Summary: We perceive the unperceivable and we achieve the unachieveable.
Chapters 1-6: Christ is a SUPERIOR PERSON.
Chapters 7-10: Christ exercises a SUPERIOR PRIESTHOOD.
Chapters 11-13: Faith is a SUPERIOR PRINCIPLE.
Hebrews 11 is often called THE FAITH CHAPTER.
Hebrews 11:6—“WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE [GOD].”
Romans 14:23—“WHATSOEVER IS NOT OF FAITH IS SIN.”
Warren Wiersbe—“The great achievers have been the men and women who could see the invisible and strive to reach it. Explorers, inventors, liberators, and pioneers in every field have always been characterized by the steady eye that SEES THE INVISIBLE and STRIVES FOR THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE.
If you listened carefully to that statement, you now know the two things that we do by faith: BY FAITH WE PERCEIVE THE UNPERCEIVABLE and BY FAITH WE ACHIEVE THE UNACHIEVABLE.
I. BY FAITH WE PERCEIVE THE UNPERCEIVABLE (Hebrews 11:1).
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (v. 1).
A. We can see into the future.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for.”
Example: The hope of HEAVEN.
Christian faith is not a “HOPE-SO” optimism, but a “FOR-SURE” conviction.
The philosopher Epicurus, who lived several hundred years before Christ, said THE CHIEF END OF LIFE IS PLEASURE. But he was not a hedonist, as many people think. He was talking of pleasure in the long view—ultimate pleasure, not immediate, temporary gratification. He held that we should pursue that which, IN THE END, will bring the most satisfaction. Understood in the right way, this should be the Christian’s objective [John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, p. 287].
2 Peter 1:8-9—“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
Faith is THE PRESENT SUBSTANCE OF A FUTURE REALITY.
Faith is LIVING IN A HOPE SO REAL THAT IT GIVES ABSOLUTE ASSURANCE.
Faith provides THE FIRM GROUND ON WHICH WE STAND, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise.
B. We can see into the spiritual realm.
Faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:27—“By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as SEEING HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE.”
The world says, “SEEING IS BELIEVING.” God says, “BELIEVING IS SEEING.”
John 20:29—“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen men, thou hast believed: BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE NOT SEEN, AND YET HAVE BELIEVED.”
John MacArthur writes,
Faith is not a wistful longing that something may come to pass in an uncertain tomorrow. True faith is an ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, often of things that the world considers unreal and impossible. . . . If we follow a God whose audible voice we have never heard and believe in a Christ whose face we have never seen, we do so because our faith has a reality, a substance, an assurance that is unshakable [The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, p. 287].
2 Corinthians 4:18—“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are TEMPORAL; but the things which are not seen are ETERNAL.”
J. Oswald Sanders, “Faith enables the believing soul to treat THE FUTURE AS PRESENT and THE INVISIBLE AS SEEN.”
We are not in heaven yet, but with the assurance of faith, it is as if we are already there. We cannot see God with our physical eyes, but with the eye of faith we see Him.
BY FAITH WE PERCEIVE THE UNPERCEIVABLE: WE CAN SEE INTO THE FUTURE (“faith is the substance of things hoped for”) and WE CAN SEE INTO THE SPIRITUAL REALM (faith “is the evidence of things not seen”).
II. BY FAITH WE ACHIEVE THE UNACHIEVABLE (Hebrews 11:33-37).
A. We are victorious OVER difficulties too great for us (vv. 33-35a).
“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. . . .”
B. We are victorious IN difficulties too great for us (vv. 35b-37).
“. . . and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and other had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”
The transition in verse 35 is important: NOT ALL MEN AND WOMEN OF FAITH EXPERIENCED MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE. Some were tortured and even died!
The phrase, “they were sawn asunder,” may be a reference to the prophet Isaiah.