************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:1-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 13, 2016
"Faith that is Commended"
I Faith Commended
A Our text tells us there is faith that is commended. Faith that is approved. Faith that is spoken well of.
By whom? Who commends the faith? Who approves of someone's faith? Who speaks well of someone's faith? Is Hebrews thinking of the church? Fellow believers? Family members? The minister? The district elder?
The verb for "commend" is in what we know as a divine passive. Which means it is God Who commended the faith of the ancients. It is God Who spoke well of their faith. It is God Who approved of their faith.
Meaning what? Meaning that in the final analysis, my brothers and sisters, it makes no difference what anyone here on this earth may say about your faith or the faith of your family members. What counts is what God says. What counts is what He thinks.
B God commends the faith of some. Which means -- think about this -- there is faith that God does not commend. We all know people who sit in the pew who give no evidence of authentic Christian faith in their life. They warm the pew, but that is it. In their life you see no real devotion, no hunger for the Word, no Bible Study, no excitement about Jesus, no involvement in the life of the church or kingdom. Work, family, money, cows, hunting, guns, vacation, sports, hot cars, hot women, or politics seem to mean more to them than does the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this describes your grandparent, parent, child, sibling, friend. You wonder if their faith is real. You wonder if their faith is authentic. Perhaps this describes you?!
Hebrews 11 does not allow us to talk about faith that is not authentic. Hebrews 11 does not allow us to talk about faith that is uncommitted, lifeless, listless, impotent, meaningless. As far as Hebrews 11 is concerned, true faith is meaningful, alive, committed, excited, and on fire for the Lord and the things of the Lord.
C I am sure you realize that Hebrews 11 is the great chapter on faith just like 1 Corinthians 13 is the great chapter on love and Ephesians 6 is the great chapter on the armor of God.
Let me outline the chapter for you. In the first 3 verses Hebrews 11 gives us a description of faith; it is not a theological definition like we find in the Catechism. In verses 4-38 we are given Old Testament examples of faith. In verses 39-40 we are given a concluding summary. Right now I am thinking we will take an in-depth look at each of the saints whom God commends for their faith -- so it could be 10-15 messages just on the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11.
D It is most unfortunate that chapter 11 ends here and that most pastors and commentaries stop their discussion of faith here. Look at the first word of Hebrews 12:1. "Therefore ..." "Therefore ..." When you look at what comes next you see that Hebrews directs us to Jesus and His faith. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus," says Hebrews. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2). Don't fix your eyes on Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, David, Samuel. Yes, their faith is great and authentic. But the point of their faith is Jesus. Their faith points us to Jesus and not to themselves. It is Jesus Who perfectly displays the faith that is illustrated by the Old Testament saints whom God commends. It is the faith of Jesus that is especially commendable:
(Heb 12:2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.It is Jesus Who has faith, real faith, authentic faith, commendable faith.
E Why is real, authentic faith necessary? Listen to what Hebrews says about Jesus in chapter 12:3:
(Heb 12:3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Let me repeat that last line: "so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
We need to remember the setting. Some of the Hebrew Christians were growing weary and losing heart. Do you remember why? They watched as some in their midst went back to the Jewish faith. They watched as some in their midst made compromises with culture, or kept silent about the claims of the Gospel, or even went into hiding and withdrew from the world. They watched as some neglected worship and the assembling of the saints. And, remember what Hebrews 10 said about their persecution?
(Heb 10:33-34) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. (34) You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.No wonder they were growing weary and losing heart.
What does Hebrews say to these troubled believers? "Look to Jesus." "Fix your eyes on Jesus." "Consider His faith." "So that you will not grow weary and lose heart." So you are not one of those who shrink back and are destroyed. So you are one of those who believe and are saved.
Let me ask: What kind of faith endures? What kind of faith does not shrink back? What kind of faith is meaningful, alive, committed, excited, and on fire for the Lord and the things of the Lord? The kind of faith we see in Hebrews 11. The kind of faith that points us to Jesus and His faith.
II Faith Described
A What is this faith that is commendable? Let me start with what it is not. It is not a positive mental attitude. It is not a sunny disposition. It is not the overly optimistic belief I will surely get the money to buy a business, farm, or house. It is not a hope for the best. It is not the sincere conviction that some day I will pay off all my debts.
B So, what is this faith that is commendable? Look at the description -- again, not the definition but the description -- of faith in verse 1:
(Heb 11:1) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.We note that this description of faith is made up of two statements. Don't understand this as two separate ideas. Rather, see this as one idea explained by two separate statements. What we have here is an imitation of Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry, as we have been seeing in Proverbs, is often made up of parallel statements where the second statement helps to explain the first statement.
So, what is it that we -- by faith -- hope for? What is it that we do not see? The "now" that starts Hebrews 11:1 refers us back to the previous chapter. There we find what we hope for, what we do not see:
-vs 34 better and lasting possessions
-vs 35 rich reward
-vs 36 receive what He has promised
These verses are talking about salvation in all its fullness and glory. These verses are talking about the consummation of all God's promises. These verses are talking about life with God, the forgiveness of sin, a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth, and so on. This is what we hope for. Our faith is riveted on these things.
Now, this is a no-brainer, but I am sure you realize these are all future. What we hope for, as Christians, is something we currently do not have and cannot have. But, by faith, this is our hope for the future.
Faith, then, is the conviction that what God has promised will surely come to pass.
III Faith Lived Out
A "This is what the ancients were commended for" (Heb 11:2). Who are the ancients? Some of them -- not all of them -- some of them, are listed in verses 4-38.
As I read through Hebrews 11 this past week I noticed something for the first time. The ancients, the Old Testament saints, were commended for a faith in God's promises that impacted the way they lived. Or, to put it another way, their faith in the future enabled them to live a certain way in the present.
Here is another no-brainer: faith determines how I live. Faith enables me to live as a Christian in the midst of a godless and hostile culture. I hope you see that faith and life are not separate. What we confess with our lips we also live with our lives.
We are a Reformation Church. That is, we believe salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone! But, but, the faith that saves us is never alone. If I am sure about the future, I live a certain way in the present. If I am certain of what I do not see, I live a certain way. That is, if I have faith, I live a certain way.
B Look with me at the faith of the ancients. I want you to notice their actions, their obedience, their deeds:
-vs 4 What did Abel do? By faith he offered God a better sacrifice. Notice the verb "offered." This is what he did.
-vs 8 What did Abraham do? By faith he went to a place he did not know and made his home in the promised land.
-vs 17 What did Abraham do? By faith he offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
-vs 22 What did Jacob do? By faith he blessed each of Joseph's sons.
-vs 23 By faith Moses parents hid him for three months.
-vs 26 By faith Moses left Egypt.
-vs 29 By faith the people of Israel passed through the Red Sea.
-vs 30 By faith the people of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho.
-vs 32ff By faith Gideon, Barak, Samson and so on conquered kingdoms, administered justice, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, escaped the sword, and so on.
Do you see that faith works, faith acts, faith obeys? Faith is a living, active, busy thing. Faith is not merely to be confessed. It is also to be lived. As we read in Hebrews 10:38, "The righteous will live by faith." "Live!"
My brothers and sisters, your faith, your hope, your certainty about the future impacts how you live your present. The result of your faith should be obedience, acts of courage, a multitude of deeds and works. There is no such thing as faith that is uncommitted, lifeless, listless, impotent, meaningless. Faith, true faith is meaningful, alive, committed, excited, and on fire for the Lord and the things of the Lord. No one with true faith can be a mere bench warmer.
IV Faith Developed
A We've looked at faith commended, faith described, and faith lived out. We end by looking at faith developed.
In verse 3 the author of Hebrews turns from the faith of the ancients to the faith of the Hebrew Christians. Notice the use of the word "we" in verse 3: "By faith we understand ..."
"You have faith," says the author of Hebrews. "You early Christians have faith." Now, I would expect him to say something about their faith in Jesus. Instead, he talks about their faith in the formation of the universe.
(Heb 11:3) By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
They believe this. How come? They weren't there. No one was there. Not even the angels. So why do they believe? Why do they believe what pagans and evolutionists do not believe? Because that's what God says in His Word.
B I want you to see the connection between a living, active faith and the Word of God. Faith is our reaction to revelation. Faith is our reaction to the Word of God.
Do you want a stronger faith, a better faith, a more alive faith, a more active faith? Guess what you have to do? You need to spend time with the Word. You need to be in the Word. You need to read the Word and study the Word and meditate on the Word. You need to absorb the Word. It needs to permeate your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, your will, your life. Do this over and over again. Because faith comes by hearing. Do you remember this line from Romans?
(Rom 10:17) Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
The ancients were commended for their faith. Some of the Hebrews were not. Now, what about you? Are you one of those who shrink back and are destroyed? Or, are you one of those who believe and are saved? Will the Lord Jesus someday commend you for your faith?
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