By Faith, Pt. 2
Hebrews 11:4-6 • Jeff Crotts •
Last week’s journey into Hebrews 11 began making the point: The only way anyone can connect with God is “by faith.”
- Without the kind of faith defined here, it is “impossible to please God” (v. 6).
- You cannot know, actually be praying to, or truly be worshipping the One true God if you do not have what is defined, described, and displayed here.
Chapter 11 “The Faith Chapter”, “The Hall of Faith”, “The Honor Roll of Old Testament Saints” or “Heroes of the Faith.”
ESV Hebrews 11:38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
- Men and women who seem like old friends all had this faith and lived in light of it to the end.
- The point of this chapter is engaging this common treasure. “Faith.”
“Do you know to have true faith?”
- The writer wants to reassure them that they do, assuming we resonate with these vignettes recorded for them.
- “Do you not have this assurance?”
- The substance of heaven’s promise in your heart?
- “Do you have the conviction or certainty of unseen realities?”
- The heroes of Hebrews 11.
- God creating everything “by His word!” (v. 3).
- A heart of faith sees Truth as reality!
Tracing each hero’s account, through 40 verses, there is this cadence.
- Verse to verse – back to back - “seeing” and “obeying.”
- By faith, they see and by faith, they obey!
Verse 6, drills deeper detailing these two dynamics.
- First, no faith means no connection to God.
- Without faith, it is “impossible” to connect and “impossible to draw near to God!”
- Real faith simply fulfills two requisites.
- Believing God exists and believing God's rewards.
- “Believing” (synonymous with exercising faith) has to have an object.
- The Israelites, of the Old Covenant, drew near to God through priests and by sacrifice.
- “Drawing Near to God” was the pinnacle goal of all Ceremonial Worship.
- Entering in with the assurance of forgiveness was the chief concern.
- Faith draws near through our High Priest Jesus and his blood alone.
- By the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, we know God exists.
- God’s covenant name established in Exodus 3 is “I AM.”
- He is the self-existent One.
- The One true God (Dt. 6).
- We know this “I AM” through the Son!
- He who is God, who has revealed himself to us in our hearts!
- Jesus is the I AM, he “exists!”
- Without this object of our faith, we believe in something else.
- Not believing God exists is the same as calling God a liar (1 John 5:10).
- Romans 1:25 makes clear everyone is a worshipper, worshipping the creature or Creator.
- Self, someone else, or something else. Or, Creator.
- Christians, “by faith” worship God.
Second, Christians “by faith” know this one true God, “rewards those who seek him” (v. 6).
- The object of saving faith is God and His Gospel.
- Saving faith believes in God as Savior through the blood of Christ.
- Our faith is alive with the context of this saving relationship!
Christian faith both “sees” that God “exists” and “obeys” by submitting to receive the reward promised to us!
- These two dynamics vindicate “faith.”
- Our heroes all embraced the unseen God tasting heaven’s promise pursuing this Prize though life! (cf. v. 2)
First three antediluvian heroes of the faith
Antediluvian, the time period between the fall of man and the Genesis flood.
- These heroes are pre-flood.
- All prepatriarchal, before Abraham.
This group is important because they represent real “faith” from the beginning.
- In the history of humankind, faith was the immediate solution to man’s relationship, broken by sin!
The question is, “Why is the first hero of faith Abel and not Adam and Eve?”
- Adam and Eve had personally seen God, walked and talked directly with God.
- Abel is Scripture’s first example where someone saw God by faith.
- And, acted “by faith.”
1. Abel (v. 4)
“Why was Abel’s sacrifice more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s sacrifice?” (v. 4).
First, answer this question from Genesis 4.
ESV Genesis 4:1-11 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten1 a man with the help of the LORD."2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of athe fruit of the ground,4 and Abel also brought of athe firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD bhad regard for Abel and his offering,5 but afor Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.6 The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?7 aIf you do well, will you not be accepted?1 And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. bIts desire is for2 you, but you must rule over it."8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother.1 And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and akilled him.9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, a"I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"10 And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood ais crying to me from the ground.11 And now ayou are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.
- The Genesis narrative taken by itself leaves things mysterious regarding what God expected from these two brothers and their two sacrifices.
- Two brothers born from the same two parents.
- Cain born first and Abel sometime later (How much later?).
St. Augustine explains the difference between the two in his famous work, City of God.
“Cain was the first-born, and he belonged to the city of men; after him was born Abel, who belonged to the city of God.”
- Augustine saw each as representatives of two radically different approaches to religion and to God.
- The way of Cain and the way of Abel.
- Unbelief and of self-righteousness, man-made religion.
- Two cities, two streams.
- Two ways of either faith or unbelief.
- The way of Cain and the way of Abel.
ESV Jude 1:11 Woe to them! For they walked in athe way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain bto Balaam's error and cperished in Korah's rebellion.
- False religion is any religion saying you can get to God another way!
- Different than “by faith!”
- False ways candy-coated with false promises!
Jesus, by contrast, referred to Cain’s brother as “righteous or innocent Abel” (Matt. 23:35).
- Abel was “commended as righteous” - “by faith” opposite of Cain (v. 4).
ESV 1 John 3:12 We should not be like aCain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? bBecause his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous.
These two paths originate all the back to Genesis 4.
- Backing up just a little earlier in Genesis 3 gives context where God deals with Adam and Eve after their sin.
ESV Genesis 3:20-24 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.1 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.22 Then the LORD God said, a"Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand band take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--"23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden ato work the ground from which he was taken.24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the acherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
What appears merely as a punishment is also a mercy.
- The “garments of skins” that “clothed them” acted not merely as covers for their nakedness – shame - but also their sin.
- Symbols of atonement!
- Blood-shedding was necessary.
- The truth principle of substitutionary atonement, (cf. Hebrews 9:22) had immediately come into effect. “…without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
- Death for sin was necessary and death for sin was established.
Second, the godhead expelled (drove out) Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
- A “cherubim and a flaming sword.”
- Cherubim were the same creatures symbolized as protecting the mercy seat (Ex. 25:18).
Cherubim was keeping Adam and Eve from “the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24).
- Guarding them against this fruit, which would have suspended them in a pitifully cursed condition.
- The point is that for Adam and Eve, promised death (“you shall surely die” Gen. 2:17) was actually also a grace.
This began the practice of sacrificial offerings established from the skin coverings.
- Adam and Eve were both highly intelligent.
- Naming animals, devising a creative vocabulary, sons grasping animal husbandry and farming, tools and music and instruments established.
- So we assume, God had revealed a sacrificial system.
Genesis 4:3 demarcates the time to sacrifice with the phrase, “In the course of time…” (v. 3).
- Literally, “at the end of a time period.”
- The designated time God called for sacrifice.
- Cain and Abel, (highly intelligent) conforming to their parents, practiced sacrificing for some one hundred years.
- Cain who was 129 years old at this time.
It is not clear that Cain’s offering being “the fruit of the ground” rather than an animal is the chief reason it was not acceptable.
- After all, Cain, by trade was “a worker of the ground” (v. 2).
- The issue comes back to the heart.
If Cain and Abel heard, direct revelation from God to offer a blood sacrifice, there is reason to believe Cain still would have offered “vegetation.”
- Cain’s heart is exposed by Abel’s offering.
“The firstborn of his flock” - “fat portions”
- Meaning, Abel’s best.
ESV Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with athe firstfruits of all your produce;
ESV 2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, anot reluctantly or under compulsion, for bGod loves a cheerful giver.
Faith is never based on better performance but on attitude.
- Abel gave out of the overflow of what he had, and Cain did not.
Verse 5 contrasts Abel’s worshipping heart with Cain’s hardening heart.
- Cain was angry.
- Verse 7 is God’s gracious confrontation with Cain.
“If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (v. 7).
- The fundamental issue was not the kind of sacrifice.
- God would have called to correct the offering.
- The issue was Cain’s heart.
- Cain’s rejection of God’s warning is personified as a Lion crouching in the shadows waiting to pounce.
Sin’s progression toward darkness was a process.
- Cain did not “rule over” or “mortify” his sin.
- So he set Abel up and murdered him “in the field” (v. 8).
God is pictured as human asking Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
- Exposing Cain’s guilt, the LORD asks, “What have you done?”
“The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (v. 10).
This is the bible’s first murder.
- This was a “new sin.”
- “Up to this time, no man had died so that Cain should know how to kill.” [Barclay]
“Where did this idea even enter Cain’s mind?” Satan whispered this idea into Cain’s ear so that Cain would introduce murder into this world.
- All rooted in envy.
- After Cain killed his brother, he must have hidden or buried the body.
- However, the LORD saw it all.
“Your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (v. 10).
- This is the guilt of sin!
- Verse 11 begins Cain’s curse.
Anyone who does not exercise saving faith comes under an eternal curse.
Pastor Kent Hughes describes a famous portrait of Cain’s slaughter.
- William Blake depicts the murder.
- In the background lies Abel’s muscular body, pale grey in death.
- In the foreground flees Cain.
- His body is moving away as he sprints by, but his torso is twisted back so that he faces the observer.
- His eyes are wide in terror, his mouth gaping in wrenching agony.
- Moreover, his hands are stopping up his ears in an attempt to shut out the wail of his brother’s blood screaming from the ground.
In Genesis, Abel’s blood cries out in retribution.
- Back to Hebrews 11, Abel’s example of faith “speaks” as our witness.
“And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (v. 4).
- Scottish theologian, James Moffat wrote, “Death is never the last word in the life of a righteous man.”
It is not insignificant that the first human example of faith is a worshipper!
ESV John 4:23 But athe hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father bin spirit and ctruth, for the Father dis seeking such people to worship him.
ESV Romans 12:1 aI appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, bto present your bodies cas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2
It is significant that the first person of this great hall of faith is a worshipper.
ESV Philippians 3:3 For awe are the circumcision, bwho worship cby the Spirit of God1 and dglory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh--
ESV Hebrews 13:15 aThrough him then let us continually offer up ba sacrifice of praise to God, that is, cthe fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Hebrews 11 is not the last time we will hear of Abel.
- Hebrews 12:24 says Abel’s blood speaks also speaks to us! This worshipper’s death was in faith.
The unseen object of this faith was something better than Abel’s blood.
Jesus’ “…sprinkled blood…speaks a better word than the blood of Abel!” (Heb. 12:24).
- This blood covers all our sins!
2. Enoch (v. 5)
Another mysterious figure. Our second long-lived antediluvian, Enoch.
- It has been said, that in English, Genesis 5:21-24 devotes only 51 words to describe Enoch (depending on the translation).
ESV Genesis 5:21-24 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch awalked with God1 after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.24 Enoch awalked with God, and he was not,1 bfor God took him.
Enoch is an example of faith.
- He was 65 years old when his son, Methuselah, was born.
- Enoch walked with God (5:22, 24) for 300 years after Methuselah was born.
- At age 365, God literally removed him from the earth so that Enoch never died!
[Kent Hughes] Think of Enoch’s three and a half centuries of long life on earth.
Compare this span to someone being born in 1627-the year Salem was founded, by the Pilgrims, on Massachusetts Bay.
Span forward to 1992 with all the history in between,
So, the whole world finds out about Enoch’s departure in one instant via satellite cable communication.
By the way, Methuselah, born when Enoch was 65 in 1692, would not die until the 27th century in AD 2661 at the ripe age of 969.
Some theorize that the earth’s pre-flood atmospheric conditions (canopy of water – pre-rain blocking the sun’s UV rays) were conducive for a longer lifespan.
- The negative effects of our fallen world had not progressed like today allowing richer health etc. Not sure.
The author of Hebrews is not making Enoch’s long lifespan his point.
- The issue is that Enoch did not die.
- Hebrews 11:5 makes this point five different ways in a single verse.
- Enoch is the only break in the chapter from the repeated refrain, “and he died” repeated throughout Genesis 5.
Elijah would be taken in a whirlwind; the resurrected Christ would ascend (Acts 1:9). We as believers anticipate being taken alive at the rapture (1 Thess. 4:17).
ESV 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be acaught up together with them bin the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so cwe will always be with the Lord.
The writer did not expect the readers to escape death, so the point is not missing death but receiving what is promised on the other side, reward!
- This is what everyone living “by faith” has in common with Enoch.
- Enoch escaped death altogether and believers triumph over death when raised from the dead.
Enoch “was commended as having pleased God” (v. 5).
- The way Enoch “pleased God” was “by faith.”
- The emphasis is that God rewarded Enoch by sparing him from death reminding us that it is “worth it” to serve the Lord.
“What does it mean that Enoch walked with God?”
According to Genesis 6, humankind was in an unparalleled downward spiral.
ESV Genesis 6:5 aThe LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every bintention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
ESV Genesis 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence.
12 And God asaw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, bfor all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
Times were hostile. So, what was Enoch’s assignment? We actually have a clue from the book, Jude.
ESV Jude 1:14 It was also about these that Enoch, athe seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, b"Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 ato execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have bcommitted in such an ungodly way, and of all cthe harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
- From Genesis to Jude (end times), Enoch’s sermon still speaks!
- Enoch preached but as he preached he “pleased God” (v. 5).
- Enoch’s life backed up his message, doubtless under intense persecution.
This is a great power of example.
It has been said that St. Francis once called to one of his young monks, “Let’s go down to the town to preach.” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, quickly obeyed. They passed through the principal streets, turned down many of the byways and alleys, made their way out to some of the suburbs, and at length returned by a winding route to the monastery gate.
As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention. “You have forgotten, Father, “that we went down to the town to preach!”
“My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!”
- Enoch walked so closely with God and for so long that he just walked right up to heaven.
“His transfer to heaven was not even an interruption” [Weirsbe]
- This is what our resurrection will be.
- Jesus’ return and our home-going is not meant to be scary.
ESV Psalm 116:15 aPrecious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his bsaints.
ESV 1 Corinthians 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For athe trumpet will sound, and bthe dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.