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Hebrews 11:1-6

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 28, 2018


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 persecution.

Times were so bad that some were beginning to wonder if they shouldn’t quit following Jesus.

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) In 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:

(Hebrews 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) So 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:
(Hebrews 10:39 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 desire

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; confidence

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 to “fly”.
Video:  Peter Pan – Fairy Dust

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

thingspragma – 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 difficult times.
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

elderspresbuteros – elder, of age.

The “elders” our writer is talking about will be all the people mentioned in this chapter.

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 still speaks.

(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 life?

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 understandnoeo – to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding; to think upon, heed, ponder, consider

Present active indicative

were framedkatartizo – 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:

(Hebrews 13:20–21 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 worldsaion – for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity; the worlds, universe; period of time, age

wordrhema – that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word; subject matter of speech, thing spoken of

things which are visiblephaino – 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 seenblepo – 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 creation.
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 excellentpleion – greater in quantity; greater in quality, superior, more excellent

sacrificethusia – a sacrifice, victim

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.

offeredprosphero – to bring to, lead to; to bring a present or a thing, to reach or hand a thing to one

he obtained witnessmartureo – 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”.

righteousdikaios – righteous, observing divine laws

testifyingmartureo – 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.

giftsdoron – 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 and Abel.

Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd.

(Genesis 4:3–5 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 this incident.

Over the centuries people have argued as to why Abel’s sacrifice was better than Cain’s.

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 God?
Are you just copying what others are doing and hope that the actions are enough?
Are you doing what God has asked you to do?

Do you trust that doing things with God’s leading is the best way?

:4 through it he being dead still speaks

speakslaleo – 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 Abel.

(Genesis 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 God.

taken awaymetatithemi – to change, transfer, be taken up;

To transpose (two things, one of which is put in place of the other)

he had this testimonymartureo – to be a witness, to bear witness

This was Enoch’s “good testimony” (11:2).

Perfect passive indicative

he pleasedeuaresteo – 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:

(Genesis 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.


:6 But 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 diligently seek Him.

it is impossible adunatos – without strength, impotent, powerless, weakly, disabled; unable to be done, impossible

to pleaseeuaresteo – to be well pleasing; to be well pleased with a thing

Aorist active infinitive

mustdei – it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper

believepisteuo – to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in

diligently seekekzeteo – 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 rewardermisthapodotes – one who pays wages, a rewarder

The noun version of this word was translated “reward” in

(Hebrews 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 there.

: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 you.
God’s plans for you are way more complex than just giving you everything you want.
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 action.
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”

Video:  Veggie 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 do.

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.

Video:  Francis Chan – Balance Beam

William Carey (1761–1834), the first modern missionary, said,

“Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”

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.