Seizing the impossible


"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). It's sometimes amazing the light a Greek word sheds. One example is the word hypostasis or "substance," which is found three times in Hebrews. I've written about this before, but I'm going to take another stab at it here. In the Greek language, this word originally meant that which supports something, a deposit or sediment in the ground, or even an item of immovable property.  It came to refer in a more figurative sense to the underlying reality behind a thing.

In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is pictured as the exact representation (charakter -- used of the imprint of the likeness of the Emperor on Roman coins) of the “substance” (hupostasis) of God. Christ, in a very exact and accurate way, brought the untouchable substance of the eternal God into this flesh and blood world. The eternal reality of who and what God is in the eternal, unseen realm is made physical, earthly reality in Christ. Then in Hebrews 3:14, believers are said to share in Christ if they hold fast the beginning of their hupostasis -- meaning the substance of their faith -- to the end.

Finally, we come to Hebrews 11:1.  Here it states that faith is the "substance" of things hoped for.  There is a neat parallel here between what is said of Christ in chapter 1 and what is said of faith in chapter 11. And that shouldn't be surprising, because our faith is faith in Christ. The power of faith is in its object. Your old school experiment of a magnet drawing iron filings would be a good illustration of this. In chapter 1, Christ is said to bring the substance or reality of who God is in the eternal realm into this present material, physical and transitory world. Not only that, he does so in an entirely accurate manner (remember the charakter).

In the same way, the exercise of faith brings the things that exist in the eternal realm --  the “things hoped for” -- into flesh and blood reality in the lives of individual believers. As Christ himself brings the invisible substance of God into this physical world, so faith in Christ brings the things we hope for, the things we do not yet possess, into our possession.

This is an incredibly powerful statement about faith. Our faith in Christ reaches out for and secures what is real in the invisible world and brings it into the physical reality of this present world. The outward realities of this world, which sometimes seem to us insuperable obstacles, are in fact only passing shadows. What is real in the eternal world but has no substance in the material world gains substance through the exercise of our faith. It is this substance which enabled the heroes of faith, whose lives are recorded as chapter 11 unfolds, to conquer everything the world threw against them, and still emerge victorious, whether in life or in death.

It's time for us to be men and women of substance, who dare to seize the impossible by faith and change the world.