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The Qualities of Faith (Hebrews 11:4–7)

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4 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.5 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. 6 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.7 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.
I. Abel recognized his obligations before God (11:4)
A. Abel offered a sacrifice which was more acceptable than that presented by his brother Cain.
Genesis 4:3–7 and the rest of the Old Testament do not explain why Abel’s offering was more acceptable than Cain’s. Hebrews offers the explanation: Abel showed faith.
The fact that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice showed that he had an obedient attitude of mind. In some way Cain held back from God, perhaps in his heart. Abel’s offering was an unrestrained response to God, complete with lavish worship which pleased God.
Cain’s subsequent murder of his brother showed his stubborn rejection of the opportunity God gave him to repent and to offer again, presumably with a contrite spirit.
B. The focus in this verse is not on Cain but on Abel.
Although Abel was murdered by his evil brother, he is still speaking; the story of his faithful achievement speaks to people in every generation, not only about the quality of their offering to God, but also their motivation. Is the outward offering of worship, money and service a genuine expression of our love and commitment?
God sees not only the value of the sacrifice, but the heart of the giver. But Abel speaks to man still more clearly by reminding us of the most important offering of all, ‘the blood’ of Christ who, although He was murdered by the angry and jealous successors of Cain, was not like Abel, the helpless victim of sudden hate. His entirely voluntary sacrifice was both determined and approved by God.
II. Enoch maintained his walk with God (11:5–6)
A. Enoch pleased God by turning away from the godlessness of the world in which he lived
Genesis (5:21–24) indicates that for the first 65 years of his life, Enoch did not walk with God. Presumably he went along with the deteriorating morality of his times.
The event which changed Enoch’s outlook was the birth of a son, whom he named Methuselah. Some scholars derive the meaning of Methuselah from the Hebrew root muth, which means “death,” and translate the name “His death shall bring (it).” This would imply a revelation to Enoch of the coming judgment of the world by means of the Flood.
The Genesis account states that from the birth of Methuselah throughout the following 300 years, Enoch “walked with God.” This turn in his life was a result of faith, and since faith always requires a word from God to rest upon, it confirms the idea that Enoch was given a revelation of a coming judgment which changed his life.
B. Enoch maintained a daily walk with God which grew so intimate that he was taken to heaven without experiencing death.
The walk with God which Enoch experienced was one of deepening intimacy. A walk implies a journey in a certain direction and at a measured and regular pace. Enoch’s faith flourished as he walked and God bore witness to him that his daily life was pleasing in his eyes.
Enoch enjoyed the continuous presence of an unseen Person, and related his life daily to that Person. The result was a fellowship which death could not interrupt.
Those who, like Enoch, wish to draw near to God, must encourage their faith to give constant expression to God’s existence and His generosity. They must not merely believe intellectually that he exists
III. Noah rendered his obedience to God (11:7)
A. Noah showed his faith in response to a specific warning from God.
Noah, who illustrates for us a still different quality of true faith. His faith, too, saw what was invisible, namely the coming of the Flood! (vs. 7). He “saw” it because he believed the warning he received from God 120 years before the Flood came.
He accepted God’s word, he won God’s approval, and recognized God’s power in both judgment and salvation. Noah is a good example of the attentive believer, eager to hear what God is saying and ready to do what he commands.
Noah brought a daring response to God’s word. The warning was about events as yet unseen. When he constructed an ark Noah gained not only the approval of God, but also the ridicule of men. Over the long years, as he built, the people gave voice to their blatant unbelief.
B. God exercised his merciful patience and Noah offered his persistent obedience.
Through his obedience his household was saved while others perished. His action affected his neighbours. They regarded his obedience to God as an act of foolishness, but ‘through his faith he put the whole world in the wrong.
In every generation Christian obedience has powerful evangelistic value. People are influenced not only by what we say to them, but by the way we respond to what God says to us.
Noah’s secret was in his total, unhesitating obedience to God’s revealed word for, as Scripture testifies, Noah ‘did all that God commanded him’.
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