Hebrews 11:1-16 - Outline of Hebrews (MENU page)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
faith is- "The just shall live by faith" (10:35-39). But what is faith?
Faith is not adherence to "what you know ain't so."
Faith is not loyalty to an unreasonable concept.
It is not some mystical sixth sense.
Faith, according to everyday usage, means trusting that which is trustworthy.
(For example, we have faith in our bank or in our employer because they are reputable.) [JVMcGee]
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.
the evidence- GK=elegmos, proof sufficient to bring conviction in a court of law.
of things hoped for- ie., based on the Word of God, not upon wishful thinking. Heb 10:23,35,36
of things not seen- ie., the sure promises of God, which await future fulfillment.
Rom 8:24,25; 2Cor 4:18; 1Pet 1:8
11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
the elders- ie., the OT fathers (cp. 1:1).
Ch.11 focuses on the examples of people...
-- who received salvation by faith in God & His provision, and
-- whose lives were lived by faith in God & His provision.
a good report- GK=martureo, witness.
They received witness from God in two senses (cp. 11:39)-
  • God's witness to them - ie., They received His Word, and obeyed it.
    1Joh 5:9,10; 1The 2:13; 2Pet 1:20,21
  • God's witness about them - ie., They received God's approval, because they trusted Him.
    (cp. 11:4,5)
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 & recorded that testimony.
the worlds were framed- lit., the ages were set in order (see note at 1:2).
The thought here extends beyond the physical act of creation which was just one aspect of His plan for the ages.
things seen... 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] Deu 29:29; Rom 1:19-21; 1Pet 1:10-12
Examples of men who walked by faith:
A. Abel shows us: 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- 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 looked forward to the coming Savior -
-- required by the wages of sin (Gen 2:17; Rom 6:23).
-- promised to Eve (Gen 3:15).
-- foreshadowed by the "coats of skins" with which God covered Adam & Eve (Gen 3:21).
-- expected by Eve at Cain's birth: "...I have gotten me 'the' man from the Lord" (Gen 4:1).
The necessity of Christ's sacrifice has been made clear in Hebrews (eg. 10:1-18).
Cain was the first man to reject God's Word and present his own works.
He neither acknowledged his sin, nor his need for salvation, nor God's provision.
Without shedding of blood there is no remission for sin. Heb 9:22
witness- God has made clear which offering was acceptable to Him.
Abel, acting according to faith, was declared to be righteous.
Abel's story speaks to us: 'The Way of salvation is through the blood of the Lamb.'
(ie., by the blood of Christ. 10:19,20). cp. Heb 12:24
by faith- Faith simply lays hold of His 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 shows us: 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 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
Enoch... was translated- ie., removed from one realm to another.
Enoch... was not found- When Elijah was translated (centuries later),
men searched but did not find him. So, it will be when Christ snatches His Bride, the true Church, away at the Rapture. 2Kin 2:11,16-17; 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.
Are they ready for the Rapture? Heb 9:28
Enoch "walked with God"-
  • [Illustration adapted from JVMcGee] 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?!'
  • Enoch's life was governed, not by rules & regulations, but by a desire to know & to please God. cp. Col 1:9,10; 1The 4:1
11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]:
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 comes- GK=proserchomai, to draw near (cp. 7:25; 10:1,22)
There is only one way of access to God: through the Way He has provided (v.4).
must believe -- that He is.
-- that He is a rewarder (ie., recompenser, one who pays wages, cp. 2:2; 10:35)...
This verse is not teaching that salvation can be earned as a reward.
We have already seen that salvation is a free gift, based on Christ's work alone.
But for we who claim to believe, Do we take God seriously?
Am I concerned about His assessment of me? Do I want to hear: "Well done..."? (Mat 25:21)
If so, wouldn't my walk be characterized by seeking Him diligently?
Php 3:8-11; Heb 12:12-15; 2Pet 1:10; 3:14; Psa 63:1,2,8
C. Noah shows us: 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.
He believed that the things, of which He spoke, were reality, and would surely come.
moved with fear- ie., the fear of God.
He knew that God meant business, and acted accordingly.
prepared an ark- He applied himself, sparing no cost or effort.
condemned the world-
Noah's faith, expressed in word (as a preacher of righteousness, 2Pet 2:5) and deed (in building the ark), exposed the unbelief of the world.
The lives of godless men are in stark contrast to a man who walks with God. Gen 6:5-9
became heir of the righteousness which is by faith- cp. Heb 10:38; 11:4
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 no one repented. JVMcGee 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 the witness which their father received from God, and of the testimony which he spoke & lived for God.
D. Abraham shows us: The Worship of Faith - (v.8-)
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.
- obeyed- As we have seen elsewhere in Hebrews:
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.
    (cp. our Lord's example Heb 10:5-10)
- was called- his obedience was in response to God's Word.
- went out...not knowing- his walk was not by sight. (cp. 11:1,3)
In fact, when Abraham was first called, he did not know that the land would be his inheritance. After he had obeyed and had arrived in the land, he received the promise. But he did not receive the 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:
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 & 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 11:1,3).
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]
cp. vs.14-16; 12:22; 13:14; Rev 21:14
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 and Abraham devised their own means, which was not of God. Gen 16:1,2
Yet, the final testimony of God concerning her is:
she judged Him faithful who had promised- (cp. 10:23)
God provided the strength to conceive & 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; 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. Gen 49:18
The promises were real & precious to them. 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 (v.9,13)
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. 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. 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 & making them our own?
Is our joy in this world, or in eager anticipation of our move to the Father's house?

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