Hebrews 11 - Part 3 - Hall of Faith

SERMON TOPIC: Hebrews 11 - Part 3 - Hall of Faith

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 17 November 2013


Sermon synopsis: in the book of Hebrews we’re given 3 broad examples of those we should imitate with regards to faith:
(1) Hebrews 11 - the heroes of old i.e. Biblical heroes and those in Church history.
(2) Hebrews 12:2 - Jesus
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(3) Hebrews 13:7 - Our leaders
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

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Hebrews 11

Part 3: FAITH

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The writer of Hebrews defines faith as follows in Heb 11:1 (NASB):


We saw that faith always has an object – i.e. that which you put your faith in. In order for faith to be of any value, you must have a worthy object for your faith.

You may put your faith in an ship that doesn’t reach it’s destination.

True Biblical faith has God as it’s object.

Mark 11:22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.



The cemetery at Westminster Abbey could rightfully be said to contain the “who’s who” of figures from British history.

In a similar fashion Hebrews 11 reads much like the “who’s who” of the Old Testament. As such, some have referred to Hebrews 11 as the Bible’s “Westminster Abbey”, God’s “Hall of Fame” or “Hall of Faith”.

So in the book of Hebrews we’re given 3 broad examples of those we should imitate with regards to faith:

Hebrews 11 - the heroes of old i.e. Biblical heroes and those in Church history.

Hebrews 12:2 - Jesus

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 13:7 - Our leaders

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.



Hebrews 10:38 But my righteous one will live by faith.




Heb 11:11-12 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (NIV 2011) See Appendix 1

So faith overlooks the circumstance because of a belief in the faithfulness of God.

Unbelief looks at the circumstances, not at Jesus:

Matt 14:30-31 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Heb 11:28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

People without faith encounter the same circumstances as those with faith. At the Passover, the circumstances were the same for the Israelites and Egyptians, but the outcome was different.

At the Red Sea crossing, the circumstances were the same, but with different outcomes for Israelites and Egyptians

Heb 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

Heb 11:31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Rahab had the same circumstances as the other inhabitants of Jericho but her faith meant a different outcome.

The people of Nazareth had the same circumstances as the other towns in Israel, and the same opportunity for seeing the power of God at work when Jesus visited. But their lack of faith meant a different outcome.

Matt 13:58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

So lack of faith (or unbelief) limits God.

Some motorised gates have hidden sensors that will only activate the gate motor when a vehicle is near. As you approach, the gate remains closed, blocking the exit. But when you are near, the gate opens automatically. If you were to stop your car a short distance from the exit, the gate would remain closed. Only when you move forward does it open.


So faith ignores the circumstances, and obeys Jesus’ word. Note that in Luke 17 the lepers are not yet healed, but they are instructed to go and show themselves to the priest in faith. Then “as they went, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:14)

The blind man remained blind on the way to the pool. John 9:7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” … So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

And Naaman went to bathe while still a leper - 2 Kings 5:14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored…

If God built a bridge a mile ahead, it would not be a bridge of faith. It’s the first step into the unseen that proves we have faith.

Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Abraham simply obeyed God and relied on him to clear the way ahead.

“Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led.” 1

So faith implicitly trusts God.

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” 1

1 Oswald Chambers was an early 20th century Scottish Baptist and Holiness Movement evangelist and teacher, best remembered for the devotional “My Utmost for His Highest”.


Unlike Christian Science and the Positive Confession heresy, Biblical faith does not try deny the circumstances. It overlooks the circumstances because it acknowledges that God is greater than the circumstances.

A leader in a Christian Science church was talking to a member of his congregation: “And how is your wife today?” “I’m afraid she’s very ill.” “No, no,” corrected the leader, “You shouldn’t say that - you should say that she’s very well, but she is under the impression that she’s very ill.” The man nods in agreement, “Sorry, I’ll remember next time.” A few weeks later the leader saw the man again.


She’s very well, although she’s under the impression that she’s dead!

And how is your wife at the moment?

Mark 8:23-25 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Note that when the blind man was not fully healed, he didn’t lie and try deny the reality of the situation. He told Jesus the truth and Jesus prayed a second time for the man’s complete healing.





Heb 11:17-18 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

Faith believes that God will always honour his Word.

Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead if he died, because God had promised that Isaac was the covenant son through whom his descendants would come – this obviously couldn’t happen if he died unmarried.


It is a blessed thing to learn that God’s word can never fail. Never hearken to human plans. God can work mightily when you persist in believing Him in spite of discouragements from the human standpoint…

(Smith Wigglesworth)




Heb 11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

Human logic told Joseph that the older son should have the greater blessing. But Jacob, in faith, gave the youngest son the greater blessing.

Gen 48:17-19 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”

And of course that’s exactly what happened. After Judah, Ephraim became the most prominent tribe of Israel. So God may tell you to do something in faith, that seems contrary to your human logic.





Heb 11:23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.




Just as our physical eyesight gives us evidence of the visible, material world, faith gives us evidence of the invisible, spiritual world.

Heb 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (NLT)

2 Cor 5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight.


Heb 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Remember when the king of Aram sent soldiers to capture Elisha and their army surrounded the city?

“Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Ki 6:16-17)




Heb 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

In the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus taught us to persist in our requests to God for justice:

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

And in the parable of the persistent neighbour (Luke 11:5-8) Jesus shows that we must be tenacious in our requests to God for assistance. After the parable Jesus sums up the meaning as follows:

Luke 11:9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.” (NLT)






The context of the following verse is salvation, but it is true in all situations:

Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Songwriter Oscar Eliason wrote:

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through? God specializes in things thought impossible. He can do just what no other can do.


In Mark 9:22-24 we have the account of the demon-possessed boy’s father begging Jesus for help.

But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

‘If you can’? Everything is possible for him who believes.





But even these heroes of the faith commended in the NT had moments when their faith was not as strong as it should have been.

Initially we find that Abraham laughed at the prospect of having a child:

Gen 17:17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

So too Sarah initially laughed when she heard this promise of God.


Gen 18:10-12 Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and

Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Gen 18:13-15 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh… Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at

the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Yet in both Hebrews and Romans, Abraham and Sarah are commended for their faith:

Rom 4:18-21 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

So both Abraham and Sarah set aside their initial doubts and trusted God’s promises.


Heb 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

Isaac had decided to give the first-born blessing to Esau, despite the fact that God told his wife Rebekah that “the older will serve the younger” (Gen 25:23).

When we read Genesis 27 we might wonder why Isaac is spoken of in such a positive light in Heb 11:20.

Rebekah then contrived a deceptive scheme to deceive Isaac.

Then, in order to get the blessing, Jacob outright lies to his blind father while pretending to be his brother Esau. Yet despite all this, Isaac is commended in Heb 11:20 for blessing “Jacob and Esau in regard to their future”. Why?

says, “… I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!” (Gen 27:33). He then proceeds to give Esau a lesser blessing and tells him “you will serve your brother” (Gen 27:40).

Although Isaac actually thought it was Esau he was blessing, upon discovering the deception he did not retract the blessing, nor even scold Jacob and Rebekah for their part in it. Instead he

Isaac had known that God wanted Jacob to receive the greater blessing, so initially he was really rebelling against God’s will.

But the fact that he refuses to retract the blessing shows that he ultimately accepted this and decided to align himself with God’s will, despite the fact that he favoured his son Esau over Jacob.

For this reason he is commended in Hebrews 11. He submits himself to God’s will, despite his personal feelings on the matter.


So too at times our faith may not be as strong as it ought to be. But we can be encouraged by the examples of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac who chose to believe and obey God.

In James 1:6 we are instructed to become people who do not waver in our faith:

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (KJV)

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (NIV)


James goes on to say that if your faith always wavers, you are a double-minded person:

James 1:8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (NIV)

And such people we are warned “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7).





Unbelief fails to trust God even when he has undertaken before in a similar situation. When Jesus warns the disciples to “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”, they thought it was because they had forgotten to bring any bread along (Matt 16:5-10).

You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? … Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

Fear in an adverse situation indicates a lack of faith:

Matt 8:24-26 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him…

Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!

You of little faith, why are you so afraid?

Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible. – William James

Unbelief calls God a liar.

Unbelief is not just the absence of faith. It is negative faith i.e. Unbelief says: “I don’t believe God will do what he has promised”.


The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.

(George Mueller)





Heb 11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

The truth of the matter is that we have better grounds for faith than these heroes of the faith did. “None of them received what had been promised” yet they were still “all commended for their faith”.


Heb 11:40a God had planned something better for us…

So the Hebrew Christians, despite their hardships are encouraged to stand strong in their faith – because we are the recipients of all that was promised in the Old Covenant.

Heb 11:40b … so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

The idea conveyed by perfect is ‘complete.’ Those in the Old Covenant could not be made complete until the sacrifice for sin on the cross. They had longed for the coming of the Messiah. On this side of the cross we have the completed work of Jesus on the cross as a sin covering – and right standing with the Father.


They looked forward to the coming Messiah, we look at the coming of the Messiah in the past – while enjoying the benefits of the New and better Covenant.









In the Old Covenant there were mighty things accomplished by these heroes of the faith:

Heb 11:32-35 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again…


Who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies – like David.

Conquered kingdoms – like Joshua.

Administered justice – like Samuel.

Gained what was promised – like Caleb (Joshua 14)

So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

Who shut the mouths of lions – like Daniel.

Quenched the fury of the flames – like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Escaped the edge of the sword – like Elijah who escaped the sword of Jezebel.

Whose weakness was turned to strength – like Gideon.

Women received back their dead, raised to life again – like the widow of Zarepheth (1 Ki 17) and the Shunamite (2 Ki 4).

Now if the passage had stopped here, we might be tempted to think that only good things happen to people of faith. But the author shows that, despite the wonderful accomplishments achieved by the heroes of the faith, it was not without a price. Faith will be tested!

Heb 11:35-38 … Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.


Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging…

Eleazar was one of the leading teachers of the law. Under a persecution instigated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Eleazar was forced to open his mouth and eat pork, but he spat it out and submitted to flogging. He was then privately permitted to eat meat that he could pretend was pork, but he refused and was flogged to death. 1 2

1 SOURCE: http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Eleazar_(2_Maccabees) 2 He replied, “Send me quickly to my grave. If I went through with this pretence at my time of life, many of the young might believe that at the age of ninety Eleazar had turned apostate. If I practiced deceit for the sake of a brief moment of life, I should lead them astray and bring stain and pollution on my old age. I might for the present avoid man’s punishment, but, alive or dead, I shall never escape from the hand of the Almighty” (2 Macc 6:24-27).


Some faced jeers – like Jeremiah (Jer 38).

Others were chained and put in prison – like Joseph, who was imprisoned for his faith (Gen 39).

They were stoned – like Zechariah.

2 Chron 24:20-21 … Zechariah … stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’” But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD’s temple.

They were sawed in two.

This is most likely a reference to the prophet Isaiah who, according to Jewish tradition, was sawn in two on the order of King Manasseh.

They were put to death by the sword.

85 priests were murdered by Doeg with a sword (1 Sam 22)

The prophets murdered in Elijah’s day were put to death by the sword.

1 Ki 19:10 “… The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.”

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - like Elijah who wore a garment of hair (2 Ki 1:8) .

They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground – David hid in a cave when Saul wanted to kill him (1 Sam 22:1) and Obadiah hid 100 prophets in caves to escape execution by Jezebel (1 Ki 18:4).

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were being persecuted and tempted to return to the Old Covenant. The author is showing that even the faith heroes of the Old Covenant faced persecution and hardship, despite the many blessings and victories they had because of their faith.

Friends, the point that the writer of Hebrews is trying to make is that sometimes our faith brings us protection, wisdom, and power; but sometimes our faith serves a totally different purpose. Sometimes our faith gives us the strength to stand firm despite the bad things going on around us! Our entire world may be crumbling, but we do not crumble because we are rooted and grounded firmly on the Rock, Jesus. 1 1 scripturalnuggets.org/ folder4/ FAITH%20LESSON%2021.htm



Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.

(Smith Wigglesworth)

Because we have better grounds for faith than the faith heroes of the Old Covenant, we have no excuse to fall away when times are hard.

Hebrews 6:12 -so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 10:38-39 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.


Similarly Peter, when writing to those who are facing Nero’s persecution, says that our faith must be tested in order to prove that it is genuine:

1 Pet 1:5-7 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

So faith that is not genuine will disappear when troubles come.


Even a car with an empty tank can coast downhill. The only way you can see that a car has fuel is when it’s on the uphill.


So people with genuine faith can be seen because when they encounter trouble, their faith stands firm. Those with false faith can only coast downhill.

But when your faith is tested, always remember what Edith Edman said – “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”


To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.

(George Mueller)


Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (" lockman.org/ ">www.Lockman.org)

Scripture taken from The Message (" biblegateway.com/ versions/ Message-MSG-Bible/ "> biblegateway.com/ versions/ Message-MSG-Bible/ )

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

There is some debate based on the Greek text as to whether Heb 11:11 is speaking of Abraham or Sarah. The 1984 NIV renders it:

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

However the NASB renders it:

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

The KJV and most other English versions agree with the NASB rendering. The updated TNIV and NIV 2011 have changed to agree with the majority rendering.


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