The writer of Hebrews defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This definition suggests that faith is a tangible substance that exists in the physical realm. The Greek word translated faith in Hebrews 11:1, pistis is derived from the word peitho (pi’-tho) which means to convince (G3982). “Faith is of the heart, invisible to men; obedience is of the conduct and may be observed. When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God.” Jesus was able to perceive the faith of a man that was brought to him for healing. It says in Matthew 9:2, “And behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews lists numerous examples of people whose faith was seen in their actions. It says in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became the heir of righteousness which is by faith.” The intersection of the seen and unseen worlds through acts of faith may be the reason why believers are encouraged to do what God tells them to. If we only think about what God’s word says, our imaginations are left to run wild and we are unable to distinguish between the real and unreal aspects of what we believe to be true.
It says in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6. NKJV). Everyone that has received something from God did so through an intentional effort. We do not receive things from God that we have no desire for or are unwilling to accept. The writer of Hebrews said that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. The Greek word translated diligently seek, ekzeteo (ek-zay-teh’-o) means to search out and figuratively can refer to craving or demanding something (G1567). What this seems to suggest is that faith is like a magnet that draws us to God. It is a divine force that God uses to accomplish will.
Interjected in the long list of acts of faith that are recorded in Hebrews chapter eleven are references to the fact that all of the Old Testament believers died without receiving the promises of God (Hebrews 11:13, 39). It says in Hebrews 11:40, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This statement separates those who had faith in Christ before he was born from those who have believed in him since. It seems likely that the better thing that was provided for us is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which helps us to discern God’s will. Faith may be the thing that draws us to God, but the energy or supernatural force that causes us to act comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples that they would “receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
The seam that holds Old and New Testament believers together in their acts of faith is the building up or edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). The Apostle Paul declared about the unity of the Spirit that, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). I believe the writer of Hebrews used examples of Old Testament believers to inspire those who came into God’s family after Jesus’ death and resurrection to show us that our faith is a work in progress and that we have to finish what the Old Testament believers started. He stated “that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40). Jesus talked about his own perfection and stated in his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, “I did the work You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4, NLV).