The Life of Faith: a Great Cloud of Witnesses
Hebrews 11. This chapter gives us examples of faith in the lives of Old Testament saints. Remarkably, this chapter gives us God’s side of history, where failures are not mentioned, and faith that only God could see is revealed.
The Intelligence of Faith: Principles of God in Relation to Man (11:1-7)
Faith Makes the Word of God Real to us (vv.1-2)
1 Now faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For in the power of this the elders have obtained testimony.
Faith Apprehends Creation – Genesis 1 (v.3)
3 By faith we apprehend that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that that which is seen should not take its origin from things which appear.
Faith Understands Sin and Sacrifice – Abel (v.4)
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained testimony of being righteous, God bearing testimony to his gifts, and by it, having died, he yet speaks.
Faith Gets the Victory over Death – Enoch (v.5)
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he has the testimony that he had pleased God.
Faith Believes the Existence and Goodness of God, Draws Near to Him (v.6)
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him. For he that draws near to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them who seek him out.
Faith Believes what God says about the Future – Noah (v.7)
7 By faith, Noah, oracularly warned concerning things not yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
The Patience of Faith: Waiting for the Promises (11:8-22)
Faith that Takes the Place of Strangership in Lieu of Something Better (vv.8-16)
Abraham’s Answer to the Call of God (v.8)
8 By faith Abraham, being called, obeyed to go out into the place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and went out, not knowing where he was going.
Abraham’s Strangership and Patience (vv.9-10)
9 By faith he sojourned as a stranger in the land of promise as a foreign country, having dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, of which God is the artificer and constructor.
Sarah’s Faith in the Seed Promise, Received Strength to Conceive (vv.11-12)
11 By faith also Sarah herself received strength for the conception of seed, and that beyond a seasonable age; since she counted him faithful who promised. 12 Wherefore also there have been born of one, and that of one become dead, even as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the countless sand which is by the sea shore.
(Summary of the Patience of Faith) (vv.13-16)
13 All these died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth. 14 For they who say such things shew clearly that they seek their country. 15 And if they had called to mind that from whence they went out, they had had opportunity to have returned; 16 but now they seek a better, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he has prepared for them a city.
Entire Confidence in the Fulfillment of the Promises (vv.17-22)
Abraham Offers Up Isaac (Abraham and Isaac Picture Christ) (vv.17-19)
17 By faith Abraham, when tried, offered up Isaac, and he who had received to himself the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 as to whom it had been said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 counting that God was able to raise him even from among the dead, whence also he received him in a figure.
Isaac Blessed Jacob and Esau (v.20)
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Jacob Blessed the Sons of Joseph (v.21)
21 By faith Jacob when dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshipped on the top of his staff.
Joseph Gave Commandment Concerning His Bones (v.22)
22 By faith Joseph when dying called to mind the going forth of the sons of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones.
The Energy of Faith: Overcoming Obstacles (11:23-39)
Faith Which Surmounts Every Difficulty Shown in Moses (vv.23-27)
Faith Gives us to Fear God rather than Man (v.23)
23 By faith Moses, being born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw the child beautiful; and they did not fear the injunction of the king.
Faith Drives Us to Sacrifice What Providence Provides (vv.24-25)
24 By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God than to have the temporary pleasure of sin;
Faith Sustains and Encourages the Heart in Lieu of Reward (v.26)
26 esteeming the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect to the recompense.
Faith Realizes the Intervention of God Without Seeing Him (v.27)
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as seeing him who is invisible.
Faith That Trusts God and Leans on the Divine Resources (vv.28-31)
Faith Trusts the Efficacy of the Blood (Passover) (v.28)
28 By faith he celebrated the passover and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
Faith Experiences the Power of Redemption (Red Sea) (v.29)
29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as through dry land; of which the Egyptians having made trial were swallowed up.
Faith Sees Difficulties Disappear (Jericho) (v.30)
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, having been encircled for seven days.
Faith Leads to Identification with the People of God and Deliverance (v.31)
31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with the unbelieving, having received the spies in peace.
Faith Under Various Characters: Two Classes (vv.32-39)
Faith seen in Those who had Miraculous Lives (vv.32-35a)
32 And what more do I say? For the time would fail me telling of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, and David and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 who by faith overcame kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped lions’ mouths, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, became strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, made the armies of strangers give way. 35a Women received their dead again by resurrection; v.34 An example of on who “stopped lions’ mouths” would be Daniel, and those who “quenched the power of fire” would be Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Faith seen in Those who Suffered Greatly (vv.35b-38)
35b and others were tortured, not having accepted deliverance, that they might get a better resurrection; v.35b A better resurrection. Could this be saying that the victory of a martyr in resurrection is greater than the victory of one who is delivered from the trial?
36 and others underwent trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, and of bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, died by the death of the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, evil treated, 38 (of whom the world was not worthy,) wandering in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caverns of the earth.
Conclusion: All Died in Faith; Some Better Thing in Store For Us (11:39-40)
39 And these all, having obtained witness through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having foreseen some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.