Text: Hebrews 11:17–31 (32–40); 12:1–3
Theme: Faith in the midst of trial
A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. The Epistle lesson serves as our sermon text for this morning.
C. Grace, mercy, and peace from God our heavenly Father and from our Lord
and Savior, Jesus Christ.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
→ All praise to God, who reigns above,
the God of all creation,
the God of wonders, pow’r, and love,
the God of our salvation!
With healing balm my soul he fills,
the God who every sorrow stills.
To God all praise and glory!
A. “One of the noblest and most precious virtues of faith is to close one’s
eyes to this, ingenuously to desist from exploring the why and the
wherefore, and cheerfully to leave everything to God. Faith does not insist
on knowing the reason for God’s actions, but it still regards God as the
greatest goodness and mercy. Faith holds to that against and beyond all
reason, sense, and experience, when everything appears to be wrath and
injustice” Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II,
ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 52.
B. In our text today from Hebrews, everyone who lives by faith endures in
order to reach the “finish line,” where we are joined together with Christ
Jesus, who gives us each his victory.
1. Throughout this temporal pilgrimage, God’s people receive blessings upon
A. his providence and protection for our bodily needs,
B. the forgiveness of sins,
C. answers to our prayers,
D. his peace and comfort,
E. and his fatherly guidance.
C. But we reach that finish line only through adversity, and it’s in that
adversity that our text would encourage us.
D. You are to Consider Those Who Endured Suffering, So That Your Faith Will
I. THE EXPLANATION OF FAITH (11:1–3, 6)
A. Its nature (11:1–2)
1. “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to
2. “It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (11:1b).
A. “If anyone wants a distinction between faith and hope, we say that the
object of hope is properly a future event, but that faith is concerned with
future and present things. Faith receives the forgiveness of sins offered
in the promise in the present.” (Apology V 191)
B. Its necessity (11: 3, 6)
1. With it people in the Old Testament were approved by God (11:2).
2. With it we are able to believe the power of God (11:3):
A. This is especially true in regard to his creative power.
3. Without it we are unable to please the person of God (11:6).
A. “Only justified people, who are led by the Spirit of Christ, can do good
works. Without faith and Christ as Mediator, good works do not please.”
(Apology V 251)
B. “From this it is evident that in theology the work does not amount to
anything without faith, but that faith must precede before you can do
works. For “without faith it is impossible to please God, but whoever would
draw near to God must believe” (Heb. 11:6). Therefore the writer of the
Epistle to the Hebrews says that the sacrifice of Abel was better because
he believed. But because Cain was an ungodly man and a hypocrite, he
performed a work that was moral, or rather one that was reasonable, by
which he sought to please God. Therefore the work of Cain was hypocritical
and faithless; in it there was no faith in grace but only a presumption
about his own righteousness.” Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26:
Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton
C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia
Publishing House, 1999), 264.
II. THE EXAMPLES OF FAITH (11:4–5, 7–40)
A. Who they were and what they did
B. Sixteen people of faith are named, and many others are referred to
1. Abel (11:4a)
a) Abel gave the Lord an acceptable offering (11:4b).
b) The Lord accepted the sacrifice and the one who offers the sacrifice.
2. Enoch (11:5a)
a) Enoch left the earth without dying (11:5b).
3. Noah (11:7a)
a) Noah survived the great Flood (11:7b).
b) Through the ark, Noah showed that God’s threat of destruction was real.
4. Abraham (11:8a, 9, 12, 17–18)
a) Abraham inherited a land (11:8b).
b) Abraham believed that God could raise the dead (11:19).
5. Sarah (11:11a)
a) Sarah bore a son through a barren womb, in old age, and began a nation
b) Chrysostom: “While her laughter indeed was from unbelief, her fear was
from faith…when unbelief had been cleared out, faith came in its place.”
6. Isaac (11:20a)
a) Isaac and Jacob both predicted the future (11:20b, 21b).
7. Jacob (11:21a)
8. Joseph (11:22a)
a) Joseph anticipated the Exodus long before it happened (11:22b).
9. Moses’ parents (11:23a)
a) Moses’ parents defied the king of Egypt (11:23b).
i) They feared God more than the evil Pharaoh.
10. Moses (11:24, 27a, 28a)
a) Moses forsook the pleasures of sin (11:25).
b) Moses left the land of Egypt and was not afraid of the king (11:27b).
i) He fled in faith, intending to return when the time was right.
11. The people of Israel (11:29a, 30a)
a) The people of Israel kept the Passover (11:28b).
b) The people of Israel crossed the Red Sea (11:29).
c) The people of Israel shouted down a city (11:30).
12. Rahab (11:31a)
a) Rahab protected some Hebrew spies (11:31b).
b) The Lord brought about change in Rahab:
iii) and action.
C. Not enough time to talk about the rest of the list:
13. Gideon (11:32a)
14. Barak (11:32b)
15. Samson (11:32c)
16. Jephthah (11:32d)
17. David (11:32e)
18. Samuel (11:32f)
19. All the prophets (11:32g)
A. The prophets and judges subdued kingdoms,
B. shut the mouths of lions,
C. quenched flames,
D. escaped the sword,
E. exchanged weakness for strength,
F. put enemy armies to flight,
G. and a few even raised the dead (11:33–35a).
D. What they endured (11:35b–38)
1. Terrible torture (11:35b)
A. They would have been released if they denied the faith, but they
2. Ridicule (11:36a)
3. Cruel flogging (11:36b)
A. a punishment in which the victim is hit repeatedly with a whip or stick:
4. Imprisonment (11:36c)
5. Stoning (11:37a)
A. a method of capital punishment where a group throws stones at a person
until the subject dies from blunt trauma.
B. Example: Stephen
a) Attempts: made on Jesus’ life and the woman caught in adultery.
6. Being sawn in two (11:37b)
A. Some ancient writers believe this happened to the prophet Isaiah.
7. Death by the sword (11:37c)
8. Extreme poverty (11:37d–38)
A. The world truly despised all of God’s saints then as they do now, even
though they were truly worthy of praise.
B. Only God counts them worthy through faith to receive His promises.
E. Why they endured (11:10, 13–15, 16b, 26, 35c)
1. They saw the invisible City of God (11:10, 13–15, 16b).
2. They believed that suffering for the sake of Christ was better than
having all the riches of this world (11:26).
3. They looked forward to their own resurrection (11:35c).
F. What they received (11:16a, 39–40)
1. In the past (11:16a, 39):
A. The earthly and temporary approval of God.
2. In the future (11:40):
A. The heavenly and eternal approval of God.
G. Many think that pain is the exception in the Christian life.
1. When suffering occurs, they say, “Why me?”
2. They feel as though God deserted them, or perhaps they accuse him of not
being as dependable as they thought.
3. In reality, however, we live in an evil world filled with suffering,
even for believers.
4. But God is still in control.
5. He allows some Christians to become martyrs for the faith, and he allows
others to survive persecution.
6. Rather than asking, “Why me?” it is much more helpful to ask, “Why not
7. Our faith and the values of this world are on a collision course.
8. If we expect pain and suffering to come, we will not be shocked when
9. But we can also take comfort in knowing that Jesus also suffered.
10. He understands our fears, our weaknesses, and our disappointments (see
11. He promised never to leave us (Mat_28:18-20), and he intercedes on our
12. In times of pain, persecution, or suffering, we should trust
confidently in Christ.
Transition to chapter 12:
→ The author compares a godly life to a great race and explains to his
readers the reasons behind God’s discipline.
→ He again warns against the sin of unbelief.
III. THE CONTEST (12:1–4)
A. The race (12:1):
1. We are to faithfully run the spiritual race God has marked out for each
B. The role model (12:2–3)
1. Who he is (12:2a):
A. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the start and finish of our faith.
C. What he did (12:2b–3):
1. He endured the opposition of sinners and died on the cross.
D. Why he did it (12:2c):
1. Because of the joy he knew would be his.
E. Where he is now (12:2d):
1. At God’s right hand, on our behalf.
F. The reassurance (12:4):
1. We are informed they have not suffered as Christ suffered.
2. Hebrews 12:4 (ESV) In your struggle against sin you have not yet
resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
A. “Some were tortured. . . .
1. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
2. They were stoned,
3. they were sawn in two,
4. they were killed with the sword.
5. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted,
mistreated . . . wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and
caves of the earth” (11:35–38).
6. And those were the most faithful ones!
B. The Lutheran Fathers wrote in the Formula of Concord:
1. “We receive in this life only the firstfruit of the Spirit [Rom 8:23].
2. The new birth is not complete, but only begun in us. . . .
3. At one time he [the Christian] is joyful in spirit, and at another
fearful and alarmed. At one time he is intense in love, strong in faith and
hope, and at another time he is cold and weak” (FC SD II 68).
C. Luther once wrote:
1. “Faith is that foundation of the apostles and the prophets on which, as
the apostle writes in Eph 2:20, we are built and the ‘foundation that has
been laid,’ of which he speaks in 1 Cor 3:11.
2. Thus Christ himself says in Matt 16:18: ‘On this rock I will build My
church,’ that is, on the firmness of faith” (AE 29:229; emphasis added).
D. The Divine Service brings the worshiper into the gracious presence of
God, who serves his people, strengthening their faith in ancient evidence
of witnesses who endured trials and even death and who were sustained in
faith in the blessed hope of life eternal with Christ.
E. The ancients believed God’s promise though they didn’t receive the
fulfillment of the Messiah’s mission.
1. We who’ve seen Christ’s work of salvation fulfilled have even more
reason to continue through trials and difficulties.
2. The entire body of evidence points us to the Author and Perfecter of our
faith: in the midst of our strife, Christ Jesus is the proof of our eternal
3. He who endured the suffering of the cross and God’s wrath on our sin has
won for us the promise of life everlasting—regardless whatever Satan throws
F. Yes, the Christian life involves hard work.
1. It requires us to give up whatever endangers our relationship with God,
2. to run with endurance,
3. and to struggle against sin with the power of the Holy Spirit.
4. To live effectively, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.
5. We will always stumble if we look away from him to stare at ourselves or
at the circumstances surrounding us.
6. We should be running for Christ, not for ourselves, and we must always
keep him in sight. Amen.
G. Let us pray:
913 O Holy Spirit, Enter In (Stanza 3)
O mighty Rock, O Source of life,
Let Your dear Word, in doubt and strife,
In us be strongly burning
That we be faithful unto death
And live in love and holy faith,
From You true wisdom learning.
Your grace and peace
On us shower;
By Your power
Let us see our Savior’s blessing.
Text: Public domain
H. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
I. In the Name of the Father…Amen.