Study 1 of 6 Working on faith – Hebrews 11:1-2


In Term 4 of 2020 we aim to spend 6 weeks on the purpose of faith.

You’ll find the program listed under the resources page:

The reformation celebrated that we are saved by faith alone and stood firm against the notions that we our ‘works’ do anything to save us. The gift of God is by grace and therefore comes to us unmerited and undeserved. We deserve God’s wrath and we can never earn our way out of that.

But thanks be to God that he has saved us by sending his Son. Ephesians 2 says that “it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

This statement makes it clear enough. But exploring this takes a lifetime. “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Grace is amazing!

But we are left to wonder, what do we do now? If eternal life is paid for us by Christ on the cross, then do we simply do whatever we want? Well, Ephesians 2 doesn’t stop there but says: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, there is something that we are employed by God to do? What is it? If grace demands that we do and owe nothing, how are these works included? What is the deal?

Our series is titled: How Faith Works because we want to explore both the beauty of faith and the difference that it makes to our lives.

In the first study, we want to look at Hebrews 11:1-2 and ask, what is faith and what difference did it make to the people listed in that chapter.

Read Hebrews 11:1-2

  1. What do these words mean? Use the bible references to see ways these words are used in the bible.
  • Confidence – look up 1 John 5:14; Philippians 3:3-9
  • Hope – look up Romans 8:22-25; Romans 15:13
  • Assurance – look up Acts 2:36; Colossians 4:12; Hebrews 10:22
  • Faith – look at Hebrews 11:1 and rewrite it in your own words now that you have explored what the other words mean.
  1. Verse 2 tells us that the ancients were commended for their faith. Read through Hebrews Chapter 11 and list what the ancients DID because of their faith (this needn’t be an exhaustive list).
  2. How does Verses 39-40 link us with the same faith as the ancients?


Over the coming weeks, we will explore the implications of having faith in God – the One who saves. We are saved by grace through faith – but our faith directs our attention to God. This confidence, assurance, trust and hope all drive what we do. And what we do, is called works. This whole term we will be working on faith.

Genesis 11:10 – 12:9

Read Genesis 11:10-32.

Make sure you have a group member ready with an atlas or map to identify the places mentioned. This is important!

What differences do you note between the “account of Shem, Ham and Japheth” in chapter 10 and the account of Shem’s family line in 11:10 to 11:32?

What do we learn from 11:27 – 32 about Abram? (see also Genesis 15:7, Joshua 24:2, Acts 7:2-4))

A general question could be: What is the most famous (or infamous!) person you have in your ancestry? How does this impact you?

Now read Genesis 12:1-3

What command does God give to Abram?

What promises does he make to Abram?

As a group, and from your combined knowledge of the Bible, work hard at spelling out the ways God fulfils these promises: (make sure you see Galatians 3:15-16 and 3:26-29 among others)

12:1-3 revolves around the word “bless”. In concrete terms what does this mean in this passage?

How is it similar/dissimilar to the ways God has already been shown to bring blessing? (e.g.1:28 and following, 9:1)

In 12:4-9, what is the main theme and how does it impact us?  (see also Hebrews 11:8-10)

Genesis 10:1-11:9

Leaders’ notes:

a. It’s most likely that chapter 10 follows chapter 11 in strict
chronology. If this is so, chapter 11:1-9 must be read with chapter
10 open or at least in mind.

b. Chapter 10 is very carefully crafted in order to make it much
more than a historically-interesting genealogy, or even to give
substance to the accuracy of the Biblical record. 11:1-9 records
God’s judgement (again!) on sinful humanity – this time it is in
terms of dividing them into nations and language groups as
referred to in ch.10. (see 10:4-5, 10:20, 10:31).

c. As we read chapter 10 we recognise many of the names of
nations, clans and tribes – mostly those who became Israel’s
enemies. (You may want to work beforehand with a concordance
to look these up, or a Bible dictionary – or even the footnotes in a
Bible, many references will give the former names of nations like,
e.g. Egypt (10:6).

d. Make sure you look up other mentions of chapters 10 and 11:
Deuteronomy 32:8 (compare with Amos 9:7) and Acts 17:26). 1
Chronicles also summarises chapter 10 using the same order.

e. Although not all nations that are scattered are mentioned (see
10:5), there is a clear theme of the unity of all peoples woven
though the chapter (and the Bible!). The main aspect of that unity
in chapters 10 and 11 is the all peoples live under the sovereignty
of God. He is Lord over godless humans and their cities. With the
mention of Nimrod (10:8-12) and the tower of Babel (11:1-9)
comes inclusion of the name of the LORD – the only mention of his
name in these two chapters, in order to strikingly emphasise this
unaffected sovereignty.

f. You may note the order in which each “table” or genealogy comes
is different from 10:1. Commentators suggest this is because
Shem, and then only one of his descendants, Peleg, is the clan into
which Abraham is born and therefore the most important for the
story., as turns out to be the case.

g. It’s very detailed, but worth noting that the record in chapter 10
is highly stylised. Numbers familiar to us from other parts of the
Bible underline the complete sovereignty of God (the LORD) over
all humankind, nations and cities no matter whether they
recognise him or not. 70 signifying completeness) nations are
mentioned – 14 from Japheth, thirty from Ham and 26 from Shem.
Ch 10 has much mention of 7 and its multiples. In the lines of
Japheth and Shem there are numerous 7’s and 14’s and even a 28!
In contrast, detailed 7’s are absent from the line of Canaan to
match their chaos.

h. One commentator writes: “There was a world of peoples before
the call of Abraham in chapter 12, and it is that map of peoples
that concerns the God of Abraham ultimately. Out of concern for
the salvation of the nation’s God calls Abraham (and his

In studying these chapters, here are some questions you may like to use:

  1. In 11:1-2 how is the unity of humankind emphasised?  Think how our world today would be different if all nations had “common speech”.
  2. How do these nations demonstrate they are the spiritual heirs of the line of Cain, not Seth?
    (see 4:17; 11:2;
    4:19-24; 11:3-4;
    4:12-13; 11:8;
    4:17-24; ch10)
  3. How does the rebellion against God take shape this time, and what lies behind it? 
    How does humankind show the spirit of Babel is alive and well today?
  4. What is God’s view of all this? (NB don’t miss the significance of the LORD having to “come down” to see the work!! What does this say about humankind’s pride in achievement?)
  5. “Babel” means “confusion” – note the irony here for what was meant to signify united opposition to God.
  6. Has God given up on the godless?
  7. “Genesis 10-11 shows that a disproportionate concentration on ‘races’ and our different cultures undermines our inherent unity and may lead to a primitive tribalism that fosters war” Do you agree?
  8. On the other hand, is the United Nations building in New York “a long shadow of the Tower of Babel”?
  9. What does Genesis 10-11 teach us about:
    a. A world under human control and a world under God’s
    control (the City of Man versus the City of God)
    b. Our use of technology
    c. Language
  10. How does the Lord Jesus Christ change our understanding of these?