SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Hebrews 11:1 through 13:25
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Hebrews was written to the Jewish Christians and was penned approximately A.D.70. The writer of Hebrews wanted to remind these people of the “great cloud of witnesses” that God had honored and helped under the old dispensation. These last three chapters of Hebrews reiterate the beginning of mankind and cover church history up to when the epistle was written. The writer created a “big picture” of the church age so these Christians could see where they fit in under the new and better dispensation. He admonished them not to be discouraged by their sufferings, but to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.
Hebrews 11 is the climax of the epistle. In it the writer reached the culmination of all he had to say. Prior to that chapter he had brought out the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament dispensations by unfolding their meanings step by step. Having shown how the old dispensation had fulfilled its mission, in this chapter he listed certain worthies who attained to what God had designed under that provision. They did this by faith in God and what He had said. These “witnesses” shone out like beacon lights, having proved the possibility of attaining God’s best even before Jesus was born.
Chapter 12 begins with a picture of an athlete running a race, giving a striking illustration of a Christian striving toward Heaven. The author wanted his readers to understand that they were not on a pleasure excursion or loitering on a promenade; they were not just filling time. They were engaged in a great contest. Then he proceeded to admonish them on how to endure and therefore succeed in their Christian lives.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Write Hebrews 11:1 in your own words. Then name some invisible items that you have faith in.
It would be interesting to list on a board some things we can see and/or do that indicate trust in things we cannot see. Some examples might include the following:
• Flipping a light switch = trust in electricity
• Turning the key in a car ignition = trust that the car will start
• Flying in an airplane = trust in air currents, the powerful engines, or the pilot
• Riding in an elevator = trust in the hydraulic system.
Although we cannot see God, He has given us ample evidence that He is alive and can work in our lives. You could generate another list on the board with such examples as: instant deliverance from drugs at salvation, a healing, the wonders of nature showing the Creator.
- Hebrews 11:2 lets us know that by faith “the elders obtained a good report.” The word elders refers to the many believing individuals cited in this chapter. How did these people demonstrate their faith?
They demonstrated their faith through action. Each one of these heroes had to act in order to get a response from God. Bring out the difference between a faith that “talks” and a faith that “acts.” Discuss a few examples from the chapter, and show how they acted because they were convinced. For example, Noah took action by building the ark according to God’s instruction, and the result was deliverance from the Flood for him and his family. Obedience to God may mean stepping out and taking a risk, but if we have a faith that is fixed on God’s promises, He rewards that action. Ask your class to suggest current-day situations where a seemingly “risky” step of faith brings God’s reward.
- Where do “spiritual giants” come from? Consider those who have influenced you in your spiritual walk. What steps can we take to gain more faith and stability in our own lives?
Remind the students that those we might call “spiritual giants” did not start out that way. They are simply people, like all of us, who wanted results from God. They stepped out based on His promises, pursued the faith that would bring results, and acted on that faith. Point out that all of us can gain that same faith and be an encouragement to others. We must want results from God, and we must be faithful and obedient. Steps we can take might include being more sensitive to the Holy Spirit with regard to our own lives, hobbies, actions, priorities, loves, etc. Sometimes steps that need to be taken may seem difficult. That is where spiritual giants come from — with God’s help, they take those steps anyway, because they want God’s approval and blessing. Sometimes it is much easier not to act when God speaks, but if we want God’s results, we must do what is right, not what is easier.
- Consider the key verse. What are some of the “weights” we may carry that hinder us?
Your class should have thoughts about possible weights. They may mention what people look at or listen to, possessions, position, prestige, hobbies, other people’s opinions, etc. Many times it seems self can get in the way, and those weights that “so easily” beset us, those little things that we are familiar with, do not come off so casually. Sometimes we must make a very deliberate act of being rid of something that hinders, as if we were taking off a heavy piece of clothing in order to run a race.
- Hebrews 12:5 mentions the “chastening of the Lord.” Such chastening may not be enjoyable, but it is very necessary. What encouragement did the writer give to the Hebrew Christians regarding these times of discipline from the Lord? Why is chastening necessary for us today?
The writer reminded them that while correction is not joyous, they should be careful not to despise it but to take it humbly, since God has a reason which was for their good. He is a loving heavenly Father, and that is why He must do it. Every Christian will be chastised and disciplined at some point (verse 8), for that is part of growing and maturing as Christians.
Class discussion could cover ways God might chastise us. This may include the voice of the Spirit speaking to our hearts or something we hear in a sermon that points out an error. Discuss together the results that are promised if we take correction patiently: we will be partakers of His holiness (verse 10), and the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” will grow in our lives (verse 11). The class may have other suggestions on benefits of chastisement. We should be thankful to the Lord for His interest in making us what we need to be.
- What is being compared and contrasted in verses 18 through 29 of Hebrews 12? Why does the writer make this comparison?
The writer is contrasting the Law and the Old Testament dispensation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Testament dispensation. Israel was punished because they refused Moses, who spoke on earth. Those who refuse Him who speaks from Heaven are more certain of judgment. As mighty and powerful as the demonstration at Mount Sinai was, and as significant as the giving of the Law was, they do not compare to Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem, and all that God is preparing for His saints.
This comparison was made to encourage the Christians and to motivate them in following the Lord. Whatever the cost, we must be sensitive to the Spirit and obey, for He alone knows the way to eternal life. Discuss ways to develop and maintain sensitivity to the Spirit.
- Chapter 13 includes a number of practical applications. List three instructions the writer gives these Christians. How can we apply these in our day?
Making a list on the board would be beneficial. Thoughts may include:
Verse 1 — Love other Christians.
Verse 2 — Be hospitable.
Verse 3 — Help the suffering.
Verse 4 — Be true to your mate.
Verse 5 — Be content.
Verse 6 — Trust God to help you.
Verse 7 — Follow your leaders.
After making the list, discuss how these apply to our daily lives.
- The writer warns of being carried away with “divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 13:9). In the world today, what might be some doctrines that would threaten the pure message of the Gospel?
There are several false doctrines that could be listed and discussed — evolution, that we all sin every day, allowance for adultery and for gay marriages, etc. Encourage discussion of the writer’s admonition to be “established with grace.” If we know the true doctrine, and are established in it, we can avoid being carried away with new, strange doctrines that might even sound reasonable on the surface. We could study hard and long to know all the false doctrines in order to be aware of them, but the best way to spot the counterfeit is to be completely familiar with the genuine article. If we are established with God’s grace, it will eliminate questions in our own minds of what is of God, and what is not.
Those who lived under the Old Testament dispensation caught glimpses of the age in which we live, but they died in faith, not having received the fullness of the Gospel because Jesus had not yet come. We have received the Gospel in its entirety. Their testimonies and examples of faith need to cause us to be complete and entire representatives of this dispensation of grace. We must “carry the torch” down the final stretch of God’s perfect plan for mankind to our Home in Heaven.