Faith (πίστιϚ) stands in Hebrews as the supreme continuity between OT and NT worship since it functions as an essential link between the physical and metaphysical. The author of Hebrews defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Two modifiers in the author’s definition of faith reveal its connection between physical and metaphysical. First, Morris argues that ὑπόστασιϚ (“assurance,” ESV) has the idea that faith is the basis by which we know metaphysical reality. He explains:
His meaning is that there are realities for which we have no material evidence though they are not the less real for that. Faith enables us to know that they exist and, while we have no certainty apart from faith, faith does give us genuine certainty. . . . Faith is the basis, the substructure (hypostasis means lit. “that which stands under”) of all that the Christian life means, all that the Christian hopes for.1
The second word that draws a connection between the physical and the metaphysical is ἔλεγχοϚ (“conviction,” ESV), which has the idea of testing something—in this case, “things not seen” (πραγμάτων οὐ βλεπομένων). The author’s point is that faith is what allows physical beings to both know and test metaphysical reality. He removes all doubt of his emphasis in 11:3: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen [βλεπόμενα] was not made out of things that are visible [φαινομένων].” Faith is the basis for knowing and testing metaphysical truth. Without this faith, “it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (11:6). No physical person can see God or his rewards, but faith allows true believers to know and have confidence in them even though they cannot experience them with their physical senses; thus faith allows a believer to “draw near” to God in worship metaphysically.
The great “faith chapter” of Hebrews (chapter 11) highlights, then, OT saints who exhibited true faith, and several cases specifically express how these saints believed in metaphysical realities that they could not perceive with their physical senses. For example, Noah obeyed God’s instructions even though what he was warned of was yet “unseen” (βλεπομένων) (11:7). Abraham, too, obeyed God, even though he did not “know where he was going” (11:8); instead, “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:10), that metaphysical kingdom described in 12:18-29. Joseph rested in confidence in a future exodus for the Hebrew people, even though he did not experience it himself (11:22). Moses “left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (11:27). Even Jesus himself is set up as an example of one who “endured the cross” because he was looking forward to the metaphysical “joy that was set before him” (12:2). In each of these demonstrations of faith, God’s true worshipers did not rely on what they could see or touch—in fact, they never experienced the fulfillment of what they had been promised in this life. Instead “these all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (11:13); they desired “a better country”—not a physical one but “a heavenly one” (11:16) They did not rely on their physical senses but rather on the only sense that can perceive the metaphysical—faith.
- Morris, “Hebrews,” 113. [↩]