Grace For The Journey
Yesterday we looked at the opening verses of chapter 11, verses 1 through 3, and spent some time looking at the definition of faith, given in verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for (not uncertain hope as the word is often used today, but certainty of that for which we yearn), the evidence of things not seen.” We talked about . . .
The Christian faith being an objective faith,
Not a nebulous “leap in the dark” faith,
But a faith in a real object,
The Lord Jesus Christ
As revealed in
God’s Word, the Bible.
It is by faith the writer says in verse 3 that leads us to, “. . . understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” God called all things into existence, creating all things, ex nihilo, out of nothing. The author says “by faith” we understand this.
The Christian world view, like all other world views, is accepted by faith. Science is based on empirical evidence, evidence including things observed. No one was there to observe the origin of creation. All world views are accepted by faith. The Christian faith also maintains, however, that God was there. God was there and He is not silent. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.
The writer then provides a great catalogue of people from the Old Testament who lived by faith. He provides them as examples of those who lived by faith. We are not to moralize them, suggesting that they are ideal examples of virtue. This is the problem with sermons like, “Be like Abraham, or “Be like Noah.” They were not ideal examples of morality. As I have noted before . . .
Even the best of men is a man at best,
All men and women are sinners.
They are provided here as examples of those who lived by faith, looking forward by faith to the coming of One who would redeem them from their moral failures. In other words . . .
They lived by faith in the Gospel.
In fact, it seems the writer has intentionally placed them here in chronological order such that their looking forward by faith builds in anticipation from one person to the next, historically. and sequentially through the verses of chapter 11, reaching the culmination of redemption in chapter 12 verse 2, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
If the believers in verses 4-38 are meant to inspire the Hebrews to look forward and to live by faith, then these same men and women in verses 4-38 will inspire us, too. We begin with the earliest examples of faith, before even the formation of the nation of Israel: Abel, Enoch, and Noah, from creation to flood in verses 4-7. We will walk back through this passage and see what it teaches us about having “faith in things not yet seen.”
Verse 4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” The writer recalls the life of Abel from Genesis 4. in that passage we read about both Abel and his brother Cain’s bringing an offering to God. Abel brought an offering from his flock, an animal sacrifice, and Cain brings an offering from the field, a harvest offering. God looks with favor upon Abel, but does not look with favor upon Cain. Why?
Was Abel’s offering better because it foreshadowed the sacrificial system? Perhaps. After all, the writer of Hebrews has written much about the symbolic importance of animal sacrifice as the means by which it points forward to the greater sacrifice of Christ. But is this the real reason God looked with favor upon Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s? Was Cain’s offering from the harvest an inferior offering? This hardly seems so. The Scripture actually says elsewhere that God is pleased to receive the first fruits of the harvest and demands the first fruits of the harvest as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. That cannot be it then.
Given the theological point of chapter 11 and the recurring phrase “by faith” used repetitively by the writer to underscore faith’s importance, we may reason why Abel’s sacrifice is regarded as “a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” not so much because of the offering itself, but because of the attitude and spirit of the one bringing the offering. It was brought “by faith” and true faith offers our very best (cf Matthew 23:35 and 1John 3:12).
Cain also worshiped and brought an offering before God but is not referred to in this verse as his brother Abel, obtaining witness that he was “righteous.” We need not be surprised by this as there are many in the average church today who may feel as though they are doing God a favor bringing offerings to Him but are themselves not righteous, not living by faith, true faith offering our very best to the Lord.
Verse 5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him;’ for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” The background of this reference is found in Genesis 5:22 and 24 and you will note that both contain the phrase that Enoch “walked with God,” a way to describe Enoch’s faith as a believer who loved and enjoyed fellowship with His Creator. Enoch never really died. He was just taken. I love the way the writer puts it in Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not …” It could be that his obituary read: “Enoch, the man who was not.” Enoch needed no tombstone. No grave. He was just taken. He was not.
He walked with God here
Continued walking with God there.
Charles Spurgeon has said, “One might desire a change of company if he walked with anyone else, but to walk with God for three centuries was so sweet that the patriarch kept on with his walk until he walked beyond time and space, and walked into paradise, where he is still marching on in the same divine company.”
Verse 6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” To be saved we must believe that “He is,” that He exists, an echo of verse 3: “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God …” We also believe “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” We must believe that He will do as He says, that He will grant eternal life and reward our faithfulness. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
While no man naturally seeks God, we may be assured that if we are seeking Him, seeking Him as a result of His granting to us the grace of His spiritual empowerment, then our search for God will be successful if we look to Him by faith. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Verse 7 says. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” The background for Noah begins in Genesis 6. Because of sin in the world, God planned to destroy the world by flood. He commissioned Noah to build an ark for the saving of his household. The Bible says that Noah is “moved with godly fear” and builds the ark. He had faith in things not yet seen. There was not as yet a sea upon which to sail, not a cloud in the sky. There had not even any been rain. What did happen is that Noah is ridiculed by his neighbors at Noah’s faith in the unseen.
The writer says it was Noah’s faith “by which he condemned the world.” We too “condemn the world” when our holiness causes others to feel uncomfortable. I recall a statement I heard some years ago; I do not recall the source, but it is: “When we enter the room there ought to be a hush that falls upon certain kinds of conversations.” Our influence matters. Not in a judgmental, sanctimonious way, but in a holy way.
Because of Noah’s faith he “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” From the very dawn of history, we see that man is saved by grace through faith. Man receives righteousness by way of faith, belief, and trust in God’s promises. All of God’s people, all throughout time, are all saved the same way: by grace through faith. Believers of the Old Testament looked forward by faith to a Savior who would come, believers in the New Testament – along with us – look backward by faith to a Savior who has come.
Building again upon our living by faith and not by sight, how Christians live above “see” level, I want us to consider four questions by way of application of our passage this morning.
What Do I Need to Change in My Life?
1) Do I Live For Temporary (Seen) Or Eternal (Unseen) Rewards? 10:34-35; 11:6.
What a contrast between Cain and Abel. Cain had a short-sighted, worldly view of life and what God desired. How blind and deficient in understanding to live for this world only! Cain only had a worldly perspective – what he wanted and what pleased him! Abel, on the other hand, had faith in things not yet seen! He looked ahead by faith to a place where he would live not just for 20 years, 30 years, but for eternity.
Do you believe that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him?” Faith is the ability to so apprehend, so believe, and so receive, that it is as though we see it now. We live as though God has already done it.
If gratitude is thanking God after He does it,
Then faith is thanking God before He does it.
2) How will I be remembered when I am gone? 11:4.
Verse 4 says. “… he being dead still speaks.” (11:4) This is what the writer says about Abel! We need to hear him! What about you? When you are dead how will you “still speak?” At your funeral when the so-called “eulogy” is given, what will be said? The word eulogy means “good and beneficial words.” Will good words be shared at your funeral? If not, what needs to change? Of what do you need to repent? Let go of that sin and turn to Christ.
3) Does My Testimony Please God? 11:5.
The Bible says Enoch “waked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24) and therefore had a testimony that pleased God. What about you? Does your testimony – the way you live – only please yourself or only please others? Remember: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.
If you do not please God,
It really does not matter
Who else you please.
Repent of sin and turn to Christ.
4) Am I “Moved With Godly Fear?” 11:7.
Verse 7 says Noah was “divinely warned of things not yet seen.” God has also “divinely warned” us “of things not yet seen.” Noah could see not just reward, but also judgment. He believed the prophetic Word of God. Are you “moved with godly fear?” The writer will say in Hebrews 12:29, that “our God is a consuming fire.” There is a judgment to come, a judgment upon our sin. Noah’s faith meant he was saved from the judgment. He was an “heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Here is the wondrous doctrine
Of justification by faith! The
Imputed righteousness of Christ.
All God’s people are all saved the same way: by grace trough faith in Christ alone. Old Testament saints looked forward by faith in a Christ who would come, we look back by faith in a Christ who has come. But all are saved in Christ alone.
The Bible says in Philippians 3:9, “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
It is this imputed righteousness of Christ alone.
We stand in the imputed righteousness of Christ
Oh, how we need to remember the work of Christ, His body crucified on the cross, and His blood shed for forgiveness of our sin. We remember that Jesus lived a life of righteousness, died a substitutionary death in payment for our sins, and conquered death by rising from the grave. We need to remember these things and we proclaim these things every day as we live by the Good News of the Gospel.
We that God for Jesus Christ, the One who died for us. The One who is coming back to us. We thank God that because of Jesus we can be forgiven of our sin and live in a way that draws people closer to You. We thank God for the forgiveness of our sins. We love Him and thank Him for the hope we have in Christ alone.
“In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
No guilt in life . . . no fear in death!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”