Home > Bible Study, Hebrews, S. Lewis Johnson > Hebrews 11: The Characteristics of Faith

Hebrews 11: The Characteristics of Faith


Listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s teachings, I am continually impressed by the richness and depth of good expository teaching.  Consider the first verses of Hebrews 11, a familiar chapter with familiar verses about faith.  SLJ neatly summarizes some interesting points.

The chapter includes several contrasts, showing a faith that operates in several directions:

  • faith in God, against the world

verse 7:  Noah; verse 38: Of whom the world was not worthy

  • faith in the invisible, against the visible:  the conviction of things that we do not see
  • faith in the future, against the present

verse 10, Abraham waiting for the city which has foundations
verse 13, these all died in faith, not having received the promises
verse 20, “concerning things to come”

So these are the characteristic things of faith.  It has to do with belief in the certainty of the divine future.  The verdict of history is, of course, that this is true.  That those who do trust in the Lord God, ultimately, win out.

Verse 1 includes the word “assurance” (ESV), also translated “substance” (KJV).  Interesting to note, here, is that the Greek term is one that could mean “substance” but can also mean “assurance.”  Those words convey different ideas:  substance is in reference to objective realities, that which we look toward.  Assurance is subjective, the inward sense.  So is faith “that which gives us an inward sense of assurance, for the fulfillment of the promises?  Or, is faith itself the substance of the things hoped for?”  As S. Lewis Johnson notes, some of the distinction here may be the quibbling of theologians, because both are true:  faith involves objective reality, the “substance,” as well as our own subjective assurance.

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