Series on Hebrews, V Superior Privileges C Superior Participation, The Faith of The Old World, Text:11:4-7, Title: Dimensions of Faith

Introduction:

The long list of Old Testament examples in Hebrews 11 is a lesson in the necessity for faith. The original Jewish Christian readers were tempted to defect from Christ. If they went back to Judaism they would be going back to a religion in which the works of the law had become the chief thing. The original vision which had been lost was now to be regained in Christ and the Gospel. They must not forsake it. The author traces the importance of faith down through their history beginning with the old world before the flood and before Israel even existed. Looking at the three examples he gives, Abel, Enoch, and Noah you realize they didn’t have Abraham for their Father; they didn’t have the law of Moses; they didn’t have the levitical priesthood or the sacrifices, or the temple, but they were saved by God through faith. Faith was the essential ingredient. The unique experience of each could be noted. For example the emphasis of Abel’s example is worship, the emphasis of Enoch’s example is walking with God and the emphasis in Noah’s case is on work in building the ark. However each of them worshipped God, walked with God, and worked for God. The basic issue is that faith triumphs over this world because it denies our ability to save ourselves and lays hold of God.  This is illustrated in each of these three dimensions of the lives of Abel, Enoch, and Noah, worship, walk and work.

I Worship in Faith

The story of Noah in Genesis 8 verse 20 says the first thing that Noah did when he came out of the ark with his family and all the creatures that were with him was to build an altar to the Lord. In fact Noah was commanded to take 7 pairs of the clean animals aboard the ark for purposes of food and sacrifice. It was already revealed by God that only certain animals were acceptable for this purpose. Noah was prepared to worship. Nothing is said of Enoch’s worship, but the intimate relationship between Enoch and God requires that like Noah he worshipped God in the prescribed manner . Two people cannot really walk together in intimate fellowship unless they are agreed. Walking together, then, presupposes harmony. If Enoch walked with God, he obviously was in agreement with God. However the essence of worship by faith is illustrated first and foremost in Abel. verse 4, By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock while Cain brought produce that he had grown. The required mode of worship is by blood sacrifice. Cain failed to recognize that you cannot come to God without acknowledging sin and the necessity for a substitute to die in your place. It is true that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin, but God appointed the sacrifice of animals provisionally until Christ the lamb of God should come. Abel’s sacrifice says help me God, have mercy, forgive me and Cain’s does not. True worship only occurs where the worshipper throws himself on God’s mercy in Christ. We must be conscious of God’s holiness, our sin and God’s provision. Non Christian worship and much that passes for Christian worship is not worship at all because it is not done in faith. Faith sees the blood as the way to God and thus recognizes that God is the author of our salvation by grace. This leads to walking with God.

II Walking in Faith

Enoch walked with God. It says so twice in Genesis 5. The Greek translation of the Old Testament from 200 BC translated the word walk “please” which is of course what it says here in Hebrews 11:5 and 6, Enoch pleased God, By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Pleasing and walking mean the same thing here. Now it is evident that Abel and Noah also walked with God because they did what God commanded and. So John tells us in I John 1:6,7, If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. Genesis 6:9 says Noah walked with God. But it is Enoch who is distinguished by this trait because he did not die but was assumed bodily into heaven. His fellowship with God was that intimate. In Genesis 3:9 we are told that God walked in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from the Lord as he was walking because they said we are naked and afraid. If Enoch was not afraid, then the reason is that he must have laid hold of a truth that made him trust God and that truth is that God would forgive through the appointed means and that was sacrifice. The net effect was intimacy. So faith not only worships in the prescribed manner but it issues in the intimacy of our assurance that we are accepted in the beloved. Genuine Faith does not simply meet for worship in the prescribed manner-it becomes a lifestyle that demonstrates communion with God.

III Working in Faith

Noah worked on the ark, but while he was building the ark he was also working by preaching. Peter Refers to Noah as a preacher of righteousness in II Peter 2:5, and Enoch is identified as a prophet and preacher in Jude 14,15, Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Abel suffered an untimely death but it is interesting that the author of Hebrews says, even in his martyrdom, he continues to preach. By faith he still speaks. Enoch lived prior to the flood and so the message he and Noah preached was probably quite similar. The point is that the work of the Lord, the message of his kingdom and rule over rebellious man was being preached. True faith not only worships in the prescribed manner and issues in a life of fellowship with God, but it risks the humiliation and scorn of the world in order to do God’s work.

Conclusion:


The important lesson to these early Jewish Christians, addressed in Hebrews, is that a living acting faith, and not dead works, characterized even the saints who lived before the law was given at Sinai, or their nation had been formed. Faith was always the principle of knowing God. However it was a very specific faith It was a faith based on God’s mercy through sacrifice. It was a life-changing faith, and it was a dangerous faith. We need this challenge as much as they did because we tend to make our Christian faith a procedure for going through the conventional motions. Then we end up being as legalistic as they were instead of being determined in our opposition to the world. Revelation 3:1-6 is a solemn warning that we should not be like those who have an appearance of life, but are like chocolate soldiers that melt in the heat of battle. Jesus says, To the angel of the church in Sardis write:  These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.