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Aug 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 16, 2020


Intro: Hebrews 11 is one of the magnificent passages in the Bible

It is right up there with Psalm 23, The Lord’s Prayer, and 1 Corinthians 13
– we won’t just step into Hebrews 11 – we need a running start
• last week’s passage culminated in two statements
◦ a line from the OT: my righteous one shall live by faith
◦ a line from writer: we are those who have faith
• it’s a fair question to ask, What does faith do for us?
◦ how does it make my life different from anyone else who is without faith?
◦ What is faith and what does it look like?
– Hebrews 11 gives us answers to these questions
• first, faith is defined – not with a dictionary type of definition
◦ but by explaining what faith does for us and how it challenges us
◦ then it shows us faith in living examples
Mariam Kamell, “What does . . . chap. 11 bring out with its repetition of ‘by faith’? Illustration after illustration verbally hammers home the point that these ‘heroes of the faith’ acted in a certain way as a result of their faith. Stressing an element of right content to faith, the author states in v. 3 that it is by faith we know . . . that God created the world. In addition to the knowledge, however, each of the characters here depicted acted in accordance with God’s will for them, whether it meant triumph and transformation . . . or pilgrimage and death . . . .” “. . . faith must have an active component or it is no faith at all.”
• the active component is stressed repeatedly: Abel offered, Noah constructed, Abraham obeyed, and so on
Luke Johnson observes that ch 11 begins “in a leisurely fashion, lingering over named figures,” giving details of their stories.
◦ but then it builds up speed until it gives only a rapid list of names,
◦ and by the end it lumps together a crew of unnamed heroes, and how their faith brought them to miracle and victory or suffering and martyrdom
Johnson also says “readers are advised to experience chapter 11 at least once in one go, read aloud and at full voice. Only in that fashion can its real power be fully experienced.”
– n chapter 6 verse twelve, we were told to
be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises
• now we get to meet those men and women we are to immitate

Faith, in our lives, is assurance and conviction
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Hope cannot exist in a vacuum – it requires faith
– there have been interesting research studies on hope
• much has come from what Victor Frankl discovered in Nazi prison camps
◦ hope can be the difference between life and death
• more recently, hope accounts for:
◦ better mental and physical health
◦ improved performance (in school and work)
◦ enhancement of personal relationships
• hope is energizing
– faith supports and focuses our hope and our hope inspires and fuels faith

People we meet in this chapter did not have anything more than we have
– in fact, they had less–for instance, see verse 39
Richard Hays, “The chief emphasis of the whole chapter is not just that the biblical characters mentioned here are virtuous examples, but that their faith remained fixed on promises that were substantially unfulfilled.”
• but the “things” hope for are, in fact, substantial
◦ they exist, but their existence lies in our future
• our assurance is the knowledge that we already own those “things”
– “conviction” can be translated proof – but what does faith prove?
• William Barclay has an interesting answer: It was Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus, but the centuries have passed and it is Jesus who is revered, while Pilate is all but forgotten
• in the future, the history of the world will prove and validate our faith

The point is, faith connects us to an invisible reality
– it’s invisible, either because the reality is still in the future,
• or because it exists in another dimension, or both
we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)
for we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7)
– faith is a way that we enjoy the future now
• when you order something online, do you get discouraged?
◦ do you think, “Oh, it will probably never come”?
◦ or do you look forward to that item arriving?
Dr. Joe Dispenza, “What if you knew that some issue facing you had been completely taken care of? What if you were certain that something exciting or great was about to happen to you? If you knew it without a doubt, there would be no worry, no sadness, no fear, and no stress. . . . You would be looking forward to your future.”
• that is the attitude we can have when we pray in faith, trusting in God
“If you begin to doubt, become anxious, worry, get discouraged, or overanalyze how this assistance might happen, you have undone everything that you originally accomplished. You got in your own way. . . . you lost your connection to the future that the divine mind was orchestrating for you.”
◦ faith connects us to the future that is going to be ours
◦ rejoicing as if it were already here is an expression of faith
William Barclay, “The Christian [says] that the future is not uncertain, because the future belongs to God.”

This verse could be the title of this chapter
For by it the people of old received their commendation. Hebrews 11:2

We will meet men and women of old, who lived “by faith”
– commendation translates matureo; most often translated “witness”
matureo is the origin of our English word, “martyr”
• here, it is God who gives witness, or commendation, to these heroes
– the quote I mentioned before from Habakkuk is relevant here,
my righteous one shall live by faith
• it appears three times in the New Testament (Romans and Galatians)
◦ and it is central to Paul’s theology of salvation
• all of these people were made righteous (right with God) by faith
◦ that is his witness about them–cf. Romans 4:3

A starting point for our faith
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:3

“By faith we . . .” – it’s interesting that “we” go first
– we understand something about our world
• this is where God’s will and our lives are played out
• we understand, because faith in God’s word brings enlightenment
The unfolding of your word gives light
it imparts understanding to the simple
(Ps. 119:130)
– my intellect cannot convince me that God even exists
• people of much greater intelligence could out-argue me
◦ so it comes down to a choice I make
◦ a choice for God – I choose to believe, to put my trust in him
• when I do that, something amazing happens
◦ an understanding comes to me – deeper than knowing information
◦ I experience the certainty that it is true – God, heaven, eternal life, all of it!
– faith changes our perspective
• we realize that our universe cannot explain itself
◦ something else brought it into existence, and something else sustains it
[Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3)
◦ the word translated “universe” is literally ages,
◦ that which exists through time; the planet and its history – space and time
• once again, faith’s specific orbit is things that are not visible

The first example: Abel
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4

I love this story – it is the first instance of formal worship in scripture
– but it also swirls with mystery – the first two brothers engage in worship
• one worked the soil, a farmer; the other was a shepherd
◦ how did they know to bring God an offering?
◦ who told them what they were supposed to offer him?
• there was something special about Abel’s offering
◦ Cain’s offering appears to be–ordinary
◦ that may say something about them, but it was not the issue
the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard (Ge. 4:4-5)
Notice the following:
1. God’s response was to both the person and the person’s offering
2. Afterward, God spoke to Cain, not to Abel
3. God told Cain what he needed to do to be accepted
If you do well, will you not be accepted? (Ge. 4:7)
4. God warned Cain what would happen if he did not choose to do well
We learn from this important lessons about worship:
1. Worship involves an offering, a gift we give to God
2. Worship is a dialogue with God – an interaction (cf. Gen. 12:7-8)
(the brothers waited to see whether God would accept their offerings)
3. In worship, the worshiper seeks God’s acceptance
(notice that both acceptable and accepting occur in Heb. 11:4. The issue of worship finding acceptance is emphasized all through the Scriptures, beginning in this first instance of worship)
4. The offering is inseparably bound to the worshiper
(it was not that what Cain offered was wrong, but that he was wrong:
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD (Pr. 15:8)

Again, faith is how we are made right(eous) with God
– that though Abel was dead yet “still speaks” refers to God hearing the cry of his blood from the soil (Ge. 4:10)
• Genesis does not give a specific explanation for this
• the writer of Hebrews may seen a hint here at a continued existence for Abel from God’s perspective
◦ if this seems far-fetched, wait until next week!

Conclusion: I am not going to tell you that faith is easy

But faith doesn’t look for “easy” or travel the safest roads
– faith accepts whatever God hands it, and works with that
– unlike our beliefs, faith is not about what we believe, but who we trust

Let me make a suggestion, if I may be so bold,
that every day we take a break from social media,
from television and entertainment,
from the news, whether domestic or international,
and immerse ourselves in the Scriptures

We do not need to be all the time filling our heads with trivia
We do not need to anchor our hearts and minds in this world
We need to know this awesome One
who calls us to himself
who invites us to trust him
Faith in God lifts us out of today’s fears into eternity’s calm
Every day this week,
can we try, consciously, to do one thing by faith?
One thing where our specific goal is to please God
by trusting him with something really important?

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