THE MANY FACES OF FAITH:
ABEL, ENOCH, AND NOAH
Hebrews 11:4-5, 7
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 18, 2019
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.
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.
7 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 11:4-5, 7, ESV
After the writer of Hebrews defines the many facets of faith in the opening of chapter eleven, he goes on to show us some of the faces of faith. They are snapshots taken from the Old Testament of great saints who found grace in the sight of God, demonstrated faith to trust and obey God, and kept close fellowship with God.
Christians are chosen and called upon in the same way in this New Testament age. We are saved by the grace of God, which provides faith in God, to love, trust, and obey the revelation God has given us in the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the written word of God, the Bible.
Salvation comes by faith, not works, but faith does work. Following Jesus and obeying Scripture is hard work when done faithfully. Some find the work so daunting that they think of turning back to the lives they lived before Christ. Many first century Christians were tempted to turn away from God and the gospel, which precipitated this sermon and epistle to the Hebrews.
Our twenty-first century had its owns set of challenges for us. We Gentile, American Christians need Hebrews, too. We need the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and the truth of Holy Scripture and the examples of holy saints who have gone on before us.
The first class inducted into Hebrews’ Hall of Faith are three characters who lead the way when it comes to faithfully worshiping God, walking with God, and working for God. Let’s get reacquainted with Abel, Enoch, and Noah.
Abel and a Faith That Worships
The story of Abel and his older brother Cain can be found in Genesis 4. It is a familiar story with an unhappy ending, the murder of Abel at the hand of Cain. The crux of the matter between the two was their respective philosophies of worship (the world’s first worship war). Abel’s worship was acceptable to God, while Cain’s offering was rejected.
Abel offered to God the firstfruits, the very best, of his flock. Cain’s offering came from the ordinary fruit of the ground. Some suggest God prefers meat over vegetables, a picture of a manly God indeed, but this is not necessarily the case. Later Levitical laws approve a variety of sacrificial offerings, animal and mineral, but specify the offerings as the firstfruits, not the ordinary, certainly not the leftovers. This was the difference in the two brothers’ worship.
By faith, Abel understood he was created by God for worship. The scant description of Abel’s short life reveals a man who had parents, held a job, and wholly worshiped God. His parents introduced him to God, his vocation provided him with the means for living and giving, and regularly and publicly he worshiped God, a true witness to his faith.
By faith, Abel understood worship should be conducted according to God’s standards, not man’s. Both boys had been taught God’s word on worship which involved time, place, devotion, and offering. Abel listened, obeyed, and conducted worship according to the word of God. Cain did his own thing his own way, proving it was himself who he worshiped, not God at all.
In the earthly end, Cain got the upper hand. But eternity puts Abel in the Hall of Faith. Life is short for us all. Worship God, and worship God according to His word.
Enoch and a Faith That Walks
Enoch’s name means “dedicated,” and this disciple was true to his name. He flashes like a meteor across the biblical sky in Genesis 5. One short paragraph tells the tale of a gentleman who experienced a religious conversion after the birth of his son. He “walked with God” for the rest of his life before “God took him.”
The writer of Hebrews makes him famous for the way his life on earth ended, a much happier ending than Abel’s. As a matter of fact, the words of Genesis and Hebrews reveal a life that had no typical end at all, but rather that of a man who was transported by God into Heaven without passing through the portal of death. Only Elijah enjoyed the same rarified airline, but the experience will be shared by millions when Christ returns to earth.
By faith, Enoch was translated into the eternal presence of the Lord. But the dramatic end sometimes overshadows the means. Lives can only have glorified endings when they have been justified by faith in God and sanctified by the word of God.
By faith, Enoch walked with God. “Walk” in biblical language means agreement (ref. Amos 3:3). Enoch agreed with God’s word on sin and salvation. Enoch confessed his sin and committed his life to the Lord. There is no shame and no fear in walking with God, from the beginning of the walk at conversion to the never-ending stay at the Hall of Faith.
Perhaps the birth of a child turned your life around. Maybe your birth parents guided you in a godly way. When did you come to faith in God? If it was saving faith, then it was an obedient faith, for there is no real faith in God that does not love and obey God. If you, like Enoch, walk with God by faith, then be assured you will one day walk with Him right into Heaven. You may not get to take the same charter flight flown by Enoch, Elijah, and raptured Christians, but you will enjoy deathless, eternal life nonetheless (ref. John 11:26).
Noah and a Faith That Works
Go back and get acquainted with Abel in Genesis 4, Enoch in Genesis 5, and the large life of the next inductee in Genesis 6. Few men made a bigger splash for God like the great boat captain named Noah. His personal faith led him to worship and walk with God, too, and his faith especially demonstrates the labor of love of a totally devoted follower of God.
By faith, Noah worked hard at preaching and teaching in a time when no one seemed to be listening (ref. 2 Peter 2:5). Preaching and teaching is hard work for anyone committed to doing it right. It is like wind in your sails, though, when the pews are full and the church is growing. It can be like hunkering down in a storm when the congregation is small, stagnant, or troubled. But God measures the size of the faith, not the size of the work, and anyone with a hard working faith is pleasing to God.
By faith, Noah worked hard at the other work God gave him to accomplish. He built a boat bigger than a football field. He harnessed a sample of all the animals in the world. Harder still, he was a faithful husband, father, and spiritual leader. By faith, he did it all God’s way, not his own.
By faith, Noah was saved, physically and spiritually, and the grace of God that grants faith to be saved was passed down from generation to generation. Hard work has its rewards, according to an American proverb. But hard work which evidences saving faith will have the greatest reward ever known.
The writer of Hebrews calls Noah’s faith “reverent fear,” something that I suppose could be said about Abel, Enoch, and Noah. We do not have enough reverence and fear in the modern realm of faith. We have a lot of cheerleaders for Jesus conducting pep rallies and giving pep talks, but not a lot of believers building churches the way these men built their lives. Faith is worshiping God on God’s terms, walking with God according to God’s word, and working for God even when the work is hard.
This is only one way to God, the way of faith. Anyone can float downstream with the world. It takes strong faith to go against the current and worship, walk, and work for the Lord. But this is the faith we see in these three — Abel, Enoch, Noah — and the faith God puts in the hearts of all who truly trust Him.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org