Hebrews Lesson 177 October 22, 2009
NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
We're in Hebrews 11. We're down to about verse 4. While you're turning there in your Bibles I wanted to make a couple of comments.
This evening we had a deacons meeting. Of course, Mark Friedrich is one of our deacons. He heads up the prep school. He was talking a little bit about an exercise they've been doing in the teen class. This is important for parents to be aware of as well. That is that he's been running them through some exercises on witnessing and why it's important to witness and to talk to their friends at school and eventually when they get to that point where they start getting interested in boys or girls (whichever the case may be), where they start to get interested in dating the importance of finding out if the other person is a believer, and how you go about that using that as an opportunity to witness and how to go about that. He's been discovering some interesting things as he's talked to kids.
"Well, they're Methodist. Of course they're saved."
"They go to church or they say they're Christian."
…just really getting down to the real issues. I was laughing. It reminded me of the drill sessions (the grill sessions) that I used to get from my mother. She started that young. I thought that was a just a great example of parenting. I remember as early as second grade coming home and I'd say, "I met so-and-so (this guy) in school today and he lives down the street. I'm going to go over there and play this afternoon."
The first question out of her mouth was, "Well, you need to find out that he's a believer." She established that pattern very early so that when I would come home she'd say, "Well is he a Christian?" She would always say, "Is he a believer?" I'd say, "Well, yeah." "How do you know? What did you say? What he say? Did he actually say that he believed in Jesus Christ as His Savior? Does he think you need to be baptized?" I mean she would absolutely exegete the whole conversation.
You know as a parent you establish that so that by the time they get into those critical years in junior high and high school you've already laid down a whole pattern of behavior there that they know exactly what to expect when they come home and they say, "Well, I've got to go to dance this weekend; and I've asked so-and-so to go" or "I've been asked by so-and-so to go to the dance with them."
They know the first question out of your mouth is going to be, "Well, are they a believer? How do you know? How did the conversation go? What did they say? Do they go to church?"
Parents too often forget that children are not their peers. You may not grill your peers like that, but as a parent who is responsible for the training of children, you are a training officer like a drill sergeant in the military. There's not a 100% parallels there so you know you're not going to get up in the morning, blow reveille and call them down to do pushups. You might do that though. That might help in some cases. You are responsible before the Lord for how those children turn out when they become adults and establishing those behavior patterns and their thought patterns as early as you can to get those set in their minds is really, really important.
Then of course, as a parent you should be modeling that as well in your friendships and in your associations. That's of course where it starts getting real personal.
"Well, that's getting a little too close. Let's move on to the next verse."
But that's where it matters and that's the pattern of being a good parent, being a good leader, in terms of being a pastor, of being a church leader is that those kinds of things are set by example. We learned many things in life, not just because we're taught the principals from the pulpit, but because we get a visual representation of those principles being applied through those that we observe.
I remember many years when I grew up in Camp Peniel. One of the things I valued so much during the summers when I would to up there in high school was just being around older Christians. And by that I meant they were 25 or 30 or maybe 22. But you're 16 and you think at 22 they're old. And yet you would see college kids that were very concerned about their spiritual life in and Bible study and thinking through the issues of life in terms of what the Scripture said. That set such a great example.
You've had the same king of things happen in your life because you've going through certain situations you think, "Ah. I remember when so-and-so who was an older more mature believer went through something like this and this is how they set an example."
So that's important. So that's the idea that we have here in these passages is the example of these Old Testament believers that even though they may be dead for 6,000 years (for example in the case of Abel) nevertheless their testimony as the writer states at the end of verse 4, the testimony still is alive.
NKJ Hebrews 11:4 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
That is through his faith and through His example.
he being dead still speaks.
So we also need to learn as parents teaching your children having a regular time of Bible study with the family is very important, modeling that decision making process before your children, husbands before your wives – you've got decisions to make.
"Well, let's go to the Scripture and find parallel circumstances, parallel situations and think through how this biblical figure either blew it or didn't blow it and what the principles are that we learn from that."
That's what we see the writer of Hebrews doing in Hebrews 11. He's going through the roster of spiritual leaders in the Old Testament, key people in the Old Testament, focusing on their testimony. That testimony is a witness. It is the evidence of something in their life, their spiritual life. So faith as we saw him in verse 1 says:
NKJ Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
…because what faith is doing is it is believing something that isn't seem. Ultimately it's not based on empiricism or rationalism. It is based on believing something that God has said because God said it. So it is the faith, that faith and the life that comes, the result that comes in the life from the act of believing God. When you believe God says to do X, if you believe it you do it. When you do it, that gives a visible witness before the angels and before men of the faith that of course can't be seen; and the object of the faith, which is the promise of God, the promise of God being a key idea all the way through Hebrews.
So last time we looked at the example of Abel and towards the end it got to be a little hurry so I wanted to just go back clean up one or two things before we move on that by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.
NKJ Hebrews 11:4 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
It is that act of believing that culminates in a right action, an obedient action that establishes a witness or an attestation of that which is not seen. It attests to it, that the idea of being a testimony.
The word that's translated there is the same word where we get our word witness or testimony, but it has this idea of commendation or confirmation or testimony. All of these are ideas that are very close to one another. So we have to I think massage the Word a little bit. If we look at martureo we think that's just always means to witness. There are shades of meaning there that make a little bit more sense, to clarify the passage a little more.
As I pointed out last time, one of the questions that come up in this is just on the nature of the sacrifice. Was is Abel's attitude versus Cain's attitude or is it the kind of sacrifice that was offered? This phrase "more excellent sacrifice" in Hebrews 11:4 suggests (You couldn't hang the whole doctrine on this) what is confirmed by other passages that it is the quality of the sacrifice because it was what God said to do, what God said to bring. This is always an issue. You will hear if you have ever been around (I think I said this last time) Bible teachers, you listen to KHCB, you listen to some other people talk about this you may, you may (probably will) run into those who say, "No, it wasn't an issue of bringing a blood sacrifice versus bringing a gift from the produce of the field. It was their attitude."
That really does miss the boat here for a couple of different reasons. It's not just the quality of Abel's faith; but it is the quality of the sacrifice. It is that he brought the kind of sacrifice that God had instructed him.
Now somebody may say, "Well, how do you know?" Well, you're not told clearly anywhere in Genesis 3 about sacrifices – any kind of sacrifice. So whatever you say has got to be somewhat of a theological deduction on the basis of the rest of Scripture. One of the ideas that has really leaked in (I don't think it's a good idea. I disagree with it very strongly) is the idea that you just interpret stuff in light of what that author says or you just interpret it in terms of what would've been understood by the original audience. It has become more dominant. I've seen among Old Testament scholars in the last few years to use this methodology and to say that you can't say that the serpent in Genesis 3 is Satan because nowhere in Genesis does the text identify the serpent as Satan; nowhere at all. The only place that that's identified is in Revelation 12, the dragon, the serpent of old.
So you can't go to something written 3,000 years later to define something that's written earlier. That's the methodological assumption. The problem is that Revelation 12 actually does define who that serpent is. There are indications in the Old Testament that that was understood. It's just these kinds of things that leak into hermeneutics that start causing major shifts in people's theology and the orientation of seminaries and things of that nature. It's the same pattern that we saw. You go back to the end of the 19th century and the influence of the human viewpoint thinking that came from the rationalistic schools in Germany in the 19th century that threw out inerrancy and infallibility.
But now we live in the world of this crazy postmodern thinking where you can hold to two opposites and say, "Oh well. I believe in both of them. Everything's just fine." I've heard faculty members at major schools say when questioned on something like this say, "Well, that may be what…"
I heard somebody says this about the doctrinal statement at Dallas Seminary. A faculty member there said, "That may be what Chafer intended; but that's not how I interpret that doctrinal statement."
This is just very dangerous. But I'm not picking on Dallas because this is something that is happening all around evangelicalism today because the church always reflects and imitates the trends of the world system, the thinking of the world system around us, which is why Paul says, "Don't be pressed into conformity. Don't be pushed into conformity with the thinking of the world around you; but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
So you have these indications in here that Abel offers a sacrifice; and it's the sacrifice that is more excellent, that is superior. This is backed up by passages such as Hebrews 12:24.
NKJ Hebrews 12:24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
That is the blood of Jesus' sacrifice is superior to that which is better things than that of Abel which refers actually to his blood because it was his blood that cried out from the ground in Genesis 4:10.
A better passage is 1 John 3:12 which clearly says in the last phrase that Cain's works were evil and his brother's righteous. It was the works. It is what they did that had the qualitative difference, not the attitude that Cain brought or that Abel brought.
NKJ Genesis 4:4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,
So these verses put that focus on the offering. Now we know from other passages of Scripture and from the implications in Genesis 3 that God had to have killed an animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned. We assume; but I think that these are the kinds of things that are justified that when God sacrificed that animal and skinned it that a lot had to go on there. He had to show them how to skin the animal. He was showing them what death was. He was giving them a picture, a real example of what He meant when He said that death was coming into the world. So there was instruction on that. They would see everything related to death and this tremendous visual example.
Furthermore another thing that we realize from this is that it's not until after the flood that men are authorized to eat meat. So why is Abel raising sheep prior to that? You can say, "Well, for the wool, of course, and for the skin, for the leather as well as for sacrifices."
So they were not using the animals for meat at that particular time. So the idea of a blood sacrifice and the necessity of that is something that runs all the way through the Scripture.
Having looked at that, the writer goes on to the next example which comes from Genesis 5, right in the midst of the first genealogy where most people sort of get bored and they read through the Bible they start coming to this list of names that they're not familiar with and so-and-so begat so and so-and-so on so begat so-and-so and the next thing you know their eyes sort of glaze over and they fall asleep because they don't understand the significance of those genealogies. What is significant about the genealogies is that in Genesis 3 God said the seed of the woman would defeat the seed of the serpent. Now you're going to trace the seed (from father to son to grandson) all the way through from generation to generation all the way down to Noah. Then when you get to Genesis 11 after the flood you're going to trace the line of the seed again. Each time you get to subsequent genealogies, there is this historical record treating all of these people as if they were real flesh and blood historical people. These aren't legends. They're not fables or myths or morality stories that were somehow generated just to teach principles. Those principles are embedded in flesh and blood people who lived real lives who were born at a specific time and who died at a specific time showing that God's Word is operating in real history. This isn't just some sort of mythological history.
So in Hebrews 11:5 we read:
NKJ Hebrews 11:5 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.
There's that word group again. Martureo is the verb meaning as a witness or to provide a testimony or attestation of something or a confirmation or commendation of something. Each of those words you have to look up in English and kind of see what their various shades of meaning are in order to get one that fits the text and doesn't bring in other ideas that may imply some sort of works salvation or something else.
Remember these individuals are all justified before they ever get to the action that's being emphasized in these in these stories. We'll see that a little more with Enoch. It's less clear with Abel because little is said about him. Even less said about Enoch, but there are some things that are the structure (grammatical structure) of this sentence in the Greek certainly indicates that he pleased God prior to being taken. So that that pleasing of God in terms of his faith is an action that is early and that the faith is related to something in his life. As we get into Noah and others will see that clearly that they're are justified. We say that they are saved (justified) long before the particular incident that is being emphasized in the text.
NKJ Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken
Now what the writer is emphasizing here is that the core issue in this first rapture (because that's what it is.) Of course the word that's used here in the Greek isn't the same word that you have over in I Thessalonians 4; but it's the same idea. It means to transfer something, to change it, to move it to another location. It's the same idea that you have in the rapture. That word there, harpazo, means to be snatched.
What happened is that one day Enoch is walking along and suddenly he walks off with God. He's just having a close conversation with God and walks from earth into heaven. This is seen in Genesis 5:21-4. We're told in Genesis 5:21 that Enoch lived 65 years. That was his father. Enoch lives 65 years and became the father of Methuselah.
NKJ Genesis 5:21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah.
NKJ Genesis 5:22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.
So that would make him 365 years old at this particular time.
Verse 23 says:
NKJ Genesis 5:23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
NKJ Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Very clear, very abrupt.
The first time I learned this I don't know, I may have been in the 5th or 6th grade. I learned this from reading Ripley's Believe It or Not. I loved that book. I remember discovering reading about the 5th or 6th grade. The sentence there was "Methuselah was the oldest man in the Bible, but he died before his father did." Isn't that right? Methuselah was the oldest man in the Bible, but he died before his father did. Doesn't that sound like an odd contradiction? That's because Enoch never died. He never physically died. He just was transferred; translated directly from his physical mortal body into his spiritual body that obviously wouldn't have gone to heaven from what we have understood from other revelation. He went into the place the Old Testament saints went. He just goes through this translation process that took him from his mortal body to his temporary transitional body.
As we look at this verse though there' are a few things that we ought to emphasize just to be able to understand it a little more clearly. First of all the emphasis is on faith. As I've said before this is not the faith that a person exercises to be saved or justified. This is the faith that comes after they're saved, after they have trusted in the promise of God Old Testament, which was future, the promise of God to provide a savior. Then after that comes their life with God. That's the emphasis there. Enoch walked with God.
This term walking we run into it many times in the New Testament: walk in the light, walk by means of the Truth, walk by the Holy Spirit. Walking is a metaphor for a lifestyle, for living. It's used that way in a secular context. It's used that way in Scripture.
His walking with God indicates that this was his lifestyle. This was the priority of Enoch's life, his relationship with God. He must have had a very close and personal relationship with God. It's not like a walk with God that you or I have. This was a much more direct walk with God. When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, the garden was actually east of Eden. Eden is seen as the dwelling place of God upon the earth. This was where He would come. He would go to the garden to walk daily with Adam and Eve to spend time with them, to teach them, to give them information, to answer questions.
Then when Adam sinned and they're cast out of the garden, then there is a wall of fire that's placed around the garden by this group of cherubs (more than one). There was a contingent of cherubs. There could have been as many as 100 or 200 that guarded the perimeter of the garden so that man could not reenter the garden and have access to the Tree of Life and thus live forever avoiding physical death. But he would still be spiritually dead.
That's another reason why I think that the main thrust of the warning that man would die when they ate from fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not physical death primarily there but spiritual death is that if it was automatic physical death then they couldn't have circumvented by coming back and having access to the to the Tree of Life, the fruit of the tree of life. So they're kept out.
Sunday I went out to lunch with some people and one of the questions that came up was (People ask the most interesting questions sometimes), "Well, how big was the Garden of Eden. How big do you think it was? Could Adam and the woman leave the garden? Could they go out and go around the Earth? Could they come back in?"
I think they could because of the dominion mandate there in Genesis 1:26-27 that they were to multiply and fill the earth and exercise dominion over all the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and the beasts of the field. I think they could leave to go out and explore and learn all about all that God had created for them. But the garden was a special area. This was their home. This was where they would meet with God. It was near to where God had a location.
But we're not told that when they were cast out of the garden that God left the earth. We're not told that. Now what I want you to do is hold your place here in Hebrews 11 because when we get to the next verse dealing with Noah we'll go to Genesis 6 anyway. I want you to turn with me back to Genesis 6. Genesis 6 talks about the conditions that are on the earth before the judgment of the flood with Noah. In Genesis 6:3 we read in the New King James (The same thing's true with the King James Bible and probably some the other translations.)
NKJ Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever,
That seems to make sense. There is a context there where man is being disobedient so there's a conflict between God and man. But the Hebrew word that is translated strive is only used one time in the Hebrew Old Testament. And it's only used one time in any surviving Hebrew literature. So we have to basically guess from context as to what that means. That's what those translators of the King James Bible did. They guessed. What seems to make sense here? Ah, well there is conflict between God and man, so let's translate this "strive".
Things like that get embedded in tradition and in history. Later on when you think there's evidence to go another direction, it's hard to do that because people don't like familiar words in the Bible messed with. We learned that back with the Revised Standard Version controversy in the '50's when the liberal translators of the Revised Standard Version decided that Isaiah 7:14 shouldn't be translated that "a virgin will conceive" but that "a young woman will conceive." Sometimes these scholars, you know, they get so educated beyond on their ability to think because the passage says that you'll see a sign that a young woman will get pregnant. Now how can that be a sign? It happens every day. I bet there's going to be at least a thousand young women get pregnant in Houston tonight. You know, what's so special about that? But this is a sign, so there's go to be something unique about this.
The word translated virgin there. Actually there's some strong evidence that it should be understood as virgin in a number of different contexts and especially there! But man, there was such a hue and cry uttered by the conservatives in the 50's when the Revised Standard Version came out that it hurt their sales. So ever since then these Bible translation publishers have been very careful about not messing with traditional familiar terminology because it might hurt their bottom line. They do want to at least turn a profit in their Bible publications.
Well, this word that is translated strive is a word that in the 20th century we've discovered it's cognate. That means it's the same root, but it's a little different in languages that are very close to Hebrew. For example Canaanite and Aramaic and Hebrew are closer to one another than Spanish and Italian or Latin. Arabic is very close to Hebrew. I'm told that in Israel that an Israeli that has grown up speaking Hebrew if they listen carefully to someone speaking Arabic they can kind of get a sense of what they're talking about because the languages are so very close. Well, when you study these other languages—and that's one of the things that you have to do if you're doing word studies and you have words that are used less than five or six times in the Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament—you have to go out beyond the Scriptures, look at other places, look at cognate languages.
I remember when I was in seminary having to learn the Acadian alphabet and having to learn the Arabic alphabet and all these different things so that I could go look these words up. Of course as soon as the course was over with I forgot how to read those alphabets. But it's all still in the file somewhere. Thank God we have computers to help us now.
But one of the things that you discover is that Aramaic and Arabic and Acadian, the cognate to this word and there's a lot of examples – doesn't mean strive. It means abide. What God is saying here is, "My Spirit shall not abide (or live)". That's the same as the word meno in the New Testament. God will not live with man forever because God is still has a dwelling place on the earth in Eden.
You ask the question, "Well, why does God after the flood establish or delegate adjudication in murder trials?"
Because before the flood, God's the one who's adjudicating the affairs of men. That's exactly what you see in Genesis 4 with Cain and Abel. God is the One who's coming to deal with the crime of murder. It makes perfect sense from this evidence that God is still present on the earth. And it is Enoch walking with God. This is profound. He's not just walking with God in terms of having a good spiritual life. He is physically spending time with the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ in the antediluvian earth. He's spending so much time with God one day that he just walks off with Him and just isn't going to go through physical death at all. We can't even imagine what that was like. It just says that he walked with God and he was not. There he was and then he was gone – physical body and everything, just translated and moved right on.
So Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death. That idea of seeing death is really an idiom for experiencing death. He doesn't experience physical death. I put it in quotations in the way I put it on the screen because literally that next phrase is a direct quote out of the Septuagint. "He was not found because God had taken him." That indicates that they looked for him. Where did he go? Methuselah is out there looking for his dad. His sons are looking for their grandfather. But they can't find him. He just walked off with God.
And then we read:
for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Now notice the way that is translated there. You can go with me. Keep your place back in Genesis 6 because we'll go back there when we get to Noah in a minute. But when we look at that verse in Hebrews 11 it says:
for before he was taken he had this testimony,
That indicates that the testimony was there before he's taken. So the testimony comes. That's the attestation of his faith, his actions of believing and acting upon what God told him was there before he left. But it's a little fuzzy in the last phrase for before he was taken he had this testimony that he pleased God. It's translated there as if it's saying that the testimony was that he pleased God and that's not the way it's really best to be understood in the original.
The verb there for testimony is from martureo. It's a perfect passive indicative. The perfect tense indicates completed action. It is already done in the past. Passive means that he receives a validation or attestation of something that he has done.
It should read: "before he was taken he had already been attested." It has already happened. That's the perfect tense. Been tested is the passive voice. It had already been attested; and then you don't have a purpose clause there that he pleased God. It's an infinitive, but it completes the idea of the main verb. It had already attested to please God. He had already been validated in his life. He was pleasing God. The word there that's translated pleasing God is a word that indicates that the way he lived was acceptable. It was satisfactory, that God is as it were approving of his actions.
So what it means is first of all is Enoch pleased God because of his consistent obedience and his walk by means of faith. That pleasing of God was evidence or testimony. It attested to the reality of his faith and trust in what God told him. Then the result of that was that God then transferred him directly to heaven. So sort of an expanded translation just to give us the idea of the nuances there:
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he would not see death.
That's really a purpose clause there. The reason he was taken away was so that he would not go through death. It is a clear construction of an infinitive of purpose there. And he was not found because God had taken him. That's a quote from the Old Testament.
For before he was transferred, he had already been attested to please God
It had already been validated. It had already been commended as pleasing God.
Then what the writers is going to do in the next verse is having mentioned this idea of pleasing God he's going to take sort of an aside to explain something about the relationship between this idea of faith and pleasing God and what this idea of being attested to is all about. That comes in verse 6, a verse that many people have memorized and many people quote when they talk about faith and they talk about the Christian life. It states:
NKJ Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him,
Speaking of God
for he who comes to God must believe that He is,
That is, that He exists.
and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Now "rewarding someone for diligently seeking Him" isn't talking about justification because that's not what's going on with Enoch. That's not what's going on with Abel. That's not going on with anybody in this passage. All the examples that we have all the way through this passage are examples of believers walking by faith, believing God and acting upon that in their life after their justification. So it has to do with reward rather than the free gift of salvation.
See there's a difference between a gift and a reward. A gift is something that you just are given freely. You don't do anything to earn or deserve it. It is freely given to you. A reward is something you have done something for. You're rewarded for it. You have given somebody information about a crime so you get a reward. But you've done something for it. You have worked for it and so you get an extra bonus in your salary because of the fact that you've met certain goals in sales or something like that. That is something that you do something for. So we're not talking about salvation justification because that is by grace and that is a gift.
NKJ Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
NKJ Ephesians 2:9 not of works,
But a reward is based on works. So there's a distinction drawn here. What the writer is saying is: without faith you can't please God. That's the point of application, talking about Enoch. Enoch walked so consistently by faith, and it pleased God. God puts the stamp of approval on the life of Enoch.
What's interesting is we don't know anything about it. There's only one verse in the New Testament that deals with Enoch other than this one and that's in Jude 14 which mentions a prophecy in the book of Enoch (1 Enoch) which is not even an apocryphal book. It was a non-canonical book. It was never considered by the Jews to have any claim to being inspired Scripture. It didn't even make the first cut. So it's it just out there. But there are a lot of people, in fact we have it now and people get it, read it and there's an interesting prophecies in there and some interesting things that people want to speculate about because they think somehow it might have some value. But people even from the inter-testamental period between the Old Testament and the New Testament were just fascinated by this mysterious Enoch who just walked with God and was not. So you have an apocalypse of Enoch that was written in the intertestamental period. There are 3 or 4 other books that were written. Philo wrote a bunch of stuff about Enoch and it's all just speculation and guesswork because there was no hard data. So it's easy to make stuff up about somebody when there's no evidence of anything in their life. But we don't know anything about him except that God has said his life of faith and walk with the Lord was so consistent that it pleased God such that God did something unique in him.
Only one other person gets translated directly from physical body into the afterlife and that's Elijah in the chapter that we're studying in 2 Kings 2. In the storm there Elijah is taken directly to heaven.
So without faith it's impossible to please God. The word there for impossible is as strongly stated as it possibly can be. That means when we are not walking by faith and walking by sight (2 Corinthians 5), then we're not pleasing God. We can only please God when we are walking by faith and that means that we're trusting God. It's not faith in faith as I pointed out last week; but it is faith in something that God has said to us: a promise, various areas of instruction, mandates. We are believing that to be true and it causes a certain action on our part.
So without faith it is impossible to please God. Here we have the word for pleasing. It's euresteo. It's a perfect active infinitive because once again it's emphasizing that sort of completed action.
NKJ Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is,
Now the interesting thing about this particular passage (especially in the Scripture, especially in the Greek) is that the phrases are really mixed up because of emphasis. The writer starts off saying "for to believe it is necessary, the one who comes to God that He is." See that doesn't make much sense if you take it in that word order; but that's because the writer of Scripture moves that infinitive to believe up to the very front for emphasis. Then he puts the verb "it is unnecessary" second because he wants to make sure you really understand that there are no options here. It's absolutely unequivocally necessary. It is sole condition for pleasing God. Then one who comes must believe that He is. Then all you have there is just simply the verb which contains the pronoun. So it emphasizes God's existence. You must believe that He is, number one. That He's real and that the existence of God is as real to you as the existence of your mother or your father or your best friend or anybody you see in this room. That's the idea of faith. Faith is really acting when the object of faith is just as real to you as anything you can touch or feel or presently experience.
The writer says he who comes to God must believe first of all that He is and secondly (These are two different things) that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The way this is structured in the Greek, the emphasis is on those who seek Him. It is separated out. These clauses separate these out as two distinct ideas. One that God is and second that those who seek Him believe He is a rewarder of them. So the idea there is God rewards those who diligently seek Him. In other words salvation is one thing because it gives you justification and your eternal destiny is secure, but the second part is there is something that we earn which are rewards that are related to the amount of time that we put in in faith.
Now that sounds really challenging doesn't it?
I can tell by looking at most of you that you are thinking "Boy, this is really serious. How in the world am I ever going to measure up?"
One of things that I've always enjoyed about this particular chapter is that there is the biggest bunch of screw-ups in the Bible listed in Hebrew 11. As we go through this we're going to see that they failed. I mean, the first two guys there is nothing negative. Abel didn't live long enough probably and nothing is said about Enoch so we don't know how they messed up. But when we get to Noah, he has this great victory where one big issue in life is: are you going to trust God to save your family and build an Ark? (And he does) We get to Abraham and we studied Abraham. Abraham made a lot of bad decisions. He made a lot of bad decisions that are worse than decisions I make. Maybe mine are worse than his. I don't know. But Abraham ends up in this chapter.
We get down to Jephthah and Gideon and Sampson and we think, "Man, Samson. Samson was just a womanizing out of control wild man." He ends up here. Why? Because at key turning points (key times) in people's lives, it is critical: are you going to trust God or not? And this is going to shape the rest of your life. And are you willing to trust God at that moment when everything is riding on that decision? Are you willing to truly take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ in Scripture to do what the Bible says? And that's going to make all the difference. You know I think it's helpful to remember that because we all tend to get a little too hard on ourselves, not that we shouldn't be. I'm not saying just give into your sin nature, that it's not really all that bad. But God I think is not going to be a harsh judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He is going to be a gracious judge. God has to have a lot of grace to put these guys in this chapter. That gives me a lot of encouragement that maybe I'm not as large a screw up as I think sometimes.
So the principle is without faith (That is without that faith rest drill, without that growth in the practice, the application of the Word of God; it's impossible to please Him. Explanation: for he who comes to God must believe that He is (number one) and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Is that true about your life?
Even David with all the great sins he did, God said that: "Even though he messed up to the max, at the very core his heart is focused on Me."
That's what drives David, is his relationship with God. Does that mean he didn't really mess up at times? No, but he really did. But at the core was a desire to please the Lord and to obey him.
Now we come to our next example in verse 7.
NKJ Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen,
There we go. The writer keeps tying together these previous phrases. Faith is the evidence of things not seen.
The content of the warning and the idea there is accurately communicated in this translation. The idea of the warning here isn't just a warning. It is a divine warning. The word indicates that there is specific supernatural information communicated to warn Noah.
Actually the participle there should be translated to the temporal participle. Since it's in the aorist tense it should be "after he was divinely warned." First he was warned; then he does something. There is a time sequence there.
What was he told? It's going to rain. It hadn't rained before. When God used that word for rain it was a word that Noah had never heard before. Nobody had ever seen rain. Nobody had any idea what that was. But God explained it to Noah. He knew what it was going to entail. No one had ever seen rain before. No one had seen a flood before. He didn't live in an area that was near one of the oceans. So he started building a boat. It took him 100 years to build the Ark. One reason it took him so long was because he had an evangelistic mission to warn the people of that day. So he did. So he preached the Word, the warning, the message of God's grace for over a hundred years and didn't get a single taker. But he was a success.
See this is one of the problems we have in modern 20th century Western civilization is we think success is measured in quantifiable results. But as far as God is concerned, what's important in a servant (and we're all servants of God)? This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:2.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
What is required of a servant is that they be found faithful. It doesn't say that what is required of a servant is that they have a lot of converts. He doesn't say that what's required of a lot of servants is they memorize all the Bible, what's required of a servant is that they pray 10 times a day. Now what is required of a servant is that they're found faithful to God.
So Noah was faithful and he fulfilled the mission that God gave him.
NKJ Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen,.
…that there would be this great flood. Then the text says he was moved with Godly fear.
moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household,
This is an interesting word. It's the Greek word eulabeomai. It's an aorist passive participle, which indicates that it has an action that is related to the verb, previously to the verb. But it is really used adverbially here to talk about the verb. The main verb here is to prepare. It modifies that word prepare and it explains the manner of that preparation. So we would call is an adverbial participle of manner because it's saying something about the attitude he had when he went about building the Ark.
That next verb there indicates the construction of the Ark and it means to prepare something, to construct something, to build or to create it. We should understand that this means he was moved not with godly fear. God isn't anywhere in this. There's no word translated God or godly. It is a word though that indicates some sort of reverential regard for something or respect for something. Its other uses in the Scripture indicate being anxious about something or concerned. I think that really brings it out as I said as I put it in a sort of an expanded translation it's not just that he responded out of respect for God. He basically responds out of the fear of God because he knows what's going to happen. God made it very clear how He was going to destroy the earth. There was a sense of real awe and fear and concern that dominated his attitude. It is respect for God's authority. But it is a respect for what God can do. He understands the power of God and that when He says He's going to destroy the whole earth by water that that is extremely serious and that God is going to do exactly that. So he acts.
Faith looks at the statement of God and says if that is true, then I need to be doing this. The "this" is what God told him to do which was to construct the Ark. So he constructed the Ark for salvation. And idea there isn't just for justification but for the physical deliverance of his house. That is his family.
Then the Scripture goes on to say:
by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith
His faith stands as an evidence, as a witness, as someone who takes the stand in a trial except here you have the physical representation of Noah doing exactly what God said to do and everybody else is the world is thumbing their nose at God and doing what they want to do and they are hostile to God and ridiculing Noah and laughing at him for building this big boat and thinking it's going to rain because that's never happened before. But his life, his obedience, his action of acting on what God said is what provides the testimony that condemns the world. It is evidence that they could have been doing the same thing; but they didn't because they rejected the Word, the message of the gospel. As a result he became an heir of righteousness, which is by faith.
The concept there is that becoming an heir of righteousness comes by faith. That is post-salvation faith. Now we get this idea; we have gone over this before in Romans 8:17. Now the white lettering up there depicts the verse as it's punctuated in most English translations. Remember there was no punctuation in the original Greek. They didn't even have spaces between the words.
The second rendering of the verse in yellow has re-punctuated it so that there is distinction between heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ. The normal rendering is "if children heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ" as if they are referring to the same thing. But that would mean because of the last clause (the conditional clause) that to be an heir of God and fellow heir of Christ which in the context at least some of this has to be related to salvation. It would be conditioned upon suffering with Christ. If we don't suffer, well you're not saved. So the gospel would be believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and suffer with Him. Then you'll be saved.
That can't work so we have the re-punctuate. If we put punctuation (a comma) only after heirs of God to distinguish it from joint heirs with Christ then we have two categories; heirs of God which relates to every believer and joint heirs with Christ for those who press on in their spiritual life. As a result of pressing on and living in the cosmic system, one result is that we're going to suffer. That doesn't mean that we're going to be whining and moaning about how hard life is; but that we're going to go through various tests and circumstances to stretch our faith and test our faith and to build our faith. So that's the focus here is that only by walking by faith do we become an heir of righteousness. That concept of an heir of righteousness is parallel to the concept of being rewarded that we saw in verse 6. That is parallel to the concept of having that ongoing testimony that still speaks in relationship to Able so that this is part of the post salvation spiritual life.
Now next time we'll come back and review that just a little bit, expand the inheritance idea and then we'll really see this developed as we get into the next example which is from Abraham in verse 8 through 12.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.