Overview of Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11 is widely known as the "Faith Chapter" of the Bible. It tells us what faith is (vv. 1-3) and what faith does (vv. 4-40). Hebrews 11 serves as a "bridge" between the supposed conflict between James and Paul with reference to faith and its consequents. It illustrates beautifully what James means when he writes, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26).
I. What Faith Is (vv. 1-3)
A. Faith accepts God's word (v. 1).
B. Faith wins God's approval (v. 2).
C. Faith recognizes God's power (v. 3).
II. What Faith Does (vv. 4-40)
A. Abel - Faith Worships (v. 4)
1. See Genesis 4:1-5; Romans 10:17
2. Is God obliged to accept anything and everything that is offered as worship by men?
B. Enoch - Faith Walks (vv. 5,6)
1. See Genesis 5:21-24
2. The indispensible nature of a life characterized by faith is demonstrated in the brief account of Enoch.
C. Noah - Faith Works (v. 7)
1. See Genesis 6-8.
2. In Noah, faith and grace are found together!
D. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph - Faith Waits (vv. 8-22)
1. Abraham's first demonstration of faith came with his answering God's call to leave his homeland (Genesis 12:1-9).
2. Though Sarah first laughed at the idea of conceiving a son (Genesis 18:12), it was "through faith" that she received strength to conceive. (Who else laughed when God first promised that Abraham and Sarah would have a son? Hint: see Genesis 17:15-17). What does the name "Isaac" mean? For more on this aspect of Abraham's faith, see Romans 4:18-21.
3. Abraham's second demonstration of faith came with his response to God's command regarding the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14; see also James 2:21-23).
4. Isaac's blessing of both Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:26-29, 39-40) was given "by faith;" i.e., with reference to things "not seen as yet," but which Isaac considered to be certain, because of his trust in the Word of God.
5. Jacob's blessing of Joseph's sons (Genesis 48:13-22) was given "by faith," because he believed what God had promised both his father and his grandfather.
6. Joseph's command to his brothers to make sure his bones were taken from Egypt when God would bring them out, was made "by faith," because he was fully confident that God would return them to Canaan (Genesis 50:22-26).
E. Moses - Faith Wars (vv. 23-28)
1. Moses' parents demonstrated faith (Exodus 2:1-4), because they defied the order of Pharaoh by keeping Moses alive.
2. Moses, when he was old enough to make his own choice, refused the luxuries and power of being known as "the son of Pharaoh's daughter," choosing instead the riches of Christ and its accompanying affliction (Exodus 2:11-13; cf. Acts 7:23-28).
3. Moses' leaving of Egypt was "by faith," because he trusted God's protection more than he feared Pharaoh's anger (Exodus 5-13).
4. The first "passover" was kept by faith, because he believed God's word when He said the firstborn in every house not protected by the blood of the lamb would be destroyed (Exodus 12:1-13).
F. The Israelites and Rahab - Faith Wins (vv. 29-31)
1. The Israelites first great victory came when they crossed the Red Sea, and then watched as the army of Pharaoh drowned (Exodus 14, 15).
2. Though the next 40 years were mostly difficult ones, marked by murmuring and complaining against Moses and the LORD, the next major victory for Israel was Jericho (Joshua 6). Can you explain how this victory was accomplished "by faith"?
3. Also at Jericho, Rahab won a great victory, because she had heard about how the LORD was with Israel, and made the spies promise to spare her family and herself (Joshua 2:1-22; 6:22,23,25; Matthew 1:5).
G. The Rest of the "Worthies" - Faith Watches (vv. 32-40)
1. These verses summarize many episodes recorded in Scripture, and are given to demonstrate that people of faith watch their lives, so as to receive a good report from God through faith.
2. We, however, are partners with them, in the sense that we are the recipients of the promises they saw only from a distance!