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“Faith: The Proof of What We Cannot See”

(Hebrews 11:1-3, 6)

Introduction: There is a real crisis of faith in the church today. In the days of the
Enlightenment, when man cast off the shackles of the Medieval idea that the world was full of
angels and devils through the so-called advances of science, a principle was introduced which
would later lead to the wholesale denial of the supernatural and to the reinterpretation of the
Christian faith in terms of the normal processes of history. This is what, in fact, eventually gave
rise to modernism, or, as it is better known, liberalism. The things which before could only be
apprehended by faith, were now sought to be understood by means of science. The testimony of
the Bible was reinterpreted to be nothing more than the religious “feelings” of the faithful. All
supernaturalism was eventually denied. The Bible was nothing more than the pious stories of
the religious zealots. Our own culture has been profoundly influenced by this movement. This
country, which was once marked by a strong belief in the truths of Scripture, whether or not it
actually embraced those truths, is now marked by a wholesale denial of these same truths.
Everywhere you look, whether in popular television shows or magazines or newspapers, you see
either an explicit or implicit denial of Christianity. Christ is either left out of the picture or
flat-out denied or blasphemed. Things are now either interpreted in terms of the natural, or
more lately, again in terms of the supernatural, as it is understood by what is called the “New
Age Movement.” Many found that they could not explain all things in terms of natural
processes, so they have again turned to the supernatural, only now it is Satan’s counterfeit. And
whether or not we like to admit it, these influences in our society have also influenced us. They
may not have resulted in our departure from the Christian faith, or our acceptance of New Age
mysticism, but they have weakened us, in some cases, dramatically. They have also caused
some to compromise the Scriptures in certain areas, resulting in new interpretations based upon
the new philosophies of man. This has always happened in the history of the church when the
church listens more intently to the world than it should.
Brethren, we need for our eyes to be opened to how these things have influenced us. We
need to see that our vision of the supernatural God and of His will and plan for us has been at
least partially hidden by the lies of the enemy. Now, I am not saying by this that all science is
bad. On the contrary, much of what has been learned through the study of nature has proven to
be a great blessing to the people of God, as well as to all people, especially in the area of
medicine. As a matter of fact, God was the One who issued the command to subdue the
Creation in the first place. Remember in the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28, “God said to
them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” We, as the
corporate covenant community of God, are to be actively involved in subduing the Creation to
His glory. This is God’s own commandment. And many of His people have given their lives
to doing just that and have made wonderful advances in knowledge. God has even given into
the hands of some unbelievers the ability to make many amazing discoveries. It is not science
itself that is bad, but it is what is done with that science. That which reveals and exalts God and
His Word is good and has God’s blessing. But that supposed science which aims at destroying
the knowledge of God is not good. It is sinful unbelief and an affront to God.
This is especially relevant for us as we come to the Lord’s Table this morning. In this
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sacrament, we not only celebrate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ as the means of our life, but
we also receive from it the grace which we need to live the kind of life which He calls us to.
But this grace of Christ which is here offered to us can only be seen and apprehended by faith.
If you were to give some of this bread and wine to an unbelieving scientist, and he was to
examine it carefully using all of his latest high tech equipment, what do you think he would find?
Would he find the Christ who is here offered and received by the faithful? No. He would find
only bread and wine. Does this mean that this is all that is here and that we are only deluding
ourselves? No, for Christ’s Word, which is more sure than the word of any man, tells us that if
we believe and trust in Him, we actually receive the virtue and power of His life through it.
This morning, I want us to again examine one very important aspect of faith, namely, that

Faith is that spiritual faculty or ability by which we can actually see and receive the
things which we do not see.

I. I believe that it would be helpful for us to take a brief look at the context in which the
author to the Hebrews introduces to us this great chapter on faith.
A. The author throughout the book has been arguing for the superiority of the New Covenant
over the Old.
1. He has declared that it is better because its Mediator is better than the angels (1-2), and
better than Moses (3).
2. It is better in that it promises a better rest, a heavenly rest, instead of only a type or
picture of that rest in Canaan (3-4).
3. It is better in that it is established on a better priesthood, the priesthood of
Melchizedek, the King of righteousness, rather than the Aaronic priesthood (5).
4. It is better in that it has been enacted on better promises and an oath (6).
5. And it is better because it is based on a better sacrifice. The blood of animals was not
able to finally remove all sin, which is revealed by the fact that they had to be offered
again and again for those who sinned, whereas the blood of Christ had only to be shed
once (9-10).

B. Since it is better, the author to the Hebrews urges his audience to press on in this
covenant and to seek God through this new and living way (10:19-24), and warns them not
to turn back to the shadows.
1. The New Covenant, besides being far more superior to the Old, is also more spiritual,
that is, it is a less tangible and visible covenant. There is no longer a visible
priesthood, a temple, or sacrifices.
2. Christ can only be seen through the eyes of faith. He is ministering in the heavenly
Temple above, the one which was not made with hands. The temptation these were
facing was to return to the old pictures and to fall away from Christ.
3. He warns them in chapter 10, verses 26-31 not to go on sinning willfully, not to turn
away from Christ. If the one who set aside the Law of Moses died “without mercy on
the testimony of two or three witnesses . . . how much severer punishment do you think
he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as
unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the
Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And
again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of
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the living God” (vv. 28-31).


4. But he reminds them in verses 32-34 that they had believed these things, enough to
have endured suffering, enough to have been made public spectacles through reproaches
and tribulations, enough to have also shown sympathy to those who were imprisoned
for the same things, and to have accepted joyfully the seizure of their own property.
5. Therefore, he exhorts them, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have
done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY
LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.
BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS
BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who
shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul”
(10:36-39).
6. Faith was necessary for them to see the unseen and to endure to the end. Faith is also
necessary for us. Now, we might not be in danger of falling into Judaism, as they
were, -- although some dispensationalists would tell us that this is not necessarily
dangerous, for we can still be saved through that Old Covenant system, a belief which is
very very dangerous, -- but we might possibly be in danger of falling away from the
living God, if we have not really embraced the Lord Jesus Christ, even as the author to
the Hebrews warned his audience.
7. But certainly all of us need to be exhorted, in light of what I have already said, to press
on in faith and to apprehend by faith the promises of the invisible things which the Lord
has given to us.

II. And this brings us, secondly, to what faith is: “Now faith is the assurance of things
hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
A. At the outset, I want you to realize that this is not a comprehensive definition of faith, but
only a certain aspect of it.
1. Faith is the knowing of certain facts, the things which are to be believed.
2. Faith is also the believing of those facts, that they are true, even if they can’t be seen.
3. But faith is also the apprehending of the reality behind those facts and the application
of those things to your lives.
a. Faith is the receiving of Christ, the applying of Him and all of His benefits to your
life. It is the actual trusting and resting in Christ and His righteousness to save you.
This is the culmination of knowing and believing the facts concerning Him. It is
that without which you cannot be saved. You must trust in Christ to save you, and
in Christ alone.
b. But once you have come to Christ, faith also apprehends everything else in His
Word: it believes all that Christ reveals, it yields obedience to all His
commandments, it trembles at all the threatenings (such as the one we just read), and
it embraces all the promises for this life and for the one to come.

B. It is this last aspect that the author to the Hebrews has in mind, which is necessary not
only to embrace the Savior, but also to embrace the promises of God.
1. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”
a. The word “assurance” here means “the reality,” “the substance,” “the ground of
hope,” or “the foundation.”
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b. Faith is the substance of that thing which is hoped for, it is the reality which one can
possess even now.
c. By hope here he is not referring to the same thing we mean when we say, “I hope
that you pass the exam, or I hope that you are doing well.”
d. Biblical hope means that I know that what God has promised is coming, even
though I haven’t received it yet.
e. Edwards, in his private notebook on the Scriptures, wrote, “Hope, in the New
Testament, is often spoken of as a great Christian grace and virtue, and one of the
main things that distinguishes a true Christian, which would be difficult to
understand or account for, if by hope is meant no more than what we commonly
understand by the word, viz. his thinking well of his own state, or hoping well of his
future state. That is not hard to do; ‘tis what nature is prone to. But by hope they
doubtless meant something more, viz. an embracing the promises of God, and
fiducial relying on them, through Christ for salvation. This is that great Christian
grace that the Apostle speaks of in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where he
speaks of faith, hope, charity. And by faith, there and elsewhere, where it is
distinguished from hope, is meant faith in a larger sense, viz. acquiescing in the truth
in whatever he testifies or reveals, without any special regard to our own concern and
future interest in what he reveals. Hope is our acquiescing and relying on God’s
truth and sufficiency as to what concerns our own future happiness” (Works
15:241-242). “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”

2. And in parallel form, “Faith is the conviction of things not seen.”


a. This may simply be a restating of the same thing in different words.
b. Faith is the proof, the verification, the certainty of the things which are not visible.
Again, it is the conviction that what I do not now see, that that which is far off, is
actually mine. I can see it through the eyes of faith.
c. Again, Edwards writes, “’Faith is the evidence of things not seen’; that is, it is their
being evident. This verse is as much as if he had said, ‘Faith is the being present of
things that are to come, and the being clearly seen of things that are not seen.’ ‘The
substance of things hoped for’ might have been translated, ‘the subsistence,’ that is,
‘their now subsisting [or “existing”]’” (Works 15:81).
d. Faith, then, is the seeing of what is promised so clearly, that it seems like a present
possession, a present reality.
e. And notice, in verse 3, that faith not only apprehends what is coming, but also sees
and believes what is past.
(i) “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so
that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (v. 3).
(ii) No one was present at the beginning to see the creation of the world.
(iii) But God has told us in His Word what He did. He told us that He prepared the
world by His Word, so that what now appears was not made from the things
which can be seen. God made it out of nothing. And since nothing is not
something which can be used to make things out of, what this means is that God
did not make the world out of anything which existed previously, but He made an
entirely new thing.
(iv) This should serve as a warning to us when listening to the non-Christian
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scientists who believe that all things can be explained by the processes which are
going on today. They reject the idea of God and of the supernatural, and so look
for other ways in which it might have happened.
(v) But the scientist wasn’t there. He didn’t see what happened.
(vi) But God was there, and He has told us how He did it. He used processes
which are not normal, but supernatural. He used His almighty power and spoke
it into existence.
(vii) This is something which we cannot now see, nor can we go back in time to
witness. Creation is something which happened in the past and has ceased. It is
something never to be repeated.
(viii) But we can believe it and see it through the eyes of faith, as it is recorded for
us in the Scriptures. We need only to believe the record which God has given to
us of it.

f. You can see the importance of this aspect of faith for the New Covenant. All that
we have from God, all that we possess are His oracles, the Holy Scriptures. Yes, we
have the revelation of God in nature, and we can know from this that He exists. But
it is the Scriptures which reveal Him, and His salvation, and His will for our lives.
It is this, through the working of the Spirit of God, which unfolds for us all that we
are to believe and do.
g. Without the faith to apprehend these things, we have nothing: no promise, no hope
of a glorious future with the Lord, nothing.
h. But faith is able to give us the assurance that we possess all these things. It is
therefore vitally important.

III. The author to the Hebrews says, thirdly, that this kind of faith is what molded the
lives of the saints of old and what made them approved in the sight of God. “For by it
[that is, by faith], the men of old gained approval [or obtained the approval of God].”
A. What follows in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a catalog of those men and women
who had this faith and how by it they gained favor in God’s eyes.
B. To point out a few examples:
1. There was Noah, who, “being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence
prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world,
and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (v. 7).
2. There was faithful Abraham, who, “when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place
which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was
going” (v. 8).
3. There was Sarah, who “received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of
life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (v. 11).
4. There was Moses, who, “when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of
Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than
to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches
than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt,
not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (vv.
24-27).
5. And there were the Israelites, who, in their taking of the city of Jericho, simply walked
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around the city once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. All
they had was the promise of God that He would make the wall fall down at the end of
that time, and He did (v. 30; Josh. 6:1-5)!
6. The author notes in verse 13, that there were some who “died in faith, without
receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a
distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” They
gained God’s approval, for, even though they didn’t see what He had promised, yet they
believed that what He had promised, He was going to do.
7. You can gain the approval of God as well, if you believe His Word. Although you
cannot see the things which He has promised, the things which are yet future, you can
have the assurance that they are there and that they are yours, if you will take God at
His Word. And in so doing, you will also gain His approval. “Even so Abraham
believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3:6).
8. Think of the alternative.
a. The author to the Hebrews writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him,
for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those
who seek Him” (v. 6).
b. You cannot please God without faith, for if you do not believe that God exists, you
will never seek Him, and if you never seek Him, you will never have any reward
from Him.
c. It is not that God has not provided enough evidence to leave everyone inexcusable.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and
divine nature have been clearly seen,” they are even “understood through what has
been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
d. The problem is that man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (v. 18). He will
not have the knowledge of God in his mind because he hates it.
e. He does not need more evidence. What he needs is a change of heart. He needs
the working of the Spirit of God to open his eyes, to show him his danger, so that he
will seek the Lord.
f. And he also needs the working of the Spirit to remove his natural hatred and to put a
real love in his heart for God, so that he might with true affection, embrace Christ
and all of His benefits.
g. If such is the case with you this morning, if you do not possess this faith, I pray that
the Lord will open your eyes to your danger, so that you might seek Him for His
grace. I pray that He would grant you the gift of faith, so that you might come to
Him and obtain His reward.
h. And for those of you here who do know Him this morning, I pray that your eyes
would be opened more and more, that the Lord would dispel all of the darkness with
which the devil may have clouded your spiritual senses, in order that you might see
the reality of what His Word declares, and live accordingly.
i. As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, may the Lord also strengthen your
faith, so that you would be able to see the spiritual realities which accompany the
bread and wine. The Lord is present to bless. Believe Him at His Word, and you
shall have it. Amen.