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Sermon Outline

In These Last Days: The Message of Hebrews

Jesus, Author and Perfecter of Our Faith
Lesson #11 for March 12, 2022

Scriptures:Hebrews 10:35-12:3;Romans 1:17; Joshua 2:9-11.

  1. This lesson is a discussion about faith.

Hebrews 11 and 12 are probably the most-loved chapters of the book. They describe the Christian life as a race in which we all participate and in which all who stay faithful will receive the reward. They also describe the drama of Redemption as a race in which people of faith from the past persevered, despite sufferings, but have not yet received the reward.

And thats because the story ends with us, as well, not just them. We are the concluding act. The drama culminates with our entering and running the last part of the race, and with Jesus seated at the goal line at the right hand of God. He provides inspiration as well as the ultimate example of how the race is run. He is the ultimate Witness that the reward is true and that He is the Forerunner who opens the way for us (Heb. 6:19, 20; Heb. 10:19–23).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sabbath afternoon, March 5.§

  1. What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1: To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.?American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Hebrews 11:1). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡

  1. Based on all of Scripture, a biblical definition of faith stated so well so many times by one of Gods best modern friends, Dr. A. Graham Maxwell, is as follows:

Faith is [just] a word we use to denote a relationship with God as with a Person well known. The better we know Him, the better this relationship may be. [We cannot say will be because we know of the story of Lucifer.]

Faith implies an attitude toward God of love, trust, and deep admiration. It means having enough confidence in Him, based upon the more than adequate evidence revealed, to be willing to believe whatever He says [as soon as we are sure that He is the One who has said it], to accept whatever He offers [as soon as we are sure that He is the One who is offering it], and to do whatever He wishes [as soon as we are sure He is the One who wishes it]?without reservation?for the rest of eternity.

Anyone who has such faith is perfectly safe to save. This is why faith is the only requirement for heaven.

[Faith also means that like Abraham, Job, and Moses, Gods friends, we know God well enough to reverently ask Him, Why?]?A. Graham Maxwell, You Can Trust the Bible 81.†‡ [Sections in brackets are added based on frequent statements by Dr. Maxwell in his classes.]

  1. Faith, then, is what moves us closer to God; sin is what moves us away from God. Faith and sin are direct opposites. So, in this lesson we examine several great and some surprising examples of faith, ending with the greatest Example of all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  2. So, what does it mean to live by faith? It means to look past immediate circumstances and troubles. It means to take the larger, great-controversy view of the history of our world, especially as we approach the end of time. Some think that once one is saved, s/he is always saved. Others think it is heresy to suggest that we could be “safe to save.”

Hebrews 10:35-39: 35Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward. 36You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises. 37For, as the scripture says:

Just a little while longer,

and he who is coming will come;

he will not delay. [This is quoted fromHabakkuk 2:3-4 (in the Septuagint).]

38 My righteous people, however, will believe and live;

but if any of them turns back,

I will not be pleased with him.

39We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved.?Good News Bible.*†‡

  1. One of the important characteristics of faith is endurance. Those who have faith are willing to put up with current difficult times and difficult situations because they have in view the longer-term, guaranteed result at the end; they trust the God they have come to know.
  2. Look at these challenges from Revelation 13 and 14.

Revelation 13:10: “Whoever is meant to be captured will surely be captured; whoever is meant to be killed by the sword will surely be killed by the sword. This calls for endurance and faith on the part of Gods people.?Good News Bible.*[Five verses later, Satan threatens to kill anyone who does not join his side!]

Revelation 14:12: This calls for endurance on the part of Gods people, those who obey Gods commandments and are faithful to Jesus.?Good News Bible.*

  1. It is not always easy to hold on to the hope which we have. But, that is our challenge.

Hebrews 10:23: Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.?Good News Bible.*

Hebrews 4:14: Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God.?Good News Bible.*

  1. Paul was a great student of the Old Testament, having probably memorized great portions of it, if not all of it, in the original Hebrew. So, he chose the experience of Habakkuk to introduce his discussion of faith.
  2. Habakkuk lived in Judah during the final days before the Babylonian captivity. His prophecy was probably written about 25 years before Nebuchadnezzars first invasion in 605 c. But, as Habakkuk and others saw the rise of the Babylonian nation and their conquering of other nations, he feared what was coming.
  3. Notice his comments and his questions for God.

Habakkuk 1:12-17: 12 LORD, from the very beginning you are God. You are my God, holy and eternal. LORD, my God and protector, you have chosen the Babylonians and made them strong so that they can punish us. 13But how can you stand these treacherous, evil men? Your eyes are too holy to look at evil, and you cannot stand the sight of people doing wrong. So why are you silent while they destroy people who are more righteous than they are?

14 How can you treat people like fish or like a swarm of insects that have no ruler to direct them? 15The Babylonians catch people with hooks, as though they were fish. They drag them off in nets and shout for joy over their catch! 16They even worship their nets and offer sacrifices to them, because their nets provide them with the best of everything.

17 Are they going to use their swords for ever [sic] and keep on destroying nations without mercy??Good News Bible.*†‡

  1. Then, God responded with these words:

Habakkuk 2:2-4: 2 The LORD gave me this answer: Write down clearly on clay tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4And this is the message: Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’ ”?Good News Bible.* [Was there any delay after the days of Habakkuk?]

  1. As a result of his interactions with God, Habakkuk realized that he was living between the days of Gods promises and their fulfillment. Would that apply to us as well as we wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ? Reading again:

Hebrews 10:37: For, as the scripture says:

Just a little while longer,

and he who is coming will come;

he will not delay.”?Good News Bible.*

  1. How does that fit with our understanding that there has been long delay in our day? We need to remember that following the prophecies of Habakkuk, Jesus did come the first time even after 600 years. However, now it has been almost 2000 years since His first coming and the writings of Paul and the other writers of the New Testament.

The long night of gloom is trying; but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come, so many would be found unready. Gods unwillingness to have His people perish has been the reason of so long delay.?Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church,* vol. 2, 193.3-194.0 (1868); Evangelism* 694.2.

  1. This is why God has called us to live by faith. If we can take “the larger view” and not become embroiled in, or discouraged by, issues that surround us day by day, we will see that Gods plan has an ultimate goal; and we are part of it.

Hebrews 10:38: [Scripture says:] “My righteous people, however, will believe and live;

but if any of them turns back,

I will not be pleased with him.?Good News Bible.*

Romans 1:16-17: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, He who through faith is righteous shall live.?Revised Standard Version.*

  1. What does the righteousness of God have to do with our salvation? We believe that the gospel is all about the righteousness of God. That is the end goal towards which we are moving. Ultimately, that will be the guarantee of our salvation and Gods rule forever.
  2. Do you feel comfortable with Gods promises to us? Do you feel that they are absolutely certain? Or, do you have some questions about them?
  3. Let us consider some of the faithful mentioned in Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter.”

Hebrews 11:1-19: 1 To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. 2It was by their faith that people of ancient times won Gods approval.

3 It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by Gods word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.

4 It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cains. Through his faith he won Gods approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5 It was faith that kept Enoch from dying. Instead, he was taken up to God, and nobody could find him, because God had taken him up. The scripture says that before Enoch was taken up, he had pleased God. 6No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.

7 It was faith that made Noah hear Gods warnings about things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a boat in which he and his family were saved. As a result, the world was condemned, and Noah received from God the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going. 9By faith he lived as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. 10For Abraham was waiting for the city which God has designed and built, the city with permanent foundations.

11 It was faith that made Abraham able to become a father, even though he was too old and Sarah herself could not have children. He trusted God to keep his promise. 12Though Abraham was practically dead, from this one man came as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, as many as the numberless grains of sand on the seashore.

13 It was in faith that all these persons died. They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth. 14Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. 15They did not keep thinking about the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return. 16Instead, it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country. And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them. [That city is for us as well!]

17 It was faith that made Abraham offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when God put Abraham to the test. Abraham was the one to whom God had made the promise, yet he was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18God had said to him, It is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I promised. 19Abraham reckoned that God was able to raise Isaac from death?and, so to speak, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death.?Good News Bible.*†‡

  1. To the Jewish audience, Abraham was/is the ultimate example of faith. How did he qualify for that distinction? We know that on at least two occasions, Abraham misrepresented the truth by lying about his wife, saying she was his sister. He did not trust God to provide the son that he hoped for. But ultimately, he was willing to take that 20-year-old son on that three-day journey to offer him on an altar on Mount Moriah. Clearly, that was an example of not panicking because of what seemed to be the obvious disaster in the situation in which one is entwined at the moment, but rather, looking at the longer, larger goal and the promises of God. (See Genesis 22.)
  2. After three days of walking all day and praying with God all night, Abraham was prepared to do what God asked him to do. He had worked out in his mind that God would either offer a substitute or bring his son, Isaac, back to life. (Hebrews 11:19) Thus, Abraham trusted God.
  3. Does the story of Abraham help your faith? (See Patriarchs and Prophets 154-155.)
  4. The next major example in Hebrews 11 is the story of Moses. Think of the story of Moses. He was supposed to have been killed at his birth. Instead, he was adopted by Pharaohs daughter. After 12 years of being educated by his Hebrew parents, he was taken to the palace of Pharaoh. For the next 28 years, he was trained to be the next Pharaoh. At that point in history, Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world. But, based on what he knew about Gods promises, Moses chose to associate with the children of Israel rather than to remain in Egypt. (SeeHebrews 11:20-28.)
  5. Paul was writing to a group of challenged young people in his day. Some of them were apostatizing; others had questions. So, he reminded them of Mosess story. Moses did not even start his major task in life until he was 80 years old! And just imagine the incredible experiences Moses went through during those next 40 years.
  6. Many of the original readers of Hebrews, as well as Moses and the others we read about in Hebrews 11, faced suffering; and some faced death.
  7. There are definitely Christians suffering for their faith in parts of our world today. But, for those of us living in the more financially successful nations in the world, we are pretty comfortable. Are we too comfortable? Would we be suffering more if we were more vigorous with our witnessing?
  8. In the first portion of Hebrews 11, we read the stories of great examples of faith. Then, suddenly, there is a change in the narrative.
  9. ReadHebrews 11:31 andJoshua 2:9–11. Why was Rahab, a pagan prostitute, included in this chapter of sacred biblical examples?

Hebrews 11:30-31: 30 It was faith that made the walls of Jericho fall down after the Israelites had marched round them for seven days. 31It was faith that kept the prostitute Rahab from being killed with those who disobeyed God, for she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome.?Good News Bible.*

Rahab is probably the most unexpected character whom we find in Hebrews 11. Rahab is one of two women mentioned by name. She is the tenth in the list, the first being forefathers and patriarchs of Israel, and each one is regarded as being righteous. When we come to her, we find that she not only is a woman but also a Gentile prostitute. [And she ended up being one of the ancestors of Jesus!]

The most surprising thing is that she also is the thematic center and climax of the chapter. The list is organized in a unique way. Each entry begins with the repetitive use of the phrase by faith. The basic pattern is By faith, So-and-so did such and such or By faith, such and such happened to So-and-so. This repetitive pattern increases the expectation in the reader to hear the climactic assertion that “by faith, Joshua led the people into the promised land.

But thats not what the text says. Instead, Joshua is passed over, and the [Gentile] prostitute takes his place. After the mention of Rahab, the repetitive pattern ends abruptly with and what more shall I say? (Heb. 11:32, NKJV). Then, Paul hurriedly lists some names and events that he does not explain in detail.

Rahabs deed of faith was that she heard, believed, and obeyed, even though she did not see. She did not see the plagues of Egypt or the deliverance in the Red Sea or the water flow from the rock or the bread descend from heaven, yet, she believed [more than the Israelites who saw all those miracles]. She was a good exemplar for the audience of Hebrews, who did not hear Jesus preach or see Him do a miracle, and for us, as well, who did not see any of these things either.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Wednesday, March 9.†‡§

Rahab was a harlot who lived on the wall of Jericho. She hid the two Israelite spies sent to check out the defenses of that city. Because of her kindness to them, and her declaration of belief in God, the spies promised that the lives of Rahab and her family would be spared when the attack came on Jericho.—Ellen G. White, Daughters of God* 35.3.

  1. Having shifted his discussion from the heroes, Paul listed an interesting group of Old Testament characters. But, first he talked about some of the incredible experiences some of them had passed through.

Hebrews 11:35-38: 35Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life.

Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword. They went round clothed in skins of sheep or goats?poor, persecuted, and ill-treated. 38The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground.?Good News Bible.*

  1. Do these experiences make you want to go back and review the Old Testament?

Hebrews 11:32: Should I go on? There isnt enough time for me to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.?Good News Bible.*

  1. Would you have chosen this list as great examples of faith?
  2. Finally, Paul turned to the real example of faith and endurance, Jesus Christ Himself.

Hebrews 12:1-3: As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses round us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of Gods throne.

3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.?Good News Bible.*

[In the Garden of Gethsemane] With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christs soul was filled with dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal. He would be identified with Satans kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 686.5.†‡

[As Jesus was dying,] Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Fathers acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Fathers wrath upon Him as mans substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 753.2.†‡

  1. In every situation, we need to take the larger, great-controversy view when considering what to do. Think of Satans accusations against God from the time of the rebellion in heaven all the way through human history to the elimination of evil at the third coming. Are we prepared to endure and stand tall for Gods reputation in any given situation? Or, are we embarrassed to admit that we are Christians? Or, Seventh-day Adventists?
  2. Every time we are tempted to sin, do we feel a terrible dread of separation from God? That separation from God is what broke the heart of Jesus and caused His death.

Romans 14:23b: And anything that is not based on faith is sin.?Good News Bible.*

  1. Everything that we do or think is either moving us closer to God and is called faith, or is moving us away from God and is called sin.
  2. Without a doubt, the best example for us to follow is Jesus Himself. In what sense was Jesus the Founder and Perfecter of faith?

First, He is the only one who has finished the race in its fullest sense. The others talked about in the previous chapter have not yet reached their goal (Heb. 11:39, 40). Jesus, however, has entered Gods rest in heaven and is seated at the Fathers right hand. We, together with these others, will reign with Jesus in heaven (Rev. 20:4).?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 10.†§

Hebrews 11:39-40: 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.?Good News Bible.*

Second, it was actually Jesus perfect life that has made it possible for these others to run their race (Heb. 10:5-14). If Jesus had not come, the race of everyone else would have been futile.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 10.†§

Hebrews 10:5-14: 5 For this reason, when Christ was about to come into the world, he said to God:

You do not want sacrifices and offerings,

but you have prepared a body for me.

6 You are not pleased with animals burnt whole on the altar

or with sacrifices to take away sins.

7 Then I said, Here I am,

to do your will, O God,

just as it is written of me in the book of the Law.

8First he said, You neither want nor are you pleased with sacrifices and offerings or with animals burnt on the altar and the sacrifices to take away sins. He said this even though all these sacrifices are offered according to the Law. 9Then he said, Here I am, O God, to do your will. So God does away with all the old sacrifices and puts the sacrifice of Christ in their place. 10Because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do, we are all purified from sin by the offering that he made of his own body once and for all. [If the blood of those animals did not work, why does the blood of Jesus work? It is the meaning of the death that matters! It brings healing.]

11 Every Jewish priest performs his services every day and offers the same sacrifices many times; but these sacrifices can never take away sins. 12Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective for ever, [sic] and then he sat down at the right-hand side of God. 13There he now waits until God puts his enemies as a footstool under his feet. 14With one sacrifice, then, he has made perfect for ever [sic] those who are purified from sin.?Good News Bible.*†‡

Finally, Jesus is the reason we have faith. As one with God, He expressed the faithfulness of God toward us. God never gave up in His efforts to save us, and that is why we will reach the reward in the end if we dont give up. Jesus ran with patience and remained faithful, even when we were faithless (2 Tim. 2:13). Our faith is only a response to His faithfulness.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, March 10.†§

  1. Are we prepared to stand up and take our place among the faithful and represent Jesus Christ correctly so that He can come again?

By faith you became Christs, and by faith you are to grow up in Him?by giving and taking. You are to give all,?your heart, your will, your service,?give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all,—Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper,?to give you power to obey.—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ* 69.2-70.0.§

God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith.

It is impossible for finite minds fully to comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. To the keenest intellect, the most highly educated mind, that holy Being must ever remain clothed in mystery. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?”Job 11:7, 8.—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ* 105.2-3.

  1. Let us remember that faith is based on evidence. We do not need to wait until the truth has been fully demonstrated. We can trust Gods Word, the Bible.
  2. The Greek word pistis translated faith also means faithfulness. Are we prepared to be faithful to our Christian calling even if things go in unexpected ways?
  3. From the story of Habakkuk in the Old Testament to Hebrews 11, have we seen enough evidence and reasons to trust God no matter what happens in our day-to-day experience?
  4. What should we learn from the experiences of people like Rahab?

Joshua 2:8-11: 8 Before the spies settled down for the night, Rahab went up on the roof 9and said to them, I know that the LORD has given you this land. Everyone in the country is terrified of you. 10We have heard how the LORD dried up the Red Sea in front of you when you were leaving Egypt. We have also heard how you killed Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan. 11We were afraid as soon as we heard about it; we have all lost our courage because of you. The LORD your God is God in heaven above and here on earth.”?Good News Bible.*

  1. We should also note the special meaning ofHebrews 11:3: By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. (New Revised Standard Version*)
  2. How much of the universe was created by Gods invisible word?
  3. From our study this week, how would you answer these questions?
    • What do you think motivated Noah to build an ark in spite of no previous floods or even any rain?
    • What do you think motivated Abraham to set out for a country he had not previously seen or explored?
    • What do you think motivated Moses to exchange a prestigious life in the palace of Egypt for a miserable life with the Exodus generation??Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide*
  4. One of the few people mentioned in Hebrews 11&12 that was not a hero of faith was Esau. Notice these words:

Hebrews 12:16: Let no one become immoral or unspiritual like Esau, who for a single meal sold his rights as the elder son.?Good News Bible.*

  1. Did Esau really seek repentance? We can categorically say that God forgives in an unlimited way, any number of times. So, we know that Esau could have been forgiven. But, a careful reading of the text suggests that it was not repentance or the spiritual blessing that Esau really wanted; it was the material blessing—the money and power!

In the span of its history, our church has survived several crises. During the twentieth century, we faced controversies over the issues of inspiration, the role of Ellen G. White, the nature of Christ, the Godhead, the remnant church, Creation versus evolution, et cetera. The twenty-first century seems to have brought these issues back and more.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 148.

  1. Are we prepared to remain faithful to Gods calling and trust Him even when we cannot see how He is going to work things out? Or, are we going to fall away? Remember that God is going to win in the end. Dont we want to be on His side when it is all over?

© 2022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. Bold type is added. Text in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only.                                                                                                 [email protected]

Last Modified: February 27, 2022