February 10th, 2019
Aux. Texts: 1 John 5:1-5
Call to Worship: Psalm 27
Service Orientation: Faith in God is the victory that overcomes the world.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. — Romans 8:37
- In this passage the writer to the Hebrews is intermingling different periods of history. Sometimes he takes his illustrations from the OT period; but still more he takes them from the Maccabaean period which falls between the Old and New Testaments. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 166)
- It is striking that in the list of Hebrews 11 we do not have one healing, although support for that form of miracle can be found readily elsewhere in the NT. (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 389)
- (v. 29) There you have the difference between faith and presumption: faith goes through the sea, presumption is drowned in the sea. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 363)
- (v. 29) It might seem that it was the wind that had blown the shallow sea to the south. Anybody familiar with the circumstances would have known that once the wind ceased, that water would come rushing back to engulf anything or anyone present in that massive swirling tide. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 207)
- (vss. 29-30) God is independent of all natural means and superior to all the “laws of nature.” It is true that, as a general rule, God is pleased to bless the use of natural means, and that He frequently accomplishes His ends by the operations of those laws of nature which He has set in motion; but it is a great mistake to imagine that He is tied down either by the one or the other. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 831)
- (v. 30) What a sublime fact we have here! One man’s faith can be so authentic and effectual that it can elevate a whole people and secure their deliverance! In lesser ways we have seen this in the lives of such people as Martin Luther and John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. This truth holds great promise for us. Vibrant, authentic faith can elevate our families, churches, and communities. It is not too much to say that it can even be the vehicle for corporate deliverance! Never underestimate the power of real faith! (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 122)
- (v. 31) Rahab, in her day, was a harlot who believed and who in consequence is justly commemorated here as one who by faith. . . did not perish with those who were disobedient–disobedience being synonymous with unbelief (as in 3:18 above; see also Jn 3:36; Acts 14:2, Gk.; 19:9, Gk; Rom 3:8; 10:21; 11:30f.; 15:31, Gk.). (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 503-4)
- (v. 31) Rahab was an unlikely candidate for the faithful’s hall of fame. For one thing, she was a prostitute. For another, she was a Gentile, and a Canaanite at that. She was, in fact, an Amorite, a race that God had long before marked for destruction (Gn 15:16). Yet that is how God’s grace works. His mercy is open to all who will receive it, and His grace has always been wider than Israel, even in OT times. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 363)
- (v. 31) For her faithful courage Rahab not only was spared but was honored. She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of David, and she thereby came to be an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5). (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 364)
- (v. 31) It is most significant that the final person to receive individual commentary in the list of champions of faith is a woman and a Gentile and a prostitute. Rahab’s faith, a prostitute’s faith, is given as an example for all who desire to have true faith–especially those who know they are sinners and who deep down want to be pleasing to God. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 137)
- (v. 31) Recent scholarship has suggested that the scarlet rope may have been the mark of a prostitute and that Rahab lived, so to speak, in the “red rope” district. It is also noted that since the Hebrew word for “rope” is the same word for “hope”–and most often means “hope”–there may be an intentional pun here: the “rope” is the prostitute’s “hope” for customers! But now that Rahab has confessed Jehovah as God, her scarlet “rope” signified a new kind of “hope”–that of deliverance by God. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 139-40)
- (v. 31) Joshua spared the life of Rahab’s family and placed them “outside the camp of Israel” (Josh 6:23). Nevertheless, because of her faith, Rahab was welcomed by the Israelites, married Salmon, and became the mother of Boaz, who was the great-grandfather of David (Ruth 4:21; Mt 1:5-6). (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 349)
- (v. 32) Ever since the beginning of the epistle, the author modestly refrained from mentioning himself. Here, however, for the first time he uses the first person singular pronoun I. In the concluding part of his epistle, he refers to himself again in the first person singular (13:19, 22, 23). (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 349)
- (v. 32) He follows the order Samuel gave in his farewell speech to the people of Israel: “Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal [also called Gideon], Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely” (1 Sm 12:11). We have no indication why Samuel and the author of Hebrews follow a sequence differing from the chronological one. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 350)
- (v. 32) In many ways he was immature and self-centered, unable to cope with the miraculous power God had given him. Yet he was a man of faith. He never doubted that God was the source of his power, of which his hair was only a symbol. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 365)
- (v. 32) We are inclined to judge Samson by his weaknesses. But God commends him for his faith. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 366)
- (v. 32) Despite his foolish vow (Jdg 11:30-31), Jephthah’s trust was in the Lord, and his power was from the Lord (vv. 29, 32). Even people of faith make mistakes, and God honored Jephthah for his faith. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 366)
- (v. 32) The six names are not given in strict chronological order (or the order in which they appear in the biblical narrative); in fact, if we arrange them in three pairs, the two men in each pair are named here in the reverse order to that of their OT appearance, for in the OT Barak appears before Gideon, Jephthah before Samson, and Samuel before David. The reversal of the order of Samuel and David may be intended to bring Samuel into closer contact with “the prophets” who are mentioned immediately after, Samuel being the first in the continuous “prophetic succession” of the age of the Hebrew monarchy. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 320)
- (v. 32) His trust in the Lord began when he was a boy, tending sheep, killing lions and bears, and taking on Goliath with a slingshot. David faced Goliath in utter confidence that the Lord would give him power to defeat this giant. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 366)
- (v. 32) The writer does not go into detail about what these men did. But if we examine the OT record, we find that each man battled against overwhelming odds so that, humanly speaking, there was little chance of his coming out on top. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 129-30)
- (v. 32) Perhaps there was no more childlike faith in any man than there was in him. Who but a man full of faith would have hurled himself upon a thousand men with no weapon in his hand but the jawbone of a donkey? There was a wondrous confidence in God in that weak, strong man, which, though it does not excuse his faults, nevertheless puts him in the ranks of the believers. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 372)
- (v. 32) His (Samuel’s) great foes were idolatry and immorality. He had to stand up in the middle of a polluted society and fearlessly speak God’s truth. His severest opponents frequently were not the Philistines, the Amorites, or Ammonites–but his own people. It often takes more courage to stand up against our friends than against our enemies. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 366)
- (v. 33) Samson, David and Beniah all shut the mouths of lions through physical force. Samson, barehanded, took a charging lion by the jaws and ripped it apart. David grabbed a sheep-stealing lion by the beard and thrust it through. Beninah descended into a pit on a snowy day and dispatched another king of the beasts. But Daniel is the preeminent example, through his faith and prayer (Dn 6:17-22). (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 150)
- (v. 33) For those who knew the scriptures well in their Greek version, phrase after phrase would ring a bell in the mind. The word used for mastering kingdoms is what Josephus, the Jewish historian, used of David. The phrase used for wrought righteousness is the description of David in 2 Sm 8:15. The expression used for stopping the mouths of lions is that used of Daniel in Dn 6:18, 23. The phrase about quenching the violence of fire goes straight back to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in Dn 3:19-28. To speak about escaping the edge of the sword was to direct men’s thoughts to the way in which Elijah escaped threatened assassination in I Kgs 19:1 ff. and Elisha in 2 Kgs 6:31 ff. The trumpet call about being strong in warfare and routing the ranks of the aliens would immediately make men think of the unforgettable glories of the Maccabaean days. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 164)
- (v. 35) The apparent reference here is to the Maccabean persecution because the word for “tortured” has etymological reference to the tympanum, a large drum or wheel on which Maccabean victims were stretched and beaten or even dismembered. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 152)
- (v. 35) Both these incidents are described as resurrections; nowadays we sometimes distinguish between the resuscitation of a body to mortal life and the resurrection of the dead to life immortal; but no such distinction is made in the biblical vocabulary. The distinction is nevertheless real, though not verbal; our author goes on to speak of some who sought a “better resurrection” than that experienced by the two boys just mentioned, this “better resurrection” being a rising to the life of the age to come. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 325)
- (v. 35) A number of times in Scripture women are said to have received their dead back to life, as Elijah’s hostess (1 Kgs 17:17-24) and the Shunammite who befriended Elisha (2 Kgs 4:18-37). In the NT there are the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-14), Lazarus (Jn 11), and Dorcas, the friend of widows (Acts 9:36-41). (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 130-1)
- (v. 35) We have already seen that Abraham “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead” v. 19), and there are two occasions in the scriptural record on which women had their dead restored to life, namely, the raising up by the prayer of Elijah of the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kgs 17:17ff.) And the similar act of Elisha who brought back to life the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kgs 4:8ff.). It is of interest that even in the NT it is women for the most part, rather than men, whose dead are restored to life, as the widow of Nain had her son given back to her from death (Lk 7:11ff.), Martha and Mary their brother Lazarus (Jn 11:1ff.), and the widows of Joppa their friend Dorcas (Acts 9:36ff.). (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 512)
- (v. 36) On one occasion Jeremiah was beaten and put in the stocks, and complained that he had been made a laughingstock and an object of mockery not only by the public at large but by members of his own family. At a later date he was beaten again and put in prison, from which he was taken out and thrown into the muddy cistern from which he was rescued by Ebed-melech the Ethiopian. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 327)
- (v. 37) Jeremiah may also have been in our author’s mind when he speaks of those who were stoned; this was his fate, according to tradition, at the hands of the Jews in Egypt who could not abide his protest against their continuing idolatry. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 327)
- (v. 37) As for being “sawn in two,” this was the traditional fate of the prophet Isaiah during Manasseh’s reign. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 328)
- (v. 37) Many of the prophets forfeited their lives to remain faithful. Some, like Zechariah, were stoned to death. Tradition says that Jeremiah died that way. In the days of Jezebel at least 100 prophets were slain by the sword of her orders. (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 283)
- (v. 37) Tradition holds that Isaiah was sawn in two. The people became so irritated at his powerful preaching that they cut him in half. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 368)
- (v. 37) Here, I cannot help thinking that our author has in mind the martyrdom of Paul, which probably took place just one or two years or even a few months before the writing of this epistle. If Paul had played the game a bit more politically, he doubtless could have had his freedom (Acts 25:12; 26:32). If, as tradition has it, Paul was beheaded in A.D. 67 or 68 and this epistle was written in A.D. 68 or 69 as we have argued, then the memory of his death still burned as a fresh, hot fire on the hearth of his mind. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 209-10)
- (v. 37) “Destitute” means they were deprived of the ordinary necessities of life, and further signifies they were denied the kind of assistance of relatives and friends: they were driven forth without the means of subsistence and were beyond the reach of succor from all who cared for them. “Afflicted” probably has reference to their state of mind: they were not emotionless stoics, but felt acutely their sad condition. No doubt the Enemy took full advantage of their state and injected many unbelieving and harassing thoughts into their minds. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 881)
- (v. 38) Obadiah, in charge of King Ahab’s palace, “hid a hundred of the LORD’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water” (1 Kgs 18:13; and see v. 4). Elijah fled into the Negev desert (1 Kgs 19:4). For him the land of Israel was no longer safe. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 356)
- (v. 39) Although many promises had been given and fulfilled in their lifetimes, they did not receive the great promise–namely, the coming of the Messiah and salvation in him. Every one of the faithful in the OT times died before Jesus appeared. They entered Heaven with the promise unfulfilled. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 153)
Biblical/Historical references to the faith examples in Heb 11:29-38:
- Israel crosses the Red Sea: Exodus 14:1-15:21
- Jericho falls: Josh 5:13-6:23.
- Rahab is saved: Josh 2:9-11; 6:23.
- Gideon: Jdg chps 6-7.
- Barak: Jdg chps 4-5.
- Samson: Jdg chps 13-16.
- Jephthah: Jdg 11:1-12:7.
- David: 1 Sm 16-2 Sm and many more
- Samuel: 1 Sm – 2 Sm
- Faith conquered kingdoms: David
- Faith administered justice: David in 2 Sm 8:15
- Faith shut the mouths of lions: Samson in Jdg 14:5-6; David in 1 Sm 17:37; Beniah in 2 Sm 23:20; Daniel in Dn 6:17-23;
- Faith quenched the fury of flames: The three Hebrews in Dn 3:19-28.
- Faith escaped the edge of the sword: Elijah in1 Kgs 19:1-8; Elisha in 2 Kgs 6:31ff.; Jeremiah in Jer 36:19, 26
- Faith whose weakness was turned to strength: Hezekiah in 2 Kgs 20; Paul in 2 Cor 12:7-10.
- Faith that was powerful in battle & routed foreign enemies: Joshua, Gideon, Jephthah, David
- Women who received back their dead: widow of Zarephath in 1 Kgs 17:17ff; Shunammite woman in 2 Kgs 4:8ff; widow of Nain in Lk 7:11ff; Mary and Martha in Jn 11:1ff; widows of Joppa in Acts 9:36ff.
- Tortured: Maccabean history see 4 Maccabees chps 5-14.
- Those who faced jeers and were flogged, chained and put in prison: Joseph in Gn 40:15; Samson in Jdg 16:21; Micaiah in 1 Kgs 22:26-27; Elisha in 2 Kgs 2:23-25; Hanani in 2 Chr 16:10; Nehemiah in Ne 2:19; 4:1; Jeremiah in Jer 18:12; 37:15-16; 38:6 see also: Gal 4:29; 2 Chr 36:16; Jer 20:7; Lam 3:14.
- Those stoned: Zechariah in 2 Chr 24:20-21; Jeremiah according to tradition; Stephen in Acts 7:57-60.
- Sawed in two: Tradition states Isaiah was sawn in two by King Manesseh.
- Put to death by the sword: 1 Kgs 19:10; Uriah in Jer 26:23; James in Acts 12:2; see Rv 20:4; Paul according to church tradition.
- Those who went around in sheepskins and goatskins: 2 Maccabees 5:27; 6:11; 10:6
- Those who wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground: Obadiah in 1 Kgs 18:13; Elijah in 1 Kgs 19:4; 1 Maccabees 2:28.
The question to be answered is . . . What does the writer of Hebrews want us to know about the overcoming qualities of faith in God?
Answer: That once you know and trust in the promises of God, there is nothing that can stop you from the life that is truly life. (Jn 10:10; 1 Tm 6:19)
The Word for the Day is (for the last time for a while) . . . Faith
There is no power on earth that can stand before the power of faith, because the power of faith is the power of God working in us. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 466)
What should we know about the overcoming qualities of faith?:
I- Faith doesn’t save. God saves those who have faith in Him and His promises. (Heb 11:29-34; see also: Josh 23:14; 2 Chr 20:20; Ps 4:5; 31:6; 37:3; 78:7; 115:9-11; 125:1; Prv 3:5-6; Isa 26:4; Mk 11:22; Jn 14:1; Heb 6:1)
The test of faith is trusting God when all we have are His promises. When the waters are piled high all around us and problems and dangers are about to overwhelm us, this is when faith is tested, and when the Lord takes special pleasure in showing us His faithfulness, His love, and His power. When we have nothing but His promise to rely on, His help is the nearest and His presence the dearest to those who believe. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 358)
Faith is trusting completely in God’s Word. It is unconditional confidence in what He says, strictly on the basis that He has said it. The fact is that we either trust what God says or we are left to trust our own intellect, instincts, and attitudes. These are our only two options. Our own way is the way of unbelief; God’s way is the way of faith. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 360)
Anything that demands more than God’s Word is doubt, not faith. God sometimes gives explanations and reasons for His Word, but He is not obligated to give them, and faith does not require them. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 360)
When we come to it straight from God’s presence, no task can ever defeat us. Our failure and our fear are so often due to the fact that we try to do things alone. The secret of victorious living is to face God before we face men. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 159)
It is evident, that the walls did not fall through the shout of men, or the sound of trumpets; but because the people believed that the Lord would do what he had promised. (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 300)
For the faithful, God’s word is always enough. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 358)
(Rom 10:17). Faith must have a foundation to stand upon, and the only firm and sure one is the promise of the living God. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 824)
Gideon fought with only three hundred men against the multitude of Midianite soldiers. By following faithfully the instruction from God, Gideon became a hero of faith. With his God Gideon was always in the majority (Jdg 7:7). (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 350)
Here we have the faith of a leader and of a people who were prepared to attempt the impossible at the command of God, realizing that the greatest barrier in the world is no barrier if God be there to help us overpass it. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 159)
The outstanding characteristic of Moses was the close intimacy of his relationship with God. In Ex 33:9-11 we read of how he went into the Tabernacle; “and the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” In Nm 12:7, 8 we read of God’s verdict on him when there were those who were ready to rebel against him: “with him I speak mouth to mouth.” To put it simply–the secret of his faith was that Moses knew God personally. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 159)
This is the great business of faith: as the Israelites were to obey God, and to wait for His deliverance out of their imminent danger. Naught but a God-given faith imparts courage to obey God in the most difficult crisis. If we be bidden to go into the Red Sea we must not forbear, for none of God’s commands are to be disputed, however contrary they be to flesh and blood. Faith teaches us to depend upon God in greatest extremities. Faith receives the promise of God upon the conditions or terms which He has specified. If Israel were to receive the “salvation of the Lord,” they must do what He bade. Faith and obedience can no more be separated than can light and heat in the sun. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 828)
Only a fool would have attempted such a courageous approach to battle apart from God’s direction and power. From the perspective of faith, only a fool would not attempt such a thing when he has God’s direction and power. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 364-5)
Barak believed God’s promise of victory and was not the least concerned that a woman would get credit for slaying Sisera. In fact he insisted that Deborah, a woman judge, go to battle with him (v. 8). He wanted her spiritual, not her military, help. She was the Lord’s special representative in those days, and Barak wanted the Lord’s person with him. The fact that he wanted her along was another indication of his trust in the Lord. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 365)
Josh 2:9-11. At the moment when she was speaking, there seemed not one chance in a million that the children of Israel could capture Jericho. These nomads from the desert had no artillery and no siege-engines. Yet Rahab believed–and staked her whole future on the belief–that God would make the impossible possible. When common sense pronounced the situation hopeless, she had the uncommon sense to see beyond the situation. The real faith and the real courage are those which can take God’s side when it seems doomed to defeat. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 161-2)
How could Jesus have been born into the world if the Jewish religion had ceased to exist? In a very real way we owe our Christianity to these martyrs of the times when Antiochus made his deliberate attempt to wipe out the Jewish religion. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 170)
The evidence that they believed God’s Word is that they obeyed it. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 129)
I have heard of a church clergyman who was once waited upon by his churchwarden, after a long time of drought, and was requested to pray for rain. “Well,” said he “I will offer it, but it’s not a bit of use while the wind’s in the east, I’m sure.”
There are many who have that kind of faith: they believe just so far as probabilities go with them, but when the promise and the probability part, then they follow the probability and part with the promise. They say, “The thing is likely, therefore I believe it.” But that is not faith; it is sight. True faith exclaims, “The thing is unlikely, yet I believe it.” (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 365-6)
It is surprising to find Barak mentioned here as an example of faith rather than the prophetess Deborah, not to mention Jael, “the wife of Heber the Kenite, blessed. . . above women in the tent” (Jdg 5:24). For Barak refused to take the field against Sisera when Deborah commanded him, in Yahweh’s name, to do so, unless she went with him. Yet his very refusal may have been, in its way, a token of faith; his insistence on having Deborah with him was perhaps an expression of his faith in the God whose servant and spokeswoman Deborah was. And when he was told by her that the expedition which he was undertaking would not be for his own honor, he led it nonetheless; it was not his own honor, but the triumph of Yahweh and his people, that he sought. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 320-1)
Samson, who championed Israel’s cause against the Philistines in his own single-handed way, may strike one as an odd choice among illustrations of faith; yet the narrative of Judges portrays him as one who was deeply conscious of the invisible God, and of his own call to be an instrument in God’s hand against the enemy. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 321)
Posterity remembers him chiefly for his rash vow; yet, rash as it was, it was a token of his sincere though uninstructed devotion to the God of Israel. The message which he sent to the king of Ammon (Jdg 11:14-27), with its historical retrospect reaching back to the Exodus and wilderness wanderings, expresses his appreciation of Yahweh’s guidance of his people in those early days and his confidence that Yahweh will judge their cause today. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 321)
II- Faith in God overcomes the world’s persecution. (Heb 11:35-38; see also: Ps 27; 44:3-7; 54:7; 60:12; 108:13; 118:7; Mt 5:10-12; 16:18; Mk 8:34; Lk 10:19; Jn 15:20; 16:33; Rom 8:18-25, 31, 37; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; 7:4; Phil 3:10; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 4:13; 1 Jn 4:4; 5:1-5)
God does not promise His saints deliverance from all suffering. To the contrary, Jesus told us to take up our crosses and to follow Him (Mk 8:34), and that “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20). Both Paul (Phil 3:10) and Peter (1 Pt 4:13) advise us to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ’s sake. Paul told the Corinthian believers, “I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction” (2 Cor 7:4). (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 368)
At the Nicene Council, an important church meeting in the 4th century A.D., of the 318 delegates attending, fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith. — Vance Havner.
Having a steadfast faith in God does not guarantee a happy, carefree life. On the contrary, our faith almost guarantees some form of abuse from the world. On earth we may never see the purpose of our suffering. But we know that God will keep his promises to us. Hold on to God; never give up. Never give in. The OT people of faith are cheering you on. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 198)
Our faith and the values of this world are on a collision course. If we expect pain and suffering to come, we will not be shocked when they occur. But we can also take comfort in knowing that Jesus also suffered. He understands our fears, our weaknesses, and our disappointments (see 2:16-18; 4:14-16). He promised never to leave us (Mt 28:18-20), and he intercedes on our behalf (7:24-25). In times of pain, persecution, or suffering, trust confidently in Christ. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 199)
They were tortured, not accepting their deliverance when offered them at the price of their faithfulness, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Spiritual and eternal realities were by faith so clear and near that they reckoned not the sufferings of this present time worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed. The triumph of faith is seen as much in bearing a temporary defeat as securing a victory. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 469-70)
By faith they had such a sight of God and His good pleasure, that they could with joy sacrifice everything in the assurance of a heavenly recompense, count all the pleasures of earth as less than nothing. It is one of the highest and noblest exercises of faith to suffer aright. And the blessing that comes through suffering is one of the richest rewards that faith can win. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 470)
The testing of that faith, the fiery trial thereof serves the better to make manifest the Divine origin of it: only that faith which has come from God is able to endure the testing of God. Just as it is in the furnace that genuine gold is most quickly distinguished from tinsel, so it is under sore trials that the difference between spiritual and natural faith becomes the more apparent. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 876)
Faith in God carries with it no guarantee of comfort in this world: this was no doubt one of the lessons which our author wished his readers to learn. But it does carry with it great reward in the only world that ultimately matters. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 329)
They lived and died in prospect of a fulfillment which none of them experienced on earth; yet so real was that fulfillment to them that it gave them power to press upstream, against the current of the environment, and to live on earth as citizens of that commonwealth whose foundations are firmly laid in the unseen and eternal order. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 330)
Pain is a pathway to a closer, deeper relationship with God. (Reuel Nygaard, Tragedy to Triumph, 179)
The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. — Thomas Paine
Kierkegaard believed that religious triumph was found in suffering rather than in hegemony. (Stephen L. Carter; The Culture of Disbelief, 81)
“I’m not comfortable . . . so God can’t want me there.” (Fred Saunders at Sunday School Class 2-8-09)
If Jeremiah was delivered from Jehoiakim when that king sought his life, his fellow-prophet Uriah was not so fortunate; he foretold the doom of Judah and Jerusalem in similar terms to those of Jeremiah, and when he fled to Egypt he was extradited from there and brought before Jehoiakim, “who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the burial place of the common people” (Jer 26:23). By faith one lived, and by faith the other died. So too in the apostolic age Herod Agrippa I “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2); but when he tried to do the same to Peter, Peter escaped his hands. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 328-9)
They maintained their faith because they were not content with the success of the visible world. They maintained their faith by continually looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 200)
By comparison the men of the world, in spite of their possessions and status, are so inferior that the men of faith are not worthy to be compared with them. It has always been true that the world has failed to appreciate the value of some of its noblest sons. (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 246)
These martyrs prized the resurrection to come as far greater in value than earthly life. (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 148)
Let it be remembered that they were men and women of like passion with us: their bodies were made of the same tender and sensitive flesh as ours are, but such was the care they had for their souls, so genuine was their faith and hope in a better resurrection, that they listened not to the appeals and whinings of the outward man. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 871)
They had “bought the Truth,” at the price of turning their backs on the world and their former religious friends, and bringing down upon themselves the scorn and hatred of them. And now they refused to “sell the Truth” (Prv 23:23) out of a mere regard to bodily ease. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 871)
But why should God allow many of His dear children to encounter such terrible experiences? Among other answers, the following may be suggested. First, for the more thorough trial of His champions, that their faith, courage, patience, and other graces, might be more manifest. Second, to seal or ratify more plainly the Truth which they profess. Third, to encourage and strengthen the faith of their weaker brethren. Fourth, to give them more sensible evidence of what Christ endured for them. Fifth, to cause them to perceive the better the torments of Hell: if those whom God loves are permitted to endure such grievous and painful trials, what must we understand of those torments which the wrath of God inflicts upon those whom He hates! (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 875)
A “Meek and quiet spirit” is of “great price” in the sight of God (1 Pt 3:4), and nothing more plainly evidences the meekness of the Christian–his lying passive as clay in the hands of the Potter–as faith’s willing acceptance of whatever lot our Father sees fit to appoint us. To be faithful unto death, to have unshakable confidence in the Lord, though He suffers us to be slain, to trust Him when to sight and sense it seems He has deserted us, is the highest exercise of all of faith. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 878)
Without trial there could be no school of faith, no growth of spiritual character, no strength of will given up to God and clinging to Him. Let us bless God for every trial, small or great: it gives us a grand opportunity for putting the crown upon the head of God, and of being made fit that He crown us too. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 467)
The statement that some were to put to death “by the sword” is important, lest it be deduced from v. 34 that men of faith were safe from this fate. While God could deliver them from it, his purpose might be for some believers to be slain in this way. It is not for men of faith to dictate. They trust God and know that, whether in life or death, all will ultimately be well. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 131)
Had they received a special revelation that their lives would be preserved, it would have called for considerable faith to act upon it in face of the burning fiery furnace; but to behave as they did without any revelation of the kind called for much greater faith. The people to whom this epistle was sent might well have a fiery ordeal to face in the near future, but whether life or death was their portion they could be sure of divine companionship in the midst of it such as the three Hebrews enjoyed. (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 323)
We can think of several prophets and others who “escaped the edge of the sword”: Elijah was delivered from Jezebel, Elisha from her son Jehoram, Jeremiah from Johoiakim. (But not all were delivered, as v. 37 reminds us.) (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 324)
It is often easier to fight than to have faith. If we fight, we will at least have a certain respect from the world, even if we lose. But faith always looks foolish in the eyes of the world. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 362)
Yet, intense through the suffering of God’s faithful servants is, it is as nothing compared with the sufferings of the Savior of mankind who is the object of our faith, and who for our sakes “endured the cross, despising the shame” (12:2). In him the words were fulfilled of another prophet, who wrote: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . Surely he has borne griefs and carried our sorrows. . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; . . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:3-6). He is our Master, and it is enough for the servant that he should be like his master (Mt 10:25). The servant has the assurance, moreover, that if he endures he will also reign with his Master (2 Tm 2:12). (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 513-4)
“. . . doubt looks at circumstances; faith looks to God. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy, 343)
It has ever been the portion of God’s servants and people to be derided, reproached, and insulted: see Gal 4:29, 2 Chr 36:16, Jer 20:7, Lam 3:14; and my reader, if we are not being “mocked”–sneered at, scoffed at–it is because we are too lax in our ways and too worldly in our walk. Human nature has not changed; Satan has not changed; the world has not changed; and the more Christlike is our life the more shall we drink–in our measure–of the cup He drank from. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 872-3)
Poverty, dear reader, is often sent by God upon His people as a merciful means of delivering them from the dangerous snares which wealth entails. (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 880)
III- Faith in God is bolstered by the encouragement of the Body of Christ which transcends space, time, culture and reason. ( Heb 11:39-40; see also: Mt 16:18; Rom 7:4; 12:10; 13:8; 14:13; 15:7, 14; 1 Cor 1:10; chps 12-14; Gal 5:13; Eph 4:2-12, 32; Col 3:13-16; 1 Thess 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25; 1 Pt 1:22; 3:8; 4:9; 1 Jn 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11)
Theirs was a foundational faith, faith upon which others built. Their perfection, their completedness, is not in their own experience but in ours. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 210)
When these saints see us walking into the bank of God and coming out with our hands full of the abundance of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, they know that their completion has come as well. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 210)
Salvation is social. It concerns the whole people of God. We can experience it only as part of the whole people of God. As long as the believers in OT times were without those who are in Christ, it was impossible for them to experience the fullness of salvation. Furthermore, it is what Christ has done that opens the way into the very presence of God for them as for us. Only the work of Christ brings those of OT times and those of the new and living way alike into the presence of God. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 132-3)
Here the pastor speaks not with words of exhortation or admonition. Rather, he teaches his readers the unity and continuity of the believers of both the OT and NT eras. He is saying that they (the heroes of faith) and we (believers in Jesus Christ) are one. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 358)
We are but yesterday, yet we have filled all that is yours: cities, islands, fortresses, towns, meeting places, even camps, tribes, companies, the palace, the senate, the forum.
We have left you only your temples…
You say, we are vanquished. Yes, when we have obtained our wishes. Therefore we conquer in dying; we seize the victory at the very moment we are overcome. Bound to a stake, we are burnt on a heap of wood: this is the attitude in which we conquer, it is our victory robe, our triumphal entry…
Your cruelty, however great, is a better advertisement for us than for you. The more you mow us down, the more we grow. The blood of Christians is seed. . —Tertullian (Steve Brown March 2007 Newsletter)
When people observe perseverance, endurance, and courage, their moral fiber is reinforced. Conversely, your choice to bow out of life can and does weaken the moral resolve of that same society. (Joni Eareckson Tada; When Is It Right To Die?, 71)
“He had an Easter faith in a Good Friday world.”
If the enemy can get you to lose hope, he can get you to stop living by faith. (Jentezen Franklin, The Spirit of Python, 16)
Faith is not about everything turning out ok–Faith is about being ok no matter how things turn out. (At the end of Carole Jacobus’ emails)
Our laws, our governments, our institutions, our ideals, and our standards we owe to these men and women. They persisted in faith until the whole world was blessed. Had they given up we would never have heard of them. But still they did not see the greatest thing of all, and the reason was that God had arranged it that we, living in this twentieth century, might share this race and have a part in the great prize for which they were looking. We are called to run the same race. We are called to judge the present by the future, to weigh the permanent against the temporary, the ephemeral. To dare to do the impossible against all the silken arguments of the world around about us and to keep on day after day after day, whether we are recognized or not. (Ray C. Stedman, How to Live What You Believe, 161-2)
My fellow-Christians, the old saints had only the promise; we have the thing promised, the divine reality, the full inheritance of what were to them only the good things to come. The promise was sufficient to make them live a wonderful life of faith. What ought not the effect to be in our lives of having obtained the promises, having entered on the possession of that of which the mere promise stirred them so? As much greater as deliverance is than the hope of it, as a divine possession is than the promise of it, so much greater is the better, the perfect thing God has provided for us, so much greater ought to be the joy and the holiness and the nearness to God, and the power of our lives. Is it so?
If no, the reason must be plain. We do not accept the possession with the intensity with which they accepted the promise. Our whole Epistle was written to expose this evil, and to set before us the glory of the better, the perfect thing God has provided for us in Christ. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 475-6)
Maybe they died without receiving what this world considers the rewards and possessions of victory, but they do not die unattached. They are tied to later generations by the cords of God’s living community of faith. They are brought to completion by those who march on the roads they built with the stones of their faithful actions; they have their joy as saints consciously with Jesus Christ, looking back upon the lives marching after them. They are aware of their faith being perfected and completed by the next band of believers. In God’s perfect unity, they are being perfected in us. What a glorious responsibility we share to complete the lives and the faith of those who have paid the price of faith before us! (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 210-11)
What, precisely, did these OT believers not receive? They had the promise of the coming of the Messiah and salvation in him. They were the heirs of the messianic prophecies (Gn 3:15; 49:10; Nm 24:17; 2 Sm 7:13; Job 19:25; Ps 2:6-12; 16:10; 22:1; 45:6-8; 110:1; and numerous passages in the books of the prophets). But all these believers died before Jesus appeared on earth. (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 358)
The saints of the OT era serve the NT believers as incentives to persevere in faith. In the unity we have with them, we know that through faith we inherit the promise of salvation (6:12; 13:7). (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 359)
The writer to the Hebrews is saying: “See! the glory of God has come. But see what it cost to enable it to come! That is the faith which gave you your religion. What can you do but be true to a heritage like that?” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 171)
Nero once condemned Paul, but the years have passed on and the time has come when men call their sons Paul and their dogs Nero. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 130)
Worship Point: Worship the God who offers an overcoming life with meaning, purpose, significance, power, hope, certainty, and surety because of the promises of Him Who is truthful, all-powerful, trustworthy, all-knowing, and reliable. (Josh 23:14; 1 Sm 14:6)
Gospel Application: It is not faith in our faith that saves. It is faith in Jesus that saves. (Ps 44:3-7; 65:3; Prv 21:31)
Until Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was accomplished, no salvation was complete, no matter how great the faith a believer may have had. Their salvation was based on what Christ would do; ours is based on what Christ has done. Their faith looked forward to promise; ours looks back to historical fact. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 370)
It is not great faith in God that is needed, but simply faith in a great God.
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self: to Jesus: but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.” Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him. Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you. —C. H. Spurgeon (Alister Begg;-Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)
Spiritual Challenge: Know God more so we might trust God more.
Spiritual Challenge Questions:
We often say that we are stepping out in faith. How can we know if our faith that we are stepping out on is in God or in ourselves?
For nearly 250 years the Weslyan Quadralateral has been a great tool that the church has used to help know what is from God and what is not. John Wesley said that Scripture, tradition (Christians over the centuries) reason, and experience can all be used to help us discern what is from God and what is not. How can you better incorporate the Weslyan Qaudralaterial in your life and faith walk?
As J.B. Phillips observes in his book, Your God is Too Small, if we have a tiny god, we should not trust him. Only the true God, the great sovereign, loving, faithful, omniscient, omnipotent, and holy God of Scripture, deserves trust. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 360)
We can only have as much of God in our heart as we have of faith. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 464)
Faith in almighty God should be proportionate to the object of faith; there could be no diminution of faith even as there was no diminution of God. (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 209)
Sometimes we call people great men/women of faith. What is the great accomplishment in that? If we truly understood Who God is and His nature, then we would understand that ANYBODY would have great faith in Him once they have a clear vision of His nature. The issue is not the faith we can muster in God. The issue is seeing God as he truly is and then simply believing in what we know about God. Our problem is we have a faulty or inadequate vision of God. (Paraphrase of Superintendent Thomas Ramundo’s message @ HFM 11-5-12)
That is the trouble with the world, it does not know God. And the world will never be interested in the Christian message until it has some knowledge of God.
Oh, the church has been blind to this. She has been trying to attract people to herself for fifty years and more, putting on popular programmes, dramas, music, this that and the other, trying to entice people, especially young people, but they do not come. Of course not. They never will come until they know the name of the Lord, and then they will come. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, pgs 309-310)
One’s own faith is proportional to the knowledge of the reliability, trustworthiness, power, knowledge, and faithfulness of the object of one’s faith. — Pastor Keith
He is a miserable man who knows all things, and does not know God; and he is happy who knows God, even though he knows nothing else. — St. Augustine
If we don’t know God as All that He reveals Himself, then you don’t know God at all. — Tim Keller
The spiritual battle, the loss of victory, is always in the thought-world. —Francis Schaeffer
Central to Israel’s great exercise of faith was the awareness that God was with them, leading them. We must emphasize that they were not imagining this. God was truly present. But he manifested himself specially through the Ark. And the realization that he was physically in their midst had a massive impact on the Israelites’ exercise of faith. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 130)
We have been made for relationship with God. Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God. But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is. We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it. We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-6)
So What?: You want an overcoming life with meaning, purpose, significance, power, hope, certainty, and surety? Then know God and live by faith in His promises. Don’t let money, power, wealth, riches, reputation, distractions, obstacles or anything in all creation keep you from knowing God in Christ Jesus. (Mt 13:1-23; 16:18; Jn 16:33; Rom 8:31, 37; 1 Tm 6:19; 1 Jn 4:4; 5:1-5; Rv 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 17:14)
It seems never to have occurred to David not to trust the Lord. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 366)
The excellency of saints appears also in the benefit and blessings which they bring to the places where they reside: they are the “salt of the earth,” though the corrupt multitude around them realizes it not. Their presence stays the hand of Divine judgment (Gn 19:22), brings down blessing (Gn 30:27), and their prayers secure Divine healing (Gn 20:17). How little does the world realize how much it owes to those whom they hate so bitterly! (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 882)
Since all these things were done by faith, we must feel convinced, that in no other way than by faith is God’s goodness and bounty to be communicated to us. And that clause ought especially to be noticed by us, where it is said that they obtained the promises by faith; for though God continues faithful, were we all unbelieving, yet our unbelief makes the promises void, that is, ineffectual to us. (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 303-4)
As the holy Prophets wandered as fugitives among wild beasts, they might have seemed unworthy of being sustained on the earth; for how was it that they could find no place among men? But the Apostle inverts this sentiment, and says that the world was not worthy of them; for wherever God’s servants come, they bring with them his blessing like the fragrance of a sweet odor. Thus the house of Potiphar was blessed for Joseph’s sake, (Gn 39:5); and Sodom would have been spared had ten righteous men been found in it (Gn 18:32). Though then the world may cast out God’s servants as offscourings, it is yet to be regarded as one of its judgments that it cannot bear them; for there is ever accompanying them some blessing from God. Whenever the righteous are taken away from us, let us know that such events are presages of evil to us; for we are unworthy of having them with us, lest they should perish together with us. (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 308)
Their primary concern was not for the safety of their lives but for the safety of their faith. Physical deliverance or not, they would not forsake their trust in God. (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 369)
You don’t overcome sin by dwelling on sin. You overcome sin, not by dwelling on sin, but by dwelling on God. You overcome emptiness by dwelling on His presence. You solve your problem, not by dwelling on your problem, but by dwelling on the Answer. . . by being filled with the Answer. You overcome sorrow by the presence of joy, and hate by the presence of love, and evil by the presence of good. Apply this secret, and it will change your life. Overcome the absence by the presence of its opposite. (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 193)
We have a better salvation (6:9), a better hope (7:19), a better covenant (7:22), better promises (8:6), and better and lasting possessions (10:34). We are privileged sons and daughters of God, heirs and coheirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 360)
As we shall see, Joshua’s faith was communicated to and elevated the whole nation’s faith–and so can yours and mine. No matter where we are planted–whether it is behind a machine or a desk or in a house–if we live a life of dynamic certainty regarding God’s Word, we will elevate and energize others to live as they ought. One person’s faith can raise the level of their whole church. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, vol. 2, 127)
HAVE FAITH IN