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What does Hebrews 11:1 mean?


What is the substance and evidence spoken of here?

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Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The writer to the Hebrews is saying that genuine faith is not just an assent to a set of beliefs; it has substance and evidence in that which believers DO. He goes on to give examples of what people of faith DID because they believed in the promises of God which were yet future (things not seen).

V4. Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain.

V5. Enoch pleased God in the way that he lived.

V7. Noah built an ark.

V8-10. Abraham left home and lived his life in tents because he was waiting for a city which God will build in the future.

V11. Sarah trusted God in conception and child bearing despite her age.

V17-19. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that God could and would raise him from the dead.

V22. Joseph, believing that God would take Israel out of Egypt to Canaan (as he had promised Abraham in Genesis 15:16) gave instructions that they were to take his bones with them.

And so on.
In chapter 12:1 These all, because of what they DID (and suffered) because of the same hope that we share and who will not be perfected without us, are a great cloud of witnesses (of living by faith) that we should take encouragement from.

This agrees with James, who says that faith has no substance without works. Only in that which we do does faith become evident.

James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Jesus’ parables of the house-building (Matthew 7:24-) and the talents (Matthew 25:15-) teach the same lesson.

I hope this helps.

Glenn Smith

 
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