Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for,
the proof of what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 CSB)
I have often said that as we read the Bible, we should pay attention to repeated words and phrases because they show common themes in a sentence, paragraph, and book. In today’s Bible reading, “by faith” occurs 22 times in the 40 verses of Hebrews 11. I think it’s safe to say that “by faith” is the big idea of that chapter.
The writer cites examples of Old Testament saints who lived by faith in something they never got to see. They had no proof of what they believed. But they believed anyway.
You may be familiar with “Doubting Thomas”, a disciple who said that he wouldn’t believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead unless he saw Jesus and could put his finger in Jesus’ pierced hands, feet, and side. We could paraphrase his statement as, “Seeing is believing.”
But when he encountered his risen Savior, all he could say was, “My Lord and God.” (John 20:28) Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)
Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas for his unbelief without seeing; instead, He praised him for his belief. And He added that those who don’t require visual evidence are blessed.
Someone said that there is more evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus than for most other events in not-recent human history. I like the fact that in the New Testament, we have corroborating eyewitness accounts. The Bible story actually happened in real time and in real space. The Resurrection really happened. Paul even says that after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6) Imagine how long that would take to hear from five hundred witnesses in a court trial!
The Old Testament saints believed without seeing. We get to believe with seeing evidence. For Thomas, “seeing is believing.” But for those who lived by faith, “believing is seeing.”
Sometimes today, we can be so shortsighted. Even with the evidence for the Resurrection, we must remember Paul’s comment, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)
Walking by faith isn’t always easy. Jesus never promised it would be. But living by faith is the life we live.