What Faith Looks Like from Hebrews 11

What Faith Looks Like from Hebrews 11 • Pastor Kevin McGuire
[Sermon Transcript]

Faith in Hebrews is always closely linked to hope. Faith looks at God, and trusts Him for everything. Hope, then, looks to the future, and trusts God for it.

When we walk through the individuals of Hebrews chapter 11, we will see the perseverance of their faith. We will see the faith that they displayed and then the circumstance - the life circumstance, the historical circumstance - that God put them in.

About 30 years ago, I went on a golf trip in the Smoky Mountains with three other friends. We went for 4 days, and played a lot of golf (54 holes a day to be exact). Of course, I was young then. One of the friends that took us had a guy in his church who owned a home at the top of one of the mountains in the Smokies. We left one evening and power-drove down there (so we could maximize the golf) having all gotten off work. Obviously, there is a great deal of anticipation for the golf. We were all tired, so the four of us rotated every 1-2 hours, so guys could sleep. One guy would stay awake to keep the guy that was driving from falling asleep, and away we went. This was the first time I had ever gone with them where this home was opened up to us. We drive down, and we get there early in the morning. We’re going to unload our stuff and go to this home.

A bunch of you have gone to the Smokies. My parents were from the South - Tennessee in particular (although they were from the west side of the state). We vacationed in the Smokies several times when I was younger. None of that experience was this, though, when we got down there on that morning.

I’m afraid of heights. If you know me, you know that. I don’t even like to get up on a 10-foot ladder.

We get onto the base, and you know it’s gorgeous. It’s late spring, and everything has incredibly bloomed. It’s warm. Through this golf course that we play runs this river. It’s spectacular; it’s clear. I mean, you can go down there - and we did - and just drink from it. It weaves its way in the valley of where all this golf course is at. They have golf holes, par threes, where you can hit the ball and the ball stays in the air literally 8 seconds, because you’re about 250 feet above the hole. It’s just spectacular. Of course, on that hole it was kind of scary riding up to it. But the drive up to this home was way worse. It’s clear; it’s day time. I think that probably made it worse, because the narrowness of the road and the steepness of where you can see over it - I’m not lying to you - I ducked and stayed buried, just petrified at times. I’m glad I didn’t have to drive that part! Of course, the guy who drove that portion is a guy who had been there before (who had been in this home). It was flat scary. It was difficult. There were portions of that road as it would wind up the hill that had potholes. I didn’t know who in the world was going to go up there and fix that stuff. Somebody obviously and evidently did from time to time, but to be honest with you, it was flat out scary. In a weird way, it was really exciting too. I would peek and then be like “Wow, this is just unbelievable.”

The good thing is when you got to the top, they actually had a roll-in garage. This was a vacation home to them. It was about 8,000 square feet. We unload and literally we are on the top of a mountain that oversees this Gary Player-built golf course. The deck (thankfully for me) was HUGE. I wasn’t afraid to walk out, even though I got nowhere near the edge. You could see it - I’m not lying to you - it was breathtaking. It was spectacular. The difficult road up was okay once you got there. It was beyond what I could ever anticipate.

That’s exactly what we are going to be looking at in Hebrews 11. This is for every individual, for the church that’s found in this epistle, and for us. The desired destination to where we finally meet the end of faith is going to be greater than you could ever imagine.

We always tie to in our minds from the idea of salvation being personal, right? It’s a personal salvation and of course it is; it’s the only way we get saved. We can’t get saved for each other - it’s a personal thing. But we limit the Bible’s greater view to redemption. Though personal salvation is included and we are thankful for that, redemption is cosmic. Everything that God has created by Jesus is going to be made new. All of it. The text itself even reveals that.

For whatever view you have of the end of your faith, we want to do the best we can to allow the Bible to define to us what this desirable destination of ours actually is, along with this arduous journey of faith. We want to see the terms that the Bible uses in Hebrews alone, terms like: New Creation, Heavenly Jerusalem, City of the Living God, our Eternal Home. We want to see this thing as God sees it, because it’s bigger, first of all. The redemption is bigger than we’ve made it, and the end is greater than we could even imagine - far greater than we could imagine.

All of this will happen when Jesus comes. When Jesus comes, all things will be made new.

Our faith - what we are trusting in and holding to now - will become sight. What the pastor-writer here does, is he tries to track this down. He begins to give [the church] their early history of a people. That’s why next week we are going to begin with Abel. That’s what [the pastor-writer] does. We are going to track this like he does, so we can see this picture of how you and I, and how they, fit into the bigger story of redemption.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
— Hebrews 11:1-3, ESV

We’re going to look at three things that the text brings to us, and we are going to follow the verses. How about that?

The first one we want to look at here in the first verse is, Faith apprehends Jesus. More importantly, faith comes because you and I have been apprehended to Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith. He defines to us here the faith (that we sometimes make smaller than it actually is). Because faith, in reality, is a radical assault on everything in your life. It’s much greater than trying to get somebody to say a prayer that they don’t even want to do. Faith in that regard really comes to you; it happens to you. I have found when someone is genuinely coming into the family of God, you can’t stop them. Rather than trying to convince them - though we do - we make appeals in the gospel because we love people. We love our own family, we love our own friends, and we want people to know Jesus. We want people to be apprehended by Jesus and to apprehend Jesus. He defines that to us here as faith and hope.

The [pastor-writer] says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and it’s the conviction of things not seen. Faith and hope. The substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen. Faith has a substance; it has an assurance, it has an essence to it. The evidence, or conviction, is this: we have faith that comes with assurance. Our faith believes in Jesus, depends on Jesus, hopes for Jesus, and now we are waiting for Jesus. Faith stands firm in that regard on Christ. We are trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection. What Jesus did gives us assurance. Faith has assurance. It’s coupled there with hope. Hope - our hope - apprehends Jesus.

We are taking Jesus to ourselves so that as we go through this arduous journey of faith, our faith does not get rattled. It doesn’t become upset. It doesn’t get worried, because Christ is the center of it. Now, you might be sitting there thinking, “Man, I get rattled. I get upset, and I get worried.” Well, it’s not because of Jesus. The truth is, I do the same. I get rattled. I get upset. I get worried from time to time. But our faith apprehends Jesus, so that ultimately we can settle down. Simmer down, now. We won’t be rattled. We won’t be upset. We don’t live worried lives. A worried Christian is really an oxymoron.

Our hope settles on Jesus. It settles in. It takes a seat in the gospel. The gospel is the message of God. We trust in it; we believe in it. Our faith, in that regard, is banking everything in our lives on Jesus. That’s what these men and women do. That’s what you and I are doing, [those] that have faith in Jesus. Everything about your life is banking upon Jesus.

Jesus would say this in John 20:29, our faith has a substance. It has an evidence or conviction, and both of these things lay unseen. It’s a supernatural thing, our faith is. It’s the grant of grace. Our faith is that the unseen exists. That Jesus himself is the promised one. Jesus is the God-Man.

Watch the words that Jesus says to Doubting Thomas, as he's known as, in John 20:29. 

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
— John 20:29, ESV

That’s me and you! No one here has seen Jesus. No one here has heard Jesus speak an audible voice. No one here has touched Jesus. Jesus for us now is unseen. Our faith resides in God’s word as to what the Bible tells us about Jesus as the God-Man. Though all these things are true - we haven’t seen him, we haven’t heard him, we haven’t touched him - the church believes. We are banking our lives on Jesus- not our careers and not our homes. As we begin to look at it, we are banking our entire life on Jesus. The gospel is how this is accomplished.

Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the words of Christ. The Bible is the word of Christ. The question becomes to us, What do we hear? We hear the gospel. The gospel is to be preached. It’s to be taught. It’s to be proclaimed; not just by the preacher, but by its people, because we have been apprehended by Jesus. What happens is when the gospel is proclaimed or taught or preached upon, God then takes the seed of the gospel and plants it in your heart by the regenerative work by the Holy Spirit.

BAM! The light goes on.

You repent. You believe. You receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is the Spirit that enables you to believe. Faith is much more than trying to get somebody to walk down the aisle on the 35th verse of “Just As I Am.” Faith is much more than an individual going into a home, trying to get them in a headlock and noogie them into believing. Faith dominates us. It overwhelms us, because God’s work is explosive.

Romans 1:16, right? The gospel is the power of God to salvation. Power. Dynamite. The gospel is explosive in your life. It alters everything. If that is not true, then you don’t understand the gospel, and you more than likely don’t have faith. Faith apprehends Jesus. It believes upon Jesus. It is grace at work, for by grace you are saved through faith in Jesus and the gospel. And through this, through this faith that we have; it then changes our lives. We just commit to Christ, and the work of God in us. Life gets altered. We’re going in this direction, then BAM! Now we’re going in a different direction - because our faith assaults everything. And if it's not assaulting everything, it’s not assaulting anything. Faith commits your life to Jesus. You begin to want to do the things that Jesus wants you to do, because in your inner man, you know it’s true. If I know anything is true in this life right now, I know that Jesus died and resurrected for my sin, and that he has forgiven me for my sin. I’ve never seen Jesus. I’ve never heard Jesus’ audible voice, and I’ve never touched him. And yet, Jesus is real to me. He’s given me life. That’s the faith he’s talking about here, and we are going to see this in the weeks to come.

For by it the people of old received their commendation.
— Hebrews 11:2, ESV

Now, it’s weird, and I’m just going to have to say this. There are Christian groups that believe that in different days and ages, people got saved differently. And that is just weird, because it isn’t true. Faith is approved by God. Grace through faith has been the only means to salvation. We will see that next week in Abel. Faith meets God’s approval. I want you to think of the logic of the Protestant groups (and I’m not talking about the Catholics), that believed in different days that people earned their way to heaven. Can you imagine someone standing before God in the judgment of the final day and saying, “I’ve earned my way in. I’ve done what was enough on my own.” C’mon! It’s just silly. It’s foolish. We are going to walk through this beginning with Abel next week. God only approves faith. No one has ever been received by God apart from faith. God is going to be specific to make this point. Let’s look at Hebrews 11.  

Verse 4 - By faith, Abel
Verse 5 - By faith, Enoch
Verse 7 - By faith, Noah

By the way, Abel is obviously the first one, right? We all would agree on that. He’s the first since the fall. He believes, and he is a martyr for the gospel. His own flesh-and-blood brother murders him.

Verse 8 - By faith, Abraham
Verse 11 - By faith, Sarah
Verse 20 - By faith, Isaac
Verse 21 - By faith, Jacob
Verse 22 - By faith, Joseph
Verse 23 - By faith, Moses

And on and on it goes. All had faith - faith, and the promise of redemption.

The promised redemption only ever centered on Jesus. Genesis 3:15, right? [Adam and Eve] fall. In Genesis 3, God is giving judgment that will happen to the man, the woman, and the serpent. In the midst of Genesis 3:8-24, He gives us Genesis 3:15. Praise God! One would crush the serpent’s head, and He did - the wonderful Jesus, as He would come. We will see this demonstrated. Faith is approved by God. it meets the approval of God. It is the only way you and I can approach God, by faith. Faith honors God.

...but the righteous shall live by his faith.
— Habakkuk 2:4b, ESV

The just live by faith. Faith honors God.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
— Romans 1:16-17, ESV
...yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
— Galatians 2:16, ESV

By faith, we are justified.

[Justified] means to be made acceptable. Holy God, sinful people. The only way God makes us acceptable to himself - justified - is by faith. You know why? Faith honors God. Faith is the complete dependence on Jesus. It meets God’s approval. Nothing more than that. Nothing less than that. This is how someone comes into the family of God. The church receives faith. We trust. We gain our comfort. We have our peace. God gives assurance. We have rest. We get all of this through faith in Jesus, and in Jesus alone. In and on Jesus, the God-Man.

We have zero confidence, as John Calvin would say, in the flesh. There is nothing that we can bring as a filthy individual to a holy God. Not anything of merit. There is no merit. Faith is the only thing that meets the approval of God to gain entrance to the eternal city - the heavenly Jerusalem - that is set ahead. We’ll see in this wonderful epistle that the pastor-writer gives us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Faith is apprehended by Jesus. Faith is approved by God.

Let’s try to expand upon perhaps our own view of faith. Faith is the adoration of creation when Jesus comes.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
— Hebrews 11:3, ESV

Creation testifies.

Who was there?
Who asked how?
Who asked why?
Who asked when?

No one.

There was nobody there but God. His creation as God is given to us in the book of Genesis. If you could close your eyes, in your mind you would see the painting just continue to explode day-by-day, so that we could understand how things came into existence. We weren’t there. Nobody was there but God, but we believe it by faith.

If we can’t trust the first 13 chapters of Genesis, you can’t trust the cross. You might as well blow this whole thing up. God invites us in, and then uses it as an illustration. God created this good world that we’re living in. It is a good world, the cosmos and everything in it. Scientists are finding out more and more about it. Here’s what we want to know about this - the creation that God made; it adores its creator. It adores Him. God created it out of nothing; the Bible tells us in Genesis 1, God created the heaven and the earth. In John 1, it tells us that Jesus is the one to do so. Jesus spoke it. We believe so by faith. The gospel will consistently use the creation account to testify that Jesus is the promised one.

You and I and all of humanity are created in the image of God. As [we are] God’s creation simply by being born, there lies within us in our DNA, an eternal evidence that God is real. That’s why everybody just isn’t stealing everything, because there is a stopping factor, right? It’s wrong - It’s stealing. What is that? It’s an identification that there is a God. There are certain moral aspects to us, though we be sinful people. Those are the impulses of being created in the image of God - along with an assortment of other things, such as God’s emotion and whatnot. Creation itself  points us to God.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
— Psalm 19:1-4, ESV

The earth in all its glory is declaring God’s existence.

We believe this to be true by faith, assured as true by faith. This is real. And because it’s real, we believe. We believe it by faith, knowing that God made creation. We trust in him. We are assured by him. We are comforted, and God gives peace.

The Bible is not a theory of creation. God declares He created. People oftentimes look at the Bible, and God doesn’t try to explain himself. He just declares. He declares who He is. He doesn’t have to define himself, though by grace he does to us. He’s not trying to defend his actions or activities; God declares. He was the only one who was there in the beginning. He declares to us how he created us, and he offers no other explanation. He ties it, because it’s important to the story of redemption and the necessary need for it.

God does this, because he is a good God that created a good earth. By faith, we understand it. By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God. That’s what verse 3 says. We understand it, and because we understand it, we believe it. [There is] nothing wrong with science. This is not an attack at science. God gave us science. Men get short-sighted and go a different direction, because we know apart from God, the creation worships itself. But it doesn’t alter our good God. Our good God created a good earth. The church is his new creation, created in Christ Jesus. Know this - this good earth adores its Creator. The redemption that you and I are a part of is much larger than we’ve made it out to be. It’s cosmic.

We know this to be true - salvation is personal. We know according to Matthew 7 it is like a narrow gate, like a turnstile. Going into a stadium, only one person can go through that turnstile at a time. It is a personal salvation. It’s not that we don’t agree with that, of course we do. It’s just [the only thing] we usually think about. New creation came in and through Jesus.  You and I have new creation in us, right? Because Jesus inaugurated his kingdom, He will consummate that kingdom when He comes in new creation. It will be a cosmic redemption. Everything is going to be made new.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
— Romans 8:18, ESV

It’s a personal salvation and it’s cosmic, as well. If you can get ahold of [Romans 8:18-23], it’s going to change your life. It’s going to grow your joy. It’s going to make your life more satisfied in its creator. Much of Christianity today is all bent up in a corner, sitting in a corner afraid to death of everything. We’re scared of everything. We’ve had a wrong view towards redemption. We’re living in fear, rather than thrilled and enthralled with the One who has made us new in Himself.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
— Romans 8:19-21, ESV

Creation didn’t fall; Adam and Eve did. (Adam being the posterity that we came from.) In other words, he is the federal head of all of humanity. He, Adam, was given responsibility as viceroy of all of creation. God handed his sovereignty over to him in creation. Take it and till it. Then, [Adam] willfully rebelled. Creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it. God did, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption, and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

There’s two things going on in this redemption that will be realized when Christ comes. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Creation itself is groaning. It’s groaning for Jesus to come. Not only creation, but we the church who are redeemed, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, and you. You are groaning inwardly, because within you, you wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, [and for] the redemption of our bodies. We’re not just going into Never Never Land, into a Casper experience. There within your spirit (your soul) awaits an eager anticipation when Jesus comes that your body will be redeemed, and it will be glorified. Creation itself will be changed. It’s a cosmic redemption - everything is made new. The Bible tells us here, and it’s clear, that creation awaits the revealing. There is an anticipation on creation’s parts to see the revealing of the sons of God, when the whole cosmos will rejoice in the redemption. All things are going to be made new.

Jesus, when he comes, will consummate this new creation with a new heaven and a new earth. 1 John 3 says what will happen to you and I. Paul will say it like this: in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, in a nanosecond, it takes place.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
— 1 John 3:1, ESV

Paul uses it in language like the adoption of sons, because we have been adopted into the family of God. And so we are. The reason why the world does not know us, is because it did not know him.


Beloved is the church. Beloved are the people of faith. We are the children of God now. You possess new creation now. What we will be has not yet appeared. That’s the groaning within us that awaits Jesus’ return. But we know that when He (Jesus) appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as He is.

Here’s what this means: It’s not that we are going to be as powerful as Jesus. God in the Trinity will always remain who He is in His power and substantive as our God over us. But we will be like him. We’ll see him as He is in a glorified sense. We will go through transformation of a glorified body which will not only not sin, but it will never desire sin, because Jesus never desired sin. For whatever the new heaven and the new earth look like, as we get caught up with that, can you imagine being in a glorified body that won’t even desire sin? It’s eager to us.

Creation is awaiting the revealing of the adoption of sons. We’ll be like him. We’ll see Jesus glorified. Jesus will make us new. Wow! I can’t do that justice. You say, “Kev, what does all this mean?” Well, I only know what it means from 1 Corinthians 15, which says a kernel goes into the ground (a picture of resurrection). It dies, and then it comes up. Right? It’s just a kernel that goes into the ground. I’m from a family of southern people. All my uncles were farmers, and they all grew corn. [The kernel] would go into the ground, and then it would come up an 8 or 9 foot stalk.

In the resurrection, and in the new heaven and the new earth…  Whatever we think our life is now, in the resurrection it’s blowing up. It’s so incredibly glorious. It is beyond practical human comprehension, but it’s there to be enjoyed. It is there to inspire us. It is there to tell us that God has created this good earth. We should not be wanting to try to escape from it, but rather see more people come into the kingdom by the power of the gospel.

This is what God wants us to enjoy as a part of many things of our faith; he wants you to know. Faith supplies assurance. God wants you to know. God wants you to leave here this morning refreshed by the word of God having made right things. He wants you refreshed by the strength of the table, and the enjoyment of the table, with God’s people. God wants you to know to enjoy the peace of the internal witness that’s going on within you, which is a true testimony to eternal life.

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
— 1 John 5:10-13, ESV

God doesn’t want you sitting here doubting. Don’t doubt it. He’s bearing within your soul an eternal witness. You know by faith it is a true testimony. You already own new creation. Since Jesus brought in new creation, you already possess eternal life. You’re going to pass through this body, as I will, but you already possess [new creation]. That’s how assured it is in God’s mind. We are the possessors of eternal life by faith in Christ, the assurance of our salvation.

Don’t walk out of here without knowing. Just don’t do that. May the table, by its means of grace, fulfill and reward your heart in the stability of that. For whatever is going on in your life, in your home, in your career, don’t allow this experience of joining together in unity to let you leave this auditorium knowing that you know Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus, come see me. Come see Al. We would love to talk to you about it.

Come to Jesus today. He will save you and you will know.