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Hebrews 11:1-12 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 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. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And 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. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
(Heb. 11:39–40 NIV) “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect”.
What is faith? We can learn a lot about faith from the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Faith can be defined as the foundation of hope. It is the evidence of those many features of life (trust, love, fidelity, and so on that go unseen by the physical eye.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
In Chapter 11 of Hebrews we find a compilation of teachings on faith.
Every believer wants to have a good report before the Lord. and he author of Hebrews declares that through faith believers are given good standing before God.
- Faith is necessary in order for God to be pleased.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV And 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.
A. Faith is necessary as we try to figure out life.
Faith is necessary as we try to understand the creation;
The Bible says that God created the world.
Genesis 1:2 NKJV The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
John 1:3 NKJV All things were made through Him (meaning God), and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Although John was talking about Jesus who he called the Word he said that the Word was, in fact, God.
John 1:1 NIV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It's through faith we accept the fact that God created the world. The author of Hebrews presents fascinating detail when he said
Hebrews 11:3 NKJV By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
That says that God created something out of nothing.
Only God could do that.
B. We learn that faith is needed in order for us to understand what an acceptable sacrifice is.
Hebrews 11:4 NKJV By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
The story of Cain and Abel is repeated to teach what kind of sacrifice is acceptable to God.
Why did God accept the sacrifice of Abel and reject the sacrifice of Cain?
There are four main views.
- God's Sovereign Choice
This view sees the acceptance of one offering and the rejection of the other as the sovereign choice of God. God simply chose to accept Abel's offering and reject Cain's with no explanation given.
- Non-Blood Sacrifice
A second view believes that Cain’s offering was rejected because Cain did not present a blood sacrifice. As we know from the instructions given to Moses and later Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself, blood sacrifice is the only acceptable offering for sin that God would receive.
- Poor Quality
The third view sees that Abel brought the best of what he had while Cain brought a poor quality offering.
- Attitude Problem
The fourth view interprets the rejection as a problem with Cain's attitude rather than the specific offering that he brought.
The bottom line is that Abel offered in sacrifice by or in faith and Cain apparently didn’t.
C. By faith we can see what a life that’s acceptable to God looks like.
Hebrews 11:5 NKJV By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
And we have seen already that you must have faith in order to please God.
The mystery surrounding Enoch’s departure is used to illustrate the part faith plays in a life acceptable to God.
Genesis 5:21-24 NIV When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
The next verse in our scripture, this morning, Hebrews 11:6 is one of the most powerful verses in scripture. We’ve already read it a couple of times today.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV And 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.
This verse speaks of the absolute, essential nature of faith. Faith is necessary even for a simple belief in God.
I don’t believe that God causes or does things to hurt or confuse us but He will often use them to test us.
James 1:13 NKJV Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
It is not uncommon for believers to experience difficulty and have to make some decisions.
Here are some examples from scripture.
A. God allowed a flood to test a whole generation but Noah responded in faith and survived.
Genesis 6:13, 22 NIV So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Hebrews 11:7 NIV By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
Abraham was called by God to leave the security of home and travel to a strange land.
Genesis 12:1-4 NIV The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
B. Abraham made his decision and by faith he made his home in a new strange land.
Hebrews 11:8-10 NIV By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
God had promised Abraham that he would become a great nation, yet Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was not able to bear a child.
Genesis 18:9-12 NIV “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my Lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Through faith this difficulty of the ages of both Abraham and Sarah was overcome.
Hebrews 11:11-12 NIV And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Hebrews says that Abel, Noah, Abraham and Sarah were strangers and pilgrims who survived because, by faith, they desired something better.
Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
3. Faith is essential as we understand that God Himself protects certain aspects of the Christian’s experience.
He does not depend on humans for certain things. For example
The hope of resurrection is always instigated by God.
Abraham had faith that God would raise his son Isaac from the dead if the sacrifice of the child was necessary.
Hebrews 11:17-19 NIV By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
So what happened;
Genesis 22:9-12 NIV When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Faith is essential as we understand that our blessing come from God. People may help us in times of need, but real spiritual blessings come from God as we put our faith in him.
James 1:16-17 NKJV Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Because he knew this by faith Isaac could bless both Jacob and Esau about their futures.
Hebrews 11:20 NIV By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
Here’s the blessing to Jacob
Genesis 27:28-29 NKJV Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!”
Here’s the blessing to Esau
Genesis 27:38-40 NKJV And Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
Isaac was able to pronounce these blessings because of his faith in God to do it. And when we read scripture we find that these blessings did in fact come true.
No worship is valid unless the person involved is exercising faith in the one true God.
Hebrews 11:21 NIV By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
You can read Jacob’s blessing of his sons in Genesis chapter 49, and he blessed them in and by faith in God who He knew was able to deliver on them.
Faith in God and in Jesus Christ provide hope for eternal life after death.
Hebrews 11:22 NIV By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
And by faith we can rest and rejoice that our faith in God and Jesus Christ is just the beginning.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 NKJV But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
4. When God promises victory, he makes a way for it to be attained.
A. We have the victory only through faith.
Through faith Moses was enabled to defeat fear and uncertainty.
Hebrews 11:23-28 NIV By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
I can say that John Lewis was able to suffer all that he did because of his faith in the promises of God that in His site everyone is the same to Him, to Him everyone is equal.
Colossians 3:8-11 NKJV But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Many things blocked Israel’s progress from Egypt to the promised land. These obstacles were overcome by faith.
Hebrews 11:29-30 NIV By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
B. Faith is essential in overcoming difficult circumstances.
Rahab was a prostitute, but through faith in God she was given a very responsible position in biblical history.
Hebrews 11:31 NIV By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
We see that because of her faith Rahab is included in the genealogy of Jesus.
Matthew 1:5 NIV Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,
There's a long list of people in Hebrews 11 giving testimony that the way of a good report is by faith.
Hebrews 11:32-38 NIV And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Although each of these recorded saints received a good report by faith, the new covenant in Jesus Christ promised even more.
Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.