Hebrews chapter 11, class 15. Approved by faith

May 6, 2009, Edited May 7, 2009

Tod Kennedy

Main points to emphasize in Hebrew 11

  1. In our day to day lives faith is personal confidence, assurance, the guarantee to us about that which we anticipate God doing. "Faith binds the believer securely to the reality of what he does not (yet) see, but for which he hopes." (Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews NIGTC, 1993). See Hebrews 11.
  2. God honors believing believers. Faith brings God’s approval.
  3. Faith in God’s word forms a biblical worldview in us because we believe what the Bible says about life.
  4. The believers in Hebrews 11 were successful because they believed God. We will be successful in God’s eyes if and when we believe Him.
  5. Believers who trust God in spite of all history, circumstances, and people are spiritual nobility. The world is not worthy of them. Are we among those noble believers?

Outline

  1. Hebrews 11:1-3. The author describes faith.
  2. Hebrews 11:4-38. Illustrations of those who believed God at test time.
  3. Hebrews 11:39-40. Faith brings God’s approval.

Exposition of Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11.1-6 NA28

Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων. 2 ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. 3 Πίστει νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ, εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι. 4 Πίστει πλείονα θυσίαν Ἅβελ παρὰ Κάϊν προσήνεγκεν τῷ θεῷ, διʼ ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη εἶναι δίκαιος, μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ διʼ αὐτῆς ἀποθανὼν ἔτι λαλεῖ. 5 Πίστει Ἑνὼχ μετετέθη τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον, καὶ οὐχ ηὑρίσκετο διότι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός. πρὸ γὰρ τῆς μεταθέσεως μεμαρτύρηται εὐαρεστηκέναι τῷ θεῷ· 6 χωρὶς δὲ πίστεως ἀδύνατον εὐαρεστῆσαι· πιστεῦσαι γὰρ δεῖ τὸν προσερχόμενον τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἔστιν καὶ τοῖς ἐκζητοῦσιν αὐτὸν μισθαποδότης γίνεται.

  1. Note key verses in this chapter.
    1. Hebrews 11:1-3 explains how faith benefits those who believe God.
    2. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith in God and His promises is required to please God. This links with verses 1-3. Faith is necessary to please God—faith that God exists and that God rewards those who seek Him. In context this refers to those who believe the God of Israel and believe that He will fulfill His promises to them. See below for the uses of promise in Hebrews.
    3. Hebrews 11:16 indicates that these people had content to their faith. God had promised something to them and they believed him and awaited His accomplishment of the promise.
    4. Hebrews 11:38. These “faith-under-testing and suffering people” were acclaimed for their faith in God’s word and promises. The world was not worthy of these faith people. The world of mankind is always unworthy of believers who believe God.
  2. Hebrews 11:1-3. The author describes faith. In our day to day lives faith is personal confidence, assurance, the guarantee to us about that which we anticipate God doing.
    1. Verse 1. Our faith in what God says is our foundation and guarantee about that which we await—the bringing to pass of God’s promises.
      1. Faith is the subject, πίστις pistis. Trust in, persuasion of a thing, confidence, assurance that something is true. S4102.
      2. Assurance is the predicate nominative, ὑπόστασις hupostasis. This word means, according to Liddel and Scott 1. as an act: standing under, supporting 2. as a thing: 2.1. something that settles as in liquids, 2.2. a foundation or substructure of a temple; in a narrative, speech, or poem the argument or subject matter; confidence, courage, promise 3. nature, substance, reality. According to BADG 1. the basic structure or nature of something, 2. a plan, 3. condition, situation, 4. guarantee of ownership, a title deed. NT Greek Semantic Domains has “that which provides the basis for trust and reliance.” ALGNT offers “underlying reality behind anything, with the specific meaning derived from the context.” S5287.
        1. In this context “assurance” NASB or “substance” KJV refers to the basis or foundation or guarantee of what believers hope for. Hope is the verb ἐλπίζω elpizo, to expect, look forward to. S1679.
      3. “The conviction of things not seen.”
        1. Conviction is ἔλεγχος elegchos, an argument, accusation, reproof, correction, proof. S1650. In this context it means the argument resulting in proof of the things that we do not physically see—God’s promises.
    2. Verse 2. God honors believing believers. Faith brings God’s approval. The shortest distance to pleasing God and He honoring you is to believe Him.
      1. “For by it” refers back to faith in verse 1. “It” is a feminine demonstrative adjective referring to faith.
      2. The elders are the well known believers of Old Testament history. Illustrations follow in verses 4-38. Elders is the word πρεσβύτερος, α, ον presbuteros. S4245. This refers to an older person, an official, or an important person. Here the masculine is more generic and includes women (see 11:11, 16, 31, and 35).
      3. “Gained approval” is the word μαρτυρέω martureo, (a martyr testifies by his death) aorist passive indicative, third plural. The word means to bear witness, to give evidence, and in the passive often to have a good report given. S3140.
      4. This verse tells us that certain people of Old Testament history were highly spoken of by others through out history, and more importantly God spoke highly of them by including them in this record of those who were approved by faith. Hebrews 11:6 indicates that God approved of these people who believed Him.
    3. Verse 3. Faith in God’s word forms a biblical worldview in us because we believe what the Bible says about life.
      1. By faith we understand νοέω noeo, to perceive by the mind, to comprehend, to understand, present active indicative. S3539. We understand that…
      2. the ages (worlds), αἰών aion in the accusative plural. It is the subject of “prepared.” It means ages, long time, world. All the ages, all creation was prepared by God speaking. “Ages” word is used in Hebrews 1:2. All the ages of earth, all creation. See John 1:3.
        1. Prepared, καταρτίζω katartizo, to put in order, to furnish, to equip, to prepare for a purpose, aorist passive infinitive. The noun form of this word is used in the familiar Ephesians 4:12, “equipping.”
        2. By the word of God. Word is ῥῆμα rema, a spoken word. S4487. God spoke and brought the ages, all the time periods and what they contain, into existence.
        3. God spoke and all the ages making up the universe was prepared and furnished for His use.
        4. “So that” indicates result here. What we see did not arise from visible things. Visible is φαίνω phaino, to shine, to appear, to reveal, to recognize, aorist passive infinitive. God created out of invisible stuff. It does not say created out of nothing, but it implies that.
      3. Other Scripture that relates to this verse include Genesis 1:1, Genesis 2:1, Psalm 33:6, John 1:3, Acts 14:15, Acts 17:24, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2, 2 Peter 3:5, and Revelation 4:11.
    4. Some principles from Hebrews 11:3.
      1. God spoke or gave the command and the world–matter, time, order–came into existence. We understand this by faith in God’s word.
      2. What we see in the world and experience—matter, time, order—came from invisible or we might say from nothing. We understand this by faith in God’s word.
      3. Matter and what we see now is not eternal. There was a time when it did not exist. We understand this by faith in God’s word.
      4. This verse gives us the basis for the true world view—the biblical world view. God is the creator, organizer, sustainer of the world and all that makes it up. All true knowledge, science, philosophy must begin with God. We understand this by faith. God said it and we believe it.
      5. Therefore we can and must build our world view from what God has revealed to us in his Word. We understand this by faith in God’s word.
  3. Hebrews 11:4-38. We have illustrations of those who believed God at test time. The believers in Hebrews 11 were successful because they believed God. We will be successful in God’s eyes if and when we believe Him.
    1. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith in God and His promises is required to please God. This links with verses 1-3. Faith is necessary to please God—faith that God exists and that God rewards those who seek Him. In context this refers to those who believe the God of Israel and believe that He will fulfill His promises to them. See below for the uses of promise in Hebrews
    2. These people were well known in Israel’s history. It is important to remember that they were not heroes all the time. At times they disbelieved God and failed Him. The author chose them because at certain crises in their lives they did believe God. They illustrate that faith in God’s word is the one way to please God and to survive in the spiritual life. These stories tell us that the faith life can be lived.
    3. The author names 16 individuals in verses 4-33.
      1. In Hebrews 11:4-7 we have 3 believers who lived before Noah’s flood: Abel, Enoch, and Noah.
      2. In Hebrews 11:8-22 we have 5 believers who lived after the flood in the patriarch period: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.
      3. In Hebrews 11:23-31 we have 2 believers who lived in the Mosaic period: Moses and Rahab.
      4. Hebrews 11:32-34 cites 6 believers plus the prophets who lived in the judges and monarchy periods: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
    4. Hebrews 11:35-38 described the tortures that many unnamed believers endured. These suffered many painful and mocking circumstances. They remained strong in their faith. They were so courageous in their faith that from God’s point of view the world of mankind was unworthy to be associated with them. Believers who trust God in spite of all history, circumstances, and people are spiritual nobility. The world is not worthy of them. Are we among those noble believers?
      1. World is κόσμος kosmos, order, fashion, world order, universe, the world, the world of humanity. S2889. The verb “was” is the imperfect indicative of the Greek verb “to be,” eimi. This verb stresses continual action in the past.
  4. Hebrews 11:39-40. Faith brings God’s approval.
    1. Hebrews 11:39. They gained God’s approval because they continued to trust Him while under intense testing and suffering.
      1. “They gained approval through their faith.” “Gained approval” is μαρτυρέω martureo, (a martyr testifies by his death). This is the same word as in 11:3. Here it is aorist passive participle, masculine plural nominative. It is a circumstantial participle, probably of concession, meaning “These all, though they were approved through their faith, did not receive what was promised.” As noted above martureo means to bear witness, to give evidence, and in the passive often to have a good report given. S3140.
      2. They did not receive what was promised. The verb is κομίζω komizo, to take care of, provide for, to carry off as a prize, to get back and in the middle to carry off, to acquire, to receive (Liddell and Scott) and about the same in BAGD. S2865.
      3. The promised thing was the kingdom and the blessings of that kingdom. Promise is ἐπαγγελία epaggelia, command, announcement, promise S1860
    2. Verse 40. “Something better for us” was Messiah coming to fulfill and complete the old covenant and through His death and resurrection establish the new covenant upon which the kingdom promises would be brought to fulfillment. The Old Testament believers would not have had salvation completely accomplished nor the promised kingdom established apart from the coming of Messiah the first time to die and arise from the dead.
      1. “Because God provided” προβλέπω problepo, to forsee, to see beforehand and so to make provision for or to provide; aorist middle participle, circumstantial, genitive absolute causal participle, “because God provided.”
      2. Recall what we said about that Hebrews 10:2: to make perfect refers to the complete removal of sin and guilt. The following context (10:2-4) shows that this does not mean sinless perfection. It means the successful removal of sin. The same meaning applies in Hebrews 11:40.
  5. Review the points of emphasis in Chapter 11.
  6. Appendix. Promise in Hebrews. Hebrews 11 emphasizes believers who believe God’s promise. Promise is used 18 times in 17 verses in Hebrews and 7 times in 6 verses in Chapter 11. Most of these go back to the promise to Abraham of a son, a land, and a nation. This promise, known as the Abrahamic covenant, leads into a promise for a heavenly country and city that finds its fulfillment in the millennial kingdom and after.
      1. Promise in Hebrews: the noun ἐπαγγελία epaggelia, command, announcement, promise S1860; and the verb is ἐπαγγέλλομαι epaggellomai, to declare, to promise, to offer, to claim S1861.
      • Heb 4:1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.
      • Heb 6:12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
      • Heb 6:13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
      • Heb 6:15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.
      • Heb 6:17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
      • Heb 7:6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.
      • Heb 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
      • Heb 9:15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
      • Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
      • Heb 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
      • Heb 11:9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;
      • Heb 11:11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.
      • Heb 11:13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
      • Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;
      • Heb 11:33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,
      • Heb 11:39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
      • Heb 12:26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”

End of Hebrews 11 study