Hebrews 11:1: More than just belief…

I got to thinking this afternoon that if I am going to write about what God is teaching me through my daily Bible studies, I should also write about what He is teaching me through other media as well, including my lessons from my weekly Sunday school class, and the message taught by my pastor during the worship service. The message being taught currently by my pastor is one that I have tried to give some real thought to, since it seems to be a message that is a little deeper than one might assume when first hearing it – it is that of Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

My pastor brought up a very interesting idea when he tried to explain the Greek word behind what we see translated as “…being sure of…” The word is hypostasis. Apparently this isn’t an easy word to translate, because like many English words, it can be used in a million different ways. I looked to the most trusted source I could think of to find more information on this topic (Yahoo! search :) ), and I saw one article that talks about the translating of hypostasis in the Bible. In Lost in the Translation: Hope and Hypostasis in Hebrews, John Medaille writes that you can assume that in Hebrews 11:1, hypostasis is best translated as either assurance, which is an “internal, subjective reality,” that is completely dependent upon the attitude of the believer, or by the word substance, which is an objective reality – something that exists outside of us. Comparing the use of the word throughout the Bible (and specifically Hebrews), Medaille concludes that the best way to translate hypostasis is with the word reality.

My pastor preferred to use the word substance here, similar to what is found in the King James Version of this verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” Another article (by John Ritenbaugh) I came across says that the word substance “is built from a prefix and a root which together mean ‘that which stands under.'” This is what my pastor talked about – the fact that our faith is based on something real, something objective. He compared it with the same use for the word in Hebrews 1: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” – Christ is the hypostasis of God, the substance of God.

So how does this apply to our lives? Ritenbaugh says that “for Christians, faith underlies what is seen externally in the conduct of their lives.” It is the reason we do what we do…our foundation, so to speak. And that means that it is much more than simple belief. Belief comes from observation – what we see, hear, or experience in some other way. Faith is a little more than that…it includes trusting God, and acting in ways that show that.


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