Study #2 “Faithful All Week Long” Hebrews 11:4-5
by Bob Burridge ©2020
Hebrews 11 begins by explaining what faith accomplishes when it’s implanted into us by God’s grace.
1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Beginning in verse 4, Hebrews 11 gives several examples to illustrate this biblical faith in action. This true kind of faith is a work of the Holy Spirit, that convinces us that what God has said can be and should be counted on and lived by.
The first example is Abel.
Hebrews 11:4, “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.”
By faith, Abel pleased God through obedient worship. People naturally honor some kind of god or cosmic power. It reflects the way we were made. There is a God who deserves our praise.
The problem is, the fallen mind has come up with its own kind of god. It’s also devised its own ideas about worship. People have bowed down to idols, engaged in temple prostitution, invented superstitious rituals, taken mind-altering drugs, even sacrificed human lives – all in the name of worship!
God didn’t leave us to experiment in worship. He directed us about how it should be done. The fallen human race had to be instructed about how God should be approached and honored.
As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God instructed them.
1. He told them about the gospel that restores them to fellowship with God They had a surprisingly good bit of information then. They knew their sin brought spiritual death. That left them morally corrupt and interrupted their fellowship with God. They heard God promise to send a Messiah. He’d be born of a woman and crush the head of the serpent. There was a plan of salvation! They had sinned, and God would provide restoration by grace through a Savior.
2. God also appears to have told them how they were to worship. God required blood sacrifices to represent the coming Messiah’s death in place of the sinner. By worshiping through sacrifices, believers showed their trust in God’s plan to save them.
Cain and Abel were the first generation born in sin. The story’s recorded in Genesis 4:1-5.
1. Some time had passed since they were born. Genesis 4:3, “In the course of time …” Both brothers would have seen the sacrifices of their parents. We don’t have the details, but at least Abel seemed to understand what God said.
2. When old enough, they each started to worship God on their own. Abel brought a sacrifice of blood. That’s what God demanded in worship. Cain brought a sacrifice of plants destroying the symbolism of the coming death of Christ. Cain couldn’t see what was wrong with this new idea of his. He had modified God’s instructions.
3. God respected Abel’s offering, but despised Cain’s offering When we obey there’s blessing. Obedience shows the work of God on our hearts. When we disobey we’re overcome with misery.
4. How did wrong worship effect Cain? It made him angry, and physically violent! Wrong worship offends God. It effects more than our religion. A person that neglects or changes God’s worship, will suffer deep emotional stresses. It will ultimately cause suffering for others, as it did with Cain.
When people say, “What difference does it make how people worship?”
– They should remember Israel. Sinful worship resulted in: famines, economic disasters, plagues, wars, and captivity.
– They should remember the warnings of the Old Testament Prophets. Israel’s perversion of worship was a major reason for their oppression and suffering.
– They should remember Europe of the Middle ages when worship was corrupted. There was oppression, persecution, imprisonments, moral corruption, even martyrdom of the faithful.
It’s effecting us today. The farther we’ve gotten from biblical worship, the more we have seen immorality, violence, depression, and oppression. The way we worship is important.
The difference between Cain and Abel was in their faith, their confidence and submission to what God said. Hebrews 11 explains that Abel acted in faith. His trust made him love and obey God’s rules for worship. Cain trusted in his own creativity in worship. But his innovation was wrong. God wasn’t pleased.
The story of Nadab & Abihu is similar. Leviticus 10:1-2 tells us that these men introduced something new into worship. Instead of strictly following God’s word they offered “unauthorized fire”. It wasn’t the kind of fire God required. The result: God struck them dead! Wrong worship is a serious offense.
God’s word alone determines how we should engage in worship. Many churches today have confused worship.
– They often add new practices to worship which are not found in Scripture. This has included praying to saints, stage plays, interpretive dance, comedians, and magicians. While some of those things might be good for fellowship times, God never authorized them for worship.
– Others change the purpose of worship. Instead of gathering to honor God in the spirit of holiness and awe, it becomes a fellowship time, a rally, or entertainment hour.
– How the people feel becomes the focus instead centering on honoring God. It’s good to feel good. But that isn’t what worship is authorized to be in God’s word.
When the Holy Spirit puts faith in us:
– it should make us move with great caution not to overstep God’s boundaries.
– it should give us a passion to be faithful to what God says pleases him in worship.
– it should move us to cling to God’s written rules about how worship is to be structured.
The Bible alone is how we can know what pleases God.
When we come to worship, we should think about Abel. We need to be satisfied with what God’s word says should be in worship. We should resist innovations to attractive more people, but are not included in God’s instructions.
In worship we are called to come in faith like Abel, clinging with loving devotion to God’s promises. If we come to church to see what we can get for ourselves, we miss the whole point of why we are there. Abel understood. Worship is to please God in his way. The amazing blessing is that when we stay with God’s ways, he blesses us with greater inner joy, than we could ever get in man centered worship. Expect God to be honored, and that he will bless your obedience. If you think worship would be better in some new creative way, you’re like Cain. You’re not worshiping in faith.
But how we worship is only a part of what it means to live by faith.
The next example is Enoch.
Hebrews 11:5, “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.”
By faith, Enoch walked with God. (Genesis 5:22,24)
What does it mean to walk with God? It has a soundly established meaning in Scripture. used over 40x. Deuteronomy 5:33 (right after the repeating of the 10 Commandments) “You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
Walking with the Lord, or walking in his ways is associated with several things in Scripture.
– Deuteronomy 8:6 says it’s keeping God’s commandments, and fearing Him
– Deuteronomy 11:22 holding fast to Him
– Deuteronomy 19:9 loving the LORD
– Deuteronomy 30:16 keeping his commandments, statutes, and rules
– Psalm 119:3 doing no wrong.
– When you don’t walk with the Lord in his ways, Proverbs 2:13 says you “walk in the ways of darkness.”
Walking with God is not living in a pious trance. It’s faithfully trusting, loving, and obeying all that God’s said. But fallen humans want to keep faith out of every-day life. Its OK to go to church or pray, but don’t get carried away with it. People say don’t let faith effect your business, school, politics, or economics. Some limit faith to worship only.
The more God’s word is pushed out of every-day life, the more corruption, pain, and confusion we see all around us.
God has a lot to say about our daily lives.
1. His commandments tell us how to be faithful in common things. He obligates us to obey our parents, love our spouses, refuse to take what isn’t ours, tell the truth, keep from having a murderous or hateful heart, and to be satisfied with what God gives us. Walking with God means to be working on obeying these commandments. Remember, its living God’s way that brings the important blessings. It’s not from getting our own way. Many have gotten their own way and been miserable.
2. He tells us to keep our thoughts under careful control Walking with God means being guided by Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We should fill our minds with these things, not the trash the world dishes up for unguarded minds.
3. He tells us how to deal with our personal sins. Walking with God means not expecting peace until we admit our sins as God sees them, sincerely repent when we offend God, try to make restitution for the hurt we may cause others, and determine to be more like Christ by His grace.
4. God tells us how to deal with others who sin. Walking with God means being ready to restore them to fellowship. When they are restored, to fully forgive them.
It was faith that caused Enoch to walk with God. As one of God’s children, the Holy Spirit gave him a redeemed life and faith. He trusted that the ways of the Creator are best, that true faith produced obedience in each area of his life. It made him confidently count on and live by God’s promises.
God blessed Enoch: “he was not found, because God had taken him.” His was unique because he never died! One day God took him directly into His presence. A similar thing happened to Elijah. These were special cases. Don’t expect God to take you up.
These examples show us how God is pleased with regular obedience. God promises to bless and watch over those who are truly his, and who walk in his ways. Psalm 81:13-14, “Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.”
When we don’t walk in God’s ways, we forfeit many blessings. Misery, depression, anger, and conflict quickly rush in to fill the void when the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not there.
God calls us to be faithful to Him
all week long, every day.
We need to be like Abel in our formal worship on Sunday. We need to walk daily like Enoch, as one who truly loves our Savior.
The road back to God’s place of blessing begins with a faith that really trusts what God’s said. Step by step, put your feet where God wants them. Eliminate, one-by-one the things you ought not be doing; the distractions, the sins of the mind and heart. Replace them, one-by-one, with things and ways God recommends.
Keep God’s ways and worship central in all your thoughts all week long. Every area of your life is better when you walk in God’s ways.
Hebrews 11 index: “Faith and What Flows From It“