Hebrews – Part 8: What Is Faith?


“What Is Faith?” is part 8 of a 10-part study on the Book of Hebrews. You may view any of the previous parts by clicking one of the links below.


NOTE: The following information consists of excerpts paraphrased from Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Hebrews 11”.

In the close of the previous chapter the writer of Hebrews had incidentally made mention of faith:

Hebrews 10:38-39 (NASB)
38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. 39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

The object of the whole argument in this epistle was to keep those to whom it was addressed from apostatizing, from the Christian religion, and especially from relapsing again into Judaism.

They were in the midst of trials, and were evidently suffering some form of persecution, the tendency of which was to expose them to the danger of relapsing.

The indispensable means of securing them from apostasy was faith; and with a view to show its efficacy in this respect, the writer goes into an extended account of its nature and effects, occupying this entire chapter.

As the persons whom he addressed had been Hebrews, and as the Old Testament contained an account of numerous instances of persons in substantially the same circumstances in which they were, the reference is made, to the illustrious examples of the efficacy of faith in the Jewish history.

The object is to show that faith, or confidence in the Divine promises, has been in all ages the means of perseverance in the true religion, and consequently of salvation.

In this chapter, therefore, the writer of Hebrews first describes or defines the nature of faith,

Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)
1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

and then illustrates its efficacy and power, throughout the remainder of the chapter, by reference to numerous instances.

In these illustrations he refers to the steady belief which we have that God made the worlds, the examples of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab in particular, and numerous other examples without mentioning their names.

The object is to show that there is power in faith to keep – steady and firm – mind and heart in the midst of trials, and that, having these examples before them, those whom he addressed should continue to adhere steadfastly to the profession of the true religion.


Hebrews 11:1,3,6 (NASB)
1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. …
3  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. …
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, Scripture tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. Please open up Your Word to us and teach us what faith is. May our faith be strengthened as a result. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Probing Question

How does faith have the power to keep Christians from apostatizing, despite their trials?

Transitional Sentence

Faith has the power to keep Christians from apostatizing, despite their trials, because…

Main Points

1. Faith lays claim to the unseen realities of God and His purpose.


Hebrews 11:4 (NASB)
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

  • Abel’s name
    • Means, “breath, vapor, meadow”
    • Is associated with the shortness of life
  • The second son of Adam and Eve may have been a twin because Genesis 4:2 literally reads, “And she continued to bear his brother Abel”
  • Some have thought that it was the better sacrifice because it was the sacrifice of an animal, however, the emphasis on “faith” in Hebrews and the idea of a “proper offering” in the Septuagint translation of Genesis 4:7 suggest that Abel’s offering was made with a correct attitude and in the proper manner
  • Because of jealousy, Cain killed Abel
  • Hebrews 12:24 compares Abel’s blood with Christ’s blood
    • Abel’s blood calls for vengeance
    • Christ’s blood carries with it the idea of forgiveness
  • Nevertheless, Abel is outstanding because he was
    • The first person to worship God correctly
    • The first person to demonstrate faith accurately
    • The first person to please God fully
    • The first shepherd and influenced the early Hebrews to place a priority on the pastoral life
    • The first man to be murdered
    • The first human to die


Hebrews 11:5-6 (NASB)
5  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

  • Enoch’s name
    • Means, “dedicated.”
    • Is associated with a large body of ancient extra-biblical literature
  • The son of Jared, taken up to God without dying
  • He became the father of Methuselah
  • Enoch lived in such close fellowship with God that he was translated into the presence of God without dying
  • According to Jude, he prophesied

Jude 1:14-15 (NASB)
14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”


Hebrews 11:7 (NASB)
7 By faith Noah, being warned by Godabout things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

  • Noah’s name is a personal name of uncertain meaning, related to “rest”
  • Noah was
    • The son of Lamech, a descendant of Adam in the line of Seth
    • The father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth who were born when he was 500 years old
    • A good and righteous man, and a survivor of the flood
  • God warned Noah that He was going to wipe mankind from the face of the earth
  • Because Noah walked with God and stood blameless among the people of that time, God gave him specific instructions for building the ark by which Noah and his family would survive the coming flood
    • Noah followed the building instructions down to every detail
    • A week before the flood, Noah led his family and all of the animals into the ark just as God directed
    • After seven days, the rain began and lasted for 40 days
    • As he sought to know whether it was safe to leave the ark
      • He sent out first a raven and then a dove
      • When the dove returned with an olive leaf, Noah knew the water had receded
    • Once out of the ark, Noah built an altar and sacrificed clean animals as burnt offerings on the altar
    • The Lord promised never again to destroy living creatures as He had done in the flood and established a covenant with Noah and his sons and sealed that covenant with a rainbow
  • Noah lived another 350 years after the flood
  • Noah died at the age of 950 years

2. Faith presses on even when some of God’s promises remain unfulfilled

Abraham and Sarah

Hebrews 11:8-19 (NASB)
8  By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE. 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. 17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise peopleeven from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.


Hebrews 11:20 (NASB)
20  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.


Hebrews 11:21 (NASB)
21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.


Hebrews 11:22 (NASB)
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

3. Faith risks everything for God and His purpose

Moses’ Parents

Hebrews 11:23 (NASB)
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.


Hebrews 11:24-28 (NASB)
24  By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.

Children of Israel, escaping from Egypt

Hebrews 11:29 (NASB)
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passingthrough dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

Joshua and his army

Hebrews 11:30 (NASB)
30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

Rahab, the harlot

Hebrews 11:31 (NASB)
31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.

4. Faith endures even when earthly deliverance does not come

Hebrews 11:32-40 (NASB)
32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36  and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39  And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.


How does faith have the power to keep Christians from apostatizing, despite their trials?

  • Faith lays claim to the unseen realities of God and His purpose
  • Faith presses on even when some of God’s promises remain unfulfilled
  • Faith risks everything for God and His purpose
  • Faith endures even when earthly deliverance does not come

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for the priviledge of studying Your Word so we can learn more about You and what You expect from us. You tell us we are to have the faith of a child. Help us with our faith we pray. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.


“What Is Faith?” is part 8 of a 10-part study on the Book of Hebrews. You may view any of the following parts by clicking one of the links below.

Gospel Invitation

Is the Holy Spirit stirring within your heart? Is He convicting you of the need to make changes in your life and/or calling you to take action? The Bible says:

James 4:17 (NASB)
17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

1 John 5:3 (NASB)
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

If the Holy Spirit is urging you to take action, it is important to respond with immediate obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Please read the following sections that apply to your current situation and prayerfully consider the suggested course of actions.

I am lost. I need to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

John 3:16-18 (NASB)
16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


  • To learn more about Jesus and His gift of redemption, read God's Plan of Salvation. If you are already familiar with the Plan of Savation, skip forward to section How to Become a Christian.
  • If you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please let us know by filling out the Contact Form below.

I am saved; but, I have sin in my life that I need to confess and repent.

1 John 1:8-9 (NASB)
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 3:19 (NASB)
19  "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;


  • Fill out the Contact Form below to confidentially confess the sin in your life and your desire to repent. The information you send will not be shared with anyone else. Your privacy will be protected.

I am saved; but, I need to rededicate my life to the Lord.

Praise the Lord.


  • In your own words, pray a prayer similar to the following:

Heavenly Father, I have fallen short of Your glory and have failed to live up to Your expectations for me. Please forgive me. Lord, I rededicate my life to You. Not my will; but, Your will be done. Thank You for being a God of second chances. Use me Lord. Shape me and mold me into the person You would have me to be. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

  • If you just rededicated your life to the Lord, please let us know by filling out the Contact Form below.

I need to discuss my situation confidentially.

James 5:16 (NASB)
16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.


  • Fill out the Contact Form below to confidentially discuss the situation in your life that is troubling you. The information you send will not be shared with anyone else. Your privacy will be protected.

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