Hebrews 11: 1 – 16
You Got Faith?
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He Is, and that He Is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker Is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
I do not know about how you think but I am amazed at how things happen in this world. As you are aware of, we are born in sin. In fact we have three strikes against us before our feet hit the floor after a night of sleep. We have to face off with the flesh, the world, and the devil. In addition, we have to stop and just praise our Holy God for His Mercy. Do you realize how the majority of mankind is blinded? How hard it is to see the truth of The Lord Jesus Christ? How hard it is to be saved?
If you think that once the Lord Jesus Is Master of your life all is well, then think again. As newborn babies in Christ Jesus we then become exposed to all kind of nutty faiths.
There is one cult church in our area that goes over the top in their description of faith. You might have even read this in the news since it went national. This cult thinks that if you are sick then you must have sin going on in your lives. They do not believe in medicine. They believe if you do not get well then your faith is the problem. Just recently instead of taking a child to the doctors this church insisted that the parents not seek out medical care for their child. As a result of this poor and ignorant guidance the child died.
Instead of consoling the parents the church and its leaders blamed the parents for not having the right faith. How sick. The state stepped in and now both parents are in jail and their other children have been given off to other families to care for them.
We have seen thankfully a large amount of people who were help spiritually captive by this church flee and many families have started coming to our fellowship.
Today we are going to talk about faith as our Holy God teaches. As the book of Revelation informs us in chapter 22 these warnings about messing with Almighty God’s Holy Word,” 18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
The writer now takes up and expands on the word, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrink back, my soul has no pleasure in him,’ by outlining from Scripture the lives of those who have proved their righteousness by their faith. They were justified in God’s eyes by faith (Genesis 15.6) and they were then justified in men’s eyes by their works. They are intended to be a spur and encouragement to his readers as they consider the faith of those who have gone before, and see how it resulted in godly living.
He begins by analyzing what the result of faith is, and the chapter then divides up into sections in general chronological order, giving examples of faith. These begin with creation, belief in which is foundational, and proceeds through two examples which illustrate both types of Christian, those who because of their faith will be martyred, and those who will not die but will be taken up to God (1 Thessalonians 4.17; 1 Corinthians 15.52). It then continues section by section, with each section having a different emphasis, although it must be stressed that each section glides into the next, and all emphasize faith in the promises of God.
11. 1-2 ‘Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a proof (or ‘conviction’) of things not seen, for therein the elders had witness borne to them.’
This is a great chapter for me. You know my namesake – Doubting Thomas. He must have been from the state of Missouri; you know the ‘show me’ state. Thomas wanted to see The risen Lord Jesus. He did not believe that his fellow disciples actually saw the Lord. Remember what happened? In the Gospel of Matthew we read, “24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Faith is to see as substantial fact what is hoped for on the basis of taking God’s promises seriously. It is to be assured of it, and to be convinced that what God has declared will be, seeing it as proved because He said it, even when it has not yet come about and is invisible. Thus it is to accept it as proved, on the basis of His word. Faith underpins hope in respect to what God has promised. Hope looks at what is to come with confidence; faith is satisfied that it will be so. The one who believes is satisfied that God has some better thing for him who is at present not seeable with our current eyes.
This was what believers of the past did and that is why we have a record of their lives. Faith is to hear God’s word spoken by His Spirit and to respond to it. These people did not act on a whim or a conjured up belief, but on the solid basis of revelations received from God, and of the word of God, sometimes spoken, sometimes written, as it was communicated through the prophets, Abraham, Moses, and the like. They believed God and responded accordingly.
The elders are those who lived in ancient times who had witness borne to them by God of things hoped for and things not seen, which they accepted as sure through their faith, and which they passed on down to us. Our faith is in part thus based on the valid religious experience of men and women as it has been established through history, religious experience which testifies to itself in our hearts. But additionally, in these last days, as the writer has been emphasizing, it is faith in the Son Who has come and revealed Himself through His life and teaching, and through His death and resurrection.
Throughout his letter the writer of the book of Hebrews has laid great emphasis on our hope, and now he confirms that having faith is living in response to that hope, because we see that it is a certain hope. It is having confidence in God’s promises.
Faith is seen as giving us an understanding of the world as it is, and why it is as it is. Faith says it is like it is because God created it and is its invisible basis, and because God has revealed it to be so through His prophets. It also enables us to recognize that whether men die through persecution (Abel), or are translated without dying (Enoch), they share the same hope. Here the writer establishes the foundations.
11.3 ‘ By faith we understand (know in our minds) that the worlds (the ages) have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which appear.’
It is by faith that we accept that the world which endures through the ages was created by God; that it was His word that framed things as we know them; and that matter, and things as they are, were not made up of things which can be seen, but were His creation out of what was invisible, and were His handiwork.
It is through His revelation in the Scriptures that we know that God lies behind all, that there is an invisible creative power behind all things, God’s powerful creative word, on which all must continue to rely. And that all that we see, and touch, and feel was made by Him. For we have this declared in God’s revelation of Himself in Genesis 1. And it is by this that we know that the world has meaning and must also therefore come to a satisfactory conclusion.
Having laid the foundation of faith in God, as the Creator and Sustainer and Goal of the Universe, our writer will go on to describe how chosen men and women of God have responded to their Creator’s word throughout history. He does it by selecting positive acts of faith from the past as revealed in the Scriptures and in tradition. But before he does so he first selects two examples which demonstrate from the very beginning that for those who had faith, even in the beginning, their future is in God’s hands, and that life and death are also in His hands. Whether those who have faith die, or whether they are transformed while yet alive, their future is secured with God.
11.4 ‘By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts. And through it he being dead yet speaks.’
The first to reveal his faith was Abel. He was a ‘righteous one’ (Matthew 23.35) who ‘lived by faith’, and because he was righteous he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain who did not ‘do well’ (Genesis 4.7). Abel offered a lamb. He made his many offerings as soon as he received blessing, and he offered much and of the best. His heart was right towards God.
As you know the earth was cursed because of Adam and Eve’s sins. So we learn that Cain brings to our Holy God items that have been cursed by Him. It doesn’t matter if even these items were fresh and the best. They were cursed. Cain’s life was not satisfactory to God. He did not ‘do well’. His life was not pleasing to God. And when he did not receive what he thought he ought to have done, he turned sour.
Abel’s life was abruptly cut short by a persecutor - ‘And through it he being dead yet speaks. We are taught that even from the beginning the unrighteous persecuted the righteous. For him death was not the end. His life continued to speak on. Persecutors cannot destroy those who are God’s. And so his life speaks on now to those who are being similarly dealt with. He is the first of many who witness to God’s people. His death says, ‘Do not be afraid of what the world can do to you. For you are God’s and your usefulness will live on. Death is not the end. God Is in control’
We need to see here that death did not prove that he was displeasing to God. Rather it proved, because it was at the hand of a persecutor that God was with him. Thus can all who face persecution look to Abel, who was faithful unto death.
11.5 ‘By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him: for he has had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing to God.’
Enoch is listed as a ‘righteous one’ who was well-pleasing to God. Please note the words ‘well pleasing’. He wasn’t just pleasing to our Holy Creator but he was even more pleasing. It says in Genesis 5.22 that he walked with God. So, what does it mean to ‘walk with God’? I think that he trusted God completely. I believe that whatever thing happened to him, he just looked to our Holy Maker and in a way just said, ‘so how are you going to handle this problem Lord?’
He so pleased our Great Master that our Lord just said to him why don’t you just come home with me. Unlike Abel he did not die. Rather he just ‘disappeared’. His witness testified to his righteous life as being pleasing to God. And this all occurred because of his faith. So whether through death for His sake (verse 4) or through life for His sake (verse 5), those who trust God are blessed and their future is secure.
11.6 ‘And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to him; for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek after him.’
The introduction to the chapter and these examples bring out that without such faith we cannot please God. The one who comes to God must believe that He exists and is interested in those who are His, and must believe that He responds graciously to those who seek Him, because He has revealed it to be so. They must believe in God’s interest and goodness towards them, and in His final reward. They must look to Him personally. It is these things that will keep them firm. Thus those who would please him do so by responsive faith and those who draw back, in whom He has no pleasure, do but reveal that their faith is not genuine.
In the Gospel of Mark chapter 8 we see our Master and Lord bringing out this important fact, ““For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
The essential of the next verses are that faith resulted in positive action in the very circumstances of these people’s lives as they looked forward to the future hope promised by God. They believed God and therefore they acted according to His word in the most unusual ways
11.7 ‘By faith Noah, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith’.
Noah was another who believed God. He was a righteous man in his generation (Genesis 6.9). And he believed that God watched over his future, and that in spite of threatened judgment he had a future. For when God warned him of things not yet seen, but soon coming, a great flood that would destroy the world, he was moved with godly fear and prepared the ark which resulted in the saving of ‘his house’, not only his family but ‘the house’ that would result (compare for this ‘the house of Israel’). He took God at His word and obeyed Him in all He commanded. He revealed the fullness of his faith. And through his act he condemned the world. For the very building of the ark was its own declaration of the judgment that was coming on their sin, and we cannot doubt that to it were added his words as men came to question what he was doing. He could not help but become a ‘preacher of righteousness’ as the apostle Peter revealed to us in 2 Peter 2.5.
The ark took a long time in building, and we are left to speculate on the jeering, and the anger and the ridicule that was heaped on him, and the many opportunities that he had for preaching. But he persevered because he believed God. Every piece of material added to the ark added also to his future blessing, for it was evidence of his faith.
11.8 ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and he went out, not knowing where he went.’
Noah’s faith pointed to judgment on the world, and preserved alive a remnant to go into the future. But now arose one who would offer hope to the whole world (Genesis 12.3). Abraham also believed God, and believed that He would reward his faith. And his faith was counted for righteousness (Genesis 15.6). For when he was called by God to go to a strange and unknown country, simply on the basis that he was promised that he would receive it as an inheritance, he went, not knowing where he was going. Because he believed God, he trusted Him implicitly and was fully obedient. He too was a man of faith in God.
11.9-10 ‘By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise, for he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.’
Furthermore he continued to exercise that faith in that land, for he lived there as an alien without a home, even though it was the land of promise, and he established no city but dwelt in tents all his life, as did Isaac and Jacob his sons after him, for they too awaited the fulfillment of the promise. Only tiny portions of the land became theirs (Genesis 23.3-20; 33.19-20) but they trusted God totally that one day the promise would become a reality. They were happy to play their part in God’s purposes even though their fulfillment awaited the future. For they knew on the basis of God’s promise that that future was certain, and that one day the land would belong to their descendants, and they were willing patiently and trustfully to wait.
This was all because he looked for what God would finally provide - ‘For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God’. He was confident that one day the land would belong to his seed and that God would build a great city with everlasting, God-established, permanent foundations, which would establish them as God’s people for ever, a permanent home with sound foundations, of which God would be the architect and builder.
11.11-12 ‘By faith even Sarah herself received power for the laying down of seed when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised, for which reason also there sprang of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand, which is by the seashore, innumerable.’
We must remember that the women also had their full part. From now on the writer introduces women deliberately into each section. Here it is Sarah. Sarah finally believed God on the basis of His promise, and the result was the coming to life again of her womb so that she could bear a child, she ‘received power’. And as a result, by Abraham ‘laying down his seed’, from the laying down of the seed from one who appeared almost dead because of his great age (compare Romans 4.19), sprang through Isaac a great multitude of descendants, as many as the stars of heaven and the sand by the seashore. Out of apparent death God produced abundance of life because they believed perseveringly.
11.13 ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth.’
These all died in (literally ‘according to’) faith.’ They walked in the path of faith in the promises of God. The point is that, although they had not received the promises, they did not turn back, but believed to the end. They walked the way of faith
Let’s look again at the words ‘Not having received (the fulfillment of) the promises.’ This confirms that all along it is faith in God’s word that is in question. They did not believe in a vacuum. They believed because of God’s revelation, even though they did not receive the final consequences of those promises.
These individuals saw ahead the substance of that on which they had set their hope, on the basis of their belief in God’s revelation. And by faith they welcomed it. They did not attempt to participate in the lives of those around them. They did not try to build a city. They were willing to accept that they had no settled place on earth because they looked ahead to what God was going to do. And they testified to the fact that they were God’s people waiting for what He had promised to give them.
Remember that the book of Hebrews is included in the New Testament. This continued emphasis demonstrates that the writer saw Christians as being similar. They too walk as strangers and sojourners on the earth, having no real home, awaiting the fulfillment of God’s purposes (1 Peter 2.11). Though Christ’s coming may delay, they wait with patient endurance and with confidence. They do not turn back to the things of earth. They do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen (2 Corinthians 3.17-18). They have their minds firmly set in Heaven (Colossians 3.1
11.14 ‘For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own.’
For they who declare such things, that they are ‘strangers’ and ‘sojourners’ (as those who live in a foreign land and with no permanent possession or right of citizenship), are looking forward in faith and certain hope to the great blessings that God has in store for them.
In faith they reveal quite clearly that they are seeking a country of their own.
. A place where they can worship God fully and obey Him.
. A place where they will enjoy His continual blessing and presence.
. A place where the world will affect them no longer.
. A place of peace, love and security.
. A place which is God’s inheritance.
. A place which they have not yet entered.
11.15-16 ‘And if indeed they had been mindful of that from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly, for which reason God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God. For he has prepared for them a city.’
Indeed had they been so minded they had every opportunity to return to whence they came. Had they desired to do so, they could have done so. They could have turned back from their hope. Their family was still there and they could have joined them. (Abraham in fact specifically had to forbid his servant to take Isaac back to the old land (Genesis 24.6), while Jacob’s troubles began when he did for a time settle in the old land, only for God to put pressure on him to return again to the land of promise (Genesis 31.3)). But their desire was for something better, for something heavenly.
The same is true for all who read this book. We also must not be ‘mindful’ of returning to the old ways. Our eyes must be fixed on the something better that He has revealed to us, on that which is heavenly. And if we like them do so in fixing our eyes, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah, God will not be ashamed of any one of us. He will remember us and will continue to fulfill His promises towards us. For let us recognize this, God has already prepared for them and now us a city. What their hope was and now ours is set on is already a certainty. It waits for all of us in heaven (12.22).