A Study of Hebrews 11:13
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, and a multitude of their descendents all died in this blessed faith. God had wrought a work in them, quickening them to life, blessing them with a hallowed view of spiritual things concerning His Holy Son which was to come and die for their sins. In the process of time all these died themselves. But as the text says, “These all died in faith.” They were not barren and alone, but died with that Holy operation within them, having been fortified and prepared then for their celestial home. They had hope for things they had not seen, and were by grace persuaded of them. It was an evidence to them, this faith that sustained them in their darkest and trying hours, as they wandered and sojourned as pilgrims and as strangers. And so we hope today, that all these wayfaring sojourners who are on the road to that celestial city, have, by faith, been given a view of the sweet realities above, which cannot be of this sin cursed earth. Thus, they too, hope by grace to depart from life in that blessed faith once delivered to the saints, and have it said of them too, “These all died in faith.”
We read in Ephesians 4:5 that there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” It is not to be understood from this text that there is numerically only one Lord, for there are lords many; or that there is numerically only one faith, for there are many different kinds of faith; nor but one baptism; for even the Apostle who wrote this letter to the Ephesians also wrote to the Hebrews of baptisms in the plural. But rather, it is to be understood there is only one acceptable Lord, one acceptable faith, and one acceptable baptism. Only one is above all others, and acceptable to God, though there be many varieties of each. We feel that it is highly improper to use the expression, “Someone is of another faith.” It would be far better to say they are of another sort, or brand of religion, because as regards an acceptable faith before God, there can be but one. Two is too many. And yet throughout the Scriptures we see that different kinds of faith are spoken of which should be explored somewhat in order to have a suitable understanding about this faith which the old patriarchs died in.
We learn in Ephesians 2:8 that God’s children are saved by grace through faith and that not of themselves but rather it is the gift of God. The gift under consideration here is that faith that saves. The faith that saves is free, and unmerited. It cannot be bought, it cannot be bartered, it cannot be obtained except God Himself impart it, and deliver it to the sinner, and bless them to own, to have, and to utilize. When considering that there is but one faith, it must be kept in mind that since the children of the Heavenly King live by faith, and hope to die by faith, that their faith must be of one and the same kind with their blessed Head and Master, Jesus Christ. And so, when examining the scriptures, we learn that we are “not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16) And also again in that same verse, “..that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law.” Again, in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” it is comforting to see that it is “the faith of the Son of God”, and not ours, by which we live. All of our spiritual life activities, as well as all of our looking to our Heavenly Father, is nothing, more or less, than the operation of the faith of Christ (not ours) which has been imparted unto us. And so again in Galatians 3:22, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” There again the faith is described as being of Jesus Christ, and not of our own designing. And so, once more in Galatians 3:26, “For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Not by having faith in Him, but by faith in Him. Thus we must draw from this composite of texts that Christ came to this world, made lower than the angels for suffering in death, and in His suffering death He trusted completely and wholly upon the righteousness and power of His Heavenly Father to deliver Him from the utmost trial – His yielding over His life unto death. And so it was that He believed in the promise, and the covenant of His God, and our God, to deliver Him from the very bowels of death, itself. And then, after ascending to the Father, He gave gifts unto men. Paramount among these gifts is His faith which He now imparts unto us. And so, we hope to die in that faith.
The Apostle Paul, in drawing from the prophesy of Habakkuk, writes on three different occasions that “the just shall live by faith.” We find this recorded in Galatians 3:11; in Romans 1:17, and again in Hebrews 10:38. Such a truth as this cannot be lightly regarded. And truly, there can be no other way for one who is born again to live, other than by faith. It is by faith they enter into the Divine promises; and by faith they feed upon Christ; it is again by faith they look upon Him whom they have pierced; and in the hours of temptation and trials, by faith they cry to their Heavenly Father that they might be sustained. And living by faith, they have a sweet expectation that at the end, when God shall summon the work of His hand, that they too, like the patriarchs, might die in faith.
The saved sinner has learned, too, that God only honors His faith; that all else is sin. As we find recorded in Romans 14:23, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” And, too, the child of God knows that the faith he possesses is not of his own concocting. That rather than him having anything to do with having faith, that it is a fruit of the divine Spirit, as the Apostle recorded in Galatians 5:22. Also, in Galatians 5:6 we learn that this faith works by love. So, while there is a general acceptance of the subject of faith, it is vividly clear there is much to be known, and all of it, when seen by the believing eye, is comforting indeed to the miserable sinner who anticipates to die in faith.
While it is a hallowed occurrence to consider dying in faith, it must be discerned by each believer that not all will. Multitudes, yea, the vast majority, predictably, of mankind, will die beyond the expanse of faith, never knowing the sweetness of a life in Jesus the Lord. But with many, they have been deceived and deluded, and verily believe that they are the possessors of that faith which saves, and yet alas, they will discover at the end that what they had was not well pleasing or acceptable unto the Heavenly Father. Examples upon examples of this can be found in the Scriptures, and a few shall be here cited as examples for our comfort, instruction, and warning. There are those, for instance, that would feign faith. While we have no direct identification of any, we learn from both I Timothy 1:5 and II Timothy 1:5 that there were those who had a good conscience from “faith unfeigned”; thus leaving us with the conclusion that there are those who have feigned their faith, or are at least in possession of a faith that is pretended. What a sad dilemma it would be to live and die believing that our feigned faith was acceptable before the Heavenly Father. And, as well in I Timothy 1:6 we find that there were some that had swerved, and turned aside unto vain jangling from this true, and God sent faith. In other words, they were there at faith’s door but turned aside to go another way. May it be the Lord’s mercies that we find ourselves in possession of that faith suitable to die in, and never be found to turn aside.
Once again, in this first chapter of I Timothy the Apostle spoke inverse nineteen of “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” And then in verse twenty, he identifies Hymenaeus and Alexander, as two wretched examples of such apostacy, “Who were delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” It is very clear that there are those miscreants who have steered the perilous currents of life with a faith that wouldn’t deliver them safely to the haven of rest, and thus, at some point were dashed upon the dreadful rocks of blasphemy, as did Hymenaeus and Alexander. The book of I Timothy abounds with illustrations such as this. Another one will be found in chapter four, verse one, where we quote; “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” What desperate hearts these must have, that would depart from the faith of the blessed Son of God, to listen to spirits that would seduce, and to hear the lies and doctrines of devils; and yet it is so, for the Apostle, by influence of the Spirit, recorded such. And then in verse eight of chapter five, the Apostle spoke of those who had denied the faith, and were worse than infidels. And in chapter five, verse twelve there were those who cast off their first faith. In chapter six, verse ten, there were those who had erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Thus, we see that in this one book alone, there were those who feigned faith, who turned aside from faith, who shipwrecked faith, who departed from the faith, who denied the faith, cast off the faith, and erred from the faith. If it be the Lord’s mercies may we ever pray, “Lord, keep us from falling, and at the appointed hour, let us die in the faith.”
In Hebrews 10:38-39 the Apostle spoke that third time of the “just” who would live by faith, and that for any who drew back, God would have no pleasure in them. “But,” he stated, “we were not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul.” Thus, there are those wretches who would draw back; who having approached the very gates of faith retreat in their shame, seeking the pleasures, and the temporal scraps of this life. And so, the Apostle said they draw back unto perdition. However, the elect, those whose names are engraved in the Book of Life, believe unto saving, while others deny unto damnation.
In Mark 5:6 is the narration of the Gadarene whom the Lord came unto, and when he approached him the text says, “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him.” Bear in mind the account of this maniac Gadarene, is recorded in Matthew eight and Luke eight, as well as Mark five, and in each of these gospels we find that this individual’s name was Legion, because he had many devils within him. And yet these devils, when they saw Jesus approaching, were compelled to fall and worship Him as the true and living God. This is compelling evidencing that even evil spirits may have much knowledge of the true service to the Saviour, but for all its appearance, it will avail them nothing. They were devils before they worshipped, and they were devils after they worshipped. And yet for all of this, multitudes stumble here, not seeing the absolute Sovereignty of our God in all things. Those devils were much like that seed in Luke 8:13 that fell upon a rock; which when they hear, they receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, but in time of temptation fall away. This showing, too, that one may believe, and yet that belief be nothing more than the outgrowth of a faith which is not legitimate before God. As well then might we examine in I Corinthians 13:2 where the Apostle said one could have all faith and if he did not have love it was nothing. In James 2:17-20 the Apostle speaks of a faith which was dead. In John 12:42 there was those in the synagogue who believed on Jesus but would not confess Him because of the fear of man. And as well, in II Timothy 2:18 there were those whose faith was overthrown. All this is strong affirmation that multitudes have a semblance and a facade of faith, and yet when they have accomplished their journeys and arrive at the shores of that tenebrous river they will not have a safe passage over, for they are void of that one proper and acceptable faith. They must die without it, and their end is destruction and perdition. May God favor us to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith; to scrutinize to see if our faith looks up to Him; if our cries out for light, if our faith denounces our creature efforts and works, and seeks alone for that which was wrought out in the righteousness of Jesus our Lord. Thus, by faith, may we then await till we too might die in faith.
J.F. Poole – 1989