Chapter 11:1-4 (ESV) - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
Question to consider: How would you define hope?
The last chapter ended with the statement, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” The author had just finished giving his second stern warning that to reject the grace of Christ for works of the law would result in God’s eternal judgment. So this final statement was to reiterate that the author had confidence the reader would make the right choice to have faith in Christ and be saved. Today’s passage defines what that faith looks like.
The word “hope” today has been diminished to the point where it is merely a personal desire for a good outcome: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow and ruin our picnic,” or “I hope I win the powerball and can quit my job.” If our faith were based on that kind of hope, it would be weak and fleeting. However, in scripture, our hope is based on the foundation of God’s promises which are never failing. So when we put our faith in Christ, we are counting on His perfect sacrifice to take away our sins, a sacrifice that the author has thoroughly demonstrated to be given by the great high priest of a better and everlasting covenant. It is a reality that has been demonstrated over and over again throughout scripture so the author starts giving examples.
The very first thing we received by faith is our very existence which is of course why mankind tries so hard to push a different narrative. We believe that God spoke, and the universe lept into existence, and that God had order and purpose in everything He created. To the author, this was a given. God exists because we exist. If you’ve gotten this far with me in the study of Hebrews, I assume this is not an idea with which you struggle. If you do, I can recommend a good apologetics book or would love to have a discussion with you about it.
The second example refers to the scripture account of Cain and Abel. I preached a sermon on this once which you are welcomed to download here if you want to learn more about it. I think it’s sad that there is no mention of Adam’s faith, probably because his lack of faith is what brought sin into the world. I have confidence the existence of Abel’s faith meant that Adam clung to God’s promise of salvation in Genesis chapter 3. We’ll get more into how Abel still speaks in chapter 12 of this study.
Dear Lord, we thank you for the testimony of your great and everlasting covenant in the book of Hebrews. Help us put our hope in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and give us the assurance that we have been set free from sin and death so that we can begin to love your righteousness. We ask for more faith where we are lacking and an increasing resolve to walk in newness of life. Amen.