Understanding God's Works
Hebrews 11:3
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…

This chapter teaches much by what it omits as well as by what it includes. There is no mention of Adam, or of Lot, or of faith during the forty years in the wilderness (see the gap between verses 29 and 30). There are several most suggestive associations. Faith is associated with hope (ver. 1), with righteousness (ver. 4), with holiness (ver. 5), with diligence (ver. 7), with trial (ver. 17), and with conflict (vers. 32-37). The element of assured confidence runs right through the chapter. Abel "obtained witness"; Enoch received a "testimony"; Abraham "looked for a city," and many of the patriarchs were "persuaded" (Gr., πειθω — the same word in Romans 8:38) that there was reality in God's promises, and that they would be fulfilled. "The evidence" (R. V., "the proving") "of things not seen." Those who believe in God's Word are not in doubt as to the existence of the things He has promised. His Word is proof positive of their reality, and if we believe that Word they become realities to us. We are just as sure of their existence as we should be if we could see them.

I. FAITH WELL GROUNDED. The Hebrews knew of but one ground of faith. It was their habit to ask, "What saith the Scriptures?" (John 7:42). The writer of this Epistle would know this, and when he spoke of faith he meant faith in the declarations of the Old Testament. This chapter from beginning to end takes us back to this Divine standard, and, without discussing the question, assumes, what every Jew would readily grant, that its statements are absolutely true. The faith of this chapter is therefore belief in the testimony of God.

II. FAITH ENLIGHTENING THE MIND. "Through faith we understand" (Gr., νόεω). Atheism is folly (Psalm 14:1). To be without faith in God's Word is to be "void of understanding" respecting His works. The history of human philosophy consists largely of a series of records of the vain efforts of men to account for the universe apart from the true cause of its origin. The variety of opinions expressed by sceptics upon the subject of the origin of the world casts discredit upon the whole of these opinions, just as half a dozen discordant testimonies in defence of a prisoner would cast discredit upon the whole case for the defence. By the light of philosophy we guess, we speculate; but "by faith we understand." Well, might the Psalmist say, "The entrance" (or opening)" "of Thy Word giveth light (Psalm 119:130). Faith sees a beginning of the universe (John 1:1). It sees "in the beginning God" (Genesis 1:1). It sees God as a Creator ("God created" Genesis 1:1). It sees Him as the author of order ("the worlds were framed"; Gr., καταρτίζω, to make thoroughly right or fit). It sees His continuous working ("the world"; Gr. αἰὼν — age. The birth of worlds was the birth of time, and therefore the history of worlds is fitly called that of the ages).

III. FAITH CONSONANT WITH REASON. The understanding approves what faith makes clear, just as the eye takes in the minute objects revealed by the microscope. It could not have seen those objects without the aid of the microscope, but, having seen them, it can admire them, and the mind, instructed by the eye, can realise and rejoice in the beauty and fitness of what is so revealed. There is much in what faith reveals that reason demands and requires. Reason tells us, for instance, that there can be no effect without a cause, and that no cause can give to an effect what it has not in itself. If we see personality in an effect, reason says there must have been personality in the cause. We see personality in man, and therefore we infer that the author of his being must have been a person. Faith satisfies this demand of reason by the revelation of a personal God. Reason connects order with the operations of mind. Type set up for the printing of a book must, it cannot but infer, have been set up by a person possessed of an amount of intelligence equal to the task. A thousand infidels could not convince a rational being that the setting up of the type was the result of chance, or that it could have been brought about in any way without the direction of a mind. Reason sees in nature the most absolute order, and it infers that if a mind is required to produce order in the setting up of the type, it is much more required in this vaster display of order which is apparent everywhere in the material universe. Faith endorses the wisdom of this inference as it gazes at nature in the light of revelation, and says with Milton: —

"These are Thy glorious works,

Parent of good, Almighty!

Thine this universal frame."Faith speaks of God ordering things "according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5), and reason hears and is satisfied.

IV. FAITH ABOVE REASON. Reason has no opportunity of observing the process by which something is made out of nothing, and so it has made the rule, "Ex nihilo, nihilfit" — out of nothing nothing comes, Now in opposition to this axiom faith recognises God as a Creator. Faith sees more than reason does, as a man looking at the stars through a good telescope sees more than another who looks with his unaided sight. One sees farther than the other, but the view spread out before the one is not necessarily in conflict with that seen by the other.

V. FAITH REGARDING THE UNSEEN. He who believes in God as the framer of the universe believes in what he has not seen. He was not present at the time of the creation. (Note the question in Job 38:4.) He has not seen, and yet he believes. This is, however, what men are doing every day. A man takes a ticket on a steamer bound for New Zealand. He has never seen New Zealand, but he so thoroughly believes in its existence that he spends his money and enters upon a long voyage that he may get there. Sight doesn't always secure certainty, and there may be the most absolute certainty without it.

(H. Thorne.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

WEB: By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible.

The Work of Creation
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