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Hebrews 11:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Through faith we understand - By worlds, τους αιωνας, we are to understand the material fabric of the universe; for αιων can have no reference here to age or any measurement of time, for he speaks of the things which are Seen; not being made out of the things which do Appear; this therefore must refer to the material creation: and as the word is used in the plural number, it may comprehend, not only the earth and visible heavens, but the whole planetary system; the different worlds which, in our system at least, revolve round the sun. The apostle states that these things were not made out of a pre-existent matter; for if they were, that matter, however extended or modified, must appear in that thing into which it is compounded and modified, consequently it could not be said that the things which are seen are not made of the things that appear; and he shows us also, by these words, that the present mundane fabric was not formed or reformed from one anterior, as some suppose. According to Moses and the apostle we believe that God made all things out of nothing. See the note on Genesis 1:1, etc.

At present we see trees of different kinds are produced from trees; beasts, birds, and fishes, from others of the same kind; and man, from man: but we are necessarily led to believe that there was a first man, who owed not his being to man; first there were beasts, etc., which did not derive their being from others of the same kind; and so of all manner of trees, plants, etc. God, therefore, made all these out of nothing; his word tells us so, and we credit that word.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed - The first instance of the strength of faith which the apostle refers to is that by which we give credence to the declarations in the Scriptures about the work of creation; Genesis 1:1. This is selected first, evidently because it is the first thing that occurs in the Bible, or is the first thing there narrated in relation to which there is the exercise of faith. He points to no particular instance in which this faith was exercised - for none is especially mentioned - but refers to it as an illustration of the nature of faith which every one might observe in himself. The “faith” here exercised is confidence in the truth of the divine declarations in regard to the creation. The meaning is, that our knowledge on this subject is a mere matter of faith in the divine testimony. It is not that we could “reason” this out, and demonstrate that the worlds were thus made; it is not that profane history goes back to that period and informs us of it; it is simply that God has told us so in his word. The “strength” of the faith in this case is measured:

(1)by the fact that it is mere faith - that there is nothing else on which to rely in the case, and,

(2)by the greatness of the truth believed.

After all the acts of faith which have ever been exercised in this world, perhaps there is none which is really more strong, or which requires higher confidence in God, than the declaration that this vast universe has been brought into existence by a word!

We understand - We attain to the apprehension of; we receive and comprehend the idea. Our knowledge of this fact is derived only from faith, and not from our own reasoning.

That the worlds - In Genesis 1:1, it is “the heaven and the earth.” The phrase which the apostle uses denotes a plurality of worlds, and is proof that he supposed there were other worlds besides our earth. How far his knowledge extended on this point, we have no means of ascertaining, but there is no reason to doubt that he regarded the stars as “worlds” in some respects like our own. On the meaning of the Greek word used here, see the notes on Hebrews 1:2. The plural form is used there also, and in both cases, it seems to me, not without design.

Were framed - It is observable that the apostle does not here use the word “make or create.” That which he does use - καταρτίζω katartizō- means to put in order, to arrange, to complete, and may be applied to that which before had an existence, and which is to be put in order, or re-fitted; Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:19; Matthew 21:6; Hebrews 10:5. The meaning here is, that they “were set in order” by the Word of God. This implies the act of creation, but the specific idea is that of “arranging” them in the beautiful order in which they are now. Doddridge renders it “adjusted.” Kuinoel, however, supposes that the word is used here in the sense of “form, or make.” It has probably about the meaning which we attach to the phrase “fitting up anything,” as, for example, a dwelling, and includes all the previous arrangements, though the thing which is particularly denoted is not the making, but the arrangemenent. So in the work here referred to. “We arrive at the conviction that the universe was prepared or arranged in the present manner by the Word of God.”

By the word of God - This does not mean here, by the “Logos,” or the second person of the Trinity, for Paul does not use that term here or elsewhere. The word which he employs is ῥῆμα rēma- “rema” - meaning properly a word spoken, and in this place “command;” compare Genesis 1:3, Genesis 1:6, Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:11, Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:20; Psalm 33:6. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” In regard to the agency of the Son of God in the work of the creation, see the notes on Hebrews 1:2; compare the notes on John 1:3.

So that things which are seen - The point of the remark here is, that the visible creation was not moulded out of pre-existing materials, but was made out of nothing. In reference to the grammatical construction of the passage, see Stuart, Commentary in loc. The doctrine taught is, that matter was not eternal; that the materials of the universe, as well as the arrangement, were formed by God, and that all this was done by a simple command. The “argument” here, so far as it is adapted to the purpose of the apostle, seems to be, that there was nothing which “appeared,” or which was to be “seen,” that could lay the foundation of a belief that God made the worlds; and in like manner our faith now is not to be based on what; “appears,” by which we could infer or reason out what would be, but that we must exercise strong confidence in Him who had power to create the universe out of nothing. If this vast universe has been called into existence by the mere word of God, there is nothing which we may not believe he has ample power to perform.

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
The Upward Look, 340.6

In the formation of our world, God was not beholden to preexistent substance or matter. For the “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). On the contrary, all things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice, and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things that are therein, are not only the work of His hand; they came into existence by the breath of His mouth. UL 340.6

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 273.1

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Hebrews 11:3. TDG 273.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 259

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3. 8T 259.1

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth....
He spake, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.”
8T 259.2

Psalm 33:6-9. 8T 259

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 312.1

All Things Stood Up Before Him at His Voice—In the formation of our world, God was not beholden to preexistent substance or matter. For the “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” On the contrary, all things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice, and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things that are therein, are not only the work of His hand, they came into existence by the breath of His mouth. 3SM 312.1

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