What is faith? Upon whom
or what is my faith focused? Do I have faith
in God? Do I live by faith? What is my faith
producing? In what ways is my faith changing my
The faith in view in
Hebrews 11 is faith in Jesus Christ so as to receive
eternal salvation or eternal life.
John Owen said, "This
faith is that whereby the 'just shall live;' that
is, it is a divine, supernatural, justifying, saving
faith, the faith of God's elect, the faith that is
not of ourselves, but is of the operation of God
wherewith all true believers are endowed from above"
(Hebrews, p. 214-215).
What is faith? "True
faith—created in me by the Holy Spirit through the
gospel—is not only a knowledge and conviction that
everything that God reveals in His Word is true, but
also a deep-rooted assurance that not only others,
but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made
forever right with God, and have been granted
salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace earned for
us by Christ" (Heidelberg Catechism, answer 21).
Faith begins with a sense
of need. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God" (Matthew
5:3). All Scripture references are from the New
American Standard Bible Update 1995 unless otherwise
noted. The sense of poverty is an utter spiritual
destitution, helplessness. It is the absence of
pride, self-assurance, self-reliance. There is a
sense of utter nothingness and utter dependence upon
God. This is always where true biblical faith
The writer of Hebrews
underscores this sense of need. "Now faith is the
assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of
things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the
Christian's true "world view." It is faith focused
in Jesus Christ. "Faith is the confident assurance
which the believer has because God has provided
conviction about unseen realities," writes Homer
Kent, Jr. in The Epistle of Hebrews: A Commentary,
The key to understanding
this whole chapter is the conviction that God would
raise the dead. Resurrection faith underlies this
chapter. The God who raised the dead is the One who
makes these promises and fulfills them. "He
[Abraham] considered that God is able to raise men
even from the dead . . ." (Heb. 11:19a).
Faith begins with "things
hoped for;" it begins with that sense of need. Do
you want it so badly you hunger and thirst for it?
The Holy Spirit creates that sense of hunger and
dissatisfaction within the heart.
The greatest enemy is the
attitude of self-satisfaction.
In whom do we place our
faith? "And without faith it is impossible to please
Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is
and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him"
(Hebrews 11:6). Everyone is born with an inner sense
that God does exist. I have always been amazed to
observe children whom you would think would be
incapable of getting hold of the concept of God's
existence, yet they have no difficulty believing
that God exists. Where does this come from? God
created man and woman in His own image. In the image
of God He created them. People have to be educated
to not believe in God's existence. What is our
response to the operation of the Holy Spirit
bringing us to vital faith in Christ? In the
examples before us, "The best way to grow in faith
is to walk with the faithful" (Warren Wiersbe,
Bible Exposition, vol. 2, p. 318).
By Faith Abel
Cain and Abel wanted to
worship God (Gen. 4:1-15). They are pictured in
Genesis 4 bringing their offering to God. Man is
never satisfied without God's presence in his life.
Cain and Abel represent
two different approaches to a relationship with God.
The account implies that they had prior information
on how to approach God. However, Cain's attitude was
sinful. He chose to believe a lie, and he was
I hear people saying one
way is just as good as another; we are all going to
the same place. It does not matter what you believe
as long as you believe in something. I regret to
inform you, but all roads do not lead to heaven.
Some will take you to an eternal hell.
"By faith Abel offered to
God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he
obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God
testifying about his gifts, and through faith,
though he is dead, he still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4).
The emphasis is on
"God looked with favor on
Abel and his offering" (Gen. 4:4). Abel was a
righteous man. He had a right relationship with God.
That was his testimony. The writer of Hebrews tells
us Abel offered unto God a "more excellent"
sacrifice than Cain. It was offered "by faith." But
I think it was an offering that looked forward to
the greater sacrifice of the Lamb of God that takes
away the sin of the world. It foreshadowed the
offering of Christ for our sins. The writer of
Hebrews has already told us "without the shedding of
blood there is no forgiveness." That has been the
emphasis of the whole book. Jesus has offered a
John Owen says, "The
faith of Abel was fixed on God not only as a
Creator, but as a Redeemer. . ." His faith
"testified in the kind of his sacrifice, which was
by faith and blood . . . . The way of atonement,
which was to be by blood, the blood of the promised
From the context what
made Abel's offering superior to Cain was an
offering of the "firstlings of his flock and of
their fat portions." The record in Genesis reads,
"Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of
his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord
had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for
Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain
became very angry and his countenance fell" (Genesis
4:4-5). What was offered up to God was just as
important as how it was offered. Abel's offering
included the "fat" portion, which in the eyes of
that generation was the very best portion of the
animal. I am convinced Abel's offering was a slain
animal and was a bloody sacrifice. I think Hebrews
9:22 and the manner in which the author of Hebrews
has developed his thesis up to this chapter leads to
that conclusion. Genesis does not specifically say
Abel's offering was a bloody sacrifice; however, God
slew animals and made coverings for Adam and Eve. I
think instructions were probably given by God
regarding substitutionary sacrifices at that time.
Abel presented his offering by faith in response to
revelation from God as to the offering He wanted.
How did God testify of
Abel's righteousness? John Owen suggests God
testified that is He judged, esteemed, and accounted
him righteous; for otherwise God is no respecter of
persons. Whomsoever God accepts or respects, He
testified him to be righteous, that is, to be
justified and freely accepted with Him. Abel was not
made righteous, he was not justified by his
sacrifice; but therein he showed his faith by his
works" (Hebrews, p. 218).
Kent observes that
Genesis speaks of Abel's blood crying out to God for
vengeance, in Hebrews it speaks to us of the
importance of faith in God. Philip Hughes says, "The
simplest sense remains the best sense namely, that
Abel by his example of faith and righteousness still
speaks to us today, even though he has so long been
dead" (Hebrews, p. 457). Martin Luther said
Abel "is more alive than ever! So great a thing is
faith! It is life in God."
"Our persons must be
first justified, before our works of obedience can
be accepted with God; for by that acceptance He
testifies that we are righteous," writes John Owen.
By Faith Enoch
"By faith Enoch was taken
up so that he would not see death; and he was not
found because God took him up; for he obtained the
witness that before his being taken up he was
pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible
to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe
that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who
seek Him" (Hebrews 11:5-6). Compare this with
Enoch did not die; he was
"taken up" into heaven. The word metatithemi "taken
up" means "removed" or "transferred." He changed
places. He was moved from one place to another, from
earth to the presence of God in heaven.
If Enoch had died a
normal death like his contemporaries the Genesis
record would have read the like other in his day. He
lived some many years "and he died." But that is not
what it says. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was
not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24). Here again, the
simplest interpretation is the correct one.
"Enoch was taken up so
that he would not see death" is the conviction of
the writer of Hebrews. To "see death" is a normal
expression to experience death. Moreover, "and he
was not found because God took him up" is a sudden
supernatural removal from this earthly experience.
He was not to be found anywhere. He just disappeared
because God removed him from the earth.
Enoch is a beautiful Old
Testament type of the Christian believer who will be
caught up to be with Christ when He returns. Those
believers who are alive will not experience death,
but will be changed in the twinkling of the eye. The
apostle Paul wrote: "For this we say to you by the
word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain
until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those
who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will
descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of
the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the
dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are
alive and remain will be caught up together with
them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and
so we shall always be with the Lord" (1
Enoch pleased God and God
took him up into heaven. Enoch walked with God by
faith. His example is still before us to this day.
The just or righteous one shall live by faith is a
theme both in the Old and New Testament. God will
reward the faithful just as He did Abel and Enoch.
There is a direct relationship between their faith
and their reward. Without faith it would have been
impossible for Enoch to please God.
"And without faith it is
impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God
must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of
those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Upon whom or in what is
your faith focused? Hebrews rules out self-help pop
psychology, word of faith movements, new age
movements, etc. The focus is faith in God through
Jesus Christ. We who deserve nothing look to Jesus
who merited everything for us. The good works we
produce is that which He works in and through us to
His glory. "For we are His workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Ephesians
2:10). God rewards His works and gifts that He is
working in us. "For it is God who is at work in you,
both to will and to work for His good pleasure"
(Philippians 2:13). Martin Bucer wrote in
1512, "all the good that God does to us and the
eternal life that he gives us still remain the
results of His grace alone, so that no one should
boast of himself, but only of the Lord (Phil. 2:13;
Rom. 6:23; 11:5f, 36; 1 Cor. 1:29f)." No one states
it better than the apostle Paul. "Oh, the depth of
the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable
His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or
who became His counselor? Or who has first given to
Him that it might be paid back to him again? For
from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans
11:33-36). That is the person who walks by faith in
a way that pleases God!
The rewards are never
earned; they are all of grace. The rewards are not
in payment for service rendered. They are the result
of making ourselves available to Him to do in and
through us all that He chooses to do. They are His
blessings on the believer who walks by faith.
By Faith Noah
"By faith Noah, being
warned by God about things not yet seen, in
reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his
household, by which he condemned the world, and
became an heir of the righteousness which is
according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7). The testimony of
Noah is recorded in Genesis 6:9-9:29.
Noah received divine
instruction regarding God's future plans. He
continued to believe in the promises of God for at
least 120 years! He had probably never seen a drop
of rain, and definitely not a cataclysmic flood. He
had never seen a super ocean going cargo carrier.
Everyone else was making fun of him. He had no
experiences to base his faith upon, however he
trusted God and inherited a new world after the
Noah persevered in faith
and that same faith condemned the world of unbelief.
It was by that same faith he "became an heir of the
righteousness which is according to faith." "To be
an heir of this righteousness is to be the recipient
of that righteousness which God imputes to those who
trust Him, and denotes also the fact that enjoyment
of the full inheritance is yet future," writes Kent
(ibid. p. 122). The apostle Paul's passion was that
he "be found in Him [Christ], not having a
righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but
that which is through faith in Christ, the
righteousness which comes from God on the basis of
faith" (Philippians 3:9). His righteousness is a
declared righteousness that is imputed through faith
in Christ. It is an alien righteousness. It is the
righteousness of Christ that is credited to him
through faith. The inheritance is the righteousness
that Christ provided through His death and
resurrection (2 Cor. 5:21). The Bible clearly
declares "no one in any age is saved except through
faith in Christ, and on the basis, either
anticipated or fulfilled, of his mediatorial work.
Christ, indeed, is supremely and uniquely the Heir:
He it is, and none other, whom the Father has
'appointed the heir of all things.' Noah and every
other heir of righteousness is so only by virtue of
having been made one with Christ, the sole Heir, by
faith" (Hughes, Hebrews, p. 464).
"This is gratuitous
justification by the righteousness of Christ imputed
unto us by faith; he was made the 'heir' of this
righteousness; that is, by gratuitous adoption.
Whatever we receive upon our adoption belongs unto
our inheritance. The righteousness of faith is the
best inheritance, for thereby we are manifested as
'heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ'" (John
Owen, Hebrews, p. 222).
In obedient faith Noah
survived the flood with his wife and sons. The Flood
that became the means of salvation for Noah was also
the destructive judgment of God upon a depraved
Noah's testimony condemns
the world to this day. Jesus used Noah's experience
and testimony to declare a sudden coming day of
judgment when He returns. "For the coming of the Son
of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in
those days before the flood they were eating and
drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the
day that Noah entered the ark" (Matthew 24:37-38).
Jesus made it very clear,
"of the day and hour no one knows, not even the
angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father
alone." A couple verses later He said, "Therefore,
be on the alert, for you do not know which day your
Lord is coming. . . . For this reason you be ready
too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when
you do not think he will" (vv. 42, 44).
When He comes will He
find faith? What is your personal relationship with
Jesus Christ? There will not be a second chance.
That is why the Holy Spirit pleads with you now to
place your trust in Christ. If you do not know
Christ as your Savior you will face Him as your
There are some funny
ideas about faith floating around in the media.
Faith is not positive thinking. It is far from the
name it and claim it, word of faith movement. As we
shall see in Hebrews eleven be very careful when you
hear false teachers claiming promises of the land of
Israel and applying them to Christian wealth and
prosperity in our day. It is a false interpretation
and application of the Old Testament. The specific
promises to Abraham are not the promises to
Christians no matter how far you stretch the
"It is by faith the
convicted and repentant sinner is saved (Acts
16:31). It is by faith that Christ dwells in the
heart (Eph. 3:17). It is by faith that we live (Gal.
2:20). It is by faith that we stand (Rom. 11:20; 2
Cor. 1:24). It is by faith we walk (2 Cor. 5:7). It
is by faith the Devil is successfully resisted (1
Pet. 5:8, 9). It is by faith we are experimentally
sanctified (Acts 26:18). It is by faith we have
access to God (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 10:22). It is by
faith that we fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). It
is by faith that the world is overcome (1 John 5:4).
Reader, are you certain that you have the 'faith of
God's elect' (Titus 1:1)? If not, it is high time
you make sure, for 'without faith is impossible to
please God'" (A. W. Pink, Hebrews, p.
God in His saving grace
has done everything that needs to be done for you to
be saved. I tis not automatic and it is not
universal. Not everyone will be saved. It is not
automatic even though it is of grace. What must you
do to be saved? Paul and Silas told the Philippian
jailor, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be
saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).
With the lives of all
these men God was pursuing an intimate love
relationship with them. He took the initiative to
invite them to join Him in what He was doing. He
communicated with them and pursued a personal
relationship with each. When He had them ready He
invited them to join Him to accomplish His eternal
purposes. Their testimony of faith in God lives
"Without faith it is
impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God
must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of
those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
When He comes, will Jesus
find us trusting Him? How do we please Him? It is by
walking with Him in faith. It is a moment by moment,
day by day experience. It is learning to commune
with Him throughout the day. It is to pray
continually in silent prayer, and open communion
The evidence of that
faith is the fruit that it produces. There will be
works because faith always produces works.
11:4-7 Example of the Faith of Abel, Enoch and