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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 8, 2012

Hebrews 11:1-40

  1. Hebrews 11:1-2. The goal of this section is to remind the people that the followers of the Lord needed faith. Building on the quoted verses from Hab 2:3-4, which stated that “the just shall live by faith”, the writer seeks to connect the faith of these believes to those that preceded them in faith. These believers have been encouraged to persevere in their faith in the midst of heavy persecution. First the writer gives a definition that parallels the faith that they must have with the same faith that God recognized in the ancient believers. This kind of faith is confident in what we believe and operates from a hopeful expectation that trusts the plan of God. This kind of faith believes God even when it does not see the manifestation of what God is saying at the time God speaks. The English word “faith” is found most often in Romans and Hebrews. It occurs 36 times in both epistles, more than in any other Old or New Testament book. Faith occurs 24 times in Hebrews chapter 11, and the expression “by faith,” which first occurs in Hebrews 11:3 is found 19 times in this chapter. Faith here is not just a matter of belief, but a matter of behavior (based upon belief). The author is not urging his readers to conjure up faith somehow, but rather to live by the faith God has given. The faith which our author emphasizes here is not primarily saving faith, but the life of faith.

  2. Verse 11:3. The writer makes a point to show that what we can all see in creation was at one point not invisible, but is now clear to all. The universe started in an invisible state, but now exists in a visible state. If things that can be seen were once invisible, then our victory in Christ which is invisible will one day become visible. From this point through the rest of the chapter, the writer will give example after example of real faith.

  3. Verse 11:4-38. The first example of faith pertains to the creation of the universe. In other words, the author starts at Genesis 1:1. Then he moves to Abel (Genesis 4) and next to Enoch (Genesis 5), then to Noah (Genesis 6-9), and then to events in the life of Abraham (Genesis 11-22), Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, all of whom are found in Genesis. Moses and Rahab are the last to be referred to in any detail. It is as though the author makes his way from Genesis to the end of the Old Testament period, citing examples of faith. It is true that the author covers the gamut of the entire Old Testament period, but most of the examples of faith that are spelled out in greater detail take place in the early history of the Old Testament (in Genesis or Exodus), while later examples are summarized and “bunched” in 11:32-38. We know that Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham lived before the law was given to Israel at Mount Sinai, so it is obvious that their righteousness is apart from law-keeping. But even when we get to Moses (who, after Abraham, is the most prominent example in chapter 11), nothing is said of him regarding the law. One has to read carefully to see this, but then it becomes apparent. The author speaks of the faith of Moses’ parents, which was evident when they hid him for three months after his birth. Moses’ faith was evident when he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, thereby identifying with God’s persecuted people. Moses also kept the Passover and left Egypt, passing through the Red Sea. But all of these events occurred before Israel reached Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the law. So the main point for us is that the righteousness God required never came from the law, but always through faith. Read Romans 3: 9-24, 4:9-16, Gal 3:6-25. Remember that some of the Hebrews to whom this epistle is written are considering turning back to Judaism, to the Old Covenant, and to the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system, as though they were superior to the priesthood of Christ and to the New Covenant, which He inaugurated by the shedding of His precious blood. Hebrews chapter 11 strikes a powerful blow to the attraction of Old Testament Judaism. How could law-keeping under the Old Covenant be superior to faith in Christ through the New Covenant if no Old Testament saint was ever declared righteous because of law keeping? These Old Testament heroes – every single one of them – were declared righteous because of their faith, not because of law-keeping. The Old Testament heroes are heroes not only of the faith, but they are heroes of faith. That is why the expression “by faith” is found 19 times in this chapter.

  4. Examples of Faith.

    1. Abel gave in faith. Gen 4:2-5. Able gave a portion of his first, while Cain waited to give.

    2. Enoch walked with God so well, his life pleased God that he did not taste death. We should all strive to walk in step with God so much that we very rarely question God’s directions.

    3. Noah built something when there had never been the conditions for such a vessel.

    4. Abraham trusted God’s word about his future when the things necessary for that future were not present.

    5. Moses’ parents believed God had a plan for Moses so they acted in faith putting their lives on the line.

    6. Moses acted in faith by not taking on the identity of the Pharaoh and willingly put himself in harm’s way.

    7. Moses believed God concerning the curses on Pharaoh.

    8. The Children of Israel believed God would knock down the Jericho walls.

  5. Verses 11:39-40. All of these people had faith and their faith pleased God before the law was ever written. They all believed God, but none of them ever saw the fulfillment of their faith which was Christ. They believed God based on a promise. That promise is Christ. They only saw a shadow of things to come, but we have seen the reality of those shadows, and that is Christ. Gal 3:29, Romans 4:13, 16.

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