Study 11 The Hall of Faith. Part 1 Hebrews 11
We have read several times that we are to hold on to our 'confidence', do not throw away our confidence, etc.
Heb 3:6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Heb 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
Heb 10:35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
Confidence and Faith are closely related.
The Greek lexicon includes the words assurance and boldness as it relates to Christ
Here is a partial definition of Faith:
1b1) a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
1c) the religious beliefs of Christians
1d) belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
The eleventh chapter starts with a definition of faith … and then proceeds to give a list of people of the Bible who are credited with having lived by faith.
Here is the definition in the NIV:
Heb 11:1 ¶ Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Verse 2 – The 'elders' or, as the NIV says, the 'ancients' were commended for their faith. … and they will be commended further in just a few verses.
Verse 3 – We are certain that the universe was formed at God's command. God spoke (commanded) things into existence. He could take from His invisible power and being and make it visible. We believe. We are certain. Why? Because of recent evidence uncovered by Bible believing scientists? Well, that helps, for sure. But we may not always have had them around to help us be convinced that God created. So what then can we base our certainty on? Titus 1:2 … a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,...This verse give us a clue. God cannot and does not lie. Throughout scripture God has said things and followed through. We learn to trust the fact that He does not lie. Then we apply that to things about which we can have no other proof … in other words, God has never lied about things in the word, therefore why would he lie about creation?
The historical list of people who lived by and acted in faith begins here. What is the purpose of this list? These names are given to encourage the wavering Hebrew believers to hang on … and come back to a walk of faith. The list will help us to walk by faith.
- Abel. Offered a better sacrifice than Cain. God spoke well of Abel's offerings (plural). Cain's offering was a 'thank you' offering to God, for His goodness and provision. It was actually a good offering in its place. What was missing was an acknowledgment of his sin. Even today, as we approach the throne of Grace we are encouraged to first come acknowledging our sin and the blood of Jesus which cleanses us. Then we can offer our sacrifice of praise. The phrase, Abel being dead, still speaks … has the simple meaning, his action shows the necessity of atonement … that God will accept no sacrifice or gift from us until atonement by the blood of Jesus is acknowledged.
- Enoch. Ge 5:22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. (This would mean that Enoch was 65 years old before his first-born, Methuselah was born) Enoch is called a patriarch … that is a term we give to the top governing authority of a family. He would be priest and king over his clan. This verse is short but powerful. He walked with God. The scope of the book of Hebrews is to encourage us to draw near to God. Enoch did. He may have walked closer to God than any other person in history. There is a hint in the Hebrew verb, 'walked' which shows that it was by intentional choice on his part. He knew the importance of closeness to God, both for himself and for his influence over his family. There was a 'falling away' from God that really got started in his father's day and continued to increase during Enoch's lifetime. Enoch walked with God … perhaps even more closely as the evil around him increased. His son's name, Methuselah, has a translated meaning; 'When he dies it shall come'.(Methuselah died the year if the flood) Enoch was the son of Jared. We don't know much about him but I think it is safe to surmise that 'faith' is being passed down the line. Your faith can and should be passed down as well. How are we doing? Pray that we can be always more effective in passing our faith down the family line.
Heb 11:6 … anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
This verse is not describing salvation … this is before salvation. It could read, anyone who comes to him for salvation must first believe that he exists and is able to do something about my hopeless condition.
This is stronger than some of the prayers we have heard, “God, if you are up there .. please ... etc.” Adam, Eve, Abel and Cain all believed … knew … that God exists. Cain knew that God existed and was able to act. But what did Cain do wrong? He made up his own 'Yes, but what's wrong with doing it this way?' approach. That does not lead to salvation.
The term 'a rewarder' means, One who rewards or pays wages. It is meant in the good sense … that is, God gives a favorable response. But we know that God can and will act with a non-favorable response when it is appropriate.
We use the expression 'Jesus Saves'. Following what we have read about faith so far then, 1) we believe God exists (so far just like the demons do) and, 2) we believe God will reward, pay wages or act in some way. (The demons know they will get what they deserve) and because we believe these things, we act. “God you are there. God you said you save those who call on your name … so I am calling. Save me please! I am a sinner. I am headed to judgment. Based on the payment Jesus made on the cross, forgive me God!”
The Publican prayed this prayer: “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Jesus said that he went home a 'justified' man.
- We skip down to Noah. (v7) Noah believed God when He told him that it would rain. Noah had no evidence that it would ever rain. It never had rained in the history of the world so far. Genesis 2:5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and [there was] no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. Noah was moved by fear … not phobia, but the word used in the original language indicates a 'reverence toward God'. He was not motivated by his fear of dying in the flood. The verse says that Noah condemned the world. This was not an intentional act. He credited God, they did not; he walked in the way God had commanded, they did not; he repeatedly admonished them, (1Pe 3:20), they regarded it not; this drew attention to their crimes while it exalted his faith and righteousness. When ungodly people are around you, … assuming that they know you are godly … they feel condemned. That is a good thing.
- Next we look at Abraham. (v8-10) The apostle has quite a bit to say about him.
- His 'Call'. His father, Terah, appears to have been an idol worshipper. Going back to the Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth we discover that Terah was from the line of Shem. He is the first one in his line to fall away from God and start idol worship. It appears that Abram and his brothers were part of that as well. God, in his foreknowledge and plan to create the nation of Israelites, spoke to Abraham. Very likely this was the end of any idol worship. There seems to be indication in scripture that Terah repented of idol worship. Abram obeyed. He obeyed because he believed what he had just heard. God counts that kind of believing equivalent to righteousness.
- His style of living showed his faith. He lived in tents. Didn't everybody back then? No. If that were the case there would be no point in the writer even mentioning it. God had apparently talked with Abram about the New Jerusalem. Abram thought it was coming very soon, so he did not bother to build a house.
- Sarah is mentioned separately from her husband. (11-12) She is commended for her faith in believing that she would have a son. But the story is not as simple as that. She was 'barren' all her life. Then she was past normal child bearing years. Another promise of a son was made … and she laughed out loud. Still no sign of a child. She reasoned that maybe the child did not have to be her's … maybe it just had to be her husband's child. So she offered her 'hand-maid' to Abram. He did not argue (that we know of.) God made his will clear to them, that is, Sarah, you and Abram will produce a child … and she believed … and had a child.
(13-16) The actions of Sarah and Abraham … and then their descendants … by living in tents, thus declaring their belief that they were merely visitors here, was counted by God as 'Good works. Righteousness.'
- Abraham is tested. (v17-19) This is the only place in scripture where we discover what was in Abraham's reasoning when he took his son Isaac up the mountain to kill him ... at God's command. The Genesis account relays the facts, but this verse says that he had reasoned it through to the conclusion that God was going to raise him back to life. It was Abraham's belief in God's promise, “In Isaac shall your seed be called” that enabled him to 'go through with it'. His actions showed his belief (faith). God is pleased ... only with REAL faith.
- Isaac blesses Jacob and Esau ... by faith. Isaac was the son that had been promised to Abraham. Abraham had been told by God that Isaac would be come a huge nation and be a blessing to the world. Then he has twin sons. Normally a father would pass a special blessing on to the eldest son. In total faith he blesses his oldest son ... he thinks. But God had other plans. How was God going to get Isaac to bless Jacob instead? God, being God, could have used any number of ways to get His will done. In this case ... Jacob and his mother had conniving plans of their own. It was not God's will for Jacob to use lies and deceit with his father. But here is an example where God used this evil action for good. Isaac's blessing included his firm belief in the promises regarding the future – that he either heard from his father and maybe first-hand from God. Ge 27:29 Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!"
- Jacob blesses his twin grandsons. He has moved down to Egypt at the request of his son Joseph. He is old. He is bed-ridden. He is blind. God leads him to cross his hands when he blesses the boys. Joseph tries to correct him. Ge 48:18 And Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head." 19 But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations." Jacob is near death, but he rises up to a worshipful position. He knows what he is doing and he knows what he believes. He leans upon his (own) staff. I suppose he could have used Joseph's staff, but maybe there is some significance here. Ge 32:10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. His staff may represent an object of faith. It may be saying, “The owner of this staff is a traveler, a pilgrim, a temporary resident.” 1Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul
Heb 11:6 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
Ro 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Paul is 'laying it on' pretty heavy to these Hebrew Christians. Remember that these weak and backsliding Christians are not bad people.
Heb 6:9 ¶ But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Notice that Paul recognizes that they are presently 'ministering'. This means simply, they are a working church(es). But if the work is just work, and not an outworking evidence of faith … then it is not pleasing to God.
How strong are our belief's? What do we believe? Do our actions show how strong our beliefs are?