The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is widely recognized as one of
the Bible’s most informative discourses about faith. It recounts numerous examples
of men and women through history whose lives exemplify the kind of faith the
Lord expects us all to have. Nevertheless, not everyone mentioned in this
chapter is a person of notable faith or worthy of emulation. A number of
individuals are included who would necessarily be placed on the opposite end of
the spectrum. Who are they and what can we learn from them?
The second person named in this biblical
hall of faith is Cain (v. 4), and not in a favorable way. He is mentioned in
contrast to his brother Abel, who “offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice” (ESV).
Seeing that Abel’s offering was “by faith,” and faith is fostered by listening
to and heeding God’s word (Rom. 10:17), the implication is that Cain either
blatantly or carelessly disregarded the revealed will of God. An offering of mere
convenience, innovation, or outright rebellion is unacceptable. We learn from
Cain that worship must never be dictated by human preference and ingenuity. Acceptable
worship is by faith, and true faith can only be established on what the Lord has communicated through his
The general populace of Noah’s day is
alluded to in Hebrews 11:7, condemned because of their failure to exhibit the kind
of faith and righteousness that characterized the lives of Noah and his family.
Noah’s contemporaries, alienated from God due to their wickedness, were afforded ample
opportunity to heed the preaching of Noah (2 Peter 2:5). Sadly, all but eight
persistently rejected the invitation to get on board the divine plan until it
was too late. We learn from these foolish souls that God’s longsuffering has
its limits, and refusing or postponing submissive faith is disastrous.
In verse 20 of Hebrews 11 Esau is named in
conjunction with his father Isaac and twin brother Jacob. While neither Isaac
nor Jacob were faultless, their priority of faith afforded them a special place
in God’s redemptive scheme. Esau, on the other hand, was an “unholy” (ESV) or
“profane” (NKJV) person because his spiritual apathy made immediate and
temporal gratification his priority (Heb. 12:16; cf. Gen. 25:34). We learn from Esau
that to live with little regard for heavenly things is to lead a disappointing
and wasted life.
Pharaoh and the worldly Egyptians are
alluded to in Hebrews 11:23-29, opposing the divine will and oppressing the
people of God. When the LORD made
demands of Pharaoh that he didn’t like, Pharaoh reacted with stubbornness and
pride. While God’s words and actions softened
the hearts of Moses and the Israelites, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. One was stimulated
to faith, while the other retorted with anger and rebellion. We learn from Pharaoh and his cohorts that you can’t fight
against God with a realistic expectation of victory. Resisting the Lord always
ends in defeat.
In verse 31 of Hebrews 11 we read of the
ancient inhabitants of Jericho. Rahab is portrayed as a heroine of faith, whereas
her neighbors are described as “disobedient.” In contrast to Rahab’s
receptivity and compliance, her fellow-citizens were resistant and defiant. By
faith Rahab and her family were spared and added to God’s family, while all
others in the city were destroyed. We learn from the Jericho residents that obedient faith is the necessary response to God, without which
sure destruction awaits.
There are many lessons to learn from Hebrews 11 about faith, including
negative ones. Since we cannot please God without it (v. 6), let us be
motivated by both the good and bad examples to be counted among the faithful,
“of whom the world was not worthy” (v. 38).
credit: Robyn Nevison’s Anger,
The Doctrine Concisely Stated:1
“You cannot lose your salvation. Because the
Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied
salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in
Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said
His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as
everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1
Cor. 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can
handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until
the day of Jesus' return” (Matt Slick, “What is Calvinism?,” The Calvinist Corner ,
“sheep” are those who listen to him and follow him (John 10:3, 4, 16, 27) =
obedience. As long as this condition is met, “they shall never perish; neither
shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (v. 28; cf. 8:12, 31, 51).2
However, sheep can and do go astray (Matt. 18:12; 26:31; 1 Pet. 2:25), and when sheep
stop listening to and following the Shepherd, they are vulnerable and lost
(John 6:66, 70-71). See also 1 Thess. 3:5; Jas. 5:19-20. While the Lord
provides adequate assistance (1 Cor. 10:13; Phil. 1:6; 4:19; Heb. 4:16; et
al.), maintaining salvation also requires endurance and continued faithfulness (Matt.
24:13, 42, 44-51; cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; Heb. 3:14; 4:11; 6:11; 10:23, 36; 12:1-7).
those “sanctified in Christ Jesus” at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2) was a wayward
Christian needing to be disciplined by the church, “that his spirit may be
saved in the day of the Lord” (5:1-5, 11). Paul’s admonitions were to be
heeded lest “the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died” (1 Cor. 8:11; cf. 2
Cor. 2:15). These Christians were saved by the gospel conditionally: “if you
hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain” (1
Cor. 15:1-2; cf. 2 Cor. 6:1).
addressees of Paul’s letter to the Galatians are reminded: “For you are all
sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized
into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). Nevertheless, having been
influenced by false teachers regarded as anathema
[accursed of God], these “sons of God” were in the process of “turning away
… from Him who called you in the grace of Christ” (1:6-9). In fact, the
situation was so dire that if they continued on their current path, Paul
contends: “you have become estranged [severed] from Christ … you have fallen
from grace” (5:4). See also 1 Tim. 1:19; 4:1.
epistles are addressed to the “elect” of God (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 3:1), wherein
warnings are issued of “destructive heresies” leading to “destruction” (2 Pet.
2:1-3), involving those who “have forsaken the right way and gone astray” (v.
15). False teachers “allure … the ones who have actually escaped from those who
live in error” (v. 18). “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the
world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again
entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the
beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of
righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment
delivered to them” (vv. 20-21).
Perhaps more than any
other writing in the New Testament, Hebrews affirms and warns against the
possibility of apostasy (2:1-3; 3:12-13; 4:1; 6:4-8; 10:26-38; 12:15, 25).
These warnings are directed to those in the process of drifting away from
Christ and heading toward complete separation from God. Conversely, for those
sincerely striving to live in accordance with the Lord’s directives, perhaps
more than any other New Testament document Hebrews offers great reassurance
(3:6, 14; 4:16; 6:11, 17-20; 7:19; 10:19-22, 39; 11:1; 12:1-3; 13:5-6).
1 True Calvinists
prefer the descriptive expression “perseverance of the saints” rather than
commonly misappropriated terminology like “eternal security” or “once saved
always saved.” See Dewayne Bryant, “The Perseverance of the Saints,” in Gospel Advocate 151:6 (June 2009): 24-25. Wayne Grudem states the Calvinist perspective as follows: “all
those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere
as Christians until the end of their lives, and … only those who persevere
until the end have been truly born again” (Systematic
2 Scripture quotations are from
Doctrine Concisely Stated:
“When God calls his elect into salvation, they
cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the
external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call, and it cannot be
resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of
the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly
and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are
Rom. 9:16 where it says that 'it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs,
but of God who has mercy'; Phil. 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one
working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be
the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to eternal life; and John
1:12-13 where being born again is not by man's will but by God's” (Matt Slick,
“What is Calvinism?,” The Calvinist
Corner , <https://carm.org/calvinism>).
6:44 Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father
who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (NKJV). Does this teach
unconditional election and irresistible grace? By reading the passage in its
context, it is clear how a person is drawn to Christ by the Father. One comes
to the Lord when he/she is taught and
hears and learns divine instruction (v. 45) and then responds in faith (vv. 29, 35, 40, 47). When
Jesus goes on to say in v. 65, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can
come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father,” this must be
understood in light of the foregoing. The Father permits only those who listen
and learn and respond in faith to come to Jesus, though not everyone is willing
to listen and learn and respond in faith (vv. 36, 64, 66).
In Acts 13:48 the Gentiles who favorably responded to the word of the
Lord “had been appointed [tassō] to eternal life.”
Contextually they are contrasted with the Jews who had just rejected the word
of God, thereby judging themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” (v. 46). Note
the dismissive temperament of the unreceptive Jews compared to the eager receptivity
of these Gentiles. Accordingly, the word tassō does not necessarily imply
that their free will was overridden but rather they were “disposed” or “inclined” to
eternal life. In fact, the next time this word is employed in the Acts
narrative, it refers to a willful decision: the Antioch brethren “determined [tassō]
that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem …”
(15:2). The same word is also used in 1 Cor. 16:15 with reference to the
household of Stephanus who voluntarily “devoted [tassō]
themselves to the ministry of the saints.”
directive in Phil. 2:12-13 is written to people who are already saved (1:1) and
is descriptive of a cooperative endeavor with both divine and human contributions.
In John 6:29 Jesus affirms faith as “the work of God” because faith is
something required by God (v. 40), answering the question, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of
God?” (v. 28). In John 1:12-13, while the “will of man” is not the innovator or
instigator or standard in being born of God, neither is the human will totally discounted
in the process (cf. v. 12; 3:3-5, 22-23; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Rom. 9:16 has nothing to do with someone who might desire to be
saved but is disallowed, or one who is incapable of seeking salvation; it is
all about the unfolding of God’s purpose (v. 11). The divine scheme is not
determined, improved, or thwarted by human ingenuity and fallibility.
Seeing that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11), his grace is available
to everyone (Titus 2:11) because he desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) and is
not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). At the same time, a voluntary,
free-will response (obedient faith) to the Lord’s gracious offer is required (cf.
Matt. 7:21; 23:37; Acts 7:51; Rom. 6:16-18; etc.).
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