XI. The Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:1-40) - Tony Evans Bible Commentary (2024)

XI. The Hall of Faith (11:1-40)

Canton, Ohio, is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is where those who excelled at the game are recognized for their achievements on the field. Hebrews 11 is home to the Hall of Faith. Here the champions of the Old Testament are recognized for their achievements as they followed God by faith. Success for them didn’t bypass suffering. Instead they trusted God and ran the race to the end. To encourage his readers to keep going, the author of Hebrews reminds them that they’re not the first to travel the faith road. Others have encountered the hardships of the race and crossed the finish line.

11:1-2 How does the writer of Hebrews define faith? Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen (11:1). To exercise faith is to have confidence about an expectation without visible proof that it will happen. What makes this confidence possible? The trustworthiness of the object of faith. The question we must answer is this: Is God trustworthy? And as I like to say, faith is acting like God is telling the truth. If you want to increase your faith, grow in your understanding of God. Believers of the past trusted him by faith and won God’s approval (11:2). Notice that each of the heroes of the faith mentioned in this chapter acted on what they believed.

11:3 A clear example of something Christians accept by faith is God’s creation of the universe. We believe that what is seen was made from things that are not visible by a being who is not visible. We trust that the word of God created everything, in all its vastness and complexity. That should encourage us that God may be doing extraordinary things in our lives for our good even when we can’t see what he’s doing.

In the following “Hall of Faith,” the author uses a repeated structure: he gives the name of an Old Testament believer, explains what he or she did, and uses the expression “by faith” to connect that person’s actions with a belief system. This pattern is a reminder that faith is measured by the steps of one’s feet—not by his feelings. Many faith-based decisions, in fact, go against feelings. We must, therefore, walk by faith in the integrity of God’s Word rather than by gut instinct or emotionalism. Feelings are the caboose; they don’t get to drive the train.

11:4 By faith Abel worshiped God based on God’s standards and expectations: he offered shed blood as a sacrifice rather than just giving him something his own hands had produced. He offered God his best and was approved as a righteous man. In fact, even though he is dead—murdered by his brother—Abel’s faith still speaks. It teaches us that access to God’s presence is through the blood. That’s the kind of legacy you want to leave. You want your life of faith to be a testimony to others, to point them to the truth.

11:5-6 Enoch is one of only two people who did not experience death (Elijah is the other; see 2 Kgs 2:1-12). Why? Hebrews says it’s because he pleased God (11:5). That doesn’t mean, of course, that if you’re pleasing God you won’t die! But it does mean that his departure from the world was a direct result of how he lived. He lived a godly life within the context of an evil and corrupt society. What he did mattered.

Do you want to live in a way that pleases God? Then you must know that without faith it is impossible to please God. You must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him (11:6). You must operate by faith, even if you must do so alone and go against the accepted norms of the day. You must believe with expectation that God responds—regarding his will for your life—when you seek to please him.

11:7 Though Noah was warned about what was not yet seen, he was motivated by godly fear. He couldn’t even conceive of the flood God was going to bring on the earth. Nevertheless, Noah took God seriously and acted on what he said. Just consider the obstacles he faced: There was a 120-year gap between God’s command to build the ark and the flood; Noah was instructed to build a tremendously huge boat on dry land; everyone who saw it no doubt called him crazy. But Noah believed God and obeyed, even though what he’d been asked to do didn’t make sense since it had never rained a drop at that point in history. He thus became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Be prepared to answer this wisely: When God’s Word says something contrary to popular opinion, whom are you going to believe?

11:8-10 Abraham made a pilgrimage of faith. God called; he obeyed. That sounds simple until you realize that Abraham did not know where he was going (11:8). How did he do it? And how did he live as a foreigner in the land of promise without ever owning it? (11:9). The answer is that he had his heart set on another city—one whose architect and builder is God (11:10). He focused on the spiritual while looking for the physical.

Often in life, you won’t know where God is taking you. And if you overlook the spiritual, you will become discouraged. God is the architect of the eternal city, and he’s the architect of the opportunities in your life.

11:11-12 Sarah is an example of the power of God in a person’s life. She was unable to have children, and Abraham was as good as dead in terms of ability to procreate. In fact, Hebrews only gives us the conclusion to the couple’s infertility story. When God promised her a child, Sarah laughed (Gen 18:11-12). She thought it was a joke. Eventually, though, she had faith that the one who had promised was faithful (11:11). It took twenty-five years to get from promise to baby. Oftentimes God doesn’t complete what he wants to do in your life until you’re spiritually prepared.

11:13-16 At this point, the author pauses before continuing. He points out that all these believers died in faith, although they had not received all the things that were promised (11:13). They walked by faith, but God didn’t plan to deliver the promise while they were on earth. Though they could have turned around and given up (11:15), they were seeking a homeland (11:14); they desired a better place—a heavenly one (11:16). Their approach to life, then, was based on an eternal perspective, a kingdom perspective. When you know the one who’s preparing a better city for you, you can survive the wait. And when that’s your mindset, God is not ashamed to be called [your] God (11:16).

11:17-19 After years of waiting, Abraham received his son Isaac. Thus, the promise was fulfilled and the testing began. God told him to sacrifice Isaac—the very son through whom Abraham was to become the father of a nation (11:17-18). Make no mistake. In one way or another, God will test how much you love him. Do you love the gift or the Giver more? So, how did Abraham cope when it seemed like God’s command contradicted his promise? He considered that God was able to raise the dead (11:19). And why would he think that? Because Sarah was barren (11:11), and Abraham was “as good as dead” (11:12); nevertheless, it is God who gives life, and he had a promise to keep.

Don’t forget what God did for you yesterday. The situation you face may be different than anything you’ve experienced before, but God is the same. The receiving back of Isaac is an illustration of the same type of divine intervention that God’s people can expect today if they live by faith.

11:20-22 These verses illustrate a legacy of faith. By faith Isaac blessed his sons concerning things to come (11:20). By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed his grandsons while he worshiped (11:21). By faith Joseph, near the end of his life, told the Israelites to bury his bones in the promised land when they got there.

If you’re a parent, you’re going to pass on many things to your kids. Make sure that you pass them the baton of faith in God above all else. Let them pray with you about things you’re trusting God for so they can see your faith in action.

11:23-29 Here we see a summary of Moses’s life: eighty years are covered in seven verses. His parents valued God instead of the evil culture and refused to let their baby be killed (11:23). When he grew up, Moses himself chose God over the surrounding culture. He opted to suffer with the people of God rather than to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (11:24-25). By faith he left Egypt . . . instituted the Passover, and crossed the Red Sea (11:27-29). Why? Because he was looking ahead to the reward. He considered suffering reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than Egypt’s riches (11:26). Don’t miss that Moses chose Christ in the Old Testament era! Though it doesn’t always appear to be true on the front end, choosing Christ is never a losing deal.

11:30-40 The walls of Jericho fell as a result of the most bizarre military strategy enacted in history (11:30). And as a result of her willingness to align with God’s people, Rahab the prostitute—the lowest of the low—got recognized alongside Abraham and Moses as a hero in the Hall of Faith (11:31). How can these things be? Simple. God tells us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” declares the Lord (Isa 55:8).

Then, like a preacher, the author rolls through a list of even more Old Testament heroes of faith and how they lived. Some conquered; others perished. All lived by faith in God (11:32-37). When faith is inaugurated in your life and you keep on going, your circ*mstances don’t have the final word. The world was not worthy of them (11:38), but they were approved through their faith (11:39). Did you catch that? The world didn’t deserve them, but God applauded them. Whose approval are you seeking? You can’t please both the world and God.

The author concludes the chapter by observing that God provided something better for us New Testament believers so that we can all be made perfect (11:40). Salvation in Christ is the culmination of God’s plan of redemption for eternity and deliverance in history.

XI. The Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:1-40) - Tony Evans Bible Commentary (2024)


Why is Hebrews 11 called the Hall of Faith? ›

It is not uncommon for preachers and Bible teachers to refer to Hebrews 11 as the Hall of Fame of Faith, since the chapter offers a long list of Old Testament saints whose trust in the Word and promises of God prompted them to act with extraordinary boldness and courage in some unexpected and often dire circ*mstances.

What is faith according to Tony Evans? ›

He summarizes that concept in the word "hope." "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." Faith deals with things that are real that have not yet penetrated your five senses 'cause you haven't seen it yet.

How would you define faith from Hebrews 11 1? ›

It begins with the famous definition of faith in 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The text then quickly moves back to creation (11:3) to note that God's Word is a power that creates “what is seen … from things that are not visible.” This statement (verse 3) can ...

What is Hebrews 11 simplified? ›

“Hebrews 11 tells us what it means to have faith and obtain life. Those with true faith accept God's word, focusing on assurance about what we do not see, looking beyond the situation as it can be perceived by natural vision. By exercising this kind of faith the ancients gained the warm commendation of God.

What is the main message of Hebrews 11? ›

God gives forgiveness, peace, and spiritual provision. He promises a "city with foundations," in which we will live forever (Heb. 11:10). Faith is the evidence of these things in our lives, the conviction that draws strength from them to follow God.

What does the word hall mean in the Bible? ›

Hall [S] (Gr. aule, Luke 22:55 ; RSV, "court"), the open court or quadrangle belonging to the high priest's house. In Matthew 26:69 and Mark 14:66 this word is incorrectly rendered "palace" in the Authorized Version, but correctly "court" in the Revised Version.

What are the 4 points of faith? ›

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

What are the three expressions of faith? ›

Head, heart and hands — these three aspects of faith are like a three-legged stool.

What is the meaning of the Hebrews 11 1 40? ›

In such cases of apostasy, one will fail to obtain the promises of God. This warning is contrasted in Hebrews 11:1–40 where faith is described as a persevering hope in the promises of God. By way of demonstration, the author offers a sweeping look at the actions of God's people through redemptive history.

What is Hebrews 11 1 about short summary? ›

The meaning of Hebrews 11:1 is about having confidence and hope in the promised word of God as revealed to you. It is taking God at His words knowing that He is too faithful to fail, and will never go back on His promises because He is not a man that He should lie.

What does Hebrews 11 say about faith in action? ›

Faith in Action. 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

What are the things hoped for in Hebrews 11 1? ›

This faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Persevering faith is a firm confidence in God and all of His promises. It is a persuaded trust that God will be true to His Word. This faith is not something that we conjure up ourselves.

What do we preach about in Hebrews 11? ›

The premise of Hebrews 11 is that we are called to be like those who came before us. Not only in the way that they lived, but also in the way that they died. And Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Jacob all died in faith, believing God, even though they never received fully what was promised to them.

What is the promise in Hebrews 11? ›

All of these faithful believers gained approval, but they have not yet gained the promise. Although many of the examples of faith above resulted in a great deliverance of some sort, God's promise of a full restoration of the earth and an end to death still remained to be fulfilled.

Why is Sarah in the Hall of Faith? ›

But Sarah too was a woman of faith! She did not forsake her husband. She did not say to him, “You're a fool if you think that God is going to give us a baby at our age!” Instead we learn that “she judged God faithful who had promised.” Such reveals the faith of Sarah: she judged God faithful.

Why is Noah in the Hall of Faith? ›

Hebrews 11:7

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

Who are the giants of faith in the Bible? ›

Some Reviews – on Bible Giants of Faith

Samuel, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Peter, David, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and Ruth are the ten people who mainly were born as either as commoner, or as normal humans, but went on to perform intense miracles that went on to shape the major events in Bible as we know them.

What is the message of the Hebrews 11 11? ›

11 By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. 12 That's how it happened that from one man's dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.


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