Believing In Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2

(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)

In our last study, we examined Hebrews 10:32-39. The writer illustrated the endurance that the Hebrews had when they first became believers. He said, "But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings." In the early days of their faith in Christ, they were called to endure suffering and trials. The word "endure" means "to remain under difficulties or trials."

The writer went on to give examples of the trials which they endured. Then, in verse 35 he said, "Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward." Their boldness in Christ, and their willingness to stand for Him had great reward at a later time.

However, some of them were thinking of retreating, and returning to Judaism because of all the trials and tribulations which they had gone through. They began to think, "It's not worth it." But the writer emphasized the need for us, as believers, to stand firm in our faith. He said, "For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (vs. 36).

The writer concluded this section of Hebrews by contrasting the eternal destination of those who endure, and of those who do not endure; "But we are not those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul" (vs. 39). The point was clear: those who reject the person and work of Jesus Christ in this life will experience "destruction" in the next life. But those who believe the gospel of Christ, and endure persecution for His sake, will experience "preserving of the soul."

Hebrews 11:1-7

Now faith is the assurance of (things) hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, for by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please (Him), for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and (that) He will reward those who seek Him. By faith Noah, being warned (by God) about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

The stress on the idea of ''endurance'' that became the key focus at the end of Hebrews 10 remains the focus of the writer through chapters 11 and 12. Chapter 11 is known as the "great faith chapter" because the emphasis is on our reliance on the revelation of God, and the conduct that results because of true, saving faith. The writer proves that if one has faith that produces salvation, he will also have the endurance to stand firm in his faith. If one does not have that endurance, he also lacks saving faith. This is the same idea that we have seen in James 1:1-3, where we are told that endurance is part of God's plan to bring us to perfection. We are saved by faith alone, but it is a faith that must be accompanied by a change of character (endurance). John Calvin summed it up when he said, "Faith alone justifies, but the faith which justifies is not alone.'' (See also James 1:12, 1:22, 2:14-17, 1:26, and Heb 6:11-12.)


The writer gives us a description of faith in verse 1. He says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." How do we know if we have the faith that preserves our souls? We have the confidence, and "assurance." Literally our faith "stands under" persecution and trial. Those who "shrink back" (10:39) do not have this faith. But those who have saving faith are confident and assured that God will accomplish everything that He has promised (Philippians 1:6).

The Greek word for "assurance," "hoopostasis," is only used five times in the New Testament (twice in 2 Corinthians and three times in Hebrews). The point is that faith is the assurance. And if we hold fast to that assurance, the indication is that we have indeed experienced true, saving faith, and will endure (perseverance of the saints).

Our assurance functions in the realm of future things--"the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." The hope we have is the superior reward that has been promised to all believers (10:34-39). We have not seen our glorified bodies, we have not seen our sins forgiven, we have not seen Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God, and we have not seen what God has prepared for us in His presence, but our faith gives us the assurance and confidence concerning these things.

This is the same thing that the writer was referring to in Hebrews 10:22 when he said "Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith...." When one has real faith, full assurance will be a result, period. How do we know if we will go to heaven, or be taken in the rapture when Christ returns for His own? Because "He who promised is faithful" (Heb 10:23). When we believe God, we have the assurance that comes as a result of faith.

Paul said, "...the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor 4:18). We are to be focused on the things we cannot see. The issue is that we cannot have faith in something we can see and touch. Why? Because we know that it is a reality. Faith means believing what God says despite the fact that we cannot see Him, touch Him, or hear Him. When we walk by faith and not by sight, we will mature into the type of Christians God intends us to be. (See also 2 Cor 5, Rom 8: 18, Rom 8:38)


Verse 2 gives the evidence to prove that verse 1 is true. He says, "For by it (faith) the men of old gained approval." The men of old were the elders of Israel--the saints of the Old Testament. They will be mentioned beginning with Abel (vs 4), Enoch (vs 5), Noah (vs 7), Abraham (vs 8), etc. The emphasis is that they gained the approval of God. They are those who had "faith to the preserving of the soul" (10:39). As we will see, the common link, of all these men, is not that they believed in a certain existing doctrine, but that they believed God when He revealed Himself to them, and lived in light of that revelation. They all had "faith."

The issue is the same for us today. Have you gained God's approval by believing in His ultimate and final revelation in Jesus Christ? If you have believed then you have the full assurance concerning future things because God is faithful to keep His promises. But if you have not believed then you are one of those who has shrunk back to "destruction."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Indian Hills Community Church

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