Let’s talk about Hebrews chapter 11. Or, as it’s commonly known, the “faith hall of fame.” This chapter has been given this nickname because the Hebrew writer has compiled a list of people of great faith and the things that they did to demonstrate said faith. It’s not an exhaustive list because they say that they didn’t have the time to mention everyone who was a great example of faith, but it lists some of the people that we consider to be “faith giants.”
They begin the chapter by giving a description of what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ESV). I really like the word “conviction” here. While it gives the same general idea as “assurance,” conviction seems to be something more stable, unwavering. The writer is saying that faith is unmoving. It doesn’t change based upon the day. If it does, it is not real faith. But they also say that it is the conviction of things not seen. That complicates things a little bit, doesn’t it? It is so much harder to have faith in things we haven’t seen than it is to have faith in things we have seen. We will come back to this concept later.
The writer goes on to begin their list of great demonstrations of faith. They start with Abel and move on through the whole Old Testament giving mention to Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and many others. The individual that we will be dedicating some time to here is Abraham. While reading through Hebrews 11, one might notice something interesting. In 11:17, it says that Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. But wait a minute, Abraham didn’t actually kill his son. So, what is the Hebrew writer doing when they give Abraham credit for doing so? Let’s explore this. The account of Abraham and Isaac is one that we tend to know well. It comes up all the time in children’s Bible classes, and occasional sermon is preached about it. Despite all of that, we tend to have a misunderstanding of the passage that leads to a lack of understanding about its events.
Way back in Genesis 12:7 God made a promise to Abraham. He told Abraham that He would give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s offspring. However, we’re also told in Genesis 11:30 that Sarai, Abraham’s wife, was barren. She was unable to have children. So, God making this promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s offspring was a big deal because Abraham thought he would have no offspring. This was huge because family honor was everything. If there was no one to carry on the family name, there was no one to uphold your family honor. This was the fate Abraham had resigned himself to. This is a cultural gap that we must be very intentional to bridge because we don’t have the same emphasis on familial honor today. Fast forward all the way to Genesis 21, and finally their son is born! God had fulfilled His promise! Abraham was going to be the father of many nations, and Sarah’s reproach for being barren was gone. This was the answer to their prayers, and all seemed well.
Then it all came to a screeching halt. In Genesis 22:2 Abraham was told to take his promised son, his Isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering. This had to have been world shattering. We need be careful not to speculate where the Bible doesn’t specify things, but there aren’t many people out there who wouldn’t be shaken by such a command. Yet he obeys. Abraham takes his son and everything required as a burnt offering, trusting in God the whole time. He goes as far as binding his son upon the alter and raising the knife to slaughter him. At that point the Angel of the Lord interrupts him, and you know the rest of the story. However, there’s a tiny piece of the puzzle that we are given in Hebrews which we don’t have in Genesis. Hebrews 11:19 tells us that Abraham considered that God was even able to raise his son from the dead. This is crazy! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not crazy because it’s impossible. Clearly God is capable of such a thing. But it’s crazy that Abraham was so convicted that he trusted that God would raise his son and fulfill the promise when it had never been done before. That is some major faith. It is for this reason that Abraham is accredited with sacrificing his son. He had every intention of going through with it, because he was 100% convicted that God would make good on His promise. God looked at the intent of Abraham’s heart, which showed absolute willingness to obey. In the same way God examines our heart, and, by association, our willingness to obey the commandments He has given us.
Not everyone in Hebrews 11 got as lucky as Abraham did though. Some of these people did have to go through with it. They endured things like torture, mocking, flogging, imprisonment, being sawn in two, being stoned, and more. But there’s a positive side. Verses 33-35 talk about people who stopped the power of fire, who received back their dead, who escaped the edge of the sword, and who were made strong out of weakness. These are the people who made it into the faith hall of fame. The most moving verse in this passage, to me personally, is verse 38. In verse 37 the Hebrew writer stated, “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated,” and then verse 38, “of whom the world was not worthy.” These people showed such faith that the world didn’t deserve them. That’s what the Holy Spirit told us through inspiration. How incredible! I can’t comprehend living a life so pure that the Godhead says that the world does not deserve to have me in it!
Do you want to know what the best part is? The best part is that these were regular people. Yes, Jesus came to this earth and yes, He lived a perfect, sinless life. But you know what? These people didn’t. They messed up, and they made mistakes. But you know what? The inspired word of God still says that the world was not worthy of them. Just to put it plain and simple, these were people like you, and people like me. They were ordinary, until their faith, because of the love God had for them, turned them into something extraordinary.
So, they’re people like you and me, right? Correct. However, it could be said that you and I are not people like them. Now understand here; I have no intention of nor desire to judge anyone’s heart. That right is reserved solely for our Lord and God. But I can say that I don’t know anyone who has been sawn in two for the sake of Christ. I don’t know anyone who has been stoned to death for their belief in Him. Yet we can’t ignore the earlier part of the chapter. The Hebrew writer says that by faith, Abel did. By faith, Noah did. Then Abraham, he did. Sarah did. Moses did. What’s the point? The common factor in this list of people is that one word; “did.” They all did something based upon their faith. They had their convictions and they acted upon them. That is the point at which God took them from ordinary people to extraordinary believers. When they did something. Yet we must remember here, Abraham did not physically sacrifice his son, but it was still counted to him as an act of faith because he was willing to. While you and I may not be put in these situations of life and death for our faith, our hearts will still be examined on Judgement Day. God will look at our willingness to remain faithful to Him in these situations even if we aren’t ever put in the situation. And should we be found willing it will be accredited to us as righteous. I understand that times are different now, and that the culture has changed, and those are both things that apply in this discussion. So, if you’ll allow me a little bit of liberty, imagine this: “By faith (insert your name here) walked away from an inappropriate and ungodly discussion the people around her were having.”
Or, “By faith, she invited people to study the word of God with her.”
“By faith, she stayed true to God’s standards of modesty, inside and out, despite society screaming at her to fit in because it doesn’t matter anyway.”
“By faith, she allowed God to take her from an ordinary person to an extraordinary believer, because, unlike others, she was eager to do.”
These people getting sawn in half and stoned to death was not what got them here in Hebrews 11. It was their utter conviction. Their decision that no matter what the other option was, nothing would replace their faith in God. Nothing at all. I invite you to study this out. To make the very same decision with me. And while you study this passage, keep in mind this one question: By faith they did; do I?
By Ariana Crowell
Ariana Crowell is a fifteen year old Okie through and through. Currently she is a Beyond the Foam contributor and manages the Beyond the Foam Twitter account. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family. Her hobbies are martial arts and soccer. Ariana was added to the kingdom of God in August 2020, and she started school at Freed-Hardeman University in the Fall of 2020. She is hoping to become a physical therapist and do mission work in the future. Ariana’s favorite Bible verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13, and Hebrews is her favorite book of the Bible.