The phrase I want to launch this study with is found at the beginning of verse 3 - "By faith we understand..." Just pause before moving on to the rest of the sentence. We'll come back to that. The reason I want to start with that phrase is it seems so counter-intuitive to today's world-view. Science and education are the things that bring understanding. Faith is reserved for things no one can be dogmatic about. Faith is for things we don't or can't understand.
Or maybe we should say it differently. Faith is for privately held opinions that are religious in nature. That's why numerous "people of faith" can all hold to vastly different ideas about God and religion. And we're fine with that because, after all, these varying views are all just matters of faith.
Facts, on the other hand, like mathematics or driving on the correct side of the road, must be universally acknowledged and those holding different ideas are simply wrong. So the opposite of fact is error, whereas, unless a culture has become totally intolerant, the opposite of faith is simply another faith or ignoring faith. No real harm done.
Then we start unpacking this shocking text. And the writer has the audacity to say that it is actually faith - and one particular faith to boot - that brings soundness of understanding. And the kind of mental soundness he's talking about will include things like the beginning of time, the creation of the world, the seriousness of sin, the judgment of God, and the absolute essentiality of knowing God and the only way of properly coming to God.
And the implication of this text is there is no proper understanding of anything important apart from this specific faith. That's a culturally stunning statement. The Bible - this wildly outrageous revelation from God - is constantly doing that. It simply ignores our tastes and dares us to believe it.