What is faith?
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)- Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
As a Christian I’ve been guilty of answering by quoting this passage. It’s the typical go to scripture we learned in Sunday School.
A couple months ago I was challenged to read the rest of the chapter. It’s amazing that we can take something so far out of context.
When you read Hebrews 11:2-34 you will realize that the writer was talking about the people of the Old Testament.
Hebrews 11:33-34 (ESV)-And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
They didn’t see the fruit of their faith. The fruit of their faith came through Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)- Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith.”
Let’s step back and evaluate what that says about Christianity.
Do we believe in a magical figure that we’ve never seen? No, we believe that God sent his son to live as a man and offer himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the entire world. We believe that he is currently seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Our faith has a solid focal point. Jesus is the object of our faith. We are no longer believing for a messiah. He has come. So, when someone asks what faith is, we can answer confidently that we have faith that the messiah has come. That we know him. That “a great cloud of witnesses” saw his miracles and resurrection. We no longer need to believe in something that no one has seen. Jesus revealed the Father perfectly through his life and death. We can believe in Jesus the same way that we believe George Washington existed. It’s history.
This seems really simple, but it’s a big deal when you think about how many times faith is referenced in the Bible. We don’t have to just hope that God will do what he says. We can have faith that Jesus has already made a way for us.
Side note: You could argue that since we haven't physically seen Jesus, we still believe in things that we haven't seen. That would be starting a different conversation about believing on the authority of someone else's word. I plan to write about that soon as well.