THE FAITH HALL OF FAME: HEBREWS 11

 

Who are our heroes?  Science, Technology, Medicine, Education and Media have largely replaced Christ.

 

Chapter 10 concludes with a warning against Apostasy with contrast between Fearfulness and Faith.

 

Introduction to Chapter 11:

 

                                                      Definition of Faith: neither philosophical in language nor exhaustive in Scope, but the main expressions are from the Old Testament HALL OF FAME--Inspiring examples to follow--NOW!!

The Context of Chapter 11--Faith is certainly concerning what is Hoped For and Proof of what is not seen. 

 

Finality of Faith--it is Christianity in Crisis-Syncretism-Tolerance-Divergence--Warning against unbelief--Falling away (Apostasy 5.11--6.1-8)

 

Case studies in Faith as ultimate commitment (11.1-3) to balance Intellectual (James 2.10) Doctrine context in Jude 3.

 

                                                      Because of faith men of old gained their testimony (witness) (Supreme example was Jesus (12.2) as He endured the Cross)

 

First example of Faith/Creation is the requisite to all others and not scientific proof.  Faith is concerned with ultimate invisible reality/future hopes; faith in terms of spiritual rather than temporal proving of what is unseen.  Gives further extension rather than greater precision.  Faith does not cause ultimate reality.

 

                                                      Belief in Creation is foundational (Genesis 1-3; James 1.1-14), God’s presence in the world.

 

                                                      By faith we understand that the universe was fashioned by God’s Word.  Faith in this creator God empowered man to recognize the design of the creator (Romans 1.20).  Order of this recognition is not acceptance of the Creator, which leads to recognition of His Design in creation.

 

                                                      Faith is the process that reverses the order: recognition of supernatural ordering of the universe

 

                                                      God’s Word is not equated here with pre-existent Word, God’s creative omnipotence that fashioned the universe.  Ugliness and suffering and predatory character of the natural world cast no shadow over the author’s argument; what is visible has come into Being from what is not visible.  God is not a Divine Architect (Genesis 1.2, Philo), but the Divine Creator.

 

                                                      The phrase (Greek words) “the visible has not been created out of material things - this affirming creation Ex Nihilo (not invisible world but an intelligible world in Philonic is the archetype of the physical universe.

 

                                                      The Roll Call of the Faith Hall of Fame now begins. Does not include Adam and Eve because their relationship with God was one of Sight, not Faith.  Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve (Cain was older). Abel’s sacrifice was preferred over Cain (radically inferior to Jesus (see 12.24), better quantity or quality.  Scripture gives no real reason for God’s acceptance (Abel had herds and Cain had grain).

 

                                                      Abel, Enoch, Noah: Noah was first called righteous (Gen. 7.1); Cain had an evil character (Matt. 23.35) expressed in I John 3.12 and Jude 11).  Such faith is not self-reliance but reliance on the Promises of the Invisible God.

 

Chapter 11 8-12:  Abraham was the greatest Old Testament example of Faith. First instance of Faith was the promise given and fulfilled in Christ; by faith he obeyed the call to receive the promise (Romans 4.3; Gal. 3.6; Jas 2.23; Acts 7.5).  Not until Abram settled in Haran that Canaan was designated as the goal of his wandering.

 

                                                      Faith into the future to the unknown.  He was a pilgrim in the Land of Promise; he did not question the Promise; he lodged in tents-temporarily unsettled and made the nomadic life his life, “This world is not my home.”

 

                                                      The Promised Land “City with Foundations” (social concern not personal) (city not Canaan)

Heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4.26; Rev. 21-22) Permanence/Security (II Cor. 5.1ff)

 

                                                      Second instance of Faith - descendants multiply

                                                      Third instance of Faith - Sarah was his barren wife (11.11)

                                                      Fourth instance of Faith - God’s command to sacrifice his son.   Descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and grains of sand.  All lived and died in faith.

 

                                                      Security of Heaven’s Everlasting Commonwealth: Compared with the transitory nature of earthly existence is the deeper conviction of Hebrews. The theme is so important (they did not enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief) that it first appeared in chapter 3 when the wilderness wanderings of the people of God were constructed with “Heavenly Rest” which awaits them and the same theme reappears in Hebrews 11.10,13,14. 

 

                                                      Seeing The Promise from afar by Faith in the creator of the universe--seeing the future on the foundation of the Word of origin of the universe (“saw and welcomed from afar”)

 

                                                      Death is the end of life and marks the point beyond which human faith can no longer operate.  Death is Faith’s final test; and a life of Faith is crowned and completed by faith acceptance of death.  Death is not ultimate!  God’s promises have not yet taken place.  They had not yet witnessed the universal blessing that God was to accomplish through the faith of these pilgrims of Faith’s Hall of Fame.  John’s statement that Abraham saw the day of the Messiah and rejoiced (John 8.56). Memories of the lives of Faith’s Hall of Fame are kept alive by the biblical accounts of the death of Abraham (Gen. 25.8) and Isaac (Gen. 35.29), and the blessing of Jacob (Gen 49.18).  These were looking for a homeland.  A homeland is a person’s country of origin.  As aliens they were in their country of adoption, not origin.

 

                                                      Both in Pauline writings (Phil. 3.20; Eph. 2.19) and in the Apocalypse (21.2) heaven is conceived of as a city.  Westcott sees the three chief different conceptions of a city which belong to Jewish, Greek and Stoic thought combined in the Christian conception of Commonwealth.  It is the seat of God’s Presence.  It is a community in which each citizen is endowed with the most complete privileges and charged with the fullest responsibility for the general welfare.  It is a worldwide organization embracing in a communion of the largest hope “all thinking things all objects of thought.”  The author of Hebrews now returns to the Faith of Abraham.  (Jewish tradition of Abraham Jubilee 19.8; Wisdom of Solomon 10.5; Ecclesiasticus 44.20; I Maccabees 2.52 and Philo (de Abram 167).

 

                                                      When Abraham Was Being Tested:  God called Abraham to make a decision that seemed to contradict The Promise.  Abraham knew that God could not lie about a promise nor could God’s command be disobeyed.  “He reckoned” (logisemenos, aorist tense of particle shows Abraham’s decision was immediate). He knew that if God’s commands were to stand this would be the only way by which his promise could be fulfilled.  Abraham’s faith in the God of resurrection empowered him to obey.  (Verse 9)  “He reckoned that God had power even to raise from the dead.”  The consequent salvation of Isaac’s life was the resurrection of one who was as good as dead.  (Isaac had been in the loins of “the dead.” (vs. 12).  The line of the Hall of Fame continues--(vs. 20-22).  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau and that concerning the things to come, vs. 21.  By faith Jacob blessed each of Joseph’s sons.  This phrase indicates Jacob’s frailty and a symbol of his pilgrim status (Gen. 32.10) 

 

                                                      As Isaac and Jacob have looked to the future in faith, so also did Joseph (left Canaan at the age of 17 (Gen. 37.2) and lived in Egypt until his death at the age of 110) Gen. 50.24).  Yet he trusted that God would keep His promise to Abraham that in the fourth generation his progeny would return to the Promised Land (Gen. 15.16).  By faith Joseph made mention of the Exodus of the Israelites and gave direction concerning his bones (Gen 50.25ff).  According to Exodus 18.19 Moses took Joseph’s bones with him in his wanderings and according to Joshua 24.32 they finally were laid to rest in Schechem.

 

Five Examples of Moses’ Faith in the Roll Call of Witnesses (Hebrews 11.23-29:

 

                                                      Moses is one of the greatest figures unfolding the promise line until Jesus (this is the message of Hebrews, the superiority of Jesus to Moses).

 

1.  Moses’ Birth - By faith Moses was hidden for three months by his parents.  This is an affirmation of the faith of the parents, not the infant (Pharaoh had ordered that all Hebrew male children should be drowned, Exodus 1.22).  Their faith was in the conviction of God’s providential care.  The baby, because he was vital in unfolding the promise line.

 

2. As an infant he was rescued from his hiding place and cared for by Pharaoh’s daughter (Ex. 2.5ff.).  By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  We see an emphasis neither of the awkwardness of a child nor the rebelliousness of an adolescent; it was the responsible choice of an adult, by Faith in the God of Promise.

3.  Moses chose to identify himself with the persecuted fellow countrymen rather than with the Royal Family of his adoption, preferring rather to suffer ill treatment with God’s people than enjoy the transient pleasures of sin.  Moses recognized that Israel was God’s people.  He preferred to share spiritual security with them rather than to enjoy present material advantages from Pharaoh.  By faith he was more concerned with God’s providence for His chosen people than with less permanent privileges and pleasures.  That apostasy would have brought him sin (Heb. 10.26).  By faith the reproach of Israel was greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt (see esp. Ps. 89.51f. where Israel is spoken of collectively as the anointed).  The reproach of Israel was a prefigure of the reproach which fell on Christ (Romans 15.4; Col. 1.24).  Israel trusted in God’s providential care.  By faith Moses kept his eyes on his future reward.

 

                                                      The third instance of Moses’ faith - by faith Moses put his trust in an invisible God before the wrath of a very visible Pharaoh.

 

                                                      The Fourth example concerns the events immediately before the Exodus.  The last of ten plagues was to be the destruction of all male firstborn of men and beast (Exodus 12.12).  Moses provided the celebration of The Passover and sprinkled the blood in order that the Destroyer might not touch their firstborn (elsewhere in the New Testament The Passover is the type of Christ’s death (I Cor. 5.7; compare with Exodus 12.33).  Moses’ faith empowered their belief that God would pass over the Israelites’ homes.

 

                                                      The Final Expose’ of Moses’ Faith:  Moses revealed his pre-eminent faith by stretching his hand out over the Red Sea for separation of the water to enable Israel to escape Egyptian destruction.  Moses’ faith was exposed the first time to save Israel for Egyptian destruction.  By faith he raised his hands again for the water to engulf the Egyptian army. 

 

                                                      Joshua’s Faith  (11.30-31):  It is important that after Moses, Joshua is mentioned.  His name is Greek and is the same as that of Jesus.  The two events mentioned in the Joshua faith narrative is The Walls of Jericho--they fell because of Joshua’s faith in our all powerful God (see esp. Joshua 6).  Their faith consisted in their belief in the efficacy of these unprecedented proceedings.

 

                                                      The Faith of Rahab the Prostitute:  (she is listed in the linage of the Messiah).  God’s use of sexually immoral women for the furtherance of His providence is noted elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. Tamor, Matt. 1.3) and Rahab, Matt. 1.5).  James regards this particular incident as indicating Rahab’s works rather than showing her faith (James 2.25; contrast with Romans 4.3).  Her faith did not merely consist in her offer of hospitality and of a hiding place to the spies whom Joshua had sent to Jericho.  She also expressed a conviction that the Israelite God was God of heaven and earth and that in His providence He had given the land to His chosen people (Joshua 2.9ff.)  In return for her help she and her household were spared when Jericho was taken, her home being identified by a scarlet thread placed in the window as an agreed upon sign (Joshua 2.18).

 

                                                      The Power of Faith Then and Now (11.31-35a) Faith’s Hall of Fame presents a long biblical chronology, yet the bulk of history lies ahead of it.  “What more can I say?  We do not have (paralipsis) time to tell of all of many others from the Hall of Fame.  There are four Judges who witness to the gradual extension of Israelite power in Canaan.  David and Samuel are here clearly associated as the respective founders of theocracy and prophetism (Spicq).

 

                                                      Only King David is in the list!  (I Sam. 10.17ff; Hebrews 7.1,15).  Perhaps it is strange that no priest figures in the Roll of Faith while the prophets are not listed as heroes of faith, yet the great cloud of witnesses “overthrew kingdoms,” and “exercised justice.”  By faith they “obtained the promises.”  These are not the same as “the promise of the heavenly city (11.39).  The promises refer more generally to promises of land and inheritance, which they saw fulfilled in their lifetime (Joshua 21.43). 

 

                                                      The following three instances of lives dominated by faith concern personal deliverance, not social advantage (e.g. David, I Sam. 17.34f; Daniel, Meshach, Abednego, 3.25, Daniel, 6.22).

                                                      “The triplet of victorious faith is followed by a single, abrupt clause which presents the highest conquest of faith.”  (Westcott). Women received back their dead by resurrection.  The references are to the widow’s son from Sarepta whom Elijah returned to life (I Kgs. 17.22), and the son of the Shumnamite woman whom Elisha restored by the “kiss of life.”  (II Kgs. 4.34; Lk. 7.11, the widow’s son at Nair and Jesus’ raising of Lazarus).

 

                                                      Faith Under Fire, 11.35b-38:  Hardship is often Faith’s most powerful testimony (vs. 39-40).  “All these have won testimony because of their faith.  Their witness of their faith is in the Scriptures and they did not “receive the promise”, their final reward of their faith.  God’s promise includes “Us”!  “So without us they should not be made perfect.”  By perfection, He does not mean here either the perfect nature of the resurrection body or the perfection of Christ, which will be bestowed on the Church at the last day.  God’s plan is for all his elect, whether they belong to the Old or New Testament period. Salvation is social, not individualistic.  So long as a single member of the family is not present, the household of faith can never be complete and thus never perfect.  Here is our present postmodern inclusivism versus God’s exclusivistic gospel.  Only the Faithful in all periods of God’s plan are saved!

 

James D. Strauss