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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 11 - Verse 3

Verse 3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed. The first instance of the strength of faith, which the apostle refers to, is that by which we give credence to the declarations of the Scriptures about the work of creation, Ge 1:3, This is selected first, evidently, because it is the first thing that occurs in the Bible, or is the first thing there narrated in relation to which there is the exercise of faith. He points to no particular instance in which this faith was exercise—for none is especially mentioned—but refers to it as an illustration of the nature of faith which every one might observe in himself. The faith here exercised is confidence in the truth of the Divine declarations in regard to the creation. The meaning is, that our knowledge on this subject is a mere matter of faith in the Divine testimony. It is not that we could reason this out, and demonstrate that the worlds were thus made; it is not that profane history goes back to that period and informs us of it; it is simply that God has told us so in his word. The strength of the faith, in this case, is measured

(1.) by the fact that it is mere faith—that there is nothing else on which to rely in the case, and

(2.) by the greatness of the truth believed. After all the acts of faith which have ever been exercised in this world, perhaps there is none which is really more strong, or which requires higher confidence in God, than the declaration that this vast universe has been brought into existence by a word!

We understand. We attain to the apprehension of; we receive and comprehend the idea. Our knowledge of this fact is derived only from faith, and not from our own reasoning.

That the worlds. In Ge 1:1, it is "the heaven and the earth." The phrase which the apostle uses denotes a plurality of worlds, and is proof that he supposed there were other worlds besides our earth. How far his knowledge extended on this point we have no means of ascertaining; but there is no reason to doubt that he regarded the stars as "worlds," in some respects, like our own. On the meaning of the Greek word used here, See Barnes "Heb 1:2".

The plural form is used there also, and in both cases, it seems to me, not without design.

Were framed. It is observable that the apostle does not here use the word make or create. That which he does use —katartizw—means, to put in order, to arrange, to complete, and may be applied to that which before had an existence, and which is to be put in order or re-fitted, Mt 4:24; Mr 1:19; Mt 21:16; Heb 10:5.

The meaning here is, that they were set in order by the word of God. This implies the act of creation, but the specific idea is that of arranging them in the beautiful order in which they are now. Doddridge renders it "adjusted." Kuinoel, however, supposes that the word is used here in the sense of form or make. It has probably about the meaning which we attach to the phrase "fitting up anything"—as, for example, a dwelling—and includes all the previous arrangements, though the thing which is particularly denoted is not the making, but the arrangement. So in the work here referred to. "We arrive at the conviction that the universe was fitted up or arranged, in the present manner, by the word of God."

By the word of God. This does not mean here, by the Logos, or the second Person of the Trinity, for Paul does not use that term here or elsewhere. The word which he employs is rhmarema—meaning, properly, a word spoken, and in this place command. Comp. Ge 1:3,6,9,11,14,20; Ps 33:6; -"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." In regard to the agency of the Son of God in the work of the creation, see See Barnes "Heb 1:2; comp. See Barnes "Joh 1:3".

 

So that things which are seen. The point of the remark here is, that the visible creation was not moulded out of pre-existing materials, but was made out of nothing. In reference to the grammatical construction of the passage, see Stuart, Comm. in loc. The doctrine taught is, that matter was not eternal; that the materials of the universe, as well as the arrangements, were formed by God, and that all this was done by a simple command. The argument here, so far as it is adapted to the purpose of the apostle, seems to be, that there was nothing which appeared, or which was to be seen, that could lay the foundation of a belief that God made the worlds; and, in like manner, our faith now is not to be based on what "appears," by which we could infer or reason out what would be, but that we must exercise strong confidence in Him who had power to create the universe out of nothing. If this vast universe has been called into existence by the mere word of God, there is nothing which we may not believe he has ample power to perform.

{b} "understand" Ge 1:1; Ps 33:6

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