Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for'(Hebrews 11:1-2).
Faith is one of the most important bedrock principles in the scriptures. Faith connects us with forgiveness, redemption, and ultimately heaven. Hebrews 11:1 emphasizes a certainty in what we hope for when we have faith.
The word translated "being sure" (hypostasis), in the vernacular of the first century, referred to "the whole body of documents bearing on the ownership of a person's property, deposited in the archives, and forming the evidence of ownership." That is, it refers to one's property or effects. Thus a leading lexicon translates this verse, "Faith is the title deed of things hoped for."
In New Testament times, there was a woman who had lost a judicial decision in a lower court involving the ownership of a piece of land. Not satisfied with the decision, she sent her slave to a higher court in another city with evidence for her appeal. While staying overnight in an inn with the evidence in a stone box, the inn burned to the ground. Upon excavation 2000 years later, the box contained a statement that her "hypostasis" for the land was attached. The attachment was the title deed for the property.
Therefore, "faith" is actually ironclad evidence that we possess what we hope for. As a result of faith, what did the ancients hope for in the context of Hebrews 11? They hoped for the city with foundations whose architect is God (v. 10), the rewards that come from earnestly seeking him (v. 6), the heavenly country (v. 16) and the fulfillment of the promises of God for their life (vv.11-12).
What an incredible thought! Our faith, even if it is only the size of a mustard seed, is the title deed to our place in the heavenly city! Faith enabled followers of God to endure tremendous challenges, torture, persecution, mistreatment and even death. Because of our faith, we will be hard pressed, persecuted, distressed, forsaken, tempted and called on to endure many trials. We can be struggling, but as long as we have faith, God guarantees us that we are His people and that we have treasures stored in heaven (Matthew 6:20). Our faith assures us that God will fulfill all His promises to us.
Peter vividly describes the importance of our faith and why it must be the focal point of our lives: "...you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:5-9).
- Dan Demshar
This is another article in the series "What Did First Century Disciples Hear?" by Dan Demshar. Dan has an M.A. in Biblical Languages from Abilene Christian University.