Friday, January 28, 2005

Faith is Substance

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1)
The Greek word for substance is hupostasis and refers to the underlying (hupo) state (stasis) of a thing. Similarly break down the English word “substance” and we find: sub (under) and stance (stand). Substance is that which stands under a thing.

In Greek, the word hupostasis had a legal meaning which signified a foundational document, such as a title-deed. That is why Greek scholars Moulton and Milligan rendered this translation: “Faith is the title-deed of things hoped for.”

A title-deed is an important document. It shows ownership. For example, I have a car sitting in my driveway. I know that it is my car because I possess the title-deed, which demonstrates my ownership. If anybody wants to do anything with my car, they have to come and see me, because the car belongs to me. If I decide to sell the car or give it away to somebody, I will have to sign the title-deed over to them, because that will be their proof of ownership

If I have the title-deed to a piece of property, I do not even have to see the property to know that it belongs to me. I know it is mine by reason of the title-deed. As long as I possess that title-deed, there is no question that I am the owner.

Let’s talk a little bit about hope. Today we often use the word “hope” in a wavering, doubtful sort of way: “Gee, I certainly hope such and such will happen, but maybe it won’t.” Not so in the Bible. The Greek word for “hope” in the New Testament is elpis. It refers to an anticipation, a positive expectation. The same is true of the Hebrew word for “hope” in the Old Testament. In the Bible, “hope” is not a word of doubt, but of confidence, and that is how it is used in Hebrews 11:1.

Now, let’s put it all together: Faith is the substance, the underlying reality, the title-deed of things we are expecting.

Remember that we are talking about Biblical faith, that is, the kind of faith the Bible talks about. It is the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God, the faith that believes the promises of God.

When we believe what God has promised in His Word, we possess the title-deed to whatever it is that He has promised. That thing is ours, it belongs to us. Because we have believed God’s promise, we have every right and expectation to see it come to pass. It makes no difference whether or not we have seen it yet, it belongs to us anyway.

Do you have faith that what God says is true? What promises of God are you specifically believing Him for? Do you expect to see them happen, or are you still uncertain? Remember that faith (believing the Word of God) is your title-deed to what God has promised, then your hope will be sure.


  1. Anonymous4:15 PM

    Dear Jeff,
    I enjoyed reading your article.
    Keep up with your good work for

    Yours for His glory,
    JJ Matsumoto
    Japan- US Missions,
    Tokyo, Japan

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Great article. God bless you! I have been working as a missionary in Southern Africa and was doing a study on faith and looked up the word "hupostasis" and came upon your site. Thought you might alos be interested in the following storry that I found:

    Archaeologists uncovered the burned ruins of an old inn in Northern Israel. There they found a small iron chest containing apparently the valuable papers of some Roman noblewoman who had been traveling in Israel at that time, for the purpose of checking up on her various land holdings, properties that she owned in Israel. In this little chest they found that most of the papers were labeled with a big title "hupostasis". All of these papers which had the title "Hupostasis" across the top were, guess what?--Title deeds to her properties! But this was long after the Bible was translated, so they didn't have the advantage of that discovery.

    If you want to turn to Hebrews the 11th Chapter, the word "substance" is just as good and conveys the message and I'm quite sure it's sufficient, but if you want to make it even clearer and more explicit, you can write above that word "substance", in parentheses, "title deed". Now faith is what?-The title deed!

    This Roman woman perhaps had never seen her properties she'd bought in Israel, but she knew she had them and she could prove her ownership even though she had never seen them.

    A friend gave me a car once; I got the title through the mail. Though I'd never seen the car, never driven it, didn't know what it was like, I knew I owned a car. I knew I had it because I had the title in my hand.

    If you've got real faith, even though you haven't seen the answer yet, you've got the title deed to it! What you asked for is yours; your name's written on it, and you will see it eventually-that's faith!

    Sorry, Jeff, that this is a bit long but wanted to share it with you as it inspired me.



  3. Thanks, Jim.

    Yes, faith is the "title-deed". Jesus said, "Whatever things you ask, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). The NASB has "believe that you have received them."

    That is, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that it has become your possession, because by faith, it has. Faith is the title-deed by which we can say "I have received it and it is now mine." We may not actually see it yet, but hope is the expectation that we indeed shall behold it.

    Thanks for bringing that wonderful example from archeology to my attention.

    God bless you and your work in Southern Africa.

  4. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Dear Jeff,

    I was very touched by your description of faith.