Yesterday we were, thankfully, able to gather as a church and worship our God, in spite of the winter weather earlier in the day. In our time together we continued our journey through Hebrews 11, beginning to consider how the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) displays what a life of faith looks like for the people of God.
Beginning with verse 3 and working our way to verse 7, we walked away with three expressions of faith in the life of a follower of God. We saw how, by faith, we understand, we come, we live and we move. Below I’ve summarized each of these truths for our continued edification.
By Faith We Understand
In verse 3 of Hebrews 11, the author gives us a foundational statement about faith by considering the foundation of all reality — that God himself organized (see created) all of the universe by his very word. We find two main things here. First, that all understanding of God’s reality is revealed by God himself. God’s truth is reality itself and any understanding outside of this reality is not made from faith, but from human cunning. Second, not only does God hold the market on truth, but our minds are only conformed to that truth by faith itself. The author uses creation as an example of this, but it rings true for all of our life and our entire worldview. To put it simply: we should not be surprised, but instead should expect and seek after our minds being molded and shaped by the same word that ordered the universe itself. This is the first gift of faith — that we come to understand the world around us through God’s revealing power.
By Faith We Come
From here, the author embarks on the study of men and women throughout redemptive history that lived by faith and how God preserved and kept them. He begins with the first example of faith that we find in Scripture: Abel (verse 4). Abel displayed his faith in four main ways, four ways that we should see in our own lives as well. First, Abel shows his faith in his sacrifice. Here the author of Hebrews calls this sacrifice more acceptable, literally more excellent and worthy. This is because Abel’s sacrifice was one of complete devotion and trust in the promises of God. This is why the second side effect of Abel’s faith was that of worship. This is what set him apart from his brother, Cain. Abel worshipped God from a place of faith and trust, and because of this God delighted in giving him righteousness that God alone can give. But Abel’s relationship with God was not all that marked his life of faith. In fact, his life of faith became sight because his brother, under the temptation of the Evil One (1 John 3:12) brought about the third and fourth side effects of a life of faith: Suffering and death. The reality held out here is that following God and turning toward him will indeed put us at odds with the word and those who walk without faith. To be friends with this world is to be an enemy of God (James 4:4), but to come before God in worship and trust will make us a stench to the world. Knowing this gives us an odd sense of hope, as we walk through these fiery trials.
By Faith We Live
Moving from Abel, the author now takes us to the second person in redemptive history who’s faith was on full display, though it is shrouded in some uncertainty and mystery. Enoch’s faith drew him near to God in intimacy and friendship in a away few have ever experienced. Because of this intimacy and friendship, after Enoch lived a full life of 365 years, God took him away so that he would not have to experience the death that sin had brought upon creation. This doesn’t mean that Enoch was perfect and we are not told where Enoch is now and how he’s doing today, but there is a greater picture held out for us in him. In Enoch we again see the principle that physical realities given under the Old Covenant often point to spiritual realities in the New Covenant. Enoch’s physical intimacy with God and escaping of death points ahead to the intimacy we can now have with God through the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22). The third great gift of faith in God is that our relationship with him is deepened more and more until he gloriously brings us unto eternal life in his presence.
By Faith We Move
Finally we are given insight into the life of faith of one of Scriptures most important saints: Noah. In Noah we find what it looks like to move by faith. God called Noah to build a huge ship, unlike any Noah would have known, so that his family alone might escape the ruin of the world from a flood that would have been beyond Noah’s conception. This is truly a faith that moves based on unseen realities. In so doing, Noah experienced salvation for himself and his family, while showing the world was condemned in their evil refusal to trust in God. In the same way, our own faith should cause us to move into obedience and trusting God, that he is at work among us in unseen ways, drawing ourself and others toward salvation and revealing the coming judgment for those who remain outside of him in their rebellion.
So, how has your faith in Jesus Christ changed you?
After all, while our faith may express itself in these various ways, these people of old are not the object of our faith. That place belongs to Jesus Christ, “the Founder and Perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). For Jesus is the perfect man of faith, himself — walking toward the glorious Kingdom through obedience, death, resurrection and ascension.
It is Christ who was the Word that ordered the creation and brings about a new creation by this Word taking on Flesh (John 1:1-14). It is Jesus, who is the Greater Abel, offering himself up to the hands of his brothers so that he may bear our sins, with his blood speaking the word of our atonement (Hebrews 12:24). It is Jesus, who is the Greater Enoch, walking with God in perfect intimacy and though he tasted death, rising again and was taken up to God’s right hand (Acts 1:9). And finally, our Savior is the Greater Noah, who himself bears us safely through to salvation by allowing himself to be drowned under the condemnation of our sin (1 Peter 3:18-22).
Is this not our Savior in whom we place our faith?