“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.”
Faith is a critical biblical concept. Paul defines it as one of the three chief Christian virtues (1 Cor. 13:13). Habakkuk reveals that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). “By grace [we] have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Jesus recognized the great faith of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof and that of his friends (Mark 2:1–12). Given our Lord’s commendation of faith, it is important for us to have a good grasp of this virtue. We will now pause our study of Mark’s gospel to look more closely at what the Bible says about faith. Dr. R.C. Sproul will guide us through his teaching series Faith: The Evidence of Things Unseen.
Hebrews 11:1–2 defines faith in terms of assurance and conviction. It is “the assurance of things hoped for.” Let us be clear on what Scripture means by the term hope. In everyday English, we use the term hope for things that we want to see happen but are uncertain as to whether they will actually occur. Three-year-old Jonathan might say that he hopes to get a toy fire truck for Christmas because he wants it, but he may not receive it. Biblical hope, however, includes no uncertainty. It pertains to the future, but the future to which it looks is certain. Scripturally speaking, we hope for such things as the resurrection of the dead because it is a certain event that is yet to come. We are sure that this and every other divine promise of the future will be fulfilled because we know the Lord’s trustworthy character (Ps. 22:5). Faith is the assurance of this hope because it gives what lies ahead a present reality. Faith means that we are confident today that what God has pledged to do for His people will come to pass. Hope, because it is certain, is a sure anchor for the soul that grants us subjective assurance—the personal, confident knowledge that the Lord will keep His Word (Heb. 6:13–20).
Since faith pertains to our future hope, which is yet unseen, it is understandable that faith is also described as “the conviction [‘evidence,’ in other versions] of things not seen” (11:1). We trust in things not directly accessible to our five senses, but that does not mean our faith lacks evidence. We believe based on the testimony of eyewitnesses who have seen and touched Christ (2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1–5). Faith is not blind credulity or belief for the sake of making us feel good. It is the conviction of things unseen based on the witness of reliable prophets and Apostles who had a firsthand encounter with the things—and with the Person—in which we trust.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
As we have seen, biblical faith is not naive wish fulfillment that believes in something just because it makes us feel better. Neither does it involve believing despite the evidence. Instead, biblical faith is confident trust in an objective but unseen reality for which there is much evidence. Christians have grounds to believe what they believe, and therefore we are not being irrational to believe in God and His raising of Jesus from the dead.