(Hebrews 11: 8-19)

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;

 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

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

 12 therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.

 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.

 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.

 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;

 18 it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”

 19 He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type. (Heb 11:8-19 NAS)

THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS TO LIVE.  ONE WAY, BY FAR THE MOST COMMON, IS TO LIVE BY SIGHT, TO BASE EVERYTHING ON WHAT YOU CAN SEE.  THIS IS THE EMPIRICAL WAY.  The other way, far less common, is to live by faith, to base your life primarily and ultimately on what you cannot see.  the Christian way, of course, is the faith way.  We have never seen God, or Jesus Christ, or heaven, or hell, or the Holy Spirit.  We have never seen ab of the people who wrote the Bible or an original manuscript of the Bible.  Though we see the results of them, we have never seen any of the virtues that God commands or any of the graces that He gives.  Yet we live in the conviction of all these things by faith.  We bank our earthly lives and our eternal destiny on things which we have never seen.  That is the way the people of God have always lived.

THE LIFE OF FAITH HAS SOME SPECIFIC INGREDIENTS, WHICH ARE POINTED OUT IN THIS TEXT AS REFLECTED IN THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM.  ABRAHAM IS A COMPOSITE OF GOD’S PATTERN OF FAITH.  HE REVEALS THE TOTALITY OF THE TRUE FAITH LIFE, ALL THE INGREDIENTS THAT CONSTITUTE IT.  Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, and he is therefore presented to the Jews to whom the book of Hebrews was written as the most strategic example of faith.  They needed to realize that Abraham was more than the father of their race; he also was, by example, the father of the faithful, the father of everyone who lives by faith in God.

THE RABBIS HAD LONG TAUGHT THAT ABRAHAM PLEASED GOD BECAUSE OF HIS WORKS.  THEY BELIEVED THAT GOD LOOKED AROUND THE EARTH AND FINALLY FOUND AN OUTSTANDINGLY RIGHTEOUS MAN, ABRAHAM, WHO BECAUSE OF HIS GOODNESS WAS SELECTED TO BE THE FATHER OF GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE.  That false teaching needed to be corrected.  It was necessary to show, from the Old Testament itself, that Abraham was not righteous in himself but was counted righteous by God because of his faith.

WHEN STEPHEN WAS PREACHING TO THE JEWISH LEADERS IN JERUSALEM, HE BEGAN BY SHOWING HOW ABRAHAM HAD OBEDIENTLY TRUSTED GOD BY LEAVING HIS HOMELAND AND BELIEVING GOD’S PROMISES OF BLESSING (ACTS 7: 2-5).  In his powerful argument in Romans for justification by faith, Paul uses Abraham as the central illustration (Rom. 4).  Abraham is the classic example of the life of faith.

FOR A JEW TO ACCEPT THE TRUTH THAT SALVATION IS BY FAITH, HE WOULD HAVE TO BE SHOWN THAT THIS TRUTH APPLIED TO ABRAHAM.  The Jews were right in looking to Abraham as a great example.  The problem was that they looked at him in the wrong way.  They knew that he pleased God, but they had to be shown that God was pleased with him not because of any good works he did, but because he trusted Him.

THE NEW TESTAMENT MAKES IT CLEAR THAT ABRAHAM WAS THE FIRST TRUE MAN OF FAITH.  SINCE HIS TIME, EVERYONE WHO TRUSTS IN GOD, JEW OR GENTILE, IS SPIRITUALLY A CHILD OF ABRAHAM.  ”Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7; cf. v. 29).  Those who trusted God before the Flood, such as Abel, Enoch, and Noah – were only partial examples of faith.  Abraham was the first established man of faith, and he is the pattern, the prototype, of faith for men of all ages.


Professor Thomas A. Rohm