This verse is rather difficult in most of our modern English translations. It literally says, "By faith we understand the ages to have been prepared by a saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of things appearing" (Young's Literal Translation).
The key to understanding this verse is the word translated "worlds" in modern Bibles. In the Greek, it is aioonas, which primarily means "ages" or long periods of time whose sum is eternity. For modern translations to understand this to be "worlds" distorts what the author was trying to explain. He's not talking about physical creation of the earth or matter, which "worlds" implies, but about God's sovereignty over the ages of mankind's civilizations. "Framed" is the Greek kateertisthai, meaning prepared, arranged, constituted, set in order—generally, to put a thing in its proper condition.
The Bible speaks of three distinct ages: the time before the Flood, the present, and the age to come (see II Peter 3:6; Galatians 1:4; Matthew 12:32; Luke 18:30; etc.). Other periods of time can be divided into distinct ages: The Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, the Medieval, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Modern, the Postmodern, etc. The author is telling us that the word of God "prepares," "orders," or "arranges" the ages of mankind—in other words, God is sovereignly guiding the affairs of men to bring about His ultimate purpose. As is said to Daniel, "The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whoever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17).
We know this by faith—that is, if we truly believe and trust God, that He is almighty, that He's bringing us to perfection, and that He has a purpose He's working out, we know that He is in control. We understand by what we read in His Word that He's working toward His ends, and what goes from His mouth (in terms of law, direction, and prophecy) will come to pass (Isaiah 55:10-11). When God speaks, things happen: It was by God speaking that the earth and everything in it was created (Genesis 1). The same is true of the migrations of nations, their rise and fall, the installation and removal of leaders, as well as the circumstances of His people in the church. God is on His throne, and He is governing His creation.
The last half of Hebrews 11:3 is our "proof": What we see going on in the world (during our age) has not been brought to pass by men but by the invisible God. Men think they're movers and shakers; they think they are in control. But God says here that events on this earth have their ultimate design in the invisible God; He rules over the kingdom of men.
There's an unseen hand manipulating events so that the person of faith can understand that history is not an endless cycle of repetition; it's going somewhere. God is drawing things to a conclusion. We're coming to the end of an age, and God is framing and manipulating events in preparation for this age to climax and end so a "new and better age" can begin. This verse tells us that we can see the hand of God working, not only in the big events of this world, but also in our lives if we're living by faith (II Corinthians 5:7).
"That Thing You Do!"
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; (Luke 12 :2-3)
There was recently a popular movie by this name, but it has been revolving through my head these last couple days in another sense: As a Christian, why do you do "that thing you do?"
Something prompted me to think about how and why we live our Christian life. I'm afraid that sometimes we do the things we do for all the wrong reasons. When we look at our day to day lives, are we really operating out of our love for Christ? Or are we operating in a public arena. There used to be an old saying about how the truly well mannered man uses his knife and fork properly even in private. I can't quote it exactly. But the point was that even in private, where no one else could see the man was fastidious about his manners. He wasn't using them only for show, but they were a part of him.
Where I live there are some very religious people who live straight laced lives around the area, but they whip off to Florida every so often and "dump the dresses and the long sleeved shirts" and "the straight laced moral life style." They hire a limo or "a cool car" and "live the high life" for a couple weeks. Nobody knows. They're not at home, so it doesn't matter.
Sometimes we as Christians, have the attitude, "nobody will know so it doesn't matter". Is that the way we're serving the Lord? Living only by those things that others can see? Keeping our lives straight when we're around home and church, but doing things that we know are wrong when there's no one around to see?
We're honest about paying our grocery bill when people are watching, but we eat the grapes all the way to the checkout before they're weighed. We're charitable as long as there's others around to observe our charity, but we're stingy and mean with our tenants or those who've offended us or people who don't go to "our church". We give grand testimonies with beautiful kind Christian sounding words, but we "cuss out" the dog when he gets in the way.
The people said of Jesus when he wept at Lazarus' grave, "Behold how he loved him." Do they look at our lives and say the same thing? Would they say the same thing if they could see us in our secret moments? Would they say the same thing if they could look into the deepest recesses of our Hearts?
That thing you do---Why are you doing it?
Describing in a general sense...and to a broad spectrum of Evangelical Christianity, each particular group has its own "style" that it uses to measure what it considers to be "sound preaching." Some styles are more dignified and some are more demonstrative, but all outward styles are subject to becoming mere form, judged by appearance and not by genuine spiritual content.
Preachers are great mimics, quick to copy and imitate others, both in style and content. That's how styles come about in the first place. Someone of influence and ability emerges and comes to be recognized as a great preacher and others begin to imitate him. Even if---and that's a big "if" in many cases---such a man has a genuine ministry from God, his effectiveness doesn't arise from his "style" but from God's call and anointing. Every true ministry is an "original" and it's spiritual folly to imitate. How sad it is to see carnal men become sanctimonious when they stand behind a pulpit! When God truly calls a man, he can be himself. Preaching was not meant to be a form of acting!
I vividly remember sitting in fellowship meetings of preachers and listening to them swap sermon outlines! One man had come up with a particularly clever sermon entitled, "Preaching About Nothing." He had noticed that the word "nothing" was used four times in the Book of Philippians, so naturally each main point was about one of those verses!
A few weeks later I chanced to see a church bulletin from a large church pastored by one of the other ministers who had also been in the meeting. Sure enough, the sermon title was, "Preaching About Nothing!" I'm sure if they had an outdoor sign, they probably announced it there as well!
When you build four walls around a tradition and train men to preach that body of tradition, what's left but to employ more and more clever and innovative ways of expressing it? It can become almost a game, or a form of entertainment: religious people who enjoy a skillful presentation of their cherished traditions. They swell with pride at the performance of "their" preacher, congratulating themselves on their wise choice---at least until he falls out of favor with the powers-that-be, or else he receives a "call" to a more prestigious church with a bigger salary and they are forced to begin a new talent search.
What I found both interesting and very sad in the three sermons I referred to above was that each would have received an "A Plus" grade in my Homiletics class. Each was a model of homiletic perfection, never mind that they were lifeless! What has the standard become?!
Most people have heard so little anointed preaching that they don't know the difference. Instead, they look for such things as emotion, sincerity, personal charisma, "doctrinal orthodoxy," and their accustomed style and manner. "It never occurs to anyone"(?) that a preacher can have all of those things and not even know God! Worse, the devil can anoint one of his to fit the people's concepts in order to subtly extend his evil influence. Thus, while many preachers have no anointing of any kind, some are indeed anointed---by the devil! II Cor. 11:13-15.