Hebrews 11:1-16 - Outline of Hebrews (Book Notes menu page)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
now {and, also, moreover}...- This chapter follows logically from the previous chapter.
faith is...- "The just shall live by faith" (Heb 10:35-39). But what is faith?
Faith - is not adherence to "what you know ain't so."
      - is not loyalty to an unreasonable concept.
      - is not some mystical sixth sense.
      - is not a blind leap in the dark.
Faith, according to everyday usage, means trusting that which is trustworthy.
   eg., We have faith in our bank or in our employer because they are reputable. [JVMcGee]
The word 'faith' {GK=pistis} means: persuasion, conviction, belief, assurance.
the substance {GK=hupostasis, lit., that which stands, the foundation}
(This word is translated as "person" in 1:3, and "confidence" in 3:14.)
"Hupostasis" rests on fact. It is the opposite of "hypothesis" which rests on theory.
...of things hoped for {confidently expected} - based on the Word of God, not upon wishful thinking.
God's faithfulness to His promises is the foundation of our faith and hope (Heb 10:23,35,36).
the evidence {GK=elegmos, proof sufficient to bring conviction in a court of law}
...of things not seen - ie., the sure promises of God, which await future fulfillment.
Rom 8:24,25; 2Cor 4:18; 1Pet 1:7-9
11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
the elders - ie., the OT fathers (cp. Heb 1:1).
Ch.11 focuses on the examples of people...
-- who received salvation by faith in God and His provision, and
-- whose lives were lived by faith in God and His provision.
a good report {GK=martureo, witness} cp. v.39
They received witness from God in two senses:
  • God's witness to them: They received His Word, and obeyed it.
    1Joh 5:9,10; 1The 2:13; 2Pet 1:20,21
  • God's witness about them:
    They received God's approval, because they trusted Him (eg., v.4,5).
11:3 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.
we understand {GK=noeo, perceive with the mind} - That is:
The revelation of God, His testimony to us, is the basis of our understanding.
The elders (eg., Moses) originally received and recorded that testimony.
the worlds were framed {lit., the ages were set in order} by the Word of God.-
The thought, here, extends beyond the physical act of creation, to the establishment of His plan for the ages. (See Note at Heb 1:2.)
so that things seen... were made of things which do not appear.
The principle of faith is established on the first page of scripture (Gen 1:1). The invisible God, who is invisible Spirit, spoke invisible words, and everything that 'is' appeared, where nothing was before.
     "The Creator is ever present and acts according to His purposes, whether human eyes comprehend Him or not." [CJEllicott] Job 38:4; Deu 29:29; Rom 1:19-21; 1Pet 1:10-12
Examples of men who walked by faith:
A. Abel demonstrated: The Way of faith - (v.4)
11:4 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 speaketh.
Abel... Cain (Gen 4:1-12) - What set these brothers apart from one another?
It could not have been their ancestry or environment.
It was their response to God's revealed Word. Abel acted in obedience "by faith." Gen 4:1-5
a more excellent sacrifice - Why was Cain's offering not acceptable to God?
Abel's bloody sacrifice...
  1. acknowledged the wages of sin, and anticipated sin's remedy (Gen 2:17; Rom 6:23).
  2. expressed faith in God's promise...
    • given to Eve: The 'seed of the woman'
      would deliver mankind from Satan's power (Gen 3:15; Mat 1:21-23).
    • foreshadowed by the "coats of skins" with which God covered Adam and Eve.
      cp. Gen 3:21 with Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22
    • expected by Eve at Cain's birth:
      "...I have gotten me a {lit., 'the'} man from the Lord" (Gen 4:1).
      Believers would watch, for many generations, before His coming (Gal 4:4).
Cain's offering was of the fruit of the ground {HB='adamah}.
  • Adam and his descendants are of the earth earthy (1Cor 15:47).
    The fallen flesh cannot please God, but needs a Savior.
  • Cain was the first man to reject God's promise.
    Instead, he presented his self-righteous works as good enough.
    He acknowledged neither his sin, nor his need for salvation, nor God's provision.
  • Cain's sin produced the fruit of murder and secured God's curse.
he obtained witness - God clearly stated which offering was acceptable to Him.
Abel, having responded by faith in God's Word, was declared righteous.
he being dead yet speaketh.- Abel's story speaks to us, today:
'The Way of salvation is through faith in the blood of the Lamb.' 1Pet 1:18-21; Heb 12:24
by faith...- Faith simply lays hold of God's provision.
"It is not thy hold on Christ that saves thee; it is Christ.
It is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee; it is Christ.
It is not even thy faith in Christ that saves thee, though that be the instrument.
It is Christ's blood and merit." [CHSpurgeon]
B. Enoch demonstrated: The Walk of Faith - (v.5,6)
11:5 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.
death - Genesis ch.5 reverberates with the phrase "...and he died."
Because of sin, death is the sad story of mankind. Enoch was an exception.
Gen 5:21-24; Psa 89:48; Heb 9:27
By faith Enoch was translated {removed from one realm to another}...
Enoch's faith was in God. His translation was at God's discretion and time.
God removed him from among the dying, into the presence of the everliving One.
Enoch... was not found - When Elijah was translated (centuries later),
men searched but did not find him (2Kin 2:11,16-17). So, it will be when Christ snatches His Bride, the true Church, away at the Rapture (1The 4:16-18).
Enoch... had this testimony (from God): he pleased God (prior to his translation).
Not all, who call themselves Christians, have this testimony. v.6; Rom 8:8,9
Not all, who call themselves Christians, will be taken in the Rapture. Heb 9:28
Enoch "walked with God"-
  • Following a Sunday School class about Enoch, a little girl retold his story like this...
    Every day, God would come by and say, 'Enoch, would you like to take a walk with me?' Enoch always went because he wanted to know God better... One day, after they had walked together for an unusually long time, Enoch said, 'Oh, look how late it's getting. I'd better start on back.' But God said, 'We're closer to my house than to yours. Why don't you just come home with me?!' [Illustration adapted from JVMcGee]
  • Enoch's life was governed, not by rules and regulations,
    but by love for God and a desire to know and please Him. cp. Col 1:9,10; 1The 4:1
11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: {Heb 3:12,18,19}
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is,
and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
he that cometh {GK=proserchomai, to draw near (cp. this word in Heb 7:25; 10:1,22)}
There is only one Way of access to God: through faith in His Salvation (v.4; Joh 14:6).
he that cometh to God must believe...
...that He is. (eg., Rom 10:14)
...that He is a rewarder (ie., recompenser, one who pays wages, cp. Heb 2:2; 10:35)...
This verse is not teaching that salvation can be earned as a reward.
We know that salvation is a free gift, received by simple faith in Christ's finished work.
-- But do we, who claim to believe, seek Him diligently? and serve Him faithfully?
Rom 12:1,2; Php 3:8-12; Heb 12:12-15; 2Pet 1:10; 3:14; Psa 63:1-8
C. Noah demonstrated: The Witness of Faith - (v.7)
11:7 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.
warned of God - Noah received God's Word. Gen 6:13,14
He believed that the things, of which God spoke, were true, and would surely come.
moved with fear {ie., the fear of God} -
He knew that God meant business, and he acted accordingly.
prepared an ark - He applied himself to the task, sparing no cost or effort. Gen 6:22
condemned the world -
Noah's faith, expressed in word (as a preacher of righteousness, 2Pet 2:5)
and in deed (in preparing ark, food and animals, and in entering the ark when commanded), exposed the unbelief of the world.
The lives of godless men are in stark contrast to a man who walks with God. Gen 6:5-12
became heir of the righteousness which is by faith - cp. v.4; Heb 10:38
Noah's righteousness was not inherently his own. It was inherited from Another (cp. 9:15).
God imputed righteousness to him, by grace through faith.
(This has always been God's method of salvation. cp. Rom 5:2; Eph 2:8,9)
Some have doubted the effectiveness of Noah's witness.
He preached righteousness for 120 years. Yet, apparently, none of his neighbors repented. J.V.McGee points out that he won his family for the Lord. Given the godlessness of their day, his sons would have been hopelessly lost, if they had not been faced with the reality of God's Word, which their father had believed, and to which he bore witness as he spoke and lived for God.
D. Abraham demonstrated: The Worship of Faith - (v.8-16)
11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out
into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance,
obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
- was called - Having received God's Word, he believed. By faith, he...
- obeyed {GK=hupoakouo, listened intently, gave heed} see this word in Rom 6:17; 10:16; Heb 5:9
True worship & service involves obedience & surrender to God's Will.--
-- Not grudging obedience, but that which flows from a heart captured by His Person.
-- Not natural order, but steps ordered by the Lord, often contrary to natural thinking.
- went out...not knowing...- His walk was by faith, not by sight (v.1,3).
Abraham obeyed, though he did not know where the Lord was leading him. It was not until after he had arrived in Canaan, that the Lord promised to give him that land. Yet, he did not receive that promised inheritance in his lifetime. cp: Gen 12:1-7; Acts 7:5
11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange country,
dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
he sojourned - ie., He lived, as a stranger, alongside others who had prior claim to the land.
-- as in a strange country - 'strange' means 'foreign.' He was a foreigner.
-- in tabernacles (tents) - He lived in temporary, movable housing. Gen 13:3,18
Isaac and Jacob, likewise, lived as transient strangers.
in the land of promise - Canaan would one day become Israel.
But these men, who held the title deed (in the form of God's promise), never took possession in their lifetimes.
According to what the eye could see, they were 'not possessing'.
11:10 For he looked for a {the} city
which hath
{the} foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.
Abraham... looked - for something beyond the earthly land of promise.
His inheritance was not limited by what he could see physically (cp v.1,3).
He understood, in some way, that God's promises "would not cease with this transient life... earthly blessing was but the earnest of some greater gift, yet future." [CJEllicott]
the city which hath foundations...
Abraham believed that God would establish what He had promised. Eventually, he and his seed would enter their inheritance, which would be a permanent city, not a movable tent.
This awaits fulfillment in the earthly Millennial Kingdom of Christ (eg., Isa 2:1-5), and ultimately, in His eternal Kingdom (cp. 2Cor 5:1; Heb 12:22; 13:14; Rev 21:1-3).
whose builder and maker is God {ie., 'whose architect and builder is God' [NASB]}
Like God's promise that Abraham would have a son, the building of this city was out of his hands. Abraham would watch for God to build it, in his time.
11:11 Through {by} faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed,
and was delivered of a child when she was past age,
because she judged him faithful who had promised.
Sarah - according to "things seen" was 'not producing'.
She seemed to have no part in the promise, or even to be a hindrance to its fulfillment. To that end, she devised a way for Abraham to have a son. Gen 16:1,2
Their fleshly plan was productive. But it was not of God.
Yet, the final testimony of God concerning her is:
she judged Him faithful who had promised - (cp. Heb 10:23)
God provided the strength to conceive and bear the promised child, when it was beyond human possibility (when she was 90 years old).
11:12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, {Rom 4:18-21}
[so many] as the stars of the sky in multitude,
and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
{Gen 15:5,6; 22:17}
Abraham is not only the father of the nation of Israel,
but also of "all who believe...that righteousness might be imputed unto them also" (Rom 4:11-25).
11:13 These all died in faith,
not having received the promises,
{cp. v.39}
but having seen them afar off, {cp. v.1,3}
and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them],
embraced {GK=aspazomai, lit., to draw to oneself, to greet, to salute, to welcome}
The promises were real and precious to them. eg., Gen 49:18
But they looked to Christ for completion.
and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
strangers {GK=xenos, foreigners}
pilgrims {GK=parepidemos, sojourners in a strange land, away from one's own people [WEVine]}
on the earth - not merely strangers in Canaan (cp. v.9)
cp. Gen 23:4; 47:9; Psa 39:12; 1Pet 1:1; 2:11
11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
country {GK=patris, fatherland, native country} - Our citizenship is in heaven. Php 3:20
11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that [country] from whence they came out,
they might
{ie., would} have had opportunity to have returned. {cp. Heb 10:38,39}
11:16 But now {ie., as the case stands} they desire a better [country], that is, an heavenly:
wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God:
for he hath prepared for them a city.
they desire a... heavenly [country] -
While yet on earth, they were...
  • strangers (v.13),
  • still seeking a true home (v.14),
    (They looked for the better 'rest' of which God is the provider. cp. Heb 4:8,9)
  • setting aside any claim to earth as home (v.15).
wherefore...- ie., "because of this lofty desire, or rather,
because of the faith and love toward Him, in which the desire was founded." [CJEllicott]
God is not ashamed to be... 'their' God.- cp. 2:11
He hath prepared a city for them-
"Before their desire existed, the home had been provided." [CJEllicott] Mat 25:34
What about us?
Are we living by faith, persuaded of His promises and making them our own?
Is our joy in this world, or in eager anticipation of our move to the Father's house? Joh 14:1-6

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