Faithlife
Faithlife

Hebrews 11a

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Hebrews 11:1-3… Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Commentary

One of the themes of Hebrews is enduring faith. And in the immediate context the author is exhorting his audience to endure trials and be faithful in light of God’s promises of salvation (10:36). He quotes loosely from Habakkuk 2:3-4 teaching that “the righteous shall live by faith,” and those who “shrink back” from God after professing faith in Him bring Him no pleasure (10:38). The author, for the most part, was sure of better things for his audience, although his certainty was likely only a tool of motivation to spur them onto faithfulness, to the “preserving of the soul” and not to the falling away from God which leads to eternal destruction (10:39).

Since Jesus Christ is superior to all others, placing one’s faith in him upon receiving the knowledge of the Truth is the next logical step. Hebrews 11 gives not only a description of faith (11:1-3) but provides examples of faithful saints (11:4-40). First, faith believes God’s word: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” “Assurance” means “to support; to stand under” – like the foundation which supports a house God’s word assures the believer. And since the word “assurance” is translated “exact representation” in Heb. 1:3, God’s word is the exact representation of who He is. His words can be believed and counted upon. Jesus proved himself to be God in the flesh, for “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14), and because of the reality of what He accomplished on the cross as God, believers in Him have evidence (“conviction”) that what they don’t see currently is already a reality in the future, namely, their salvation. They know this because God’s word teaches this, and they believe it.

Second, faith gains the approval of God (v. 2). The saints of old gained salvation the same way modern-day Christians attain it – through faith in God! Their faith pleased God, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). These saints of old bore fruit in keeping with their faith, for none of them wandered about with blind optimism merely wishing God to be true or acting superstitiously. Neither did they gain salvation by merely acknowledging history and doctrine. They gained God’s approval simply because they believed God in spite of their surroundings and the consequences they faced by believing in Him.

Third, faith acknowledges the power of God (v. 3). No doubt the author had Genesis 1:1 in mind when he said, “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God…” The author has already asserted his knowledge of this in Heb. 1:2 when he spoke of Jesus Christ’s share in the creation (cf. Col. 1:15-16). So to reject Jesus as the Creator of all things is to reject Christ at his earliest appearance in Scripture as God Almighty! And to do that is to reject the first tenet of faith: simply believing God’s word (v. 1).

Food for Thought

Faith is to a Christian what a root is to a tree. It provides support and assurance of salvation. That root then produces a shoot, as it were, which is evidence of life in the tree and nourishment in the root. Then it produces a fruit which nourishes those who partake and in turn creates more seeds that can take root and start the whole process over again. So true faith is about a root, a shoot, and a fruit – all three of which work together in God’s plan to multiply and make more and more disciples of faith in Christ. May we be about the task of planting the seeds of faith (evangelizing) and of watering those seeds (preaching all that Christ taught). Only then can we sit back and watch God cause growth (cf. 1 Cor. 3:5-9). It all starts with faith in Christ.

Hebrews 10:39-11:2… But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.

Commentary

One of the themes of Hebrews is enduring faith. And in the immediate context the author is exhorting his audience to endure trials and be faithful in light of God’s promises of salvation (10:36). He quotes loosely from Habakkuk 2:3-4 teaching that “the righteous shall live by faith,” and those who “shrink back” from God after professing faith in Him bring Him no pleasure (10:38). The author, for the most part, was sure of better things for his audience, although his certainty was likely only a tool of motivation to spur them onto faithfulness, to the “preserving of the soul” and not to the falling away from God which leads to eternal destruction (10:39).

Now that Jesus Christ has been shown to be a superior to all others, there was no longer any real reason not to place one’s full faith in Him. So it was an appropriate time at this point in the letter for the author to give a description of faith (11:1-3) along with examples of faithful saints (11:4-40). In describing what faith is (not saving faith per se but only faith in general) the author used a parallelism in v. 1 saying, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is “assurance” (literally, “to support; to stand under”) which is the same word in Heb. 1:3 translated “exact representation.” Now the fact that Jesus is the “exact representation” of God means that those who believe in Him should have the utmost confidence in their future salvation. Because Jesus is God, and because of the reality of what He accomplished on the cross as God, believers in Him have evidence (“conviction”) that what they don’t see currently is already a reality in the future, namely, their salvation.

True faith in Christ entails believing in him with fruitful works attesting to that faith. This saving faith is not a blind optimism of wishing something to be true, and it’s not simply an intellectual understanding of history or doctrine. It’s certainly not akin to superstition or to believing something to be true in spite of the evidence. That would be credulity! Saving faith is obedience to God, with a confident assurance of His sovereignty, that exists continually and without fail in the midst of any and every circumstance in spite of any negative consequences.

Three words describe faith in vv. 1-2: assurance, conviction, and gained approval. First, the assurance of faith is support. Faith is to a Christian what a root is to a tree: it stands under it and gives support and nourishment. Second, the conviction of faith in a person’s life produces fruit, for it stems from the evidence given that what God has promised He will perform. Third, the gained approval part of faith is literally “were testified to” in Greek. This is used in reference to the long list of OT saints that the writer will use to illustrate faith in action in vv. 4-40. Each of these faithful saints lived by faith and thus gained divine approval from God, and they currently surround all faithful believers even today as proof that faith works and lives on continually as a testimony. So faith has a root (assurance), a fruit (conviction), and a shoot (gained approval).

Food for Thought

Faith enables Christians to understand what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. It enables us to worship God, live in quiet assurance of our future salvation, and witness to others to who don’t have faith in Christ. By faith we live beyond ourselves and unto God who is high above us and far beyond us – all in keeping with the evidence of God’s reality apart from wishful thinking. But faith is not to be worshipped. We don’t have faith in faith; we have faith in God, for it is the object of our faith that saves us, not simply faith in faith.

Hebrews 11:4… By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Commentary

In speaking of Abel the writer references the account in Genesis 4:1-16. Abel was a son of Adam and Eve, and he was a righteous man. He had at least one brother named Cain. Now without God’s written word Abel knew what God required for atonement for sins and for worship. As a shepherd of the flocks he took from his own and offered it to God as a blood sacrifice for worship. Cain, on the other hand, was a farmer, and he brought some of the produce from his land as an offering unto God. The “offering” is a word for “gift” and “tribute.” Now in Genesis 4 there was no law which mandated these men to bring various animals and/or fruits of the ground. God had apparently made it clear to them, however, to bring such for tribute.

Abel’s offering came from the “firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.” Cain’s, however, is just called “an offering.” Both men brought offerings to the Lord as an act of worship in spite of the fact that there was no known commandment to do so. But God had “regard” for Abel’s offering and had no regard for Cain’s. The Hebrew word for “regard” means “to gaze at; to look on with favor,” and God clearly gazed upon Abel’s better offering, for he had brought the best of what he had without keeping it for himself. Cain’s offering was inferior.

Cain’s offering, though an offering to God in and of itself, was unacceptable. God had no regard for it and did not gaze upon it with delight. Of course this angered Cain, and he eventually murdered Abel in a jealous rage. His childlike and immature offering was akin to his childlike outburst of anger – a sure-fire indicator of any man’s spiritual immaturity and lack of faith.

Though some regard the narratives of Genesis 1-11 as mythological, Jesus didn’t. He knew Abel not only as an historical figure but as a dead man who still preached! Jesus called the blood of Abel “righteous blood” (Matt. 23:35), and John called Abel’s deeds “righteous” (1 John 3:12) in comparison to Cain’s sinful desires. And God bore witness to Abel’s righteousness by accepting his gifts of worship and “testifying about his gifts” (v. 4). The word “testify” means “witness; martyr,” and it is in an ongoing present tense in Greek signifying an eternal witness to Abel’s faith by God. Abel’s sacrifice, even though he died soon thereafter, became a witness to the truth about what true faith is. And even though he’s dead, he still speaks!

How does Abel still preach? The account of his faithful offering speaks to every generation even today, for it teaches believers that the quality of their worship is as important as the motive for their worship. It teaches that giving money, time, and service to Christ must be an outward manifestation of love and devotion – a reflection of one’s heart. God sees not only the sacrifice given to Him but the motivation for the sacrifice. And Abel’s blood also reminds believers of the most important sacrifice ever made: “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:24).

Food for Thought

True faith manifests itself in our lives through acceptable worship. Faith is our response to what God has said in His word, and we measure it by evaluating how seriously we take Him. Our response is not to be like Cain who merely agreed with God about worship; our response acts on what God has told us in Scripture. Cain came to worship God too, but what he offered was not received. Sadly, many people today assemble for worship but are in the same category as Cain. Their faith is merely intellectual agreement with God with no actions. Dead faith!

Hebrews 11:5-6… By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And 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 seek Him.

Commentary

One with true and saving faith in Christ is one who continually offers himself to God. His worship isn’t a weekly thing or an annual gathering, it’s a daily walk with Christ. Everything he has belongs to God, and he offers it all to God by holding on loosely to it and making it available to others. Enoch was such a man, and like Abel, though he’s dead, his faith still speaks today.

In Genesis 5:22-23 Enoch is said to have “walked with God.” But his life is unique because he never actually died – “he was not, for God took him.” His “walking with God” is an expression in the Bible used to denote his fellowship with God through obedience to Him. This type of relationship with God is taught throughout the NT. Enoch didn’t die because he pleased God, and so God, for whatever reason, took him. He is only one of two men (Elijah) in the Bible who never tasted death but was taken alive by God before they died.

Some have assumed that like all believers Enoch too experienced a beginning in his faith and that this beginning began after he had children. Genesis 5:22 says that Enoch walked with God after he had Methuselah. It is possible that becoming a father caused Enoch to realize his spiritual condition and moral depravity, so he got his life together and began to walk with God. He probably knew, like most parents, that walking with God would prove far more beneficial to his children than merely talking about God. Whatever the reason Enoch began to walk with God, it is clear that God was pleased with his obedience, and before he died God took him.

Clearly Enoch’s walk with God included bold preaching about the judgment of God. Jude 14-15 records Enoch’s preaching: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Enoch’s preaching against sin, coupled by his close walk with God, pleased God. This proves that Enoch did not merely believe in God’s existence and His goodness, but that he also believed in God’s judgment against sin. He took God seriously, sought Him, and drew near to Him.

            Verse 6 teaches that without faith it is impossible to please God. Enoch pleased God because he had faith in God – faith expressing itself through works and bold preaching. He knew God to be one who kept His word, for he lived during a time when death was prevalent. And death was exactly what God had promised to Adam if he sinned. Enoch’s account in Genesis 5 sits right in the middle of God’s fulfilled promise to punish sin with death. He, like many people, likely looked around at all the death and suffering around him caused by sin and decided to get right with God. And get right with God he did! His transformed life brought pleasure to God.

Food for Thought

Walking daily with God must be the quest of every believer who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation. Many assume they walk with God when they go to church, but if going to church is a substitute for a daily walk with God, then you’re in trouble. But if going to a Bible-teaching church is a supplement to your walk with Christ, then attending church will be all that it should be for you. Allow the pastor’s sermon and your group Bible studies to supplement your walk with Christ and to infiltrate every thought and action you do, for it should all fit together with your individual time of study and fellowship with Christ at home. And remember Enoch!

Hebrews 11:7… By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Commentary

Noah is a perfect example of a believer as defined in Heb. 11:1, for he believed God’s word, attained God’s approval, and he recognized God’s ability to destroy the earth with water even before He did it, believing in both His judgment and His salvation. Genesis 6:9 says that, like Enoch, Noah walked with God. And though he was a sinful man (as all men are) Noah was found to be “blameless” in God’s eyes in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation.

Noah was eager to listen to and obey God, for when God told him He was going to flood the earth Noah could have had no idea what that meant. After all, it had never rained on the earth in Noah’s day. God had been watering the land with a mist that went up from the land that watered it (Gen. 2:6). But when God told Noah that man’s days were only 120 more years (Gen. 6:3) and that he needed to build and ark to preserve himself, Noah believed God and went to work. He was attentive to God, ready and willing to obey Him at any cost.

Noah is a fascinating Bible character because his faith in God was so strong. The events God spoke of were yet unseen, yet he went right to work building a mammoth boat. In doing so he most likely incurred great ridicule from the world around him, but his actions pleased God. Peter called Noah a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5), so it’s likely that Noah spent his 120 years not only building the ark but preaching repentance. And his faith obviously led him to build the ark according to God’s standards – far larger than was needed – because he probably believed many would repent and board the ark with him and his family.

In the end, no one listened to Noah, but Noah listened to God. As a result of his persistent obedience Noah attained salvation, an eternal testimony, and righteousness. Righteousness is what people receive from God when they believe God (Gen. 15:6). First, he and his family were saved from the flood while all other inhabitants on the earth died. Second, his testimony is still being given today through the inspired Scriptures and through preachers who expound on what he did. Third, he achieved righteousness through a faith that worked. He didn’t just say he believed God, he got busy and let his actions back those words up.

Noah “did all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22), and in so doing became “an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Noah, like all those with true faith, did not live for passing moment but lived for the future. He knew there was a better life ahead of him through obeying God and doing what must have seemed ridiculous at the time. But Noah also must have looked at his immediate circumstances. He saw the depravity of the world around him, and as a blameless man he knew that God was not honored. Like Enoch he must have preached with a hard-core message of repentance which leads to salvation. He certainly didn’t gloss over the sin of his day by ignoring it, holding marriage seminars, and pushing “your best life now.”

Food for Thought

If given a large lump sum of money those without saving faith will most likely use it for their own pleasure. And those who are given an opportunity for illicit sex will likely act on their sensual desires. Why? Because they possess no discernment for the present or the future. On the other hand, for the Christian, pleasing God is of the greatest possible importance. He looks at his present situation and evaluates the future as well, setting his heart on gaining God’s approval rather than man’s. He will endure any ridicule for the sake of God’s name. That’s saving faith.

 

Hebrews 11:1-7

·         Need: Strong faith in Christ

·         Problem: no faith; no motivation to seek truth (read, study, pray ) or to investigate God.

·         Solution: Reading the Bible; a Bible-teaching church; studies that expose the Truth.

·         Question: Do you believe Christ died and rose again? How has that affected your life?

o    Do you believe in Christ but spend no time in the secret place for prayer?

o    Do you acknowledge that all you have is from Him but give back none?

o    Do you believe in His peace but worry about your life and death?

o    Did you place your faith in Him but rely on the world to make you happy?

o    Do you see your kids as gifts from God but don’t discipline and teach them?

o    Do you believe in God’s omniscience but adhere to evolutionary teachings?

I)        Definition of Faith (11:1-3)

A)      Faith Accepts God’s Word (1)

1)       Faith – to trust; believe; be in a state of certainty

2)       Assurance – stand under; support; certainty; begats patience. We are true partakers of Christ if we hold firm in our certainty of the faith (Heb. 3:14).

3)       Hope – certain expectation believed with confidence.

(a)     Earthly hope is merely wishful thinking; no guarantees this side of glory.

(b)     Heavenly hope reflects strong faith in a God whose sovereign plan will be.

(c)     Hope results from studying God and his track record.

4)       Conviction – evidences; proof; expose; refute; rebuke (“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righeousness; so that the man of God may be adequate and equipped for every good work.”)

5)       Things – events; undertaking; lawsuits (in this case they are “unseen” events).

B)      Faith Wins God’s Approval (2)

·         Gained approval – to witness; to give testimony; to speak well of.

C)      Faith Recognizes God’s Power (3)

1.       Understand – (noeo) to receive w/reflective intelligence… the reflection of the mind based upon the seeing with one’s eyes. Never used of sight exclusively in the NT.

2.       Worlds – literally “ages”… all that exists in time periods.

3.       Prepared – make adequate; furnish completely; put in order (anthropic principle)

4.       Word of God – (rhema) God’s articulate utterance; He called it all into existence.

5.       Seen – literally “shining things”; that which shines was not made from visibles.

II)     Three Righteous Men (11:4-7)

A)      Abel understood his obligation to God (4)

1)       Jesus called Abel’s blood “righteous” (Matt. 23:35)

2)       John called Abel’s deeds “righteous” (1 John 3:12)

3)       The quality of our offering is to be as upstanding as our motive – a view to the heart.

4)       Cain agreed w/God about worship; Abel acted on it.

5)       Abel’s blood reminds us of Jesus… “the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:24).

B)      Enoch maintained his walk with God (5-6)

1)       Walked daily with God

2)       His walk included bold preaching (Jude 14-15)

3)       He believed in God’s goodness, in man’s sin, and God’s judgment

4)       Pleased God with his faith (IMPOSSIBLE without it).

C)      Noah rendered obedience to God (7)

1)       Was blameless (6:9) in a crooked generation; did all that God commanded (6:22)

2)       Believed God’s word, attained approval, recognized God’s ability to destroy the earth

3)       Ready and willing to obey at any cost.

4)       A “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5) likely for 120 years.

5)       He lived for and hoped for the future, all in light of his present situation.

III)   Concluding thoughts

A)      Those of the past lived in the dim light; we live in the full light of Christ.

B)      It matters what you believe; faith in the right thing brings salvation.

C)      Faith says Amen to everything God has said – even Genesis 1-11.

Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ

Now faith is (PAI)                          of being hoped (PPPtcp)    assurance,              of events                      proof         not                   

βλεπομένων. 2 ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. 3 Πίστει

being seen (PPPtcp).         In      this           for          testified (API)              the men of old.                         By faith

νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ, εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ

we understand (PAI) to be put in order (RPIn) the ages     in word           of God, into the not from

φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι. 4 Πίστει πλείονα θυσίαν Ἅβελ

shining (PMPtcp)      the being seen (PPPtcp)   to have become (RAIn). By faith more              sacrifice            Abel       

παρὰ Κάϊν προσήνεγκεν τῷ θεῷ, διʼ ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη εἶναι δίκαιος,

than        Cain        offered (AAI)                 to    God,        through which he was testified (AFI) to be (PAIn) right,

μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ διʼ αὐτῆς ἀποθανὼν

testifying (PAPtcp)           upon the            gifts        of him          of the God, and      through it     having died (AAPtcp)

ἔτι λαλεῖ. 5 Πίστει Ἑνὼχ μετετέθη τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον, καὶ οὐχ

he still speaks (PAI). By faith   Enoch    was changed (API) not          to see (AAIn) death,     and         not

ηὑρίσκετο διότι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν θεός. πρὸ γὰρ τῆς μεταθέσεως

he was found (IAI) because changed (AAI)    him          the God.                 For before the change

μεμαρτύρηται εὐαρεστηκέναι τῷ θεῷ· 6 χωρὶς δὲ πίστεως ἀδύνατον

he has been testified (RPI) to be well-pleasing (RAIn) to God;       but without faith            impossible

εὐαρεστῆσαι· πιστεῦσαι γὰρ δεῖ τὸν προσερχόμενον τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἔστιν

to well please (AAIn). To trust (AAIn)   for   it is necessary (PAI) the one coming (PMPtcp) to God that he is (PAI)

καὶ τοῖς ἐκζητοῦσιν αὐτὸν μισθαποδότης γίνεται. 7 Πίστει χρηματισθεὶς

and to the ones seeking out (PAPtcp) him wage gives back             he becomes (PMI).

Νῶε περὶ τῶν μηδέπω βλεπομένων, εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασεν κιβωτὸν

εἰς σωτηρίαν τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ διʼ ἧς κατέκρινεν τὸν κόσμον, καὶ τῆς

κατὰ πίστιν δικαιοσύνης ἐγένετο κληρονόμος.

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