Hebrews 11:8-19 – “How to live by faith”

A sermon for the Watford church of Christ

The final part of the series: “Adventures in faith with Abraham”

Introduction

  • Context: Ch22 – binding of Isaac; celebration of deeper trust; confirmation of blessings by grace of God
  • We talk about living by faith a lot
  • What does it mean?

Question: When we say, “Let’s live by faith”, what does that mean to you?

  • It means, according to the NT, taking lessons from Abraham’s life

“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. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 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. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced 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 even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:8–19 

1. Faith is responsive

QUESTION: “What examples can you think of when Abraham was responsive?”

“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.” (Hebrews 11:8)
“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.” (Genesis 12:1–4 

  • Go when called.
    • They could have gone back to Ur, but were content to live and not see the fulfilment of the land promise.
    • They knew, by faith, that it would come to their descendants.
    • If they trusted God for something that in the OC was not made clear, how much more we should have faith for our heavenly inheritance which has been made abundantly clear.

2. Faith is Sacrificial

QUESTION: “What examples can you think of when Abraham was sacrificial?”

“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” (Hebrews 11:9 NIV11)

  • His home in Ur was much nicer!
  • Left comfort & security, even family. Probably similar situations were paralleled among the Jewish Christians at the time Hebrews was written.
  • A life of movement, not settling: Ur, Haraan, Canaan, Egypt etc

3. Faith is Courageous

QUESTION: “What examples can you think of when Abraham was courageous?”

“even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8 NIV11)

  • Did not know where he was going. Detail only came later.
  • Takes courage to believe the promises, (Gn. 12:2; cf. Gen 13:16; Gen 15:5).
  • Isaac on mountain – courage to trust.
    • Abraham refused to limit God’s power or the method through which He would keep His promise, and therefore he did not limit his obedience.

4. Faith is Persistent

QUESTION: “What examples can you think of when Abraham was persistent?”

“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.” (Romans 4:18–21 NIV11) 

  • Lived among strangers in a land he was told be would inherit, but they were still there!

“Waiting for God to provide them with an earthly inheritance, the patriarchs came to realise that this life is not an end in itself but a pilgrimage towards a future that God alone can construct for his people.” New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Edited by Carson, D. A, R. T France, J. A. Motyer, and Gordon J. Wenham: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

  • We aim to be living by faith when we die.
  • Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all died without receiving the land of Canaan as an earthly inheritance.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13 NIV11) 

  • ‘welcomed them from a distance’ = ‘hailed it with delight’, Brown 206. Died not seeing reward, but did see it in another sense.
  • The people commended here were: confident, proud to witness to their faith, seeking something better, able to discern what was of real value, willing to put their security in the unseen.

5. Faith is Dependant

QUESTION: “What examples can you think of when Abraham was dependant on God?”

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced 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 even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:17–19 NIV11)
“As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.” (Genesis 22:6–8 NIV11) 

  • Although there was lack of clarity, there was still faith.
  • Abraham saw God as his ‘solution’, the only one to hold on to.

Questions in breakout rooms

QUESTION: “How do you know when you are hearing the ‘call’ of God to live by faith? What helps you to respond by faith?”

QUESTION: “What helps you to live by faith when that means sacrificing some of the comforts of this world enjoyed by people who do not live by faith?”

QUESTION: “Is there an area of life right now where you sense God calling you to courageously live by faith? What would it look like to be courageous in that situation?”

QUESTION: “What helps you to persevere in your life of faith when you cannot see the end? What keeps your spiritual vision clear enough to inspire you to persevere in living by faith?”

QUESTION: “What does it mean to you to be dependant on God by faith? What does that look like?”

Conclusion

“Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.” (Genesis 25:7–11 NIV11)

  • Positive summary
  • Sons honouring his wishes
  • Buried in ‘the land’
  • The blessings signed as to continue in Isaac

Communion

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 3:20–4:1 NIV11)

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: [malcolm@malcolmcox.org](mailto:malcolm@malcolmcox.org). 

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11) 

God bless, Malcolm