11:3 faith. The word “faith” occurs twenty-four times in this chapter, with the great theme that true saving faith (Hebrews 10:39) and faith to live by (Hebrews 10:38) will inevitably produce works of faith that demonstrate its reality (see also James 2:14-26). This has been already demonstrated by a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), whose works of faith have been described in the Old Testament, and are outlined in some cases here.
11:3 worlds. The word for “worlds” (Greek aion) was used to mean either “age” or the physical world, or both, depending on context. It seems to anticipate our present scientific understanding of the cosmos as a space/time/matter continuum. All (space, time, matter) were framed by the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (compare Hebrews 1:2; John 1:1-3,14; Psalm 33:6,9). Note also that the special creation of the universe is the very first object of this living, saving faith. Faith in redemption without faith in creation is impossible in any meaningful sense. Only the Creator can save.
11:3 things which do appear. The physical universe, therefore, was not somehow made out of pre-existing materials of any kind. Thus theistic evolution is an oxymoron. Only special creation of the worlds, accomplished merely by the omnipotent “Let there be!” of God, can account for the things that are seen. His processes of creating and making all things ex nihilo—that is, “out of nothing” but His own omnipotence—were all completed and stopped at the end of the six days of creation week (Genesis 2:1-3). His present works consist of conserving and redeeming what He has created, as confirmed by the two most basic and universal of all known scientific principles, the so-called First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. The First Law (mass/energy conservation) assures us that the universe did not create itself, as many modern physicists and New Agers imagine. The Second Law (mass/energy deterioration) assures us that the universe must have been created in the beginning and is not of infinite age—otherwise it already would have completely deteriorated into uniform stillness and death. Therefore it could only have been spoken into being by the omnipotent Word of God! Those who believe otherwise are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
11:4 Abel. This chapter confirms that the ancient heroes of faith (Abel, Enoch, Noah, etc.) were not mythological characters, nor were the events described in the Old Testament legendary events.
11:4 he was righteous. “Righteousness” has always been imputed by God to sinful men only on the basis of obedient faith in His Word. Abel’s “more excellent sacrifice” could have been pronounced such by God only on the basis that Abel believed God and offered the type of sacrifice specified by God (a slain animal, whose blood was shed as an atonement, or “covering,” for the sin of the one offering it as a substitute), whereas Cain, for reasons of pride, did not.