Hebrews Bible Study Week 12: Chapter 11

By | January 24, 2021
This entry is part 12 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

{Updated to add: This post and many of the following posts were part of an online Bible study over the book of Hebrews that I hosted in the past on my previous blog. I am reposting here to make the resource available to anyone interested.}

We are nearing the end of our study in Hebrews. Chapter 11 is a very well-known chapter, often called the “Hall of Faith.” It is often perceived as an entity apart from its context, but it is heavily connected with all the theology, warnings, and encouragement behind and the application ahead in chapters 12-13. Again I think it would be a good idea to go back and skim or read through chapter 10 to get the context of chapter 11 in your minds. Because Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice of himself brings God’s full forgiveness, we can draw near to God, persevere, and encourage others to persevere with the hope of eternal life as our reward. To fail to persevere—particularly in suffering—marks a lack of faith. The author is confident of his audience’s persevering faith, and this is where chapter 11 begins.

Hebrews Chapter 11 Questions and pdf: Hebrews 11 Questions

1. Define faith.

2. According to what we’ve already read in Hebrews, what do you think the “things hoped for” are?

3. What did the people of old do by faith?

4. What do we understand by faith?

{Each of these OT examples to follow will practically show how these men and women showed their faith in God, their assurance of their hope in God and his promises. Hopefully these stories of faith are encouraging to you. We often call these men and women “Heroes of the Faith,” but if you are familiar with these stories, you will remember many of their faults, failures, and even acts of faithlessness. Yet, their placement here in the “Hall of Faith” shows that persevering faith in a faithful God—despite many failures and sins along the way—marks them as people whom God is not ashamed to be called their God.}

5. How did Abel show his faith in God?

a. How was Abel commended?

b. How did God show his commendation?

c. How does Abel “still speak”?

6. How did Enoch show his faith?

a. How was Enoch commended?

b. How did God show his commendation?

7. What truths about faith are given in v6?

a. What is impossible?

b. The conditions for pleasing God and drawing near to God are the same. One condition uses the term “faith” and the other condition uses the definition of faith. What must one who draws near to God believe?

8. How did Noah show his faith?

a. What was Noah warned of by God?

b. How did Noah build the ark?

c. For what purpose?

d. In building the ark what did he do?

9. How did Abraham show his faith?

a. How did Abraham live as he journeyed to the promised land?

b. How are Isaac and Jacob described?

c. What motivated Abraham as he lived in tents as a foreigner?

10. How did Sarah show her faith?

a. What did she receive? When?

b. Her faith was shown in her consideration of God as what?

c. Because Sarah had faith, what came from Abraham (though he was how old?)?

11. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah all died how?

a. They died not having what? (How does this mesh with 6:15??)

b. But they died having what?

c. Acc. to v14, people who speak how make it clear that they are doing what?

d. If they had wanted to—if their mind had been set on it— what could they have done?

e. Instead, what did they desire?

f. Notice all the verbs that are used that describe the way in which they evidenced their faith and their focus while on earth.

g. In response to their faith, what is God’s response? (contrast with 10:38)

12. How did Abraham continue to show his faith?

a. How is Abraham described?

b. Why was Abraham’s offering Isaac such an extreme act of faith?

c. What did Abraham “consider” that God would/could do?

13. What did Isaac do by faith?

14. What did Jacob do by faith?

15. What did Joseph do by faith?

16. What did Moses’ parents do by faith? Why?

17. How did Moses show his faith?

a. What did he refuse?

b. What did he choose?

c. What did he consider?

d. What was he looking to?

e. What motivated his departure from Egypt despite the anger of the king?

f. How did he show his faith in v28?

18. How did Israel show their faith at the outset of their journey to the promised land (v29)? (and what happened to the Egyptians?)

19. How did Israel show their faith at the end of their journey to the promised land (v30)?

20. Here we have the first description of the faith of a (post-Abraham) non-Israelite.

a. How is Rahab described?

b. How did she show her faith?

c. What happened to her?

21. Who else did the author not have time to tell of their acts of faith?

a. The author lists general things done by these and more which evidence their faith. List these out.

b. When some were tortured and refused to accept release, what was their motivation (v35)?

c. The author continues to describe the awful mistreatment of these faithful people. How does he describe them in v38?

22. Despite their commendation through their faith (cf. vv 4-5), what did all these not receive? Why?

23. What was promised to them?

24. What is the something better that God provided for us?

25. What does it mean that “apart from us they should not be made perfect”?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6 ESV).


4.16.20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Please don’t read my notes until you’ve completed your study if you want the most benefit from your own study.

11:1-12:13: Faith and Endurance

11:1-40: A Celebration of Faith

“In a world where people dismiss faith as ‘wishful thinking’, or simply identify it with the beliefs and practices of a particular religion (e.g. ‘the Muslim faith’), it is good to have a comprehensive picture of the faith that actually pleases God. Hebrews shows the link between faith, hope, obedience and endurance, illustrating that it is more than intellectual assent to certain beliefs. God-honouring faith takes God at his word and lives expectantly and obediently in the present, waiting for him to fulfil his promises. Such faith brings suffering and persecution in various forms.”[1]

11:1-2. Faith is here defined as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. This faith is what commended God’s people to Him (cf. vv 4, 5, 39). (Commendation comes from the Greek word martyreō: “bear witness, be a witness; testify favorably, speak well (of), approve” [BDAG])

Concerning “things hoped for,” it seems like OT saints (and particularly Israel in regard to some of these promises) hoped in God’s promises of rest, blessing, fruitfulness, and a future Conqueror/King/Messiah. Today, believers hope in the fulfillment of these promises, many of them found in Jesus (cf. 3:6, 14; 6:18-20; 7:19; 10:19-23).

“It is also possible to translate, ‘faith is the substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for’ (av), or ‘faith gives substance to our hopes’ (neb). Such a rendering suggests that what we hope for becomes real and substantial by the exercise of faith. This does not mean that the gospel is true simply because we believe in it! Rather, the reality of what we hope for is confirmed for us in our experience when we live by faith in God’s promises.” [2]

11:3. Faith helps us understand basic truths presented in Scripture, like creation: the word of God—the invisible—created the universe—the visible. “The writer begins where Genesis begins, because faith in God as the Creator of everything that exists is fundamental to the Bible’s view of reality. . . . If God is in control of nature and history, past and present, every generation of believers can trust his promises about the future, no matter what it may cost them.”[3]

11:4-7. The author gives 3 pre-Israel examples of men who lived by faith. They were commended as righteous and thus pleasing to God by their faith.

1. Abel’s offering of an acceptable sacrifice to God evidenced his faith (cf. Gen 4; Prov 15:8). God accepted his offering to show he was commending Abel as righteous due to his faith. His example still speaks past his death.

2. Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying, having been commended as having pleased God through his faith (cf. Gen 5:22-24). This example prompts a principle: The ability to please God and draw near to him comes through believing through faith what God has said—He exists and rewards those who seek him. It is impossible to please God apart from this.

3. Noah had faith to believe God’s warnings about the flood (though initially unseen) and obeyed with reverent fear in building the ark (cf. Gen 6-7). His faith and obedience condemned the world (their lack of faith and obedience), saved his family, and made him and heir of righteousness that comes by faith (cf. Rom 4:13).

11:8-10. Abraham showed his faith by obeying God in going to a place God promised to give him (cf. Gen 12ff). He went without knowing where he was going, to live in the land like a foreigner and in tents like a wanderer, as did his son and grandson who had received the same promises. (He had no established home for himself, Isaac, and Jacob.) Why did he do this? He was looking forward to a city with foundations that God had built. “Waiting for God to provide them with an earthly inheritance, the patriarchs came to realize that this life is not an end in itself but a pilgrimage towards a future that God alone can construct for his people.”[4]

11:11-12. Sarah received power to conceive when she was past fertility age (and when Abraham was so old he was nearly dead) and thus showed her faith. From this unlikely, childless couple came a son through whom innumerable descendants would come. Sarah’s object of her faith was the same as the consideration of her mind: God who promised is faithful.

11:13-16. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah died in faith without receiving what had been promised. During their lifetimes, they never saw the ultimate fulfillment of the promises—Jesus. But they were aware that it was there. Their eyes of faith saw a distant fulfillment (cf. John 8:56). They didn’t receive it but they did the following:

Acknowledged truth: their temporary residence on this earth as strangers and exiles.

Spoke truth: their “pilgrim” speak made it clear that they sought a true homeland, not this earth.

Thought truth: their thoughts were not glued to this earth or else they could have gone back if they wanted.

Desired  what was true: their desires, based on their thought patterns, were for a better, heavenly country.

Therefore, God wasn’t ashamed to be their God and prepared a better city for them (contrast this with the outcome of the faithless in 10:38).

Thoughts of application: In order for us to please God and draw near to him, God must commend/approve us as righteous on the basis of our faith in him. Our faith believes that God exists and rewards those who seek him. Faith considersIt considers God to be faithful (v11) and to keep his promises (v17). Faith considers earthly suffering a greater treasure than earthly riches because the eye is on future reward (v26). We need to be a people who take time to consider.

11:17-19. Abraham also showed his faith when he offered up Isaac (cf. Gen 22) through whom God had planned Abraham’s numerous offspring would come (cf. Gen 21:12). His faith in God was such that he considered that God would be so faithful to his promise that he would even raise Isaac from the dead after he had been sacrificed.

11:20-22Isaac’s faith was demonstrated by his speaking future blessings based on what God had promised to Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s faith likewise was evidenced by the blessing of his sons and ending his life in worship. Joseph’s faith pointed to the surety of a future event—the Exodus—in which he told Israel to take his bones with him to the promised land.

These were not necessarily extraordinary acts of faith. These men spoke of future events God had promised with surety to their family. Their blessings and speech to their children evidence their faith in God who would surely accomplish his promises. All of these men spoke this way at the end of their lives, without having received these promises themselves, but believing them to be true, and handing that down to the next generation.

11:23-28. Moses’ parents showed their faith by hiding Moses for three months because he was beautiful and they weren’t afraid of the king’s edict to kill all the baby boys (cf. Ex 1). Moses’ faith was evidenced when he was grown up by his choice to not be called Prince but instead to be called an Israelite slave with all its accompanying mistreatment. Sharing mistreatment and reproach with the then-future suffering Christ was greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt. He had this mindset because he was looking at the future reward not the present comfort—despite the fleeting pleasures that sinful lifestyle offered. He left Egypt enduring the king’s anger because he was able to see who the real King was. He continued to evidence his faith by leading the people to recognize their dependence on the saving work of God at Passover (cf. Ex 11-12).

“In this section faith is portrayed as a force sustaining God’s people in times of opposition and affliction, enabling them to overcome fear and temptation and to fulfil his purposes for them. . . . Faith in God is incompatible with fear of hostile forces.”[5]

11:29-31. Israel showed faith at the outset of their wilderness wanderings at the Red Sea (where they crossed on dry ground in faith that God would indeed rescue them, but the Egyptians were drowned; cf. Ex 14) as well as at the outset of the conquering of Canaan when they encircled Jericho for seven days (cf. Josh 6). Rahab—the Canaanite prostitute of Jericho—showed her faith and obedience by helping the Israelite spies (cf. Josh 2; 6).

11:32-38. There was no time for the author to speak of the acts of faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, and others who did the following: conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, and women received their dead back to life.

Many of these were severely mistreated in this life, but they endured because they were confident that they would be (and they were) raised to a better life. They were tortured, mocked, flogged, imprisoned in chains, stoned, sawn in two, killed with the sword, wore animals’ skins, and were destitute, afflicted, mistreated, wandering about homeless in deserts, mountains, dens, and caves. These were people of whom this world was not worthy.

“Images of persecution and imprisonment pile up to convince the first readers of Hebrews that their experience has been one with that of believers in former generations (36–38; cf. 10:32–34), to encourage them to persevere in faith.”[6]

11: 39-40. All of these—despite God commending them for their faith through their great trials and mistreatment—did not receive what was promised in their lifetimes. Instead, God provided something better—referring to Jesus, I think (as he has been the “better” one throughout the whole book). Apart from all the rest who were to believe, these OT believers were not “perfect,” they were not a complete number of those who would believe. There were more to be added to their numbers of those who had faith (cf. Rev 6:11).

“Although they saw the fulfilment of specific promises in this life (e.g. 6:15; 11:11, 33), none of them experienced the blessings of the Messianic era and of the new covenant. In his gracious providence, God had planned something better for us in the sense that their enjoyment of perfection through Jesus Christ would only be together with us. The writer’s point is to stress the enormous privilege of living ‘in these last days’ (1:2).”[7]

“In other words, God provided something better by including us (the readers) with them (Old Testament saints) so that all his people would be made perfect in Christ.”[8]

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1345). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 1347.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 1348.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 1348-1349.

[8] Allen, D. L. (2010). Hebrews (p. 567). Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group.

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