Faith From the Beginning

Hebrews 11:4-7

Sermon # 211

“Faith From the Beginning”

Pastoral Prayer: 

  • Prayers for the Persecuted Church
  • South Fork Baptist Church
  • Grace Community Church St. Cloud Florida
  • California Fires

Faith is often an abstract thought. In our world today, Faith is often misunderstood as something that is within ourselves that can be built up, strengthened or otherwise commandeered for our goals and visions. Faith can be seen as some kind of innate human power that must be tapped into to achieve our goals and future destiny. Many think that to just have faith will somehow change circumstances in and of themselves. Like we have faith that the Houston Astros can come back after being down by two games and win the World Series. Or, you believe that you can get that job you have applied for if you just have enough faith. Or if you just have enough faith your cancer will be healed. You see, the purpose of faith is not to perform the impossible or even just see something that we hope to come true. It is putting our hope, expectations, certainty, and confidence in the One who is wiser in all the circumstances we face in life. Faith is a realization that we are finite sinners and that God is truly God. God can do the impossible but he has come into the world to save sinners not to primarily meet the needs of people or fix the many things that concern them. Biblical Faith, on the other hand, has One as its object. Namely, The Lord Jesus Christ. It is that kind of faith that looks to God and no other believing that His purposes will stand, that He has the power to do what he promised and that nothing can ultimately thwart His desire. In looking at this hall of faith here in Hebrews chapter 11 we will see many men and women who trusted God like this. In verses four through seven we will see that true faith offers to God praise that He deserves, is pleasing to God and produces the action of obedience. We will look at this passage in three points:

  1. Abel an example of Faith that offers Praise to God that He is worthy of (vs. 4)
  2. Enoch an example of Faith that Pleases God(vs.5)
  3. Noah an example of Faith that Produces Obedience to God’s Warning (vs. 7)
  1. Abel as an example of Faith

As we will see throughout this chapter, faith is active. It is not just something that merely stays in the mind but is involved with the will, leading to action. As Luke Peterson has said before “ your faith is not just what you say you believe, but how you live. Your life will show what you believe.” You see, we act on what we believe. If you believed this building was about to collapse you wouldn’t just sit around, you would flee out from under it and hopefully tell and take others with you. As the author of Hebrews is desiring to encourage the recipients of this letter, he does so by not just defining faith as we looked at last week but now will give over 20 examples of people or groups of people who believed God and in doing so were used by God to accomplish His will on earth. God can use anyone. Do you desire to be used of God? The author of Hebrews says the first step is to consider your faith. It is not merely what you believe but who you believe. The Author of Hebrews starts with Abel. I find it interesting that he does not start with Adam or Eve. Perhaps because they went back from a perfect relationship with God in the garden where they saw and heard from the Lord to faithlessness in plunging mankind into open rebellion against God and His Word. Not much is revealed about how Adam and Eve lived after the fall, but we do know that they had children, lots of them. And we do know at least from what they named their sons, that they taught their sons about the LORD. It is noteworthy as we look at this text to notice not just who is here in this hall of faith but also those who are not. Adam and Eve are not mentioned in this “hall of faith”.  So either they were not commended for their faith or worse they were not redeemed. It does say however that God provided clothing for them in taking the life of animals and clothing them and also giving them the promise of a coming Savior who would smash the Serpent’s head. We cannot solve that mystery today but it is noteworthy here. Our text starts with Abel. Read verse 4 with me again:

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”

Notice here what Abel did. Faith is active. How did Abel act on his faith? He offered to God an acceptable sacrifice. The will of Abel was involved to offer God what He deserved not anything less. This offering had several differences from his brothers. Turn to Genesis 4. Let’s read 4:1-7,

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten 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 the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for 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 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” 

While many have pointed out that Abel offered a blood sacrifice and Cain a mere grain offering, I think the scripture is clear that the heart attitude is what God was after here. If we consider this passage, it says that Cain brought an offering from the fruit of the ground while Abel brought from his flock, a firstborn and of their fat portions. (Gen. 4:3,4) but most noticeable and the point of our text is that it was offered in faith. It was representative not just of his best, but Abel had God in mind. God regarded his offering but not Cain’s. You know the story, Cain’s countenance fell and he became angry. God even gave him instruction and encouraged him to offer what is good and warned him about sin crouching at the door. We know of course in this passage that eventually Cain committed the first fratricide. And so, Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God because it was connected with his faith. Many are those who go the way of Cain. They do not believe God, they do not offer to Him acceptable worship but instead focus on the pride of their own hard work and the sweat of their brow. After all could not Cain say rightly; “I worked hard in the field to see a ripe crop and Abel merely killed an animal, besides its messy and not clean and organized like my crop. So notice here the connection as we looked at last week that faith and righteousness are coupled together in God‘s eyes. Simply put, Abel believed God and worshipped Him appropriately which gave evidence of something pleasing to God, a righteous act. But notice the end of verse four. It says, “and through his faith, though he died he still speaks.” In the context of what we have studied in chapter 10 that those who do not shrink back but persevere are the ones whose faith is made evident and so beginning with Abel here we see that his faith still speaks even following his death. We see here that faith speaks of the person of God just Jesus said it this way in:

Luke 11:51 – from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation” In confronting the religious leaders and lawyers in this passage Jesus is clearly applying the guilt of bloodshed of his prophets to them. Why? Because they are ultimately are standing against the person of God whom his people represented as they trusted him by faith. In the next chapter of Hebrews, the author says it this way concerning Abel;

Hebrews 12:24 – and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Remember Abel’s blood spoke from the ground to God. In other words, Cain killed Abel because he was righteous and Cain did not have that righteousness. His blood spoke from that generation onward of righteousness that could not be obtained by one’s works but by the work of the person of God. And so, Jesus the incarnate Son of God was also killed in obeying God‘s commands in submitting himself to God‘s will and making plain that what is seen with the eyes does not produce a full and beautiful picture. It is Faith bein the eyes of the soul that look beyond our human experience to look upon God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. This is truly what it means to live by faith as Romans 14:23 says that whatever that does not proceed from faith is a sin. In other words, we are to be living every moment of our lives in the reality that we have been made right with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and the very life that He has given us through his Son and by the power of His indwelling Spirit,  HE has enabled us to serve him regardless of our circumstances. Abel obeyed God and he was murdered because of it. The author of Hebrews expands on this by taking us to verse five and our second point: 

  1. Enoch an example of Faith that Pleases God(vs.5)

5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 

This interesting character Enoch from the book of Genesis is described here as one who is taken up by faith who did not see death and was not found. The text simply gives us no other reason for why God called him except for the fact that he pleased God. It is as if God like a father wanting to be with his child simply scooped him up. He pleased God. So we might ask what pleases God and this is why we have verse six:

6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

You see, we cannot be pleasing to God unless we believe Him. True faith just doesn’t say that it believes God as James says that “ even the demons believe and tremble.”  But, true faith believes God to the point of action which James also says as well that faith without works is dead. So if we are truly going to please God, we must believe that He exists as verse six says and that He will reward those who seek Him. Remember that our author has already taught us of what Christ has done in reconciling us to God through his Son the propitiation for our sin, our great high priest who serves continually before God and this Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. And so, if these Hebrews are going to continue in the faith and we here today gathering church are going to continue in the faith, we must look to one and one only, The Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear in this passage who is the object of these men’s faith.  Notice verse one Abel offered to God then in verse five Enoch was taken up that he should not see death and he was not found because God had taken him. His testimony was that he pleased God. And then in verse seven (which will look at) that Noah been warned by God of coming judgement. Clearly, the main character in this hall of faith is not these men and women, but God. He is the focal point of their faith. So, we have seen that Faith offers to God what He deserves, through Enoch we see that faith pleases God, and now finally we will see in our third and last point that through Noah that Faith heeds God’s warnings. We will see that:

Noah is an example of Faith that Produces Obedience to God’s Warning (vs. 7)

Look at verse seven:

 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

As Ryan shared last week, that Faith enables the believer to see what the eyes of the body cannot. Noah was warned by God. God initiated this conversation between him and Noah. We could read this of course in the book of Genesis that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and that he was a righteous man in his generation and believed God was going to destroy the world at that time. So, before Noah acted on his faith by building the ark, he had to first hear God’s message, heed God‘s message and then believe God‘s message. Notice our text says that in verse 7 in reverent fear he constructed the ark which would be used to save his household. It is by believing God that truly he and his family were safe. And so, just as Pastor Ryan told us last week that this is how the old testament saints were commended for their faith and that they truly are saved by faith as we are. So, we like Noah are told to believe God in heeding His warning and acting on our faith. We are called to be preachers concerning a coming judgment and yet make known a way of salvation. But, salvation cannot come unless God is believed and that producing obedience to God’s commands. Simply put, Noah believed God and acted on that truth. Noah didn’t just sit around saying “I believe you, God, that you will destroy the world.” But his faith was made evident by his works in building an ark over a long period of time that eventually became the means by that God used to save him and his family. Can you imagine the endurance over a hundred year period to construct such a monstrosity? By way of application for all of us, we can see by faith and to heed the warning’s of God and act in connection to them. Is this not what the Church is called to? We are warning the world of coming judgment and pointing them to the Good News that there is One who can save! We call the world to repent and believe. We are called to live this out daily trusting God for the increase. 

Charles Spurgeon in a sermon titled, “Faith versus Sight” he said, “When our souls cannot keep our religion for the Tabernacle, (the church), and the pew, and the closet, and the open Bible, and the bended knee; but when that religion becomes the atmosphere in which we live, the element in which our soul breathes, when God dwelleth in us, and we dwell in Him, when we feed upon Christ,not as a special dainty, but as “the bread of heaven,” and drink of Him, not as a luxury, but as “water of life;” when we wear our piety, not as some holiday garment, but as our everyday dress,then it is that we get into the spirit of true religion.”

Church, are we offering to God acceptable praise are we pleasing him because we live by faith knowing that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him? And are we Producing actions that point to God’s word in such a way that how we live matches what we believe? Church, are we living by faith?  Are we offering to God acceptable sacrifice as Abel did? Or are we mindlessly offering him songs that are not connected to our hearts, money that’s not connected to a true thankfulness for all that He is given or prayers that are self-centered and motivated for our good and not His glory? are we offering to God acceptable services of worship?  Romans 12:1-2 help us with this where Paul encourages us that the only true and acceptable worship before God is this: that we become living sacrifices. We become the manifestation of God‘s work in the world. The church of Christ is a display of his glory. People can look to the local Church to see what God is like. They can hear his word preached, they can take that preaching and understand it, believe it, and obey it, repent of their sins and be saved. God help us to be people that believe him, a people who offer to what glorifies Him and pleases Him. May God perfect our faith that he has begun in us and use us as his instruments in a world that is passing away that He might redeem His own to His glory and that He might receive praise both now and forever. Who is like this God, the focus of our great faith and the One who will see us through and will continue to do so till the day that every knee should bow and every tongue confess is that he is Lord. Praise be to God! Let’s pray.