Hebrews 11:32-12:3 (Others Who Had Faith To the Preserving of the Soul)

Heb 11:32-40 With those already mentioned, has the author exhausted the list of those who had faith to the preserving of the soul?  Is such faith so rare that in fact it is possessed only by the legendary, so that the “average” believer should not expect to attain to such faith?  See Heb 12:1, 10:39.  What two contrasting aspects of faith does the author highlight in Heb 11:32-35a and 35b-38, and how is each an encouragement in time of trial?  Were the trials facing the original recipients of this letter any more insurmountable by faith than those experienced by other saints throughout history?  What upheaval facing the original recipients of this letter might we infer from the author’s description of Abraham who “when he was called, obeyed by going out” and “lived as an alien” (Heb 11:8-9), of Moses who by faith “left Egypt” (Heb 11:27), and of those he mentions in Heb 11:37-38 as going about in sheepskins, “being destitute” and “wandering in deserts, and mountains and caves and holes in the ground”?  Cf. Mat 10:23, Act 18:2.  Do we realize that the normal lot of true Christians throughout history has been to flee from place to place, and that the relative peace and stability Christians have had in America is anomalous?  What was “the promise” that the men of old did not receive (Heb 11:39) in contrast with other promises they did receive (Heb 11:33)? What encouragement should believers on this side of the cross who can see the fulfillment of “the promise” in Christ draw from those on the other side of the cross who endured afflictions and died in faith without seeing the fulfillment of the promise?  By what means did the men of old “gain approval” with God (Heb 11:2,39) and “obtain the testimony” that they were righteous (Heb 11:4): by keeping the law, or by faith?[1]

Heb 12:1-3     Who are those in the “great cloud of witnesses” that the author refers to in Heb 12:1?  See Heb 11.  Considering those men of old who had faith to the preserving of the soul, what conclusion does the author draw for his readers in these verses that relates to the threat of persecution they were facing?  What analogy does the author use to describe our need for endurance?  Describe the several aspects of that analogy and how they relate to our perseverance in the faith.  What is the significance that the author does not describe those who have preceded us in the gospel race as a great cloud of spectators?  As a runner in a race fixes his eyes firmly upon the goal, why is it fitting that we should fix our eyes firmly upon Jesus?  Note: NASB “author” means a leader who has gone on before us as an example, a pioneer; cf. Heb 2:10.  What enabled Christ to endure the cross as part of His race, and how is that an example for us?  Why does the author say in Heb 12:3 that it is so important for us to keep our eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith?

 


1. Of all those holy men who made these sacrifices, which of them ever regretted it, when he came calmly to look over his life, and to review it on the borders of the eternal world? None. Not one of them ever expressed regret that he had given up the world; or that he had obeyed the Lord too early, too faithfully, or too long. Not Abraham who left his country and kindred; not Moses who abandoned his brilliant prospects in Egypt; not Noah who subjected himself to ridicule and scorn for an hundred and twenty years; and not one of those who were exposed to lions, to fire, to the edge of the sword, or who were driven away from society as outcasts to wander in pathless deserts or to take up their abodes in caverns, ever regretted the course which they had chosen. And who of them all now regrets it? Who, of these worthies, now looks from heaven and feels that he suffered one privation too much, or that he has not had an ample recompense for all the ills he experienced in the cause of religion? So we shall feel when from the bed of death we look over the present life, and look out on eternity. Whatever our religion may have cost us, we shall not feel that we began to serve God too early, or served him too faithfully. Whatever pleasure, gain, or splendid prospects we gave up in order to become Christians, we shall feel that it was the way of wisdom, and shall rejoice that we were able to do it. Whatever sacrifices, trials, persecution, and pain, we may meet with, we shall feel that there has been more than a compensation in the consolations of religion, and in the hope of heaven, and that by every sacrifice we have been the gainers. When we reach heaven, we shall see that we have not endured one pain too much, and that through whatever trials we may have passed, the result is worth all which it has cost. Strengthened then in our trials by the remembrance of what faith has done in times that are past; recalling the example of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises, let us go cheerfully on our way. Soon the journey of trials will be ended, and soon what are now objects of faith will become objects of fruition, and in their enjoyment, how trifling and brief will seem all the sorrows of our pilgrimage below!  Albert Barnes; Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

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