The apostle Paul makes two interesting statements in 2 Corinthians concerning himself and every real Christian. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)
What is Paul saying?
He is not saying a Christian’s faith is blind as some accuse us. He is saying that Christians are not to live by what we see and hear around us, but by the facts the invisible God has revealed to us in the Bible.
He is saying we must trust God and His Word, especially His promises to us, despite what anyone says to the contrary or whatever our circumstances may be. This is walking by faith and not by sight.
In Hebrews 10:38 Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted, “But my righteous servant shall live by faith.”
The following chapter, often called “the faith chapter,” gives example after example of people in the Old Testament who lived by faith.
Hebrews 11:1 describes faith this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is the same thing Paul wrote above. Christians have set their hopes on the things God has revealed to us. We are certain and convinced by God’s grace they are true.
Notice the first thing Christians are convinced of: “By faith we understand that the universe was made by the word of God, so that what is ‘seen’ was not made out of things that are ‘visible.’” (verse 3)
True Christian faith believes God spoke the universe into existence. We live in light of that fact, yet none of us saw it happen.
Let’s look at a few believers mentioned in the chapter.
First, we read of Adam and Eve’s second son Abel. “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous … .” (verse 4) Abel offered God his heart and his sacrifice as God had revealed. He became the first martyr at the hands of his brother Cain.
Enoch was taken up to God without dying. He was commended as having pleased God. Verse 6 tells us it is impossible to please God without faith. Why? “ … for he who would draw near to God must believe that he is and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Faith not sight)
Next, we read of Noah. “By faith Noah, being warned by God of coming events as yet unseen, (unseen and seemingly impossible) in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” (verse 7) Imagine the abuse and mockery Noah endured for the 100 years it took him to build that ark, all the while telling his contemporaries to turn from their sin.
Otherwise, God would destroy them in the coming flood. Noah lived by faith.
Abraham is next. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going.” (verse 8) He traveled over 1,000 miles and when he got there, he lived in tents for about 100 years, and all he ever owned was a small tract of land on which he buried his wife Sarah.
What sustained him all those years?
Abraham believed what was unseen. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (verse 10)
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised (unseen), but having seen them (by faith), and greeted them from afar and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
The apostle John describes what was shown him of that heavenly city in the last two chapters of the Bible. This is the same eternal city every Christian has been promised and is assured of. This is just one reason we live by faith and not by sight.