Introduction: What Faith Does (11:1-2)
The Intelligence of Faith: Apprehending Divine Principles (11:3-7)
The first section of the character deals with a particular character of the life of faith. In vv.3-7 we have the intelligence of faith, wherein the soul is able to grasp a number of vital principles in Divine things, and act on them.4 This character of faith is seen in the saints who lived before the flood.
Faith Apprehends the Truth of Creation – Genesis 1 (v.3)
Faith Understands Sin and Sacrifice – Abel (v.4)
Faith has Fellowship with God and Is Rewarded – Enoch (vv.5-6)
Faith Believes What God Says About the Future – Noah (v.7)
The Patience of Faith: Waiting for the Promises (11:8-22)
To illustrate another character of faith, the writer next takes up the saints who lived after the flood, to whom God gave wonderful promises, and whose lives reflected that they believed what God had promised. We might call this the patience of faith.6
Faith Takes the Place of Strangership – Abraham and Sarah (vv.8-16)
Faith Has Confidence in the Promises – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph (vv.17-22)
The Energy of Faith: Overcoming Obstacles (11:23-39)
Another character of faith is turned to next; the energy of faith seen in the saints overcoming obstacles in the path. To illustrate this, the writer next takes up the saints from Moses through the prophets who faced challenges and trials. These ones acted by faith according to the mind of God to overcome the obstacle or challenge.12
Faith That Overcomes Danger and Hardship – Moses (vv.23-27)
Moses in the Wilderness. When Moses began to come to his senses about who he was and who he wanted to be associated with, he thought he could immediately be used to God to deliver the people. However he had to find out painfully that this was premature. God had a special tuition for him on the backside of the desert, forty years where he would unlearn much of what he had learned in Egypt. This is all passed completely over in Hebrews 11, as is the forty years of Israel’s wandering, which is absent between v.29 and v.30. The wilderness was necessary because of unbelief, and so it is passed over. But what is needed for the wilderness is given in chapter 12.
More than conquerors we shall be,
If our eye, whate’er the danger,
Looks to Thee, and none but Thee.15
Faith That Trusts God and Leans on Divine Resources – Egypt to Canaan (vv.28-31)
Faith Under Various Characters: Two Classes (vv.32-39)
Conclusion: Some Better Thing (11:39-40)
- It is not a definition of this principle, that the epistle gives us at the commencement of Hebrews 11, but a declaration of its powers and action. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- Some have made a difficulty for themselves by the mistaken assumption that we have here a definition of faith. This is clearly not the object, but rather a description of its power, range, and effect. Faith scripturally in itself is simply believing God, accepting His word because He says it, not on visible evidence or on reasoning but on God’s authority. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- In general we may say that verses 8-22 are faith resting assured on the promise, the patience of faith: verse 23 to the end, faith resting on God for the activities and difficulties faith leads to, the energy of faith. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- … the great fundamental principles of faith in action… – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- There is not universal agreement on this point among expositors. Some feel this refers to the reconstruction of Gen. 1:3-31. “This is a reference to the reconstruction of the earth and the heavens outlined in Genesis 1:3-31. The word “framed” in the Greek (“katartizo”) means “repaired,” or “mended” (Strong’s), or “to put in order again” (Liddell and Scott), or “adjusted” (Nestle). The same word is translated “mending,” in the KJV in Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19. And it is also translated “restore,” in Galatians 6:1. Hence, this verse indicates that God mended or restored that which He had previously created.” – Anstey, B. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- Abraham gives occasion to a large and varied scope of faith, and stands at the head of those who illustrate its patience, rather than its energy which wrought in Moses and those that follow. And this is the true moral order: first, waiting on God who had promised; secondly, overcoming difficulties and dangers in His power. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- Newton, J. Though Troubles Assail. Little Flock Hymnbook #160.
- Taylor, J.R. We Are but Strangers Here. Little Flock Hymnbook #180.
- Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find such absolute trust in God, as when the father was proved willing to sacrifice his only son, with whom were bound up all God’s promises and his own expectations. To man death is the end of hope; to God it is but the occasion to exercise the power of resurrection. – Kelly, William. Abram, the Friend of God.
- It is thus that Christ renounced His rights as Messiah, and went even into death, committing Himself to the will of God and trusting in Him; and received everything in resurrection. And this the Hebrew Christians had to do, with respect to the Messiah and the promises made to Israel. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- Isaac’s trembling very exceedingly was on the discovery, not only of the guilt of Jacob, but of his own will against God who had overruled him; whereon he says emphatically that he had blessed him, “yea, he shall be blessed.” Nature in Isaac sought to bless otherwise, and had seemed all but to prevail; but “by faith Isaac, blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” according to God. – Kelly, William. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
- Now comes a fresh series in the display of the power of faith no matter what the enemies, the dangers, or the difficulties; Moses has a place as marked in its power as Abraham had in its patience. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
- Another forty years intervenes between verses 26 and 27, during which Moses had learned in solitary experience, in “the backside of the desert,” that all the wisdom of Egypt was nothing to God. Then God called him to return to Egypt and lead the children of Israel out of it. –
- 14Williams, W. Savior! Lead Us by Thy Power. Little Flock Hymnbook #42A.
- Talmud, Yevamot tractate
- “…before the Lord comes, when we and all the O.T. saints shall be perfected in the likeness of His body of glory, and go to meet Him on high.” – Kelly, W. Exposition of Hebrews.
- “…those saints who are dead must be raised for that. When I say “saints,” I mean all the saints, those of the Old Testament, as well as those under the New Testament, dispensation.” – Darby, J.N. Lectures on the Second Coming of Christ.