Morning Bible Study
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers.
The author expects the
readers to be well acquainted with Levitical worship and sacrifice.
He will constantly quote the Old Testament in a way that expects that the
reader understands what he’s talking about.
We also know that these believers were encountering very strong
Times were so bad that some were beginning to wonder if they shouldn’t quit
We will see three elements woven throughout this letter to the Hebrews.
1. Both Testaments
Even though the Old Testament has become “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13), the entire
book of Hebrews is built upon the clear foundation of the Old Testament.
(Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what
is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
You aren’t going to understand Hebrews, or even the New Testament correctly
unless you learn the Old Testament.
2. Jesus is superior
He’s superior to angels, Moses, and the Torah.
He’s superior to the Levitical priests and their sacrifices.
3. Don’t quit
The ultimate goal of the book is to encourage those who are struggling with
difficult times, and help them to endure.
We’re going to now tie the issue of their difficult times with the key to
survival – their faith.
One of our author’s warnings was back in chapter 3:
3:12 NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an
evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
It’s when we don’t trust God that we start running the risk of “departing”
or walking away from Him.
Our author showed us the reason the Israelites under Moses couldn’t enter
the “Promised Land”.
(Hebrews 3:19 NKJV)
we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The key to their failure was their lack of faith.
Last week, as our author reminded his readers of the persecution they were
going through and that the answer they needed was faith.
He did this by pulling out a quote from the Old Testament Minor Prophet
Habakkuk (Hab. 2:3-4) that “the just shall live by faith”, and then ended:
NKJV) But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those
who believe to the saving of the soul.
The saving of our soul comes through “faith”, through “believing”.
When it comes to salvation, it’s always been about whether you have faith
or you don’t.
Sometimes we like to paint salvation in the Old Testament as tied to
whether or not you obey the Law of Moses, but the real root issue is not
obedience, it’s always been faith.
So, just what is “faith”?
11:1-6 The Witness of Faith
:1 Now faith is the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
:1 faith – pistis – trust, belief
Don’t make this word to mean more than it does. It simply means “trust”.
This is the same word translated in 10:39 as “those who believe” (lit.,
“those of faith”)
Our author is simply picking up the thought at the end of the last chapter.
:1 the substance of things hoped for
things hoped for –
elpizo – to hope; to expect with
Present passive participle
The noun form of this word was translated “hope” in 10:23, “let us hold
fast to the confession of our hope”
“Hope” is about having a longing or desire of something that’s in the
future, something you don’t have quite yet.
substance – hupostasis – substructure, foundation;
NAS – “assurance”; NIV – “being sure”; NLT – “confident assurance”
The word is found 5 times in the NT, and three of those times is it
translated “confident” or “confidence” (2Cor. 9:4; 11:17; Heb. 3:14).
It’s your “faith” that makes your “hope” “substantial”.
Faith gives confidence to hope.
Faith is the solid foundation that your hope is built on.
Our faith is based upon some pretty solid stuff – great
historical truths about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When we say we have “hope” that Jesus will return one day, it isn’t just
wishful thinking, it is a hope that is based upon hundreds of prophecies from a
book that had made hundreds of predictions that have already come true.
In the following video, Peter Pan is trying to teach his young friends how
Some of you have this notion that “hope” is built upon
“wishful thinking”, of simply “thinking happy thoughts”.
We need that added ingredient of “faith”, like Tinkerbell’s
pixie dust, for something to happen.
Our “faith” is built upon the truth of God’s Word, but
there’s no value in God’s Word in your life unless you start trusting Him.
Unless you believe Him.
:1 the evidence of things not seen
things – pragma – that
which has been done, a deed, an accomplished fact; what is done or being
accomplished; that which is or exists, a thing
from prasso – to exercise,
practice; accomplish, perform
evidence – elegchos – a proof; conviction
from elegcho – to convict,
refute, confute; reprove; rebuke.
A prosecuting attorney won’t take a case to the judge unless he has the
right kind of solid evidence to bring a conviction.
seen – blepo – to see, discern, understand
This is one of the key word and concept for this chapter. You’ll see over and over again different
words that carry the idea of “seeing” or “not seeing”, “understanding” or “not
understanding” and how they are tied to faith.
We could translate the verse, “faith is the confidence of what you hope
for, faith is the conviction about something that you can’t see”
Definition: Faith is trusting
something you don’t see.
I may not see God, but I trust He’s there.
I may not see my salvation yet, but I trust God has given it to me.
I may not see how I’m going to get through this difficult time, but I’m
going to trust God.
Life is difficult
Don’t forget that our author is talking about people going through
It’s when you don’t “see” what God is doing, that you need to keep pressing
on and trust Him.
It’s one thing to say you trust the Lord when everything is going right
with your life, real faith is trusting when things are difficult.
Difficult times can cause us to question whether God still cares for us.
Difficult times makes us wonder if God is really on our side or not.
:2 For by it the elders
obtained a good testimony.
:2 the elders obtained a good testimony
elders – presbuteros –
elder, of age.
The “elders” our writer is talking about will be all the people mentioned in
obtained a good testimony – martureo – to be a witness, give a good report
Here's another key word for this chapter.
Forms of this word are used a couple of times throughout this chapter
We see it in the beginning:
(Hebrews 11:4 NKJV) By faith Abel offered to God a more
excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he
was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead
(Hebrews 11:5 NKJV) By faith Enoch was taken away so
that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”;
for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
It’s found at the end of the chapter, after listing all these great men and
women of faith:
(Hebrews 11:39 NKJV) And all these, having obtained a
good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
It will be central to the start of chapter twelve, as the author brings
home his exhortation:
(Hebrews 12:1 NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are
surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every
weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with
endurance the race that is set before us,
The “witnesses” are the “elders” we will be studying.
What’s my testimony?
Usually within Christian circles we talk about our “testimony” as the story
we tell others of how we became a believer.
Here the idea is of the story that people will tell about you, both now and
after you’re gone.
Our author’s readers are going through great difficulty.
Many of the people in this chapter had gone through great difficulty.
The author’s challenge will be to his readers: What kind of “testimony” will their lives be?
What will people say about your life?
What will they say about how you handled the difficult times in your
We’re now going to look examples of how faith works.
:3 By faith we understand
that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are
seen were not made of things which are visible.
we understand – noeo – to
perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding; to think upon,
heed, ponder, consider
Present active indicative
were framed – katartizo –
to render, i.e. to fit, sound, complete; to fit out, equip, put in order,
arrange, adjust; to fit or frame for one’s self, prepare
Perfect passive infinitive
We’ll see that same word again in our blessing:
NKJV) —20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the
dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting
covenant, 21 make you complete in every
good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight,
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
the worlds – aion – for
ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity; the worlds, universe;
period of time, age
word – rhema – that which
is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word; subject matter
of speech, thing spoken of
things which are visible – phaino
– to bring forth into the light, cause to shine, shed light; shine; to become
evident, to be brought forth into the light, come to view, appear
things which are seen – blepo –
to see, discern, of the bodily eye; metaph. to see with the mind’s eye; to have
(the power of) understanding
:2 Through faith we understand
God made all the things that we see out of things that you can’t see.
All things were created out of “nothing”.
We might have trouble understanding this because we weren’t there to “see
it”, but we come to understand it through “faith”, through trusting God’s Word,
through trusting God.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be any evidence of God’s hand in
I’m of the opinion that the evidence of intelligent design is a little
stronger than the evidence for evolution.
Both views of the origin of the universe require faith.
Because no human was present when our universe came into
existence, you will have to have a little “faith” to understand.
:4 By faith Abel offered
to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness
that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being
dead still speaks.
more excellent – pleion –
greater in quantity; greater in quality, superior, more excellent
sacrifice – thusia – a
The writer has been talking a LOT about sacrifices. Here we have the instance of the first
sacrifice (though some might argue that God sacrifices an animal to provide
coverings for Adam and Eve).
Two sacrifices that were made by two brothers, and one was better than the
other. The better one was accepted
because it was done by faith.
offered – prosphero – to
bring to, lead to; to bring a present or a thing, to reach or hand a thing to
he obtained witness – martureo
– to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or
heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine
revelation or inspiration.
This is the word “obtained a good report” used in verse 11:2. This is Abel’s “good report”.
righteous – dikaios –
righteous, observing divine laws
testifying – martureo – to
be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or
experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation
gifts – doron – a gift,
present; of sacrifices and other gifts offered to God
:4 Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice
Our next picture comes from Adam and Eve’s first two kids, the brothers Cain
Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd.
NKJV) —3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an
offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord.
4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.
And the Lord respected Abel and
his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his
offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
Somehow Abel’s offering was acceptable while Cain’s was not.
Cain would go on to kill his brother Abel because of his resentment over
Over the centuries people have argued as to why Abel’s sacrifice was better
Some have suggested that Abel’s was better because it involved an animal, a
blood sacrifice. Could be.
People don’t really need to wonder why.
Our author tells us why.
Faith makes it good
Two people can be doing almost identical things, but one is acceptable to
God while the other isn’t.
We may not be able to tell which is the better sacrifice, but God knows.
It comes down to faith. Do you trust
Are you just copying what others are doing and hope that the actions are
Are you doing what God has asked you to do?
Do you trust that doing things with God’s leading is the
:4 through it he being dead still speaks
speaks – laleo – to utter
a voice or emit a sound; to speak
Present active indicative
This initially makes us think of what God said to Cain after Cain killed
4:10 NKJV) And He said, “What have you done? The voice of
your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.
Abel’s blood was making a noise even though Abel was dead.
Yet there’s more, because the writer speaks in a present tense, as though
Abel speaks today.
Abel’s example of living by faith is what is still speaking to us today.
What does it say? That his faith made him right with God.
:5 By faith Enoch was
taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had
taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased
taken away – metatithemi –
to change, transfer, be taken up;
To transpose (two things, one of which is put in place of the other)
he had this testimony – martureo
– to be a witness, to bear witness
This was Enoch’s “good testimony” (11:2).
Perfect passive indicative
he pleased – euaresteo –
to be well pleasing; to be well pleased with a thing
Perfect active infinitive
:5 Enoch was taken away
We know very little about Enoch.
There’s only a couple of verses about him scattered through the Bible.
The main one is:
5:24 NKJV) And Enoch walked with God; and he was
not, for God took him.
The idea is that Enoch walked with God, and God liked the guy so much that
one day God just took him home, without Enoch having to experience death.
Enoch is a picture of the rapture of the church. One day we will just not be there.
:5 he had this testimony, that he pleased God
This was Enoch’s testimony.
His faith allowed him to walk with God.
His faith was pleasing to God.
And God took him.
it is impossible –
adunatos – without strength,
impotent, powerless, weakly, disabled; unable to be done, impossible
to please – euaresteo – to
be well pleasing; to be well pleased with a thing
Aorist active infinitive
must – dei – it is
necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper
believe – pisteuo – to
think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in
diligently seek – ekzeteo –
to seek out, search for; to seek out, i.e. investigate, scrutinize; to seek out
for one’s self, beg, crave; to demand back, require
a rewarder – misthapodotes –
one who pays wages, a rewarder
The noun version of this word was translated “reward” in
10:35 NKJV) Therefore do not cast away your confidence,
which has great reward.
:6 must believe that He is
Believe He’s there
In WWII, during the terrible days of the Blitz when Germany was bombing
London, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that
had been struck by a bomb. In the front
yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter
as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms
for his son to follow. Terrified, yet
hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I can’t see
you!” The father, looking up against the
sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son,
“But I can see you. Jump!”
The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.
The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we
can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the
answers, but that we are known.”
We have a Father that loves us. Go
ahead and jump.
You may not think He’s there sometimes.
You may question if He’s still there sometimes.
But faith is coming to trust in Him even when things look like He’s not
:6 He is a rewarder
Believe He loves me
And I don’t just mean “me”, I mean “you”.
He is a rewarder of those who seek after Him.
Circumstances may have you thinking that God doesn’t care anymore about
God’s plans for you are way more complex than just giving you everything
Sometimes God is working to make you a better person. And sometimes that is a difficult thing to
achieve without you going through some difficulties.
God’s Word tells you that He loves you.
(Romans 8:32 NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,
how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
The question is, will you trust God’s Word, or will you
trust your circumstances?
:6 without faith it is impossible to please Him
I must trust Him.
Some of you have been acting like Christians as much as you can, but you
still don’t trust Him.
You know Jesus died for your sins.
Yet you still haven’t given Him your heart.
You still haven’t let Him into your life.
It is impossible to please God without faith.
Some of you think that it’s just too big a leap of faith.
It’s really not that big of a leap.
There are plenty of real, solid reasons to believe in Jesus. You just need to take a step.
Just how close can you get to a person if they don’t trust you?
Intimacy in a relationship is tied to whether or not you trust each other.
God desires that you trust Him.
The Bible says,
(John 3:16 NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Trust takes action
Some of us are going through difficult times, and we begin to wonder if we
can really trust God.
And sometimes, because we’re afraid to take that step that God has been
hinting at, we don’t do anything.
You’re going to see through the rest of this chapter that the men and women
who trusted God did something. They took
At the end of Judges 12, there are three of Israel’s leaders listed. Their names were Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon.
We didn’t really talk much about them much, except to mention that the ancient
Jewish historian Josephus describes them as “having done nothing remarkable”,
and so Josephus didn’t record anything about them.
They were the Judges who didn’t do anything.
It reminds me of a Veggie Tales song, “The Pirates Who
Don’t Do Anything”
Tales – The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything
Be careful this isn’t you friend.
I’m not saying we need to be doing risky things that God hasn’t asked us to
But sometimes God has spoken clearly to us, and we refuse
because we’re afraid.
This is Francis Chan. He’s going to
be speaking while standing on an Olympic-style balance beam.
Chan – Balance Beam
William Carey (1761–1834), the first modern missionary, said,
“Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from
This will be the challenge of faith.
A young man was upset about how his future was
looking. He went to a park and watched
the squirrels scampering among the trees.
Suddenly, a squirrel jumped from one high tree to
another. It appeared to be aiming for a
limb so far out of reach that the leap looked like suicide. As the young man had anticipated, the
squirrel missed its mark, but, it landed, safe and unconcerned, on a branch
several feet lower. Then it climbed to
its goal and all was well.
An old man was sitting on the other end of the bench and
remarked, “Funny, I’ve seen hundreds of ‘em jump like that, especially when
there are dogs around and they can’t come down to the ground. A lot of ‘em miss, but I’ve never seen any
hurt in trying.” Then he chuckled and
added, “I guess they’ve got to risk it if they don’t want to spend their lives
in one tree.”
The young man thought, A squirrel takes a chance. Have I less nerve than a squirrel?
-- God's Little Devotional Book For Students (Honor
Books), p. 29.
Walking by faith isn’t a “safe” thing.
It involves trusting in things you don’t see.
Walking by faith requires hearing from God, and then trusting Him despite
how things look. It’s learning to trust
in things you don’t see.
Faith is the vitamin that makes all we take from the Bible
digestible and makes us able to receive it and assimilate it. If we do not have
faith, we cannot get anything.
-- A. W. Tozer in Rut, Rot or Revival. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 5.