Hebrews Chapter 11 is probably the best known chapter in the Book of Hebrews and is known as the “Faith Chapter”. I counted at least 27 variations of “by faith” in this one chapter alone, but what do all these mean? How do they apply to us?
My dictionary defines faith as a noun (a word that means a name) which describes a strong belief (sometimes without any evidence) but it is only when we begin to look at the root of the word do we see that it comes from the Latin word fides, meaning trust. When we look up Trust in the dictionary, we begin to see it in the context that the Bible does in that it is a verb – a word that has an action. To trust, to have faith as an ongoing thing. We begin to see that faith is something that we DO, not just have as a possession, it is something that we have to choose to do daily not just once in response to an altar call.
The writer takes us through a whole list of people; Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses (and his parents), the Israelites, Rahab… the list goes on. All of these people took action on the basis of their faith.
Abraham left the comfort of a wealthy city and set off to an unknown place, Noah built an ark in the middle of a desert. Joseph remained obedient to God when things seemed to go wrong and although he didn’t see the promised land he gave instructions for his remains to be carried there. Moses left the comfort of the palace to suffer with the people, implement the Passover and lead several million whinging people through the desert even though he was told that due to his actions he could not enter into the land himself – he saw it from afar. Rahab, a gentile prostitute believed that the Israelite God would save her and acted on that promise with faith and was rewarded for that and is listed in the geneology of our Saviour.
No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him (v6)
We have seen through the previous chapters of Hebrews that faith is not just a simple one off event that we do one day when we first believe. It requires continual action, to keep on trusting, to keep on moving forward. Moses kept on until he died as did all these others listed.
We see examples in verses 33 to 38 of the battles faced throughout the years by Daniel and his friends (they shut the mouths of lions, put out fierce fires). The widows received back their sons from death (Elijah & Elisha). Others were mocked, tortured, stoned, flogged and put to death for their trust in God and their obedience to him. They believed that there was more to God’s kingdom than they could see on earth so they kept on believing and trusting even though many of them did not receive the physical manifestation of that promise.
Both verse 2 and 39 record how they won God’s approval because of their faith and persistence
What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God has promised, because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect (v39-40)
They will share with us the promised heavenly Kingdom, but like them we have to seek him.
James 2 v 22 talking about Abraham says:
Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect though his actions.
So again, the message continues to be that we must keep on going to the end so that things we hope for will come try (6 v 11) To act as though we believe it not just say it with our mouths
Quotes from Good News Bible