In Hebrews 11:4-6, we will look at the honor roll of faith. As we move into these verses, don’t forget that it is because Jesus has opened for us a new and living way to approach God by His one-time sacrifice on the Cross, which we can endure in this race that we are called to. It is by His death, and what it has accomplished, that we can press-on and have a firm assurance of those eternal realities, which are invisible to the outward eye.
By faith, we can look backward and see how faithful God has been. In hope, we look forward and maintain a steadfast hope and faith in Him and in His promises. As we have already seen in Hebrews, He saves us to the uttermost and to the very end. Like the saints that have gone before us, who had a forward-looking faith and won the approval of God, let us follow their example and live by faith to also gain the Lord’s approval in our daily walk.
When we get to Hebrews 13:20-21, we will see the most glorious thing of all. In the New Covenant, in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit has not only put the law in our mind and hearts, but He is ever working in us a disposition to favor it, desire to keep it, and He gives us power to do so:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
In other words, He is talking about someone who has genuine, real conversion that God has put in one’s heart. By the Spirit of God, a desire to do God’s will and please God. If you remember the promise of the New Covenant, everyone in the New Covenant will have a new heart. Jeremiah 24:7:
I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
Secondly, everyone in the New Covenant will have forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 8:12:
FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.
When the sin is removed, the relationship with God is now intact. Then, everyone in the new covenant will have a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. Ezekiel 36:27:
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
At real conversion and when the Spirit of God is in you, you want to do God’s will. Yes, you feel the weakness, that you are vulnerable, that sometimes you are a complete failure, yet, at the same time, God is working in you to will and to do His good pleasure. Everyone in the New Covenant has the law in their heart. Hebrews 8:10:
FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,
AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,
AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE
In the New Covenant community of believers, people would obey God not because they must. God doesn’t want you to believe or obey Him because you must, but because you want to. He has given us the power to obey Him. That is the uniqueness of being a Christian.
Now, we come to this passage on faith, and we have already gained somewhat of an understanding that trials God puts us through are proof that we are indeed sons of God when we come through them. We bare them still wanting to serve God. In those trials, we know that they produce in us something that is firm, steady, and that causes us to endure to the next step and end of the race that God has called us to. Not to go back to the old ways, religious systems, or old philosophies that God has saved us from. Instead, we are filled with hope to press-on and finish what God has started and set before us to go right to the end.
So far, in this great chapter about faith, we have endeavored to wrestle down what is the essence of Biblical faith, which is a faith that rests solely on the word of God, relies entirely on the character of God, and recognizes God’s power to bring to pass all that He has promised. In conclusion, faith is the evidence of that which is not visible now, but what shall become visible by the powerful word of God as God moves through history and concludes His plan of redemption.
Before us, we see the examples of faith. In some ways, the definition is inadequate. I want to see the proof, so let me see your faith by the way you live, the way you speak, by what you do, and by how you think. Let me see that you believe this God and that something is different in your life.
When we come to this passage of Scripture, we will see what it means to have faith, to live by faith, and sometimes to die by faith. At the end, to obtain life. Therefore, the essence of biblical faith bleeds out from the examples given in Hebrews 11. We should take heed also, especially since it is the same kind of what is necessary for us to endure until the end. These are the same kind of people that we are. If we cut them, they would bleed. If we wound them with our words, they would feel hurt. It is the same people, just different times.
If you were to pick an example of Biblical faith, who would you pick? Would you pick Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, Moses, or maybe Job? Well, the question is: where does the author of Hebrews start? The author starts in the book of beginnings, which is Genesis. One commentator said:
Examples are set in historical sequence, to provide an outline of the redemptive purpose of God advancing through the age of promise until at last, in Jesus – faith’s pioneer and perfecter – the age of fulfillment is inaugurated.
God has been working right from the beginning. Not only did He create the world and man, but He has been working with them all along by teaching them, giving His word, communicating with them until today. These examples that he gives are something in which we can look at and say, “I want to be like that. In fact, that’s the way I should be.” Until we wrestle down the meaning and essence of faith, we find that it’s not enough, so let’s see some examples of what it means to have faith and live by faith.
In Hebrews 11:4, we will look at two examples. First, it is Abel. Living by faith is first worshiping God. We are saved to worship, so Abel is the first example, which is an example of a faith that worships God. He worships God in an acceptable manner, not in a self-styled manner or acceptable to you, but in a manner that is pleasing and acceptable to God. Genesis 4:3-5:
So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
Now, Hebrews 11:4 says this:
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
One of the first things he identifies is that by faith, he brought a better sacrifice. Now, what made Abel’s sacrifice to God more, in the sense of superiority, then that of Cain’s? Some have answered that question in this way: Abel gave a blood offering. Blood always stood for life, so Abel gave to God the most precious of possessions, which is life itself. Therefore, Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable before God because it was a living creature.
That may be included, but the core emphasis in Hebrews is that both men had been told what God demanded for a sacrifice, but only Abel accepted that on faith. God demanded a sacrifice of shed blood, the blood of an innocent lamb. However, the focus of our passage is not sacrifice.
In Hebrews, it is Abel’s faith and Cain’s lack of faith. Abel had faith that God would keep His word if he obeyed with the correct sacrifice. However, Cain chose to place his faith in his own efforts, schemes, and way to worship God, which is apart from what God required. Simply, Cain went his own way.
To the world, it looks reasonable to say that Cain had a different way of looking at life, so he took his own path and decided to worship God in his own way, which is not the same of what Abel did. Abel heard the word of God, Abel believed the word of God first, which is where it always starts, and Abel did the word of God. Then, he gained God’s approval because of that.
Even though the Old Testament never specifically mentions Abel’s faith, there is an enduring connection between divine approval and faith. God doesn’t just look at our gifts, but what is behind them. He looks for our confidence and conviction to trust Him even when we don’t have the answers or what the result will be. We know that we can trust what God says.
A person of faith has worked to backup their faith. Abel trusted God before he ever did anything. Many times, that’s what it is when we come to Christ. When we believe, we don’t know everything about the cross, what happened at the cross, and all what God did from Genesis to then. When we believe, we believe that this is the message that saves the soul.
When we step out in faith by the Lord giving us that faith, then we learn everything else and the rest of our life we’re unpacking what God did on the Cross. When we get to heaven, we will learn much more about what God did on the Cross, especially since we’re a bit limited here in this world.
Before anything ever happened, Abel trusted God, and his sacrifice and gifts were marked evidence of his faith. According to Genesis 4:7, Abel did well. Scripture tells us:
“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Abel did that which was well and right in the sight of God. Again, the Apostle John brings it up in 1 John 3:12:
not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
Faith has evidence, and evidence proves someone has been made right with God by obeying the Lord and trusting His word. Being righteous is predicated on the one who has responded to God in faith. Faith proceeds and produces the fruit of faith. Therefore, Abel was declared right by God and had the evidence to prove it.
You say you’re a Christian, so let me see your evidence of what God has done in your life, the difference in your life, and of where the desires of your heart are going. All those things are included when we think about our relationship with God.
Another thing concerning Abel in Hebrews 11:4 is that through the example of his faith, he still speaks. Though very dead for a very long time, we see that the power and duration of a faithful example transcends time. His voice speaks to us through Scripture of the only acceptable way to worship God, which is why it starts with Abel.
That acceptable way is God’s way and no other way, and we come by that sacrifice of blood. We cannot come to God without a sacrifice, and our sacrifice is Jesus Christ. If you can’t come to God without Jesus Christ, then you cannot do it, especially since that is God’s acceptable approach to Him.
Faith is about worship that is directed to God, not worship done to make people feel good, but rather worship that pleases God and that He will approve. We give up our way by faith, so that we may do it God’s way. Being fruitful to God is a powerful testimony. In fact, it may be the most powerful thing you can pass on to your kids, family, and friends. No one can argue with that person who lived for God. Even when they die, people will talk about how they lived for God. They can put on your tombstone, “You lived by faith,” and what a testimony that would be.
If you live by faith, you have a lot of evidence to show people that you believe God, and you believe it against the trends of the world and even against your own education and college where all your professors told you that there was no God. Therefore, Abel’s voice urges us to like faith, so our examples can resonate in life and beyond the grave.
There’s nothing like reading biographies and autobiographies of people who were just faithful through God, and usually through very unusual and different circumstances where they came out the other end shinning brightly. People still write about them and talk about them because they lived by faith. Truly, they were regenerate, born-again, they desired to obey God, did so, and fruit came out of their life.
As a parent, we can fail many times and we can hope that certain things will happen with our kids, but the greatest thing you can do is to just be faithful to God and to live for the Lord, which they cannot argue. They may be able to condemn you with that, but that’s a good thing to be condemned by.
Even though Abel is dead, he still speaks, which is his testimony. When you die, maybe you will still speak as well by the very faith you had in God. That is powerful. Dying as a drunkard, drug abuser, or plain-old sinner is nothing. However, dying for Christ and dying in faith is something. By doing so you are simply saying, “against everything, I believe God.” God worked in you and produced something in you that you could not do yourself.
Now, looking at Hebrews 11:5, it’s about Enoch. I believe there is a progression here. Enoch is someone who lives by faith in walking with God in a pleasing manner. Thus, Abel is someone who lives by faith through worshiping God in an acceptable manner, so for Enoch, living by faith is walking with God in a pleasing manner. Hebrews 11:5:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
Pleasing to God includes close intimacy and fellowship. Faith is described as walking with God in Genesis 5:21, 24:
Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.
24Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
In the Old Testament, the metaphor walk suggests actions. Biblical faith is not a dormant thing. To walk with God, as suggests R. Kent Hughes, means that there must be agreement between those who walk together. The prophet Amos suggested in Amos 3:3:
Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?
Any two people, who come together and walk with each other, must come to agreement. Otherwise, they will be fighting with each other and going in opposite directions. Of course, agreement includes three things. First, it’s destination: are you going to the same place? If you are going to be walking together, you must be heading in the right direction.
Secondly, it’s the same path. If you are going to be walking together, then you must not only be heading in the same direction, but on the same road. If not, there will be great difficulty that takes place. Lastly, it’s done at the same pace, so that you are not running ahead of each other or lagging.
Rather, you are keeping up with each other. In other words, you are staying in step with each other. To walk with God means that there is agreement that you are going to stay in step with God. Enoch, being translated to heaven, did not skip a step with God. The next step he took, he was in heaven.
In addition, pleasing God includes faith that is steadfast, consistent, and forward looking. Genesis 5:22:
Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.
Before the flood, people lived very long, and Enoch lived for three hundred and sixty-five years. Most of us don’t even make it to one hundred years, so Enoch lived three hundred and sixty-five years of righteous living even during terrible times of evil. In fact, he lived before the great white flood. If you remember the wickedness recorded upon the earth before the flood, then that is when Enoch lived. Genesis 6:11-13:
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. 13Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.
He lived prior to the flood and in the wickedest of times on this earth, so there was no where to go. Meaning, even in the wickedest of times and places, it is possible to live with an enduring faith that pleases God. Really, what is going on around you has nothing to do with it, and where you live has nothing to do with it. The sin that is blasted on our T.V. sets and media we are bombarded with everyday has nothing to with it unless you let it.
If Enoch can do it, then we ought to do it, especially since this is an example for us to follow. The necessary condition for pleasing God and walking intimately with Him is faith itself. Without it, then it will be impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6:
And 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 seek Him.
Be sure of this: God cannot be pleased unless a righteousness that comes from God, through faith, is first there. Philippians 3:9:
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
We must be justified by faith before God, and before we can live by faith in God. Someone who is not a believer cannot do these things or live by faith like this unless the Spirit of God indwells them. In Scripture, Abel and Enoch were justified by God. Therefore, to support what the author means concerning faith, three necessary things are included before we could ever begin to live day by day by this God in a way that pleases Him.
First, in the middle of Hebrews 11:6, we must approach and believe God. It’s the person’s approach and necessary condition that must be in place to please God. The phrase is, “he who comes to God.” Here, it means to draw near to God to do something, seek His grace, and His favor. There is a clear reason why the person is coming or drawing near to God.
Thus, he is approaching God in believing. He who comes must believe, which is the necessary condition to not only be saved, but to live by faith. Already, Hebrews has said a lot about the proper way to approach God. Hebrews 10:21-22:
and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
We must approach God in a manner that is pleasing to Him, which is the picture we get with Abel. Now, we must believe God. Also, there are several things we must believe about God. He who comes to God, must believe that He exists. He has personality and is a person. In fact, the Greek term is eimi, which means I am. Meaning, God is.
Again, when Moses said, “who shall I tell, Pharaoh?” God said, “I am who I am.” Exodus 3:14:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.
He is being, and He has personality. In other words, He is real. We don’t possess being because of ourselves. We possess being because God himself is the great I AM. Remember, in Acts, Paul was talking to the philosophical pagans, who were interested in the topic of being. He said to them in Acts 17:28:
for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.
Something must possess the power of being itself before anyone can have being. Therefore, we get our being and personality from who God is, and God is the self-sufficient creator, who has the power to create and give being to humans. Does not the Bible teach, in the book of Genesis, that God created man in His image, which makes human beings unique among all the other created things?
In fact, God spoke everything into existence except for man. God formed man from the ground. God made man very personal, and in there, God made that connection with man right from the beginning. Thus, we see that the true creator God called us into being – made us, preserves us, keeps us, and treats us as His offspring.
If we are going to believe that He is, then we believe that He is one as He has proclaimed himself. There was never a time that God did not exist. He did not have a beginning and He was not created. He has always been alive, He has always been, and will always be the same. There never will be a time when God does not exist. He will never die, and He cannot die. When we come to Him, we must believe that He is.
Also, we must believe that He is the founder and maker of the world. All over Scripture it mentions the God who made the world and all things in it. Almost every book of the Bible says that God is the creator. Nothing came into being without being created by Him, and the universe is ruled by God himself. Acts 17:24:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.
God is the originator and giver of all life. Acts 17:25:
nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.
He is the one who made His will known to the fathers through the prophets. He is the one who has spoken in these last days in His son, which is what the whole book of Hebrews is about. We must believe that He is, that He has being, and that He has personality. Therefore, we are responsible to this God, which includes all humanity.
Because of His nature, God is greater than the universe itself. Thus, He cannot be contained or controlled by men in any way, shape, or form. To do so, would be to worship in a self-styled manner, which is idolatry. Therefore, we come to God, approach Him in the right manner, and believe that He is.
In several places of the Bible, doesn’t it say that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God? When someone says that there is no God, the Bible talks about that person, and the Bible says that you are a fool if you think that way, which is true. Anyone who says that there is no God, no creator, or that there is no design to this universe, is totally blind and dead. They cannot see since they have their head in the sand.
For us who believe, we could never engage long in conversation or debate on whether God exists in the sense that we might be doubting. Faith already believes, holds to it, embraces that, lives by that, and knows that God is real. When they are with Him, they will see God in a way they have not seen God before. Moses’ desire was to see God’s glory. God showed him a little bit but could not show Him everything since it would have killed Moses.
Someday with resurrected bodies, in the presence of God, we will enjoy God in His fullness. We will see Christ as He is, and that is what faith is about. We embrace this by faith. We know God exists, and we’re looking forward to seeing Him.
In Hebrews 11:6, another important thing is that you must believe the personal generosity of God. The phrase, “those who seek Him,” is a phrase that you must look at in the original language. It has the idea of a personal interest such as pleasing and worshiping God, so this person seeking knows who he is seeking. In fact, the very word means to seek the favor of God and find it, which is the point.
Someone who already believes God exists know who they are seeking. They know that they are on a quest of a faith that is always successful. In other words, Enoch came to God regularly and daily believing that He was alive, He was God, and He had personality, so He spoke with Him, He walked with Him, and He stayed in step with the Lord all through the three hundred and sixty-five years that he was on the earth.
Also, he found God responded positively and abundantly to those who seek Him. When we walk by faith, we are seeking God. When we hear His word, we are seeking God, and we want to know more about Him. Paul says in Philippians 3:10:
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
The grandness of what the Bible says about God is mindboggling. Thus, Enoch found that God responds positively and abundantly to those who sought Him, and that God is a rewarder. In other words, God became to him a rewarder to the ones who approach the Lord reverently with a desire in their heart to know. The word rewarder means that God pays the wages by rewarding the one who seeks Him in a proper manner.
By God’s reward, he means that the faith of man reaching out to God is never left to itself but is met by real satisfaction. Can you imagine someone seeking for something and never finding? You cannot get satisfaction like that, which is frustrating. Here, it is saying that if you seek, you will find, and if you seek, you will be satisfied when you find it. When you find Him and gain more knowledge of Him by faith, then it will satisfy your soul like nothing else can satisfy your soul.
Bottom line, you cannot really know that He is a rewarder of those who seek him unless you already rely on Him as the only true, living, and almighty God. You already trust that He will fulfill all His promises and give you the eternal inheritance and full salvation that He has promised in Christ Jesus. Then, you will find Him the source of your deepest satisfaction.
From Enoch’s example of faith, we understand that real believers desire God as their companion. They seek to please Him where ever they go and in whatever they do. For such desire, Enoch was rewarded with seeing God. Spending eternity with Him was Enoch’s reward, which is also our reward.
If you don’t really know that God exists or if you don’t really desire God now, then why would you want to go to heaven to spend eternity with Him? In our hearts, the Spirit of God is laying off the old stuff that is dragging us down for the reward. Nothing becomes so precious in this life that you don’t want to leave it to be with the Lord. God told Abraham in Genesis 15:1 (NKJV):
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
Isn’t that our promise? God will bring us where He is to fellowship with Him and be with Him forever in the New Covenant. In the revelation, new heaven, and new earth, the New Jerusalem comes down to earth since there will be no more separation between God and man. God and man will be dwelling together, with each other in fellowship, desiring it, and enjoying it. However, that desire and enjoyment must start now.
If it is not there, then you are not even a Christian or believer. If you don’t desire God but desire everything else, then you are not a believer. In your heart, the Spirit of God is making you like Christ. He is giving you a desire to want to be with Him, to serve Him, to approach Him in the right manner, and to walk with Him every day of your life.
I don’t think anybody can step up to Enoch and say, “Listen, I’ve got something on you.” We only live maybe sixty, seventy, eighty, or one hundred years. Nope, Enoch has got it, and that is why God took him. However, it is the picture of God not leaving us alone. He will come to get us, and where He is, we will be there with Him also, which is what He told His disciples when He left. That is the same promise we have, and God is our reward.
Remember, Biblical faith learns how to please God. It is not by acting in a self-styled manner or living like the world. Rather, it is knowing what pleases God, what He requires, and desiring to do it to please Him. The person with this kind of faith is strong, and practices not to waver in their trust in God, in His plans, purposes for them and for redemption.
Therefore, we have Abel approaching God in an acceptable manner, through Christ. Then, there is Enoch walking and fellowshipping with a real, personal God in a pleasing manner with hope to spend his eternity with God himself. Thus, this is where faith brings you, and that is what it is to begin to venture in walking by faith.
Today, examine yourself and where you are. Ask yourself: what kind of desires do I have for life? What is important? Am I going to leave a legacy of faith for my family, neighbors, and children? Is that what I truly desire? Do I truly want to walk with God every day when I wake up? Ask yourself these questions, especially since these are the kind of things that show that you have faith. Let’s pray:
Lord, Thank You again for the awesomeness of Your word. I pray, Lord, that today may be the day that if someone doesn’t know You as their Lord and Savior, then that they would come and believe. They would believe that You are who You say You are, and that they would approach You in the right manner, which is by faith in Christ Jesus. I pray, Lord, that those who do know You, that their faith would become stronger because of Your word. That they would examine themselves as to what needs to be put out of their life, so that they could continue to walk by faith, on the same path with You, on the same road with You, and at the same pace with You. I pray, Lord Jesus, that You would give us a desire to want the reward. I pray, Lord, that the hunger and thirst for You would grow every day. We praise You, Lord, for what You will do in these days in our life. Let everyone of us be a legacy of faith to those who watch us. Protect us, Lord, from falls. Protect us, Lord, from the sin that so easily besets us. Lord, rescue us please by the power of Your spirit and the sanctifying power of Your word. I pray this, in Christ Jesus’ name, Amen.