Things not Seen
Last week we started a new chapter in the book of Hebrews. Chapter 11. Like I stated then: One of the challenges in preaching through this chapter is to not loose sight of the context and the context is what we spent the entirety of last week.
I told you that last week I had this idea that, in order to keep context I would try to cover from verse 1 all of the way until v16. It didn’t take long to realize that there was no way that was going to work so I decided to only spend our time on verses 1 through 6. Then 1 through 3. Finally, on Sunday morning I ended up preaching only on verse 1. — So in a way, this is part 2 of what we studied last week.
Today we are going to continue through to verse 3.
So, if you have your Bible turn to Hebrews chapter 11 and we are going to start with v1, to remind us why we have the examples faithful men and women that follow in the chapter:
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If you remember, I stated last week that Gareth Lee Cockerill summarized this verse, in this way:
Faith is living as if the things hoped for are real.
In other words, Hebrews 11:1 is not merely a definition, it is a theological treatise stating this: Faithfulness to the things of God is the evidence of belief.
And so we continue In Hebrews 11:
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 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.
The title of our message this morning is Things not Seen
One of the things that people say about Christianity that always drives me crazy is the statement that we have blind faith. This simply isn't true. Blindness throughout scripture is used to indicate the lack of spiritual site. Blindness isn't a good thing. In fact everywhere that God is presenting himself to man where God is encouraging man to come to Faith it is marked by blindness but rather by vision. Faith is the product of light not darkness.
There are those that would portray faith in God as something that is for the simple and unlearned. Not that long ago I saw something that was posted on social media, it was an image of an extensive library and a statement that in the knowledge of scholars is where they would put their faith not in a God that they didn't believe it. The irony is that the image they were showing was an image of a massive library from a Christian college. In fact what you may not know is that of the colleges, especially the most prestigious colleges were founded by churches. You may not recognize it as such because of the stances that they have taken but Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton and Rutgers were all established by Christian churches and primarily for the purpose of educating the ministers of their church. They were seminaries.
And that makes sense because what God says isn't mindlessly obey God rather what does he say?
Isaiah 1:18 (KJV 1900)
18 Come now, and let us reason together ...
Belief in God isn’t based upon irrational ideas, it isn’t some quaint tradition for the unlearned but rather an organized system of beliefs based upon a logical and learned understanding of who God is. And this pursuit of reason that we call belief not only inspired writers of voluminous systematic theology books but the construction of the libraries and colleges that contain them.
Revelation & Reason
Revelation & Reason
It is a blindness that informs our belief but rather revelation and reason. Revelation not only in the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts pointing our minds towards God, revelation not only in the inherent preserved and inspired word of God, but also revelation in the very creation of all things: a grand creation that points to a grand design which points to a grand God.
Philo said this:
that the human body was made erect so that people could look up to heaven and “apprehend clearly by means of what was visible that which was not visible.”
Things not Seen
Things not Seen
Yet still our Bible speaks of things not seen. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
This fits right in with our theme in the book of Hebrews since we spent chapter after chapter speaking of a heavenly temple which is not seen but has yet evidenced by the earthly temple which is.
We have all heard the expression seeing is believing. But in the last several years as technology advances that concept has become a little muddled. It becomes more and more amazing what can be digitally altered to trick our eyes into believing that we are seeing something that we do not. Even still, our eyes often deceive us. You likely will know that in order to help with children's ministry, years ago I took up the hobby of being an amateur illusionist. I explain over and over again that the things that I am doing are merely sleight-of-hand and misdirection but the fact remains that the entire art of illusion relies on getting someone to believe something that they think they're seeing not necessarily what they are actually seeing.
That would be a very strange concept to a Greek reader of the New Testament in the original pen. For the Greek the idea of seeing and believing were very much linked. They didn't have Photoshop or video special effects in order to fool the eyes. So seeing was believing.
There are some things that we just have to believe without sight. It's not blind faith or blind belief if you will, there are many evidences that point towards these fundamental truths, but we don't get to see Christ the way the disciples did. We don't get to witness the miracles in the way that those in Jerusalem did. Jesus had the interaction with the apostle Thomas that Thomas is most known for. Look at John chapter 20 starting in verse 26
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Thomas saw and Thomas believed. He had that experience of being able to put his finger to the scarred hands and side of the Savior.
Yet for some it is astounding how much evidence can be provided yet they will still reject God. We read Jesus is rebuke of cities where he did great works in Matthew chapter 11 from verse 20 through verse 24 (we will just read down to 21
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
You may not know the significance of the cities Chorazin, Bethsiada, Tyre and Sidon. Chorazin and Bethsiada were Jewish cities to the north of the Sea of Galilee. Tire inside on our cities that we read about all throughout the old and New Testament. They are gentile cities located about 30 miles north west of Chorazin and Bethsiada.
These would have been pagan cities that Jewish people would have had a lot of interaction with. What Jesus is saying is that if the miracles that were performed in these Jewish cities were performed in these pagan cities and the pagans would have repented and put their faith in Christ. They would have believed what I saw. Yet sadly Jesus was preaching to his own people in cities where he performed great miracles and still they rejected him.
I think that we can understand that. How many people have we shared the gospel with over and over, how many people have we reasoned with? How often do we hear of those who were in difficult circumstances and the hand of God reached down to deliver them from their affliction yet still they will not believe.
“By Faith” We
“By Faith” We
There are some things that we do not have direct evidence for and we just have to have faith. Our belief in god and our belief in holy scripture guides us into faith beyond what we can see.
The word faith is found in Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews 25 times. Mostly it is by faith this hero did this right, by faith Abraham offered Isaac by faith Noah built an ark, so forth and so on. But first three isn't about the heroes of the faith we read about in the Old Testament, verse three says through faith “we”. It's about you and I.
3 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.
Framed by the word
Framed by the word
Saying here that the worlds were framed is saying that existence was created by the word of God. Worlds here, aion is more than just earth, that is why the King James translators chose to use the word worlds, plural for this world. It has the idea of meaning everything everywhere. And what I find interesting is that word in this verse isn’t the Greek word Logos which we find associated with Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, but more generically just means — word. Now, if we dove in deeper, which we don’t have time for this morning, we would understand that Jesus We can read this as God spoke everything everywhere into existence.
I enjoy apologetics. I enjoy the reason, the philosophy that supports biblical truth. To some degree I even enjoy the argumentation of debate that comes from pitting the truths of the faith against the philosophy of unbelief. We are fortunate to have in our own backyard the creation Museum, something that is sort of the crown jewel of answers in Genesis. And while I think that the work that they do is valuable I do not believe that it is the be-all end-all of evangelism.
It says right here in Hebrews 11:3 that understanding of creation and of creation being a work of God is a byproduct of faith.
There is something that we can't see, something that is beyond us responsible for creation. That is only reasonable and it was the conclusion of just about every civilization that had been discovered prior to the modern rejection of a higher power. Whether we are talking about a tribe in Africa or a tribe in South America or North America; whether we are talking about the religions of Chinese people or Indian people or the pagans who inhabited much of what we call Europe today; what we find is that each of them acknowledge a higher power, a creator god that sets existence into motion.
To the ancient world atheism was the view of a extreme minority, a counterculture, but never a mainstream belief. They didn't have to be convinced that there was a higher power. They can see the evidence of a higher power all around them and were so wise in their own eyes to reject the evidence. But, what they didn't know was who that hire power was.
In the book of acts chapter 17 Paul comes to Mars Hill in Athens and speaks to the philosophers of God, the true God. Athens was a city that was known for all of their shrines to false gods and they had a place of warship with an inscription said to the unknown god. They didn't want to let any of these supposed deities go and feel left out. Paul wasn't giving the Athenian philosophers an argument supporting creation over some other theory as to how everything came to existence. With Paul is saying is it's this unknown god that is that God brought all into existence when he said the following starting in verse 23
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
The popular worldview of believing that everything came from nothing, the Big Bang theory, muddies things a little for us today. I do not believe that it is philosophically reasonable to conclude that something infinitely small and infinitely dense had some sort of reaction and set existence into motion and even if I did I would have to wonder where is that infinitely small and infinitely dense material came from.
Convincing you of the necessity of a creator god isn't the point of this passage. Faith is the point of this passage. Nobody simply reasons their way into the faith. The Holy Spirit hast to come ahead of time and be working on their heart and be urging them further and further into belief. It may be that a debate on creation is what God uses but ultimately you must understand that there is a God and that you have fallen short of his standard, that it is by the blood of Jesus Christ our savior that we are saved; and by putting our trust, our belief in him that we receive that salvation.
You come to believe that then the faith that comes and believe in God will also be the faith that allows you to understand that God simply spoke all things into existence. And that is where we start.
This morning, if you I've heard the message this morning can you believe that there must be some higher power but you're just not sure who? Then I will invite you after we close in prayer just a moment to come down and have a short conversation with me. I would love to show you the evidence that I have found supporting our God as the creator God. More importantly I would love to share with you the saving grace that I love and God extend it to you so the shoe might not die eternally I have Life through Jesus Christ.