The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a convicting read, frequently referred to as “The Great Roll Call of Faith.” That’s an apt description for a chapter forty verses long wherein name after name after name after name is called out, noted for inspiring faith in the face of horrific opposition.
The chapter opens like this:
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. – Hebrews 11:1-2, ESV
At that juncture we would expect the author to begin listing the names of those commended people, right? The very list that comprises the remainder of the chapter – but no. That’s not what he does. Check out the next verse.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. – Hebrews 11:3, ESV
In the opening statement the writer gives us a fascinating, memorable description of faith. Then he tells us that by that faith people of old received their commendation. We would expect him to start right there, telling us about those people. Instead, he makes a statement about our faith and how it helps us understand that the universe was created by God’s word.
The foundation – the bedrock of the forthcoming parade of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven is the fact of God’s sovereignty in creating ex nihilo. Everything from nothing. God spoke, and it became. There was no protracted, naturalistic, theistic evolutionary chance random process.
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth. – Psalm 33:6, NIV-1978
There was nothing. God spoke. There was something.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded , and it stood firm. – Psalm 33:9, NIV-1978
Jesus Christ, the Logos of God,1 created light, space, thought, time, sound, color, energy, matter, relationship, dimension. If it exists, Jesus spoke it into reality.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. – Colossians 1:16, NIV-1978
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. – John 1:3, NIV-1978
Through Jesus the “aions” were made – the very space-time continuum was called into existence via the utterance of God. That’s mind-blowing!
Immediately prior to making this “faith statement” based on God’s creative act, the writer of Hebrews taps into the well-known quote from Habakkuk – “My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”2 And he concludes that by saying:
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. – Hebrews 10:39, ESV
We cannot miss the reality that sandwiched between statements regarding the importance of our faith and the upcoming parade of faith examples is this statement regarding the foundation of our faith, and that foundation is the fact that God created. Supernatural creation heads the list of the Roll Call of Faith. Do not “shrink back” from that truth.
1. John 1:1
2. Hebrews 10:38, ESV