11:1-13:25-Our Great Faith
These Jewish Christians were undergoing intense persecution from other Jews as well as from non-Jews because of their faith in Jesus. On top of that, they were being pressured to return to their Jewish roots and forsake Christianity.
Paul has taught them the theology concerning the priesthood of Jesus (5:1-10:25) and that they should have faith in Him as their High Priest. Then he warned them to remain faithful and not fall back to their old Jewish system of belief (10:26-39). Now, he is going to give them some specific examples of others who have undergone a variety of challenges to their faith…and yet, they remained strong (11:2-40). Then, he is going to tell them that once again to remain strong in their faith and give them several specific examples of how it is implemented (12:1-13:25).
Paul has already mentioned faith eleven times in Hebrews. He would do so a total of thirty-nine times. He knew that these believers needed to be absolutely clear about what faith is and how it operates in the believer’s life. So, he gives them a lesson on faith.
The Enduring Power of Faith (11:1)
The Jewish religion was very tangible, very corporeal. There were elements in its practice that connected with all five of the physical senses. For instance…when you entered into the Temple…
• You would see the beautiful buildings in all of their splendor and grandeur. This majestic sight would inspire one’s thoughts and beliefs about the glory of God, Himself.
• You would hear sounds that were associated with the practice of the faith such as the bleating of the sacrificial animals, the singing of the Psalms, the blowing of the trumpets, and the reading of the Scriptures.
• You would smell the aroma of the incense.
• You would taste the portion of the sacrifice that was reserved for the offerer.
• You would feel the tug of the sacrificial animal as you led him to the priest.
And then, on top of those things that the Jew would experience at the Temple…we must also remember the various annual feasts and festivals, as well as the daily regimen of religious practices that distinguished Jews from all other people. At every turn…the Jews would encounter a physical reminder of their faith.
All of these elements of the practice of the Jewish faith became engrained mentally, emotionally, and even physically in the Jew. And the result was that these things that were of a physical nature gave them an assurance concerning those things that were of a spiritual nature. These things that could be substantiated physically gave them conviction concerning those things that existed spiritually. There was an inseparable connection between the things that they experienced in the physical realm of their faith…and the things that they believed to be true in the spiritual realm of their faith. And now, suddenly, when they came to Jesus Christ as their Savior…they were told that all of those things were but a mere shadow, having no substance in and of themselves. The deep-rooted ties that they had developed over a life-time were not easily severed. The yearning for those things that had previously been so reassuring, so comforting…must be left behind. And part of the problem was that the Christian faith offered no substantial replacement. Christianity was not a religion that requires sight (or taste, or touch, or sound, or smell!)…but it requires faith (cf. John 20:29).
Originally, the material elements of the Jewish religion were understood to be representative of spiritual realities. But over time, at least two problems emerged. One was that the Jews became enamored with the material things to the exclusion of the spiritual realities. Their religion became oriented towards the material things…going through the rituals, sacrifices, etc…instead of being acts of true worship oriented towards God. This was in part the cause of the second problem…with the emphasis on the material, worldly things…their beliefs became limited to what they could understand mentally and interact with physically. God, as the ultimate reality, was not in the picture. In other words, there was no spiritual, supernatural dimension to their religion. Their faith was associated strictly with those things of the physical realm. And, it was also limited by those very things.
So Paul teaches them about faith. He has already taught them about the foundation of faith…Jesus. Now, he is going to teach them about the focus of faith…Jesus. Christianity is not a religion of sight…but of faith. But this faith is not blind. In fact, this faith sees beyond the physical into the spiritual. It sees beyond the present…to the future. First, he gives them a Definition of Faith (11:1), then he gives them numerous Examples of Faith (11:2-40).
The Definition of Faith
Faith secures what has not yet happened (:1)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for…
"Assurance"-(BlueLetterBible) "lit., "a standing under, support" (hupo, "under," histemi, "to stand"), hence, an "assurance," is so rendered in Hbr 11:1, RV, for AV, "substance." It here may signify a title-deed, as giving a guarantee, or reality."; "conviction"- It is because of the content of our faith that we have assurance and conviction...not because of the zealousness of our faith. Faith in what is hoped for (trust in what is yet to be done), is based on what hope has already accomplished (what trust has already done). Faith in what is not seen, is based on what has already been seen. Our faith in Jesus concerning the future, rests securely on what faith in Him has already accomplished in the past.
Assurance, Assure, Assuredly:
lit., "a standing under, support" (hupo, "under," histemi, "to stand"), hence, an "assurance," is so rendered in Hbr 11:1, RV, for AV, "substance." It here may signify a title-deed, as giving a guarantee, or reality.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5287&t=KJV
Hope (Noun and Verb), Hope (For):
in the NT, "favorable and confident expectation" (contrast the Sept. in Isa 28:19, "an evil hope"). It has to do with the unseen and the future, Rom 8:24, 25. "Hope" describes
(a) the happy anticipation of good (the most frequent significance), e.g., Tts 1:2; 1Pe 1:21;
(b) the ground upon which "hope" is based, Act 16:19; Col 1:27, "Christ in you the hope of glory;"
(c) the object upon which the "hope" is fixed, e.g., 1Ti 1:1.
Various phrases are used with the word "hope," in Paul's Epistles and speeches:
(1) Act 23:6, "the hope and resurrection of the dead;" this has been regarded as a hendiadys (one by means of two), i.e., the "hope" of the resurrection; but the kai, "and," is epexegetic, defining the "hope," namely, the resurrection;
(2) Act 26:6, 7, "the hope of the promise (i.e., the fulfillment of the promise) made unto the fathers;"
(3) Gal 5:5, "the hope of righteousness;" i.e., the believer's complete conformity to God's will, at the coming of Christ;
(4) Col 1:23, "the hope of the Gospel," i.e., the "hope" of the fulfillment of all the promises presented in the Gospel; cp. Col 1:5;
(5) Rom 5:2, "(the) hope of the glory of God," i.e., as in Tts 2:13, "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ;" cp. Col 1:27;
(6) 1Th 5:8, "the hope of salvation," i.e., of the rapture of believers, to take place at the opening of the Parousia of Christ;
(7) Eph 1:18, "the hope of His (God's) calling," i.e., the prospect before those who respond to His call in the Gospel;
(8) Eph 4:4, "the hope of your calling," the same as (7), but regarded from the point of view of the called;
(9) Tts 1:2; 3:7, "the hope of eternal life," i.e., the full manifestation and realization of that life which is already the believer's possession;
(10) Act 28:20, "the hope of Israel," i.e., the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. See Notes on Galatians by Hogg and Vine, pp. 248, 249.
In Eph 1:18; 2:12; 4:4, the "hope" is objective. The objective and subjective use of the word need to be distinguished; in Rom 15:4, e.g., the use is subjective.
In the NT three adjectives are descriptive of "hope:" "good," 2Th 2:16; "blessed," Tts 2:13; "living," 1Pe 1:3. To these may be added Hbr 7:19, "a better hope," i.e., additional to the commandment, which became disannulled (ver. 18), a hope centered in a new priesthood.
In Rom 15:13 God is spoken of as "the God of hope," i.e., He is the author, not the subject; of it. "Hope" is a factor in salvation, Rom 8:24; it finds its expression in endurance under trial, which is the effect of waiting for the coming of Christ, 1Th 1:3; it is "an anchor of the soul," staying it amidst the storms of this life, Hbr 6:18, 19; it is a purifying power, "every one that hath this hope set on Him (Christ) purifieth himself, even as He is pure," 1Jo 3:3, RV (the Apostle John's one mention of "hope").
The phrase "fullness of hope," Hbr 6:11, RV, expresses the completeness of its activity in the soul; cp. "fullness of faith," Hbr 10:22, and "of understanding," Col 2:2 (RV, marg.).
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/Dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?topic=VT0001404
Faith sees what is not yet visible (:1)
Faith is…the conviction of things not seen.
The Earthly Witness of Faith (11:2-40)
To encourage these believers to be faithful…Paul gives them a history lesson of those who have been faithful in the past.
The Proven Witness of the Faithful (:2)
“Approval" is the word "martyreo", which means "witness, testimony". Their faith became a witness, or a testimony to the reality of the truth that they believed in.
By Faith We Understand Our Origin (:3)
• the preparation of all creation out of nothing, strengthens our trust in the ability and power of God..."prepared" means that they were created in such a way, in such a manner; "word" is "rhema"...the spoken word of God
By Faith Able Offered an Acceptable Sacrifice (:4)
• Abel...because he offered what God demanded and in the means which He demanded, it was a testimony that he was righteous
By Faith Enoch was Pleasing to God (:5)
• Enoch...was "taken up"...because he was pleasing to God (he lived a righteous life)...this was a demonstration that God is pleased with those who believe in Him and that He will reward those who do so; and, that without faith you cannot please God
The Absolute Necessity of Faith (:6)
By Faith Noah was Righteous (:7)
• Noah...did what God told him to do, regardless of the fact that there was no visible evidence for what God told him was going to happen
By Faith Abraham was Obedient (:8-10)
• Abraham...went to live in a place when God told him to leave, without knowing where he was going; and, he believed that God would give him the inheritance that He promised him, without having any proof of it, beforehand
By Faith Sarah Accomplished the Impossible (:11-12)
• Sarah...gave birth to children when she was old because she believed in the promise of God
The Final Destination of the Faithful (:13-16)
• Here is a statement saying that while all of these received much as a result of their faith...the ultimate promise is eternal life in Heaven. Because of their faith in God, He has prepared a place for them and is not ashamed to be called their God.
By Faith Abraham Trusted in God’s Provision (:17-19)
• Abraham...was willing to kill his only son because he trusted in the promise of God that through this son He was going to bless him...so, he believed that even if Isaac died, God would raise him from the dead
Prayer: Lord, please increase my faith in You. Help me to turn my eyes onto Jesus...to see and understand what He has done in the past...and as a result, to trust Him completely with both the present, and the future.