be an interested worker. Every member should help to strengthen and sustain the church; but in many cases there are one or two who have the spirit of faithfulness that characterized Caleb of old, and these are permitted to bear the burdens and take the responsibilities, while the rest shirk all care. 5T 303.3

Caleb was faithful and steadfast. He was not boastful, he made no parade of his merits and good deeds; but his influence was always on the side of right. And what was his reward? When the Lord denounced judgments against the men who refused to hearken to His voice, He said: “But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed Me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” While the cowards and murmurers perished in the wilderness, faithful Caleb had a home in the promised Canaan. “Them that honor Me I will honor,” saith the Lord. 5T 303.4

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1073

(1 John 2:4.) Faith Manifested by Works of Obedience—God requires at this time just what He required of the holy pair in Eden, perfect obedience to His requirements. His law remains the same in all ages. The great standard of righteousness presented in the Old Testament is not lowered in the New. It is not the work of the gospel to weaken the claims of God's holy law, but to bring men up where they can keep its precepts. 6BC 1073.1

The faith in Christ which saves the soul is not what it is represented to be by many. “Believe, believe,” is their cry; “only believe in Christ, and you will be saved. It is all you have to do.” While true faith trusts wholly in Christ for salvation, it will lead to perfect conformity to the law of God. Faith is manifested by works. And the apostle John declares, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar” (The Review and Herald, October 5, 1886). 6BC 1073.2

Disconnect the Law and the Gospel?—The enemy has ever labored to disconnect the law and the gospel. They go hand in hand (Manuscript 11, 1893). 6BC 1073.3

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Ellen G. White
Gospel Workers 1915, 260

Perfect faith, the surrender of self to God, simple trust in His pledged word, should be a part of every minister's experience. Only as a minister has this experience can he make the subject of faith plain to the doubting and distrustful. GW 260.1

Faith is not feeling. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11:1.] True faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption, for presumption is Satan's counterfeit of faith. GW 260.2

Faith claims God's promises and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequences of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures. GW 260.3

To talk of religion in a casual way, to pray without soul-hunger and living faith, avails nothing. A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Saviour of the world, can never bring healing to the soul. The faith that is unto salvation is not a mere intellectual assent to the truth. He who waits for entire knowledge before he will exercise faith, cannot receive blessing from God. GW 260.4

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