from our ministry
A life-of-Faith Exemplified!
(Part 1 — Hebrews 11:3-4)
As we entered into this study on faith, we noted several important general thoughts that are fundamental to our walk by faith. Review them with me: First, faith is central to our relationship with God! Without faith it is impossible to come to Him! (Hebrews 11:6). Second, faith is the Modus Operandi of the Christian’s life! It is through faith that the Christian life begins (Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:16), but a believer’s life is to be lived by faith! (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). Third, faith is necessary for us to please God! In fact, without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). We noted that a God-pleasing life is a life that radiates the same heart as the Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ’s overarching desire was to please the One who sent Him (John 8:29). Fourth, faith must undergo “testing” to determine its strength (James 1:3). Fifth, faith comes and grows through God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Sixth, faith provides great benefits (Hebrews 11:1-2). The benefits that the writer of Hebrews mentioned are “Assurance,” hypostasis, a “support, foundation, or guarantee,” of things hoped for; “Conviction,” elenchos, evidence that makes someone fully agree, understand and realize the truth or validity of something, and it brings “Approval,”martyreo, a testimony, or a witness that God is pleased with our lives.
As we move forward in our study each of these benefits will be take on “flesh-and-blood” in the lives of those who have“lived by faith” and have the great honor of being in the Faith Hall of Fame. Is a life of faith possible? Absolutely! God has given us living examples as a “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) to encourage us to “live by faith”.
One of the greatest examples of a life lived by faith is Abraham, and it was from his life that we derived a definition of faith recorded in Romans 4:18-21. Based upon this passage, our definition is:
“Faith is a DEEP IMMOVABLE TRUST in God that He WILL FULFILL what HE HAS PROMISED, and responds
in OBEDIENCE to what He commands.”
It is time to open the doors and enter God’s Faith Hall of Fame and look carefully at each exhibit found in Hebrews 11:1-40. We do not want to move too quickly through the Hall lest we miss all that God wants us to see. I, personally have never been to a Hall of Fame, but I have had the privilege of visiting three different Holocaust Museum’s around the world, i.e., Jerusalem, New York City, and Washington D.C.. Even though the horror of the Holocaust was the focus of each Museum, the presentations were uniquely different. This made each tour unique and caused me to stop and linger at each exhibit to glean the full impact of what was presented. That’s exactly what I want us to do as we tour God’s Faith Hall of Fame. As we come to each exhibit we will examine it for a specific FAITH FACT that will help us understand exactly what a life of faith consists of.
Exhibit A — CREATION — (Hebrews 11:3)
FAITH FACT: — Faith Believes what God says and does not try to change it!
“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”
None of us were living at the moment of creation, when God spoke the heavens and earth into existence! Yet, we know exactly how it happened because God recorded it for our understanding in His Word (Genesis 1:1-31). God, namely Jesus Christ (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17), spoke all things into existence “out of nothing” (meaning of the Hebrew word for “created,” bara, “. . . God CREATED the heavens and earth ...” (Genesis 1:1).1
Even though none of us were present at the creation of the heavens and earth, but we “understand” the honesty and accuracy of it through faith! It is in things like this, that faith is the “conviction [elenchos] of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, faith, i.e., unwavering trust in God, believes what God has told us about His creation rather than the creation narrative of our modern Scientists! A person living by faith always believes (trusts) God, not man, when there is a decision to be made!
The writer of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear at the start that it is “by faith that we understand (mentally and intellectually) that all that exists (aion) was prepared, (katartizo), i.e, created by the spoken word of God, (rhema), so that we believe “what is seen was not made out of things which are visible, i.e., created out of nothing!
As we enter the Hall of Faith we come face-to-face with a large plaque on the wall that says to all who are called to “live by faith” that by faith we always believe what God has said and do not try to alter or change it!
As we move deeper into the Hall we come to the second exhibit.
Exhibit B — ABEL — (Hebrews 11:4)
FAITH FACT: — Faith Demonstrates a Righteous Life that God Approves of!
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
Again, the writer of Hebrews takes us back to the book of Genesis to the account of Cain and Abel and the sacrifices that they brought to God (Genesis 4:2-5). It is evident from the Genesis account that both men desired to honor (worship) God through the fruit of their labors. Cain, being a “tiller of the ground,” brought an offering of the “fruit of the ground” which God rejected, i.e. “had no regard” for. Abel, being a “keeper of flocks,” brought the “firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” which God accepted, i.e., had “regard” for. Genesis never tells us why God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s. We are left wondering! There is nothing recorded that indicates what God specifically told them was an acceptable and non-acceptable offering. Many have speculated that it was the blood offering (Abel’s) that was the only acceptable offering, but was it? Later under the Mosaic Covenant grain and vegetable offerings were acceptable as a Thanksgiving Offering unto the Lord (Leviticus 7:11-14). We must quickly point out that the Mosaic Law had not been given when Cain and Abel made their offerings unto the Lord. The “blood offering” option, though sounding good, can not be substantiated by Scripture. So, the question still remains: Why was Abel’s offering accepted and Cain’s rejected?
In Hebrews 11:4 the “Why?” is answered! It is because Abel’s offering was offered in faith and Cain’s was not — “By faith” Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain! Faith was the key! Nothing else. How do we know that Abel offered his offering “by faith” and Cain did not? The reason is found in Genesis 4:4, “Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock ...”. The word “firstlings,” bekhor, is vital to understanding why Abel’s offering was by faith. The Hebrew word bekhor refers to the first-born of a herd or flock. It carries the same idea as the first-fruits of a vegetable or grain crop. To bring the “first-born,” bekhor, was an act of faith because there was no guarantee that there would be more. Abel trusted God that He would allow for another animal to be born, not knowing if it would ever happen. By faith, or in “a deep unmovable trust in God” that He would take care of his needs, he brought the bekhor! There is no mention that Cain brought the “first-fruits” of the fruit of the ground.” Therefore, Abel’s offering was “a better sacrifice than Cain’s” because it was the bekhor offered “by faith”!
We learned in our first article that one of the benefits of a life of faith is that through faith “men of old gained approval”, i.e., a testimony (Hebrews 11:2). Such was true of Abel! The writer of Hebrews affirmed that it was Abel’s faith “through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous!” (11:4) Certainly, it was “by faith” that Abel was declared “righteous” by God, i.e., saved. Faith has always been the basis of salvation, but that is not in view in Hebrews 11:4. It was his life of faith that was the focus and was recognized and “testified” by God that he was a righteous man! Not only did Abel’s faith testify that he was a righteous man while he was alive, but God continues to use Abel’s faith to “speak” to us today! I believe the message that Abel’s life proclaims is “the righteous man shall live by faith!” (Romans 1:17), and “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
As I wrap-up this article, I ask all of us to stop and take time in the Faith Hall of Fame to examine our lives in light of those who walked-by-faith before us. Linger at the exhibits! Ponder the question, “Does my daily life reflect a life of faith as is exemplified in their lives?” Do I believe what God has said in His Word without trying to change and manipulate it to say what I want it to say? Do I question God’s Word in light of so-called scientific “proof”?
Secondly, am I allowing God to use Abel’s life of faith to continue to “speak” to me that “the righteous man shall live by faith!, and “without faith it is impossible to please Him!” Do I trust God that He will provide and take care for my daily needs as I present my life as a “living, holy sacrifice” in service and worship to Him? (Romans 12:1). Beloved, ponder these things, please.
For the love of God’s people,
Pastor Ron Finch (retired)