Substance for Faith

At a certain point, we come to the subject of faith in the epistle of Hebrews. This discussion and instruction closes Chapter 10 and then takes off through Chapter 11. 

The whole message of Hebrews is directed toward people struggling in difficulties. For most of this letter, we are told about Jesus. The words turn our eyes to Him and all the wonders about who He is and what He did. 

The writer was so detailed to point to Christ. He offered clear statement after clear statement about Jesus’ reality as God the Son and as the true High Priest who offered His very human Body to shed His cleansing Blood for our redemption and sanctification.

This same Son and Savior now reigns and serves as our Advocate. He came and died, He came alive again, showed Himself for 40 days, and then He ascended to His place in the glory of Heaven. 

There He is, now waiting for the Day of the Lord — the moment when He is sent back to earth.

As He waits, we wait, and the writer says our waiting is not easy. Our waiting has serious ups and downs. The original Christian readers of Hebrews struggled with the increasing intensity of persecution. Some had grown weary under the suffering and reproach and affliction directed toward them. 

Still, there is “a better possession and an abiding one” to come readers are told. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence…” (Hebrews 10:34-35). Great reward shall come.

Believe this. Receive what the Lord has promised. That’s the message. 

In Hebrews 10: 38, the writer drops a phrase from Habakkuk 2:4: “… the just shall live by his faith.” 

What made us right with God? Faith in the Son and His sacrifice; we must trust in His Blood offering made once and for all. His death as the final Passover Lamb makes “just” all who call upon Him to be saved. This is the ultimate gift of grace, and as with any gift, His salvation must be welcomed and accepted. 

Do you want to be just before God? Put your faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

Abel

What is faith? The writer sets forth an explanation. “Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). 

The definition stated here, on its own, could leave us frustrated and disappointed. But we are not left with those words only.

Next, the writer brings everything back down to earth and turns our thoughts toward those who lived here just as we live here. He begins to tell of the heroes of faith.

These ones practiced the same faith that has been passed down since the beginning. We are told of real people who faced their troubles with patience and obedience. 

The record of the heroes begins with Abel. His faith was revealed with his offering from the flock, a blood sacrifice. Cain, his brother, brought something to the altar that he produced with his sweat and hard work.

Abel’s offering was accepted, Cain’s was not. 

Genesis 4 explains the whole episode as it played out. Cain’s frustration at the dismissal of his self-effort boiled into frustration and murder. He slew Abel. 

What is the writer of Hebrews doing here? He is showing us that troubles and opposition have always followed some who live by Gospel belief. He is saying that faith righteousness has always challenged self-righteousness, and this has meant that sometimes the self-righteous have responded with violence. The readers of Hebrews were “just” ones who had to purpose to live by the faith of Abel, who “though he died, still speaks” (Hebrews 1:3).

Enoch

The next hero referenced is Enoch. His experience, seemingly, was at the other end of the spectrum from Abel. “Enoch walked with God and was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). We know that this man fathered Methuselah and other children, but not much else is told about him in our Bibles. He purportedly authored an apocalyptic writing that the letter of Jude cites. 

Enoch followed the Lord and then disappeared according to the will of God. He, like Elijah in 2 Kings, was swept off the planet miraculously.

The point here in Hebrews is that Enoch pleased God and was commended through his departure. It was a matter of faith. “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” (Hebrews 11:6). 

Noah

The writer then mentions Noah. His story is of another character, and this is significant in the light of what Jesus told the disciples about the time of His return. “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the Ark” (Matthew 24:37-38).

Those days of Noah were marked by intense demonic influence and imaginations and thoughts given to “only evil continually” (see Genesis 6:5). The state of humanity was such that the Lord became full of regret and grief. This may seem difficult to fathom regarding the Almighty God. I think it serves to reveal the Lord as unlike any other form of deity that’s been presented. He felt for us and for those fallen in the abandonment of His way.

Angels and humans were gifted with freedom of choice because God is the Lord of relationship. The choice comes down to being God-centered or self-centered. Click To Tweet

Angels and humans were gifted with freedom of choice because God is the Lord of relationship. The choice comes down to being God-centered or self-centered.

Lucifer, the bright and talented cherub, turned his gaze toward self and away from the existence and attributes fitted for him by his Creator, God. This devil then deceived other angels and eventually tricked Adam into the same manner of deadly self-orientation. 

These turnings stung the Lord. In the midst of His consideration of judgment for earth, however, He took note of Noah and extended grace to this man. 

By grace, Noah heard from God of the coming Flood and was shown the way of escape. By grace, he was shown how to build and populate the Ark. By grace, he and his family were sealed safely inside this vessel of salvation as the waters began to rain down and rise up. By grace, this family was given the commission to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the freshly washed earth.  

The Ark was built from scratch over the course of some 100 years.  “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” (Hebrews 11:7). 

Grounds for Hope

So far in Hebrews 11, we have been shown three men with three very different faith experiences. Abel expressed right worship by faith. Enoch possessed a right walk by faith. And Noah revealed a right work by faith. 

The chapter then proceeds with mentions of Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Moses and dozens of others. Each lived by faith seeing themselves as strangers and exiles in this world and as having eyes on a future in the holy City and the heavenly Country. 

Right in the midst of these accounts, the writer reemphasizes the power of the Blood. “By faith [Moses] kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them” (Hebrews 11:28). 

At last, the Hebrews writer turns the thoughts of his readers to the things of their era. He wrote of those mocked and scourged, of those chained, imprisoned, and tortured, of those stoned by mobs and torn by beasts and slain by the sword. 

The passage has come full circle, bringing us back to dying ones as it began with the story of the original dying one – Abel. 

Like the blood of Abel, the blood of all of these martyred ones spoke and goes on speaking. These rose to a better life for this world was not worthy of them. 

These stories are the evidence of real faith. They provide the substance of better promises.  They ground us in the hope of the perfection ahead. They tell us that the New Day on earth shall arrive with the return of the Son from on high. 

May these accounts salt our meditations and fuel our prayers. Let us expect a very soon union and communion with these heroes.

Come Lord Jesus. Please, come. 

 

Steve Andrulonis
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