Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We know that living as a Christian is living by faith. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that we cannot please God without faith. But what is it? Even the definition given at the beginning of the “Hall of Faith” as some call it is something that requires a little thought.
Faith is having a sure trust in something. What makes faith work is not the amount of one’s faith but the object of one’s faith. If I trust in thin ice with all my heart, I still fall through when I step on it. If I am afraid when I step on thick ice, even without faith, I am held because the object is strong.
What I considered when reading this recently, however, which is something I had not thought much about, is the two directions of faith given to us in the definition at the beginning of chapter 1. Faith is about what we hope for. Faith is about what we have not seen. One is the future. One is the past. Both are necessary.
Faith in the past, in things that have happened but which we have not seen, is required for life. In order to have saving faith, you must believe in the person and work of Jesus. You must believe that the Son of God came, lived a perfect life, died to pay for your sins, and rose from the grave. You must believe that Jesus is both willing and able to rescue you from your sins. Without such faith, you have no salvation.
Similarly, those who trust in Jesus have a faith that is future focused. WE believe that Jesus will return. We believe that he will raise us from the dead even if our bodies die in this life. WE believe that he will reign eternally. We believe that all who have trusted in him will live forever, forgiven, and joyful in the presence of God.
Here are two quick quotes from Michael Kruger’s new book on Hebrews that I think help us see what I’m talking about in the two directions of faith:
“Faith is not just a feeling. It is not just saying, “I hope it’s true.” It means being certain about something. Notice the two key words in this first verse: “assurance” and “conviction.” Faith is rock-solid trust that when God makes a promise, it is true and right. It is absolute assurance and confidence that God’s word can be relied upon.”
“Verse 1 highlights the two types of things that we know by faith. “Things hoped for” are things in the future that have not yet happened. “Things not seen” are things in the past—events that we were not there to see. Or, put simply, our faith is in what God has done and in what God will do.”
Michael J. Kruger, Hebrews for You (Charlotte, NC: The Good Book Company, 2021), Chapter 10.