By Faith Sarah
Hebrews 11:11-12 “By Faith Sarah”
Our next verse in Hebrews 11 begins, “By faith Sarah” (v. 11).
- “Sarah” is our next hero of the faith.
- If Abraham is the “father of faith” then Sarah is the “mother of faith.”
Sarah is the first of four mentions of women.
- Verse 23, Pharaoh’s daughter who hid Moses.
- Verse 31, Rahab who welcomed spies.
- Verse 35, “Women [who] received back their dead by resurrection.”
This first mention of a woman of faith raised a question asked today by the wider church.
- A renewed debate over what women can and cannot do in church.
- Debates not between liberal and conservative denominations like in the past.
- Also not between conservative and liberal seminaries.
- No longer an intermural debate. But intramural.
Things center on how someone interprets and applies, 1 Timothy 2:12.
ESV 1 Timothy 2:12 aI do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
- Clarity on this verse cannot not be understated as something Paul told his son in the faith, Timothy.
- Should not be relegated to a by-gone era.
- A sound bite explained away by a context when things were different.
- Not to be interpreted as non-prescriptive.
Let me answer “Why?”
[Outline part 1]
1. The contextual argument. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are “The Pastoral Epistles.”
a. Written specifically from Paul to Timothy as instruction manuals for how to organize and conduct church life.
b. By 1 Timothy 1:4 you have clear instructions transcend the immediate context charging Timothy to take over for Paul at the church of Ephesus.
c. Immediate challenges were present, facing known false teachers (“named”).
d. At the same time, 1 and 2 Timothy (and Titus) make up a clear “how-to” for every local church.
ESV 1 Timothy 3:15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
ESV Titus 1:5 aThis is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and bappoint elders in every town as I directed you--
2. There is the creation argument.
a. 1 Timothy 2 being read in its immediate context is why verse 11 is applied literally.
b. The application is grounded in the order and design of creation.
ESV 1 Timothy 2:13-14 aFor Adam was formed first, bthen Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but athe woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
c. Its entire basis transcends the early church in Ephesus.
d. Verse 13 simply states things in terms of order.
-Man or “Adam” created first and “then Eve.”
-Women designated as preachers, pastors, or elders within a church completely ignores the creation account.
e. One of the reasons that a literal interpretation of Genesis has been under scrutiny within the conservative circles of the church.
f. The issue of headship and submission within marriage links here as well.
g. Likewise, there is headship and submission within the Trinity or Godhead.
-Christ is the “head” of the church (Col. 1:18).
However, this same Christ is also submissive to His Father.
ESV 1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that athe head of every man is Christ, bthe head of a wife1 is her husband, and cthe head of Christ is God.
- There is no threat to the Deity or honor due Christ, which exist within his subornation role under his Father.
3. Finally, there is the design argument.
a. Argued from what happened at the fall of man in Genesis 3.
b. This too is straightforward when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden.
ESV 1 Timothy 2:14 and Adam was not deceived, but athe woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
c. This verse is not placing the responsibility of the fall of man on Eve. On the woman.
d. Scripture over and over again says otherwise. This was the fall of Adam!
ESV Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as asin came into the world through one man, and bdeath through sin, and cso death spread to all men because dall sinned--
ESV 1 Corinthians 15:22 For aas in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
e. Paul’s use of the word “deceived” makes his point (cf. 1 Tim. 2:14).
-Paul’s second use of “deceived” compared his first “deceived” is of note. The second being aorist passive “wholly deceived.”
f. Adam (standing by) with the posture of follower rather than a leader.
g. This passivity was what the Enemy exploited.
-What made them vulnerable.
-Not acting within their creative design or one-flesh relationship.
What does this mean for the church?
- Spiritual authority and leadership within the church is male.
- 1 Timothy 3:1-2 says that “the office of overseer…is the husband of one wife.”
- The “office” meant to protect the church.
- To preach and to guard sound doctrine and to refute false doctrine.
ESV 2 Timothy 1:14 By the Holy Spirit awho dwells within us, guard uthe good deposit entrusted to you.
ESV 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; areprove, rebuke, and bexhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Titus says the same for the same office called “elder.”
ESV Titus 1:9 He must ahold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in bsound1 doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
- When God’s design is if flipped (women as pastors), error and compromise will follow.
- This has been the case throughout church history.
- Cults (Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science).
- You will see aberrant hyper-Christian movements with women figureheads.
- Let me be quick to say, false teachers are not only women.
- Bible predominately sites men as false teachers.
- Who appear fine, who are dangerous, in error, and not qualified for the office.
- With media platforms, leading people astray, scam artists.
[Outline part 2]
“Where does this leave women within the church?” Personally and practically?
- The Bible is replete with examples and exhortations clearly stating women play an equally strong and impactful role within the church.
- There is an apologizing tone being struck by Christian leaders within the church for marginalizing women in the church.
- While I am certain there is warrant for this - I want to allow Scripture to speak – taking an honest look at what Scriptures says about womanhood and service in the Body
- Womanhood is a creation of God so our true source of understanding is the Bible.
1. Scripture explicitly states that women as spiritually equal to men.
a. We remember Eve, Deborah, Rahab, Hannah, Ruth, Esther, Anna, Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, Lydia, or Phoebe.
b. Remarkable women or serve as great examples.
c. The prayers of Hannah and Mary the mother of Jesus alone speak to the depth of theological capacity and responsibility women wield!
Remember Aquilla and Priscilla.
ESV Acts 18:24-26 Now a Jew named aApollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, bcompetent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in athe way of the Lord. And bbeing fervent in spirit,1 he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only cthe baptism of John.26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when aPriscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him bthe way of God more accurately.
Remember Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother affirmed in leading Timothy to Christ!
ESV 2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of ayour sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and byour mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
2. Men and women within the Body of Christ all possess the same spiritual rights and privileges.
ESV Galatians 3:28-29 aThere is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave1 nor free, bthere is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And aif you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, bheirs according to promise.
a. Women have the same access to God! Same intimacy.
b. Same access to the Word of God and fellowship within Christ’s body the church.
c. Women have the same spiritual gifts of the Spirit that are present today.
The issue for men and women is not a matter of gifting but of where to use them.
d. Scripture tells us that women are to be listened to!
ESV 1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ahusbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker bvessel, since they are heirs with you1 of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
e. Whether young or old, married or single.
f. Women, who are married to an unbeliever are called to endure this providence and to be a witness (1 Cor. 7:10; 1 Pet. 3:1-2).
g. Women (as for men) who are not married or not currently married are called to steward this freedom from distraction for the Kingdom (1 Cor. 7:7-8).
3. Some women should be set apart for service as “deacons” and widows indeed (Rom. 16:1; 1 Tim. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:3, 9-10).
ESV 1 Timothy 3:11 aTheir wives likewise must1 be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, bfaithful in all things.
ESV Romans 16:1-4 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant1 of the church at aCenchreae,2 that you amay welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.3 Greet aPrisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.
4. The importance of women teaching women within the church should not be understated.
ESV Titus 2:1-6 But as for you, teach what accords with asound1 doctrine.2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, asound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.3 aOlder women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, bnot slanderers cor slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,5 to be self-controlled, apure, bworking at home, kind, and csubmissive to their own husbands, dthat the word of God may not be reviled.
6 Likewise, urge athe younger men to be self-controlled.
a. As important as men training men, Paul makes equal emphasis for women to be training women!
-As crucial as it is for younger men to be self-controlled, “the young women” need direction from experienced mature women.
-Women need to know the Word of God and be bold enough to give it out.
b. To train, mentor, guide, to teach. Discipleship and teaching is always for men and for women.
Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s Magnificat theologically richness was not something she made up on the spot.
- This is overflow of spiritual depth built in the heart of a young teenaged girl who would carry, give birth to, and raise the Messiah.
ESV Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said, a"My bsoul cmagnifies the Lord, 47 aand my yspirit rejoices in dGod my Savior,48 for ahe has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations bwill call me blessed;49 for ahe who is mighty bhas done great things for me, and choly is his name.
50 And ahis mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51 aHe has shown strength with his arm; bhe has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;52 ahe has brought down the mighty from their thrones band exalted those of humble estate;53 he has filled athe hungry with good things, and the rich bhe has sent away empty.54 He has ahelped bhis servant Israel, cin remembrance of his mercy,
55 aas he spoke to our fathers, bto Abraham and to his offspring forever."
5. Women were esteemed by Christ and in the early church.
a. Jesus showed equal compassion and care to men and women (and children).
-Christ’s estimation of women was evident in how he respectfully interacted with, taught, blessed, and defended them.
I believe it was Mary Madeline who anointed Christ’s feet with her tears and ointment at Simon the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36-39).
ESV Luke 7:47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, awhich are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."
6. Women followed Jesus:
ESV Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward he went on athrough cities and villages, proclaiming and bbringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,2 and also asome women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: bMary, called Magdalene, cfrom whom seven demons had gone out,
3 and aJoanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them1 out of their means.
a. The first person Jesus revealed himself to after raising from death was Mary (Mary Magdalene).
b. God’s Word esteems the Proverb’s 31 woman. If you understand “King Lemuel” as another name for Solomon then Solomon was referring to his mother, “Bathsheba.”
7. The church is where women are to be respected as “mothers” and “sisters in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2).
a. Bearing and raising children in the Lord (as the Lord allows) is both beautiful and spiritual sanctifying for all! (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15).
8. The church is a place where the Body of Christ worships God together.
Remember the 120 gathered in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit to descend?
ESV Acts 1:14 All these awith one accord bwere devoting themselves to prayer, together with cthe women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and dhis brothers.1
So, back to Hebrews 11 and to “Sarah.”
“What makes her the hero of faith?”
“Her perfect track record and obedient life?” Actually quite the contrary!
[Outline part 3]
“What makes Sarah a Hero of the Faith?”
1. Sarah was a sinner
The account of Sarah’s life begins when she is 65 years old. Abraham is 75.
- Practical nomads in modern day retirement age.
- Not completely young even in the patriarchal age.
- Sarah is still very beautiful as the most powerful leader in Egypt, Pharaoh demanded her to join his harem.
As we learned last time, Abraham and Sarah were raised in Ur of the Chaldeans.
- Contemporary period which “Job” lived.
- Ur was located within the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
- Southern Iraq and possibly the same region of pre-flood Garden of Eden.
- Paganized yet sophisticated culture.
- 140 miles from where the Tower of Babel was constructed.
ESV Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Long ago, ayour fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and bthey served other gods.
We learned last time that Abraham and Sarah left Ur under the Lord’s sovereign intervention and the leadership of Terah to go to Canaan. For some reason their journey was paused and they “settled in Haran” (Gen. 11:31). 350 miles above Canaan along the fertile crescent.
Genesis 12 is the first record of God promising to “make of [Abraham] a great nation and in the context of this promise, Genesis 11:30 has stated “Sarai was barren; [and] she had no child.”
- The phrase, “she had no child” implies Sarah’s longing for a child.
- The LORD’s promise and Sarah being barren was driving her temptations.
- Terah died (Gen. 12:32) and they and their party sojourned throughout Canaan but Genesis 12:10 says there came a “famine in the land” providentially pushing them south to Egypt.
- While there, Abraham, knowing Sarah is beautiful, believing Pharaoh would kill him to have her decides to pass Sarah off as his sister.
ESV Genesis 12:10-20 Now athere was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance,12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they awill kill me, but they will let you live.13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake."14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.17 But the LORD aafflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?19 Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go."20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
- In Genesis 15:1-7 the LORD restates his promise to Abraham.
ESV Genesis 15:1-6 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: a"Fear not, Abram, I am byour shield; your reward shall be very great."2 But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue1 childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"3 And Abram said, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and aa member of my household will be my heir."4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: "This man shall not be your heir; ayour very own son1 shall be your heir."5 And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and anumber the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, b"So shall your offspring be."6 And ahe believed the LORD, and bhe counted it to him as righteousness.
In Genesis 15:12 the LORD caused Abraham to fall into “a deep sleep” (as deep as Adam’s sleep when forming Eve out of Adam’s rib), and made a unilateral covenant with Abraham.
- This is going to happen even with his “offspring” who will be enslaved “afflicted for four hundred years” in Egypt! (Gen. 15:13).
- This promise and prediction - projected in terms length of time while containing very precisely detailed fulfillment.
In Genesis 16, Sarah now 75 years old, no doubt hearing the certainty of this promise, impetuously takes matters into her own hands!
ESV Genesis 16:1-6 aNow Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was bHagar.2 And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children1 by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.3 So, after Abram ahad lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, ashe looked with contempt on her mistress.15 And Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May athe LORD judge between you and me!"6 But Abram said to Sarai, "Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please." Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
“What is the fallout?” Sarah despised Hagar and her husband.
- Enraged! Sarah in an outburst of anger all but pronounces a curse on Abraham! (Gen. 16:5).
ESV Proverbs 30:21-23 Under athree things ithe earth trembles; under bfour it cannot bear up:
22 aa slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is bfilled with food;23 aan unloved woman when she bgets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress.
- Ismael is born and a race is begun where we trace back false religion, horrific tensions, and wars that exist to this day!
13 years pass and Sarah is now between 89 years old.
- She had lived in Canaan 24 years and the LORD once again renews his covenant with Abraham (now 99 years old)!
- With age, the reality of Sarah’s inability to conceive.
- Her despair grew.
- Her internal struggle to believe God’s promise grew.
- But so did the LORD’s renewal of his promise!
ESV Genesis 17:1-8 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty;1 walk before me, and be ablameless,2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and amay multiply you greatly."3 Then Abram afell on his face. And God said to him,
4 "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be athe father of a multitude of nations.5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,1 but ayour name shall be Abraham,2 bfor I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make ayou into nations, and bkings shall come from you.7 And I will aestablish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, bto be God to you and to your offspring after you.8 And aI will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and bI will be their God."
Now Abraham is called “the father of a multitude of nations” and now Sarah herself is included in this covenant!
ESV Genesis 17:15-16 And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah1 shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will agive1 you a son by her. I will bless her, and bshe shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her."
Sarai which means “my princess” is now Sarah which means “princess.”
- This change reveals like Abraham, her name is unlimited in that she is likewise to be an ancestor of faith in the true God.
The next verse, Genesis 17:17 reveals Abraham’s faith being manifest in his laughter!
ESV Genesis 17:17 Then Abraham afell on his face band laughed and said to himself, "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
- Abraham through incredulous accepts that this is going to happen!
“What about Sarah?”
- Again, Sarah had quite a climb to be an example of faith!
- Raised a pagan unbeliever, complicit in lying twice (25 years later, Gen. 20, she lies again to Abimelech), giving her husband to bigamy and sexually immorality, disrespectful, embittered, jealous, and abusive.
- Who is Sarah?
Hebrews 11:11 tells us Sarah did the one thing anyone and everyone must do! She believed! Redeeming your life comes one way, “By Faith!”
“How many times does the LORD restate the Gospel to us?” We run, we deny, we fight against it. Nevertheless, the hound of heaven pursues us!
2. Sarah was a believer
ESV Hebrews 11:11 By faith aSarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered bhim faithful who had promised.
- This verse is amazing in how succinctly it ties together God’s sovereign powerful precise rule with a struggling and often-stubborn woman’s weak faith, bringing about unspeakable ends!
- God willed his promise all along. It was going to happen but God gets glory by our mustard seed sized, infinitesimally small faith.
“Where and did Sarah exercise faith?”
In Genesis 18 the LORD visits Abraham with Angels.
ESV Genesis 18:1-3 And the LORD appeared to him by the aoaks1 of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. aWhen he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth
3 and said, "O Lord,1 if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.
- Abraham desires to show hospitality to them!
6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, "Quick! Three seahs1 of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes."7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly.8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.9 They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is ain the tent."10 The LORD said, "I will surely return to you aabout this time next year, and bSarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Gen 18:6-10 ESV
- Sarah was obviously in earshot while they ate and talked.
- Sarah hearing this promise one final time elicited her response.
- The same response Abraham had had in Genesis 17:17. Laughter!
11 Now aAbraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.12 aSo Sarah laughed to herself, saying, b"After I am worn out, and cmy lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"13 The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'14 aIs anything too hard1 for the LORD? bAt the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."15 But Sarah denied it,1 saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh." Gen 18:11-15 ESV
Instead of Sarah’s laughter being understood as shear doubt, based on the point made by Hebrews 11:11, we should understand her laughter as climbing faith!
- Why it says, Sarah “laughed inside!”
- Why she “denied it. Saying, ‘I did not laugh!”
(i.e. Mary the mother of Jesus pondering in her heart, Luke 2:19).
- Sarah knew she was dealing directly with the LORD!
- Why the LORD confirmed what he knew was going on inside of her.
- “No, but you did laugh!”
- Sarah was grasping the reality of being 90 and that this was really happening!
- Laughter mingled with dread, guilt, fear, and joy!
This is our model of real faith!
“What happens when you believe?” Hebrews 11:12 tells us.
ESV Hebrews 11:12 Therefore from one man, and ahim as good as dead, were born descendants bas many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
- We are the “descendants as many as the stars…as many as the innumerable grains of sand” (v. 12).
- We are the fulfillment of God’s great promise!
- We are invited into this same nomad’s journey.
- Not perfect by any stretch but never letting go of the promise of the Gospel.
- A life redeemed, “By faith!”
Whether you are a man, “as good as dead” (v. 12) or a woman who is “worn out” (Gen. 18:12) --- one answer that must summarize your life.
We shall live “by faith!”
This is the LORD’s answer to men and women in the church!