What is Faith? Hebrews 11 Explained (2024)

The book of Hebrews plunges the depths of Christianity by addressing many false beliefs, missteps and hardships that believers face. In this get-back-to-basics book, the author was writing with the purpose of clarifying that only Christ, not sacred traditions or new ideas, was to be the center of a life of faith.

It’s natural to read this book in view of our daily life, but it’s better to read it in light of who it was written to: men and women who were wrestling with faith in a life and death way that we may never experience. Hebrews wasn’t written merely for the purpose of correction or encouragement but also to fortify their souls because they were in desperate need. It is mentioned several times throughout this book that the audience was a specific group of believers who were facing persecution for their faith. With this solemn purpose in mind, we can look to Hebrews when life feels complicated, we feel our faith wavering and we need our souls realigned to truth.

Among the many topics the book covers, one topic it speaks to most extensively is faith. The author wanted the readers to hold fast to their commitment to God no matter what came their way. Faith in Christ was the foundation for this level of commitment.

According to Hebrews 11, faith is believing that God exists, that he rewards those who seek him and that we can hope in him because his promises will always be true. After the author defines faith, they put flesh on it in ways that both the intended readers and Christians today can look to to understand how to live an authentic life of faith.

What Is Faith?

Faith is defined by the Dictionary of Bible Themes as a constant outlook of trust towards God, whereby human beings abandon all reliance on their own efforts and put their full confidence in him, his word and his promises. As Christians, we know that faith is foundational to our relationship with God and we can trace that theme throughout Scripture.

Faith is the only means of salvation(Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus is the object of saving faith(Romans 3:22).

Faith shows itself through works(James 2:14).

Faith produces peace(Psalms 42:11).

Lack of faith leads to falling away from God(Hebrews 3:12).

Faith activates God’s power(Matthew 17:20).

What Is Faith According to Hebrews 11?

While the whole Bible resonates with faith, sometimes Hebrews 11 is referred to as the “faith hall of fame.” But unlike modern day halls of fame, entrance into this distinguished group wasn’t reliant on outward achievements but an inner resolution to believe God’s promises in the face of trial and adversity. Hebrews 11:1 and 6 give us the simplest definitions of faith we can find anywhere in God’s word.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."

These definitions are backed up by examples of faith throughout centuries of Bible history. Each person in the list acted with true faith, and as a result God approved them. He accepted them as his own and saved a place for them in eternity with him. The faith-filled actions of these people range from simple words they spoke to the giving of their very life. This shows us that faith permeates every area of our life and every act of faith holds weight with God.

By Faith…

By faith Abel brought a sacrifice to God that was the best of the best while his brother Cain brought a lackluster sacrifice. One had faith and believed God to be worthy and the other didn’t.

By faith Enoch walked with God despite the wickedness of the world around him.

By faith Noah believed what God said about the impending flood and build a boat 120 years before he saw a drop of rain.

By faith Abraham obeyed when God said to leave home even when he didn’t yet know where he was going.

By faith Sarah considered him faithful who had promised even though she was barren and too old to conceive. And he was faithful and she did give birth to a son.

By faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac as a sacrifice. He didn’t cling to the promise he received but considered God faithful enough to raise him from the dead.

By faith Isaac spoke future blessings on his sons Jacob and Esau. He had hope for the future because of God’s faithfulness.

By faith Jacob also had future hope in God’s promises. Just because he didn’t see the promised land in his life didn’t mean he concluded it didn’t exist. He believed his children would inherit it one day and he blessed them to do so upon his death bed.

By faith Joseph, who also lived his whole life without seeing the promised land, was confident still in God’s promise and he gave orders for his bones to be moved there one day after his death.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him to protect his life against the orders of the Pharaoh.

By faith Moses chose to be with God’s outcast people rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of the palace. By faith he left Egypt, trusted God over Pharaoh and led his people out.

By faith the Israelite people fled Egypt and against all laws of physics, crossed the Red Sea on dry land.

By faith the walls of Jericho finally fell as the Israelites saw with their own eyes the promised land and the kept promises of God.

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish because she hid the spies and therefore defied her king and trusted God for safety above all others.

By faith others were given victory in battles, saw loved ones raised back to life, were tortured because their release was dependent on renouncing their faith, they were stoned, died by the sword, were mistreated and afflicted. They all understood that God was bigger than circ*mstance and worthy of their hope no matter what they received, whether blessing or curse.

What Does It Look Like to Live by Faith?

Living by faith is a simple concept that requires massive commitment in our lives. A life of faith isn’t lived intermittently, but constantly. However, constantly isn’t the same as perfectly. The faith hall of famers had plenty of mess-ups in their stories but their faith remained constant still.

Faith requires living life as if every promise of God is true, whether we see the evidence of that or not. Faith doesn’t need to see to believe.

A life of faith starts in the heart, but always shows itself through works. In the same way, a lack of faith shows in our actions as well.

Faith sees life though the lens of eternity. It always looks towards the day when physical life ends and only spiritual life remains. Therefore, faith can tolerate pain, shame and disgrace if they are done for the glory of God.

Living a life of faith is a tall order. It requires the power and presence of God in your life. No matter how faith filled or faithless you’re currently feeling, be assured that faith comes not from those who try hard but those who lean into God hard. The disciples ask Jesus in Luke 17:5 to increase their faith and this is a prayer we also can pray. Take a moment, even now, to pray that God would grow faith within you!

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/beerphotographer

What is Faith? Hebrews 11 Explained (1)Shelby Turneris a speaker and writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She is all about helping women kick the pursuit of a picture-perfect life to the curb and inspiring them to live a purposeful life instead. She founded The Gathering, a bold, no fluff monthly event that connects women with God in a real way. She’d love for you to follow along with her on Instagram at @shelbyraeturner or connect with her on her website www.shelbyraeturner.com.

What is Faith? Hebrews 11 Explained (2024)
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