The Many Examples of Faithfulness
The theme of Hebrews is how much better we have it in Christ.
The central thesis is that we have full forgiveness of sins in Christ.
The whole point of the book is to encourage faithfulness in the Jewish Christians since they seemed to be falling away.
The latter half of Chapter 10 gives us further reasons for faithfulness, hearkening back to everything that was spoken earlier.
But like any good teacher, after he gives these reasons, he gives us examples of the faithfulness he is talking about.
Surely we can’t go into any detail on all the examples that the writer gives us, so we will make some broad statements concerning them.
But he starts with a definition (Heb. 11:1).
Faith is from the Greek word pistis.
Never is it defined as a blind belief in something.
It is also never defined as something that lacks obedience.
But it is the conviction of the truth of any particular thing.
Now we typically think of faith as having some substance or evidence to back it up, almost as an apologetic, or a defense for our faith.
But considering it all in context, it may not mean that at all.
I recently read it reworded like this, and it makes sense: “Faith through its active character gives substance to, that is, expresses the reality of, things hoped for; it demonstrates the truth of things not yet seen” (Hagner 181).
So this effectively defines faith as requiring obedience, or as this person called it, “active character.”
It is our active and obedient faith that is the substance of hope and is evidence of the unseen reality within us.
And we will see that it is by this faith that so many of the “elders [individuals in the OT] obtained a good testimony” (11:2).
Through them, we will see what this faith does for God and for us.
Faith Pleases God (11:3-6).
Faith Assures Us (11:7-22).
Faith Motivates Us (11:23-40).
Faith Pleases God (11:3-6).
By faith we understand.
He starts off with the Creation.
This is Creation out of nothing, or as the philosophers and such like to call it, Creation ex nihilo.
It was all created by the unseen word of God, which we know from John, is Jesus Himself (John 1:1-3).
By faith Abel and Enoch pleased God.
Abel pleased God with his sacrifice—it was more excellent than that of his brother’s.
We talked about this on a Sunday morning last month, that his was of the best of his flock, while Cain gave what was left over.
He did this by faith, and since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), it must have been that somehow God informed the brothers what He expected of them.
This is true of Enoch as well because he pleased God.
Here it is revealed that he did this so much that he didn’t even see death!
What an amazing honor—even Jesus saw death.
What’s interesting is that Genesis doesn’t record that Enoch pleased God but that he “walked with God” (Gen. 5:24).
This equates the two phrases: to walk with God is to please God.
And the only way we can please God is if we have faith in Him.
Without faith we cannot please God.
Recall, this faith is an obedient faith, a faith that requires action.
James states that no one is justified by faith only, but by works (James 2:24).
Faith without works is useless and meaningless.
And it is this working and obedient faith that pleases God.
And as the writer quoted from Habakkuk earlier in 10:37-38, if we draw back from the faith, that means He has no pleasure in us.
And part of that faith is believing that He is, that He exists, but also that He rewards those who diligently seek after Him.
Jesus tells us that if we seek, we shall find (Matt. 7:8)—certainly the reward we so desire!
And we must do so diligently.
Surely Abel and Enoch did by obeying His will, and so must we!
Faith Assures Us (11:7-22).
Faith Assured Noah, Abraham, and Sarah.
It is an unnerving thing to go out on a limb to serve God.
Noah spent 100 years building an ark, spending all that time and effort into putting this thing together, and for what?
Because of his faith which assured him his labors were not in vain.
And he was vindicated as the rain began to fall.
Abraham went out on a limb, moving to a land he had never been.
But he “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11:10).
What city was he waiting for but the church that Christ built? (Matt. 16:18).
He had a long time to wait, but his faith assured him of that reality.
Sarah, too, showed great faith in giving birth when she was old.
“She judged Him faithful who had promised” (11:11).
Granted, their faith was a bit rocky as we talked about Sunday morning a few weeks ago.
But it eventually found its footing, and their faith was proven.
Promises made; promises kept… later.
When Noah was made a promise, it wasn’t fulfilled for 100 years, but he kept at it.
When Sarah was made a promise through Abraham, it didn’t begin to be fulfilled for another 25 years, but they kept going.
Many of the promises to Abraham took over 400 years (nearly 500) to be realized, and one took 2000 years!
They were all made promises, however, that didn’t find fulfillment in their lifetime, some even up to today.
They could have gone back to their homelands and pretended like God didn’t make them any promises, but they instead desired “a better, that is, a heavenly country” (11:16).
And it says that “God is not ashamed to be called their God” – wow! How would you like that?
Of course, we note that Abraham was called the “friend of God” (James 2:23), and if someone is truly your friend, you will not be ashamed of them.
Looking forward to that better country.
The faith of these patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph), looked always forward to the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.
That would not have been realized if Isaac had died before having any children, and yet Abraham was willing to obey God here.
Those promises passed through the blessings that Isaac gave his sons and the blessings Jacob gave his sons and grandsons.
Even Joseph had faith that they would return to Canaan one day, looking forward to that land he was forced to leave as a teenager.
The faith they had assured them of these realities despite all evidence leading to the contrary.
They believed in God and obeyed Him because He had proved Himself many many times before.
Faith also motivates us when times get tough.
Faith Motivates Us (11:23-40).
By faith Moses.
As the writer goes through Hebrew history, he gets to Moses, the great lawgiver.
The first verse here (11:23) is really a testament to the faith of Moses’ parents, and perhaps even the midwives that are mentioned by name in Exo. 1—Shiphrah and Puah.
They kept the newborn boy alive despite the law to murder the little baby boys.
When he grew up, he chose the hardship of his people over the luxury of Egyptian royalty.
He kept the Passover and fled Egypt via the Red Sea with his people who had been enslaved.
All this he did by faith! An active and obedient faith! Something to back it up, more than just empty words and feelings.
His faith motivated him to act, to do the right thing.
Was he perfect? By no means, but the things he did right, he did by the faith that motivated him.
The faith of many more.
The writer then briefly mentions the faith of Joshua, though not by name, and Rahab, and many other heroes of the OT, including judges, kings, prophets, and priests.
He talks of the great deeds these OT heroes had done, followed quickly by the immense hardship, pain, and death many of them experienced (11:33-38).
Oh we love the tales of victory and amazing feats, but in vs. 35, the tone quickly flips to that of affliction and anguish.
We tend to avoid hardship, pain, and death at almost any cost.
We don’t like it, and we’re going to avoid it, whatever it takes.
But they didn’t—they dived headlong into it. Why? Because of their faith.
It’s not that they were masochistic, but that they knew their suffering was for a good and righteous cause.
For it was all done by faith, an obedient faith that motivated them to endure these terrible afflictions for righteousness’ sake.
But it was still a victory, though of a different sort: “they were triumphs of faith expressed in the faithfulness of total commitment” (Hagner 206).
The health and wealth so-called prosperity gospel forgets this, that oftentimes suffering is part of the faith, that there is no guarantee of an easy Christianity.
And if they were willing to go through all that without having received the promises, what ought we to be willing to go through having actually received them through Christ?
Recall, when we went through the first few chapters of Isaiah several months ago, he made his prophecies about Christ 700 years or so before Christ fulfilled them, and tradition states he was sawn in two under wicked King Manasseh (cf. 11:37).
You may ask, why go through all of this pain and anguish?
Well, while the fate of faith, if you will, may not be pleasant, the ultimate fate of heaven is worth it.
Recall, true faith, the faith that pleases God, not only requires obedience, but it has got to be in the reality that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
If we can keep that faith in mind, then we can trust in His unseen promises.
While we are in the age of fulfilled promises—fulfilled in the Christ that is better—it may be difficult for many to accept still.
Why? Because they haven’t seen it. And it’s true, we believe in a Christ we have not seen.
But He is faithful, “having provided something better for us” (11:40).
While that is in Christ, the full forgiveness of sins, I also know this is the reward we can obtain when we believe in Him!
Do you believe in Him this evening?
Last week, we talked about three reasons to be faithful.
One of those was because of the reward we will receive.
And we find here that we must believe that He will reward us if we continue to be faithful to Him.
With all the examples of faithfulness we have read about here, does that encourage us to be faithful ourselves?
What do you mean? I may have to go through all that hardship to be faithful?
I know, it seems like a raw deal, but the reward that awaits us is far greater than any hardship we may face here on earth.
In heaven, there is no sickness or death, no pain or anguish.
But the greater reward is to be with our Lord who loves us far greater than we can possibly imagine!
And the more you learn about Him, the more you’ll want to be with Him!
Let’s help you get to heaven this evening.
Salvation requires faith.
The salvation we find in Scripture requires a faith in God.
But not just any faith, the true, working, and obedient faith that we read about here.
That faith will guide you to the Scriptures to see what else is required: repentance, confession, and baptism.
Be saved today!