Monday, August 4, 2008

Faith is Reality

Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 HCSB)
Last week a bought a new little pocket Bible (it was on sale). I got it, not only because it was a handy size and with a comfortable font, but also because it was a version I did not have, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I flipped through it a bit, checking out how it rendered some of the passages I am very familiar with, and I was impressed with how it translated Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”

Faith is the reality. Other versions have it as
  • Faith is the substance. (KJV)
  • Faith is being sure. (NIV)
  • Faith is the assurance. (NASB, ESV)
  • Faith is a well-grounded assurance. (Weymouth)
  • Faith is … a confidence. (Young’s Literal Translation)
  • Faith is … the firm foundation. (The Message)
  • Faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed). (AMP)
  • Faith gives substance. (Revised English Bible)
The Greek word is hypostasis, a compound of hypo (“under”) and stasis (“state”). The English word “substance” captures this well: sub (under) and stance (position); what is positioned underneath. Hypostasis, substance, is the underlying stance or state of a thing, or as I have called it elsewhere, the underlying reality of a thing.

The HCSB picks up on “reality,” and I think captures the Greek word very well. “Assurance” and “confidence” and “being sure” are all pretty good, but they seem to have more of a subjective element to them. But “substance” and “reality” speak of something more objective. Faith is not just about how I think about something or the sense of confidence I might have toward it. Faith is about that which is substantively real quite apart from what I might think or feel.

In biblical terms, faith is about the Word of God. As Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Faith is believing what God has said. The Word is true, not because I believe, but because God has spoken it.

Faith is based on reality, and reality is based on the Word of God. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not seen” (Hebrews 11:3). Everything that exists exists because God has spoken it into existence.

Reality is not based on what can be seen or experienced with the senses, but on what cannot be seen or felt. With out natural senses, we can see the manifestation of reality, but the reality itself lies beneath the manifestation we experience in the natural realm, in the Word of God. It is because God says it is, and faith is believing what God says.

Faith taps into the reality of what God has said. Because it is real, we can expect it to manifest. Faith is the proof, or evidence, of what cannot be seen. That is, faith is not about what can be seen, but about what God has said. Faith is the reality, and that brings great assurance.