Hebrews Chapter 11.
In the first section of Hebrews, chapters 1 through 10, the author Paul dealt with theological issues.
He showed how Jesus is greater than the three Pillars of Judaism.
Again, the Three Pillars of Judaism that Paul outlines are angels, Moses, and the Levitical Priesthood.
These are three things that are highly esteemed in Judaism.
And this idea comes from an ancient “Midrash”, which is basically Old Testament commentary by either Jewish Scholars or Rabbis,
There is a Midrash on Isaiah 52:13, which says:
That the Messiah will be more “exalted” (or higher) than Abraham,
more “extolled” (or more praised) than Moses
and more “high” than the angels. [Tanhuma – Buber’s edition, Toldot 134-135; Vulgar edition, Toldot 14]
And Paul is saying this because the Hebrew believers, the Hebrew Christians, that he was writing to, were dealing with intense persecution from their own people.
And they were tempted to go back to their previous way of living, to go back into Judaism, in order to escape persecution.
And not only that, but they were not being mindful about the precious treasure that they have in Jesus Christ.
And so Paul makes known to them how Jesus is better than the angels, better than Moses, and again better than the Levitical Priesthood.
And Jesus being greater than the Levitical Priesthood has the implication that Jesus is also greater than Father Abraham.
And this is meant to encourage these Hebrew Christians to continue on in their faith. To press forward in their Christian walk.
And then we get to Chapter 11.
Chapter 11 is the second part of the book of Hebrews where Paul is going to give his readers practical applications from the understanding that Jesus is basically greater than everything and everyone.
Both Judaism and Islam put a high value on the person of Moses, and also Father Abraham.
And think about this.
We have three major religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. And there are many things these religions disagree on, and even have contention over.
But they all agree, and respect, and have reverence, for the person Abraham. And also for the person Moses.
In fact, all three groups consider themselves children of Abraham.
So Abraham and Moses are very highly respected and important individuals. I can’t think of too many people who are thought of as more important than Abraham and Moses.
And then we have angels.
There are many individuals around the world, and tribes around the world, who have a special esteem for angels and spirits.
In fact, it is because of the work of Angels, and this could be either good angels or fallen angels, but it is because of the work angels do we have so many different religions.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, supposedly received a revelation from God, first through the angel Moroni.
In Islam, accoring to the Quran, in chapter 53, Their prophet received a revelation from the powerful Angel Gabriel.
In fact, it says that the Angel Gabriel was so close to their Prophet that he was only two bow lengths away, or even closer.
And then in the Old Testament, we read about a certain “Angel of the LORD”, who appeared to Abraham, and Sarah, and Hagar, and Jacob, and Moses, and others.
And this “Angel of the LORD” declares future things, makes covenants, blesses, and instructs. And his words are very important words which we have recorded in the Bible.
By the way, this “Angel of the LORD” is more than just an ordinary Angel. But that’s another topic for another day.
But according to different religions and their Scripture, Angels have an important role.
And because of their important role, Angels are highly esteemed. They are seen as being very important to many people and groups around the world.
And Paul tells us that Jesus is greater than all of them. And in Hebrews chapters 1-10, Paul gives us theological reasons why.
But now starting in Chapter 10, verse 19, Paul will tell us how we can make application, how we are to live, according to that understanding.
The understanding that Jesus is greater than everything.
In chapter 10, starting at verse 19, Paul begins to introduce this New and Living Way in which we are to live.
[Hebrews 10:22-25 KJV] 22 Let us draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith…
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
And then the last two verses of Chapter 10, Paul says:
[Hebrews 10:38-39 KJV] 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
And this is the theme that Paul gives us, that will continue to be explained in Chapter 11.
This combination of faith and works.
No person is saved on the basis of their righteous works alone.
But righteous works are a natural result of a genuine faith.
And Paul is talking to Believers, remember. People who already believe in God, and believe in Jesus Christ.
And Paul tells them, draw near to God.
Does this mean that these believers are not near to God?
No, not exactly.
You right now could be far away from God in your relationship with Him. Or maybe you are relatively close to him. In either case, you can still draw nearer to God.
This is a continuous process. Everyday, you keep on drawing closer and closer to God.
A husband and wife, or two close friends, can continually draw closer together in their relationship as they experience life and circumstances together.
And it’s a relationship that becomes richer and deeper with time.
And this drawing near to God in worship requires two things.
First, you draw near to God with a true heart.
This idea of having a true heart is interesting. You come to God, having real sincerity and real honesty.
You are not to come to God in worship because you are forced to, because you are under compulsion, or because your friends and family expect you to.
But instead you come to Him according to your own will and according to your own understanding.
Because you genuinely believe that He is God, and because you love God.
Before I was a Christian, when I was an Atheist, and I was exploring Christianity, I would talk to God, and I would be honest with him.
I would say, “God, it’s hard for me to know if you are real or not. How can I know you are real?”
“God, there are many religions that say different things about you. How can I know which Scripture is true?”
And then after I became a Christian:
“God, it’s hard living a life according to your perfect moral standards. According to your commandments. What can I do about it?”
This for me was coming to God with a true heart, and was the beginning of my relationship with God.
And Then Paul adds, “in full assurance of faith”.
You come to God with full assurance of faith.
The fact that you can have full assurance of faith also means that you can not have full assurance of faith. That you can have a little faith.
Full assurance of faith means you have full confidence that what God promises, God is also able to perform.
That what God wills, God will also bring to pass.
And the way we demonstrate our faith is by our works. By our actions. By our attitude. By how we live. By how we have confidence in whatever situation we are in, fully trusting in God.
I want to share with you one of my favorite accounts of a person exercising a strong faith, that I think demonstrates the difference between a person having a weak faith, and a person having a strong faith.
Charles Inglis, during the 1800’s, told of a remarkable incident he was told between a Christian ship captain and another Christian man named George Mueller.
Charles Inglis recounts:
When I first came to America thirty-one years ago, I crossed the Atlantic with the captain of a steamer who was one of the most devoted men I ever knew;
and when we were off the banks of Newfoundland he said to me: “Mr. Inglis, the last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, one of the most extraordinary things happened that has completely revolutionized the whole of my Christian life.”
“Up to that time I was one of your ordinary Christians. We had a man of God on board, George Mueller, of Bristol. I had been on that bridge for twenty-two hours and never left it.”
The bridge is the room or platform in a ship where the ship can be commanded.
“I had been on that bridge for twenty-two hours and never left it.”
“But I was startled by someone tapping me on the shoulder. It was George Mueller.”
“Captain”, said George, “I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon.” This was Wednesday.
“It is impossible” I said.
George replied: “Very well, if your ship can’t take me God will find some other means of locomotion to take me.”
“I have never broken an engagement in fifty-seven years.”
The Captain said: “I would willingly help you, but how can I? I am helpless.”
George said: “Let us go down to the chart room and pray.”
The Captain thought to himself: “What lunatic asylum could the man have come from? I never heard of such a thing.”
“Mr. Mueller,” I said, “do you know how dense this fog is?”
“No”, he replied, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.”
“He went down on his knees, and he prayed one of the most simple prayers.”
I thought to myself, “That would suit a children’s class, where the children were not more than eight or nine years of age.”
“The burden of his prayer was something like this:”
“O Lord, if it is consistent with Thy will, please remove this fog in five minutes.”
“You know the engagement You made for me in Quebec for Saturday. I believe it is Your will.”
“When he had finished, I was going to pray, but George put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to pray.”
“First,” he said, “you do not believe God will do it; and, second, I believe He has done it already.”
“And there is no need now for you to pray about it.”
I looked at him, and George Mueller said this: “Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years and there has never been a single day that I have failed to gain an audience with the King.”
“Get up Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog is gone.”
“I got up, and the fog was gone. On Saturday afternoon George Mueller was in Quebec.”
This was someone else’s testimony about the man George Mueller.
I’ve shared previously about the remarkable faith this man George Mueller had.
If you haven’t heard of him, I would suggest reading about him or watching a documentary about him.
But you see here an example between two Christians. Both saved. But one with a much more intimate and personal relationship with God than the other.
One who drew near to God with a full assurance of faith. Full confidence in faith.
And this is the type of faith that Paul wants us to have.
To this end, to this application, is why Paul is now continuing to encourage his readers.
I’ll be honest, when I read this account, I can relate more with the Sea Captain than I can with George Mueller.
At first thought you think this prayer request is crazy. This man is crazy. Who thinks God will remove a fog in 5 minutes.
Has someone ever prayed for something that in your mind, like the Sea Captain, you thought that this is not going to happen. That this prayer is not going to happen.
Yet for Mr. George Mueller, it did happen, and it revolutionized the Sea Captain’s whole Christian life. To see a Man of God pray a simple, but bold prayer, and for it to come to pass.
1 John 5:14 says:
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
So I’m preaching to myself here as much as I am to you now.
For we are all in need to continually draw closer to God, with a full assurance of faith.
And like this example here with George Mueller, Paul will now give us examples of men in the Old Testament who exercised extraordinary faith and confidence in God.
So let’s begin our reading now in Chapter 11, and we will cover three of the examples given:
[Hebrews 11:1-3 KJV] 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
In verse 1, Paul tells us what faith is.
First, faith is substance. Now that word is interesting that Paul used, because the word substance means physical matter. Something tangible.
So faith is something that is real and tangible.
Faith is evidence.
This means that there is an activity in our faith that reveals a proof upon the object of our faith.
In other words, an active faith, or a genuine faith, gives evidence to the Person for who we have faith in.
We see this evidence in our George Mueller example.
George Mueller’s confidence that his prayer request had already been answered, was proof to the Sea Captain, that God answers prayers.
I think what Paul is trying to say here is that an active faith has real value and weight.
Think of a title deed.
A title deed is an official document that shows your legal ownership of a house, or building, or land you own.
The title deed in itself is not worth much. It’s just ink and paper. But it carries a promise to you and all people that you are the owner of a particular property or land.
So in the same way, an active faith, a faith that is tangible, where you see God working in your life, gives proof to you, and confidence to you, that the promises of future blessings, like forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, are sure and guaranteed.
So faith is like a title deed. Except instead of a piece of paper, you have your faith experiences, and your patient endurance.
And the more your faith and confidence increases, the more you become sure in the promises of God.
An active faith gives substance to things hoped for, and demonstrates proof of realities you can’t yet see.
Like eternal life, forgiveness of sins, eternal judgment, earthly judgements.
A best friend who always has your back, you have faith that he will continue to have your back.
And when your best friend promises something to you, you have confidence that what he promises will come to pass.
I assume everyone here has watched Star Wars.
Has everyone here watched Star Wars?
Well, In Return of the Jedi, Han Solo was assigned the task to take the shield down, before the Rebel fighters could approach the Death Star.
But it took Han Solo much longer than originally anticipated. He had to deal with resistance from the Imperial Forces.
Yet General Lando Calrissian had faith that Han Solo would complete the mission. And this is while they were suffering heavy losses while they were waiting.
In the Movie, Lando Calrissian sees that the Death Star is now operational. And Admiral Ackbar commands that all crafts prepare to retreat.
General Ackbar says: We have no choice, General Calrissian! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!
Lando Calrissian replied : Han will have that shield down. We’ve got to give him more time!
And finally, when the shield came down, and they were able to begin their attack on the Death Star, Lando said:
I told you they’d do it!
Now this is bit of a silly example based on a movie. But this is what an active faith looks like.
The Rebel fighters were waiting, in a dangerous situation, taking on damages and losses, knowing they only needed to wait a little bit longer before Han Solo could take the shield down.
And the very thing they were hoping would happen, did come to pass.
Now in verse 2, Paul doesn’t give us fictitious examples, but instead teaches that history proves it is possible to live a life of faith.
With this kind of active faith.
For by it (by faith) the elders obtained a good report.
In other words, the faith of the Old Testament saints was observable by others.
You could see tangible evidence that their faith was genuine.
They received a promise from God; they claimed that promise from God. And they patiently endured and waited until the promise of God was received.
Just like George Mueller.
George Mueller understood through prayer and through his quiet time that God’s will was for him to get to Quebec for an important speaking engagement.
He claimed God’s Will, and what he understood to be God’s Will.
And then he patiently waited for God’s Will to be carried out even though the circumstances looked contrary to the outcome.
Now in verse 3, Paul gives us one of the first important items we are to have faith in.
We read in verse 3:
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Faith in God’s creation, and God being the Creator, has great influence and is the foundation of everything else we have faith in.
If you don’t have faith in God’s Creation account, you will not have a strong faith in other areas concerning God’s promises.
Faith not only looks forward to future events and hopes that we have, but it also looks back to the beginning of the world, and also history.
By faith we understand much more about the formation of the world and the universe than we could ever understand by observation and human reasoning alone.
Faith is not a force against knowledge and understanding, but instead, it is a friend and a help to it.
It is because of faith in God’s creation process, and understanding that God is our Creative Intelligent Designer, who designed with perfection the human eye, the human hand, our bodies, the worlds, the stars,
It is because of this faith that helped scientists like Issac Newton, Michael Faraday, Blaise Pascal, Johann Kepler, and others, to become even better scientists.
And Paul is wanting us to have a basic faith in regards to who created the universe, because it’s a foundational faith.
Creation is so complex, so obviously intelligently designed, that there has to be a thoughtful, thinking, intelligent, loving Person behind the Creation world we see.
It is also obvious to see that the world we live in was made with great precision.
And the Bible here says that Creation was a framed work. A very exact, and planned, and perfect work.
And then very interestingly, the Bible says that it was framed out of nothing.
Out of no pre-existing matter.
Atheists often get pinned in the corner when trying to explain the origin of the universe, and have to admit that somehow, “nothing created everything.”
That during the Big Bang, before that singularity, before there was something, there was nothing.
Well that is generally true. You can’t make something out of nothing. That is impossible. Unless God is involved, who can command anything into being from nothing.
So I’m going to agree with the Atheists on this one.
Because I have faith in what the Bible says: that the things which we see were not made by things which do appear.
And I believe that God, from nothing, can create everything.
Ok, Let’s keep reading:
[Hebrews 11:4-7 KJV] 4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks.
In verse 4, Abel demonstrated faith by properly offering a sacrifice to God.
Cain offered a sacrifice of vegetables, while Abel offered a blood sacrifice, which is what God demanded.
Cain is an example of one who thinks he can choose his own way to God.
Abel is the example of one who approaches God according to God’s instructions.
And the blood sacrifice did not make Abel righteous. But what made Abel righteous was his faith.
And the evidence of his faith was that he offered the type of sacrifice that God required. Abel trusted and respected God.
Abel brought a true sacrifice and demonstrated true righteousness.
God also gave Abel a positive witness in that he had respect and accepted Abel’s sacrifice.
So through Abel’s blood sacrifice, although Abel is now dead, Abel still speaks.
He is still a witness of living a life of faith.
- So because Abel believed, he offered a better sacrifice.
- Because he offered a better sacrifice, it showed that he was righteous.
- And because he was righteous, God gave him a true witness of having lived a life of faith, by accepting his sacrifice.
Then we read:
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 had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
In verses 5-6, Enoch demonstrated faith by living a life that was well-pleasing to God.
We read in Genesis chapter 5:
[Genesis 5:22-24 KJV] 22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
Enoch lived a life that was pleasing to God before he was translated, taken up into Heaven.
The act of translation has the concept of being raptured from earth to Heaven.
It means a transformation of the body, where corruption puts on incorruption, and mortality puts on immortality.
And the point Paul makes in this verse is that without faith, it is impossible to please God.
Enoch was well-pleasing to God because Enoch had faith. And Enoch living a righteous life was evidence of his faith.
Now Paul makes the point that the one coming to God must believe two things to have faith.
First, that He is.
A person must believe that God exists. And you must believe that God exists according to how God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.
And God has revealed Himself as being Perfect and Righteous, full of Love and Mercy, and Having great power. Power even to Judge and to forgive. And He is One God, but existing through three Persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This practical belief in God as revealed in the Bible is the first step to faith.
Second, Paul says that you must believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
God has provided a very specific way how he may be found.
And it starts by approaching His Son.
Jesus said: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.
And then in Jeremiah 29, we read:
13 And you shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.
So you must humble your heart, you must empty yourself, and you approach God not according to your standards, not according to your understanding of God, but as what is revealed in Scripture.
And then we get to verse 7, which will be our last verse in our reading:
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
So we see Noah demonstrating faith through his obedience.
The reason Noah built the ark was because he was warned of God.
And he was warned of God of things not yet seen.
Until the time of Noah, it had never rained upon the earth, and that there had never been a flood.
People had never seen water come down from heaven.
Nevertheless, God said it would happen, and Noah believed God.
This took an extraordinary amount of faith on Noah’s end to believe this, and to continue on with his work.
I imagine he was mocked and ridiculed by the whole world.
But Noah showed his faith by building the ark:
So of the three examples that we read, Abel demonstrated his faith by approaching God according to God’s terms, which was a blood sacrifice.
Enoch demonstrated his faith by living a life pleasing to God.
And Noah demonstrated his faith by being obedient to God’s instructions.
So how are we to make use of these examples?
How are we to make application of what we have just read.
Well, like Abel, we too need to demonstrate our faith by coming to God under his terms. And by offering sacrifices to God, that God will accept.
But we are not required to offer sacrifices the same way Abel was required to offer sacrifices, but instead, we read in the Bible:
[Psalm 51:16-17 NKJV] 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart–O God, You will not despise.
When you come to God with a broken heart for your sins. And you confess your sins to God.
The Bible says, these are sacrifices that God will accept.
And then when you truly believe on Jesus, trusting what he did on the cross to cover your sins, being the perfect Lamb of God, then God will accept you.
This is how you can offer a blood sacrifice to God, and demonstrate your faith.
And then like Enoch, we also demonstrate our faith by living a life pleasing to God.
Before Christ, and before the Holy Spirit living inside of you, you were a slave to sin, trapped in bondage to your old sinful lifestyle.
But now you have been made free from the penalty of sin. And God has removed from you your heart of stone, and has given you a heart of flesh.
He has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to live inside of you, who will conform you to the image of God’s Son.
So that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…Paul says in Romans.
This is the second way we demonstrate our faith, by living according to God’s righteous standards, empowered now by His Holy Spirit living inside of us, strengthening us.
And then third, like Noah, we demonstrate our faith by being obedient to God’s instructions, and confident that what God says will happen will surely come to pass.
And also confident that what God already said has happened, Like his creation account, has truly happened as He has revealed in Scripture.
When we have this kind of confidence in God’s commands, and our actions demonstrate this level of trust in God’s revealed word, and what we understand his Will to be, this becomes a faith that is pleasing in God’s sight.
This is the kind of faith that Paul is encouraging all of us to have. It’s a simple faith, a child like faith, where we are able to lean fully on the promises of God. And to trust God, with all our heart.
Let me close with a verse:
[Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV] 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
And I just want to say, we are to use our knowledge and understanding when we approach God. But we are not to lean on it, as in to put all our weight on our human intellect. On human reasoning alone.
But instead we have to use our knowledge and intellect in order to become confident in God’s word, SO we can trust in His testimony, trusting what He has revealed to us, and fully lean on God as we go about living a life of faith.
Let me pray.