Hebrews 11 – Faith in Action – Part 1
“The just shall live by faith.” The Hebrew writer continues on the topic of faith into chapter 11. Those who turn back, demonstrating that they were not true believers, did not have faith. But is faith something new to the New Testament? Has God changed? What does the history of men and women that pleased God demonstrate? The writer selects 23 specific individuals or groups, elaborating minimally on some of them, to show that works demonstrate faith and that faith pleases God. Faith has always been what pleases God.
V1-3 – The Nature of Faith
What is faith? Faith is not defined in verse 1, but we are given insight to its character and nature. Things not yet possessed are imminent for the one who has faith. This confidence is only as good as the object in which we put our faith. What God has said is sure and can be held without exception.
Verse 2 first speaks about the elders. They were the men and women of the past who passed on the traditions of Judaism faithfully. It was because of their faith in God, shown in action, that people speak well of them.
Verse 3 talks about us, or “we.” Take heart that you are included by the Spirit of God in this so-called “Hall of Faith.” Why? “weunderstand that the ages were framed by the word of God.” Individuals of faith have believed as Genesis 1 says, “And God said…”, and that it came to pass. God has created time, space and matter out of the invisible. Some feel that this may be a hint that matter is composed of what is invisible, on an atomic level. It is more likely that the statement means that a Being of the unseen realm is the source for all that is visible. Let us not lose sight of the power of God in daily life.
V4-7 – Testimony of Righteousness through Faith
Three characters are examined in v4-7. The first died for faith. The second never died. The third passed through death. Abel is a picture of saints who have died. Enoch is a picture of saints who will be raptured. Noah is a picture of those who will be saved and pass through the tribulation.
Abel was a man of faith. We know this by the sacrifice that He offered. His sacrifice was out of obedience to God, and God declared that Abel was accepted by Him, not just the sacrifice. This demonstrated that He was righteous, and still demonstrates His righteousness.
Very little is said about Enoch in the OT, but there is plenty of evidence in Genesis 5 to demonstrate that he was a man of faith. First, he did not see death. God transferred him from earth to heaven without dying, and just like Elijah, men looked for him, but of course he wasn’t found. A man without faith would not have been caught away. Secondly, people said about him that “He pleased God.” How do we know that the statement of v6 is true? It’s based on Habakkuk 2:3-4, as was ch10:39. If God has no pleasure in those who do not have faith, then God has pleasure in those who do have faith. Be encouraged that God has and can take pleasure in you.
Noah’s faith was seen in the preparation of the ark. God spoke, and Noah obeyed. By building the ark, it did two things. First, “he condemned the world.” God poured out great judgment on the unbelieving world, while delivering Noah’s faithful house. Second, he “became heir of righteousness which is by faith.” It can be said that Noah believed God, and God credited to Noah righteousness.
V8-31 – Promises Held by Faith given to Abraham and Sara
In verse 8, notice Abraham’s Obedience. It was a response into the unknown. God didn’t tell him the details, but Abraham left Ur. Then V9-10, Abraham’s Look. Abraham’s look generally was not to the earth, which was demonstrated when he allowed Lot the first choice of residence, but Abraham refused all but God’s City.
Sara also was a woman of faith. V11-12 shows Sara’s Judgment, and her resting in the Promiser. By her faith she was able both to conceive and also to deliver a son though she was past the age of childbearing. Gender has no bearing on faith, but God holds and appreciates the faith of men and women alike on equal ground.
The Patriarchs and Sara all had great confidence in God’s promise which is shown in v13-16. This is demonstrated in that their words matched their works. First in V13 they were pilgrims by confession. Their actions, such as not even owning a piece of property to bury Sara, confess their faith. Secondly in v14 they were pilgrims by manifestation. It is clearly visible by their actions that they are seeking a place, a fatherland, which was not the land they were in. Next they were pilgrims by decision. Abraham left Ur, and neither he nor his sons returned to where their family had come from. They were looking for the promise of God. Lastly, in v16 they were pilgrims having aspiration. They desired something heavenly, and something with God, and due to their desires which were of faith, God is not ashamed to be called their God as He is often called in the Scriptures, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Continuing with Abraham specifically in V17-19, we think of Abraham’s calculation. What a calculation it was! Abraham knew two things. The promises that God gave to him were through Isaac and God cannot break His promise. Abraham’s conclusion? If Isaac was to be offered up, God would raise him from the dead to keep His promise. The actions of Abraham confirmed his faith in God. Be encouraged that your circumstances can never thwart the plan, purpose, and promises of God. The greater the hurdle that God must overcome to keep His promises, the greater it shows God to be.
- V10 speaks of Abraham “looking for a city.” V14 speaks of them seeking “a country.” V16 says that God “hath prepared for them a city.” What do these verses reveal to us about Abraham’s perspective on life? What should my perspective be? How does v16 gives us confidence and a hope concerning our perspective?
- V19, the word “figure” can be translated as “parable.” How was Abraham receiving Isaac back to himself a parable?