“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” – Hebrews 11:1-2 (NKJV)
I know, I know . . . a predictable start to a week-long study on the word “faith.” But I find it nearly impossible to really dig in to this one if we don’t start with what most consider to be THE definitional verse for this Bible word.
Paul tells us faith is a substance. The Greek word translated as substance is hupostasis – a compounding of two words meaning to stand under or to provide support under. Faith is a substance that provides support for the things we hope for.
But what exactly is this support we call faith? The Greek word for faith, pistis, can be translated to mean a conviction upon hearing, a persuasion or a conviction, but Strong’s notes that it especially means “a reliance upon Christ for salvation.” The substance of faith is created through our active reliance on Christ to save us. When we believe Christ can save us – spirit, body and soul – our believe creates this substance called faith that undergirds and lifts up hope. This kind of faith provides evidence – proof or conviction – for things we cannot see with our natural eyes.
We obtain a good testimony by faith. We do not obtain a good testimony by simply going through an experience and talking about it afterwards. We obtain the good testimony by first believing in the salvation of Christ – his Words and promises to get us through, his good nature, his good intentions – and then walking in accordance with what we believe to be true. Think about the story about the scouting reports from Canaan in Numbers 13:25-33. Joshua and Caleb believed God before they went into the land, and that shaped their testimony even before they experienced the land. The opposite was true for the other ten scouts on the trip. What we believe when we go into a situation shapes the testimony we will have when we come out.
The NLT translation of Hebrews 11:2 reads “Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” Our reputation is the culmination of the testimony we have given over a lifetime. To be known as someone with a good reputation requires consistently good testimony to be flowing out of us. And good testimony flows out of a person who’s heart is set on the belief that faith in Christ for salvation is the undergirding of our hope.