Hebrews 11b Faith
JESUS, OUR SANCTIFICATION
The author of Hebrews demonstrated the superiority of Jesus over the Old Testament system, which foreshadowed His ministry. Jesus is superior as a revealer of God. Jesus’ priesthood is far superior to the priesthood of the Old Testament, just as the covenant He makes is superior to the old Law Covenant, which came through Moses. And Jesus has offered a superior sacrifice—Himself—, which purifies the worshiper, and deals once for all with sin.
On the basis of what Jesus has done for us, we are now made holy—and are enabled to live a holy life! Thus Jesus produces a righteousness, which the old system was never able to do.
In the last chapters of Hebrews the writer went into just how we appropriate the sanctification that Christ provides. In chapter 11, we see the role of faith, not only for our own lives but in the lives of believers of every age. In chapter 12 we see the importance of making every effort to move toward the goal of holiness—and learn how to respond to the loving discipline of the God who is committed to bring His children to a godly maturity. Finally, in chapter 13, we are given a final warning and shown how the practical holiness is demonstrated in Christian behavior.
In these, as in other chapters of Hebrews, we are invited to a fresh, exciting vision of how great our privileges are as God’s own.
The last thought of Hebrews 10 launches into a new major section of this book. We are not people who cower back and are ruined, but who fasten on faith, and so preserve and enrich ourselves.
With this thought the writer launches us on an adventurous exploration of how the believer, secure in his new identity as one of God’s holy ones, is to live. With the “deeper truths” about who we are in Christ explained, the writer moves on to explore in-depth truth about our new way of life.
Fasten on Faith: Hebrews 11
Often when we think of “faith” our image is one of subjective experience. But the validity of Christian faith does not rest on either our sincerity or our fervency. Christian faith stands or falls on the truth that the Word of God reveals. Thus the writer began Hebrews 11 by helping us realize that it is confidence in the reality of things we cannot see that lies at the root of faith. It is only “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (v. 3).
Much of what the writer has told us about our new selves is invisible too. We can’t see Jesus, standing as the link between heaven and us. We can’t see ourselves as God does, holy and cleansed by the one great sacrifice of Christ. But when our minds accept these as fact, and we become certain of them even though we cannot yet see their full reality revealed, then we are ready to begin to live by faith.
But faith is more than conviction of the reality of the facts that God has unveiled. Faith also exists as response to those facts. The Scripture makes it clear: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (v. 6). Faith is focused confidence in a person who not only exists, but who seeks a personal relationship with us. God loves us. He is not uninvolved. Instead, He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
When we are willing to accept as fact what God’s Word says, and in response reach out to seek and to experience relationship with Him, then we have begun to live by faith. And then we will be rewarded.
This living by faith—accepting as fact the truths that we cannot touch or feel or see, and then acting on them—seems such a simple prescription for life. Lest we make the mistake of equating simplicity with ineffectiveness, the chapter moves on to detail the accomplishments of faith.
Enablement (Heb. 11:4–31). In this extended passage the writer invites us to look into the lives of a host of heroes of the faith, and to see how faith expressed itself in their experiences. We see as the writer analyzes each life that, essentially, faith enables.
* Faith enabled Abel (11:4). Aware that God required blood sacrifice (see Gen. 3:21; 4:7), Abel offered a sheep rather than fruit and vegetables. Faith found for Abel the way of acceptance, and “by faith he was commended as a righteous man.”
Faith’s first enabling step for us is the same. Pleading Jesus’ one unique sacrifice, we receive the same testimony of imputed righteousness.
* Faith enabled Enoch (11:5–6). The four verses devoted to Enoch in the Old Testament say twice that he “walked with God” (Gen. 5:21–24). One verse affirms that he walked with God for 300 years. His relationship was consistent.
For each of us too faith promises the possibility of a daily, consistent walk with the Lord, for faith enables us to please Him.
* Faith enabled Noah (11:7). Noah lived in a time when all had turned their backs on God. He alone remained faithful. When warned of a coming flood, Noah devoted 120 years to the building of a great boat miles from any sea. Faith enabled Noah to cut through the contrary views of his contemporaries and to accept the warning of impending disaster as fact. And faith enables us to withstand social pressures and respond with reverence, obeying the command to build.
Faith can enable us to be different as well. We can build our lives on a revelation of the future that men who do not know God count foolish.
* Faith enabled Abraham (11:8–10). The life of faith is a life of risk, of stepping out into the unknown with nothing more solid before us than God’s command. Faith enabled Abraham to take an uncertain journey, not knowing where he was going, but only that God had summoned him.
Faith can enable you and me to take risks as well. We can even stand long periods of uncertainty (v. 9), for faith assures us that God’s summons rests on His eternal purposes. What a solid foundation for our lives!
* Faith enabled Sarah (11:11–12). Here is a most encouraging example. When Sarah first heard the promise, she doubted and laughed (Gen. 18:12–15). But first doubts were overcome. Faith swept in to enable her dead womb to gain the vitality needed for childbearing.
Often we’re overcome by first doubts. Parts of our personalities seem deadened and withered. But faith can be restored. Even such “second-chance” faith can enable us to experience vitality in areas of our lives we saw as being dead.
* Faith enabled all (11:13–16). Sometimes we have a difficult time identifying with great men of faith like Abraham. How good then to know that countless unnamed men and women looked ahead, lived, and died, assured that the promises would yet be theirs. These may remain unknown to us—but not to God.
It isn’t our greatness in the eyes of others or even in our own eyes that’s important. Faith enables unknown people as well. Faith enables each of us to count on God’s promises—and because of faith “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (v. 16).
* Faith enabled Abraham (11:17–19). Faith was of constant importance in Abraham’s life, as it is in ours. The first steps of faith led to further steps, until finally the ultimate test came. Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his only son on an altar. Faith enabled Abraham to take even this jolting command in stride, and never lose confidence in God. He was even ready to believe that God could raise his son up, even if he were dead, for God had promised that Isaac was the key to his descendants (v. 19).
We too can trust God even this much. When we view Him as totally trustworthy, even the most difficult steps of obedience are made possible.
* Faith enabled the patriarchs (11:20–22). Each father mentioned here looked ahead to a future that was unknown, but yet was guaranteed by God. Counting God’s picture of tomorrow as sure, each ordered the life of his children as if that future were present.
Sometimes it’s easier to let God have control of our lives than to guide our families into full commitment to Him. The sacrifice we’d willingly make ourselves we hesitate to impose on our boys and girls, wishing instead for their “happiness.” Faith gives us a clearer view. We look across the generations and commit ourselves and our loved ones to the realities He says will be.
* Faith enabled Moses (11:23–29). The many ways faith changed the life of Moses are stamped vividly on the pages of the Old Testament. Here we’re reminded that at every critical stage in his life, faith shaped him for his ultimate ministry. His parents’ initial faith saved his life (v. 23). Growing up, faith led him to throw in his lot with the slave people of Israel rather than his adoptive royal family (vv. 24–26). Faith enabled him to defy rather than give into Pharaoh, remaining obedient to the heavenly King (vv. 26–27). Faith led Moses to command the people to keep the first Passover, and to walk boldly into the Red Sea (vv. 28–29).
Almost every difficulty, every challenging experience, every danger, every decision in Moses’ life was faced on the basis of faith’s obedient response. Faith enabled each obedient act, and the pattern of faithful obedience that emerged made Moses the man he finally became.
It’s the same with us. In everything in life we need to be guided and enabled by faith. As we live by faith, we will progressively become the persons God wants us to be.
* Faith enabled Rahab (11:30–31). Faith took the godly Moses and made him even more a man of God. But Rahab was a prostitute! Did faith enable her?
Yes. This inhabitant of Jericho, a city marked for destruction, believed God. She acted in faith to save the Jewish scouts, and instead of sharing the fate of the disobedient, she became a member of the people of God.
Whatever your past, and whatever your old associations, faith can produce a great transformation. Through faith you can lose your old identity as sinner—and become a child of the living God.
Faith enables you and me. This is, of course, the point the writer of Hebrews made. As example after example is given, we are shown that faith works! Faith does enable.
A promise of success? (Heb. 11:32–40) The pathway of faith that Hebrews commended is the answer to our search for meaning and progress in the Christian life. But it is no guarantee of good times.
Here the writer gave examples of victories won by faith’s obedience (vv. 33–34), but he also presented the record of those whose lives of faith led to suffering (vv. 35–38). He told of those tortured to death, of others mocked and flogged and bound in prison, and still others killed by stoning or murdered by the sword. Some lost everything and fled naked into the desert, to live like animals in caves or holes.
No, taking the path of faith and committing ourselves to obey God no matter what, in no way promises that the circumstances of our lives will be pleasant.
Yet how comforting. Hebrews speaks to us in our difficult situations and in our failures, and it reassures us. Faith doesn’t guarantee good times. Faith guarantees our realization of the hope we have for transformation within. Through faith, we are enabled to catch from day to day a growing hint of what we will be at Jesus’ return, when the complete experience of perfection will be fully known.
♥ Link to Life: List each person Hebrews 11 mentions by name on a piece of paper. Examine each one, defining (1) just what faith enabled, and (2) just why the responses described were difficult.
Then see if you can determine which tests seem more difficult? Which have you experienced? How has your faith in Christ helped you in these times of trials? For example how about what we are currently going through with this transfer?
God Bless and Keep You!