This topic recently came up when someone was talking about a Word of Faith ministry. They explained faith as a force. It’s the source of power that God uses to accomplish His word. They defined it as ‘faith filled words’. It was then explained that our word of faith has the power to accomplish anything. Words are containers and if we fill our words with faith, then we will have power. There are varying degrees of how this belief system plays out, but in a nutshell, it is taught that faith is a substance and we harness that substance for our use.
This is not a belief system based on the truth of scripture. I know there are those who will disagree, but rather than picking apart the beliefs of others, let’s look at how God has explain this in the Bible and let everything either stand in agreement or stand against the word of the Lord. Then let us decide which word is truly of faith.
Let’s begin with Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The Greek word translated into ‘substance’ is ‘hupostasis’, which means: strong confidence, substructure, firmness, assurance, or substance. Even if someone knows nothing about Greek, looking at the possible definitions gives a clear meaning. The words that are possible translations are not multiple meanings, but multiple word usages. Substance can be used as long as the usage conveys the idea of something that underpins or is a firm assurance. It’s substance in the sense that faith is substantive in its ability to uphold our confidence. This word is used several times in the Bible, and each time it is used to explain confidence. Here are some examples:
2 Corinthians 9:4 You should not be ashamed of this confident…
2 Cornithians 11:17 I speak foolishly…in this confident boasting…
Hebrews 3:14 …hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.
Here is a place where the word ‘substance’ is used in reference to actual substance. Luke 8:3
…and many others who provided for Him from their substance.
This is not the same Greek word as what is used in Hebrews 11. This is the word ‘huparchonta’, which means possessions, goods, or property. The misconception of faith being a substance is based on the misunderstanding of the English translation of a single word in a single verse. Out of context, this can be twisted into a wrong meaning, but it can’t be misunderstood if read in the context of the rest of the chapter. Read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11. Based on the ‘substance / assurance’ of faith, Abel pleased God and was murdered for his testimony by Cain. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelled in tents because they refused to settle into a city, but waited for the eternal promised city, whose maker is God.
We look at possessions, but these who walked by faith counted these as nothing. Look at a few more details in this chapter: Hebrews 11:13
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
36-40 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented--
38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
The Bible gives examples of those who saw the miraculous deliverance of God, and those who miraculously endured suffering. Both endured because of faith.
Now if faith is a force that gives us the power to speak our purposes into our world, why is it also used as the example of endurance of those who were mocked, beaten (scourged), sawn in two, slain by the sword, wandered in exile with nothing but animal skins for their possessions, and those who were afflicted and tormented?
The message of faith is not that we have the power to use a force for our will, but that we are so confident in God’s promises that we endure – whether we see part of that promise here, or we become the testimony of one of those who endured. I say part of the promise because even those who saw God’s blessings here didn’t count it as the fulfillment of the promise. In fact, they were willing to give up everything of this life because they had absolute assurance in the eternal promise to come.
How can a person sawn in two be an example of great faith, if faith is the power to proclaim your will and make your word fulfill what you desire to accomplish? If that’s the case, the people who were sawn in two were fools. The homeless saints of the past who had to make their own clothes as they wandered in the wilderness were also very foolish. Why would you use the substance of power to make yourself worse off? No, this passage can only make sense in light of its intended meaning. These were so sure of God’s promise that they were willing to wait with patience – even if every force of evil stood against them. They had the assurance of Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”
Job spoke these words during the darkest time of his life. Though circumstances looked hopeless, he stood on the hope of God’s promise.